SI Vault
Gerald Holland
August 27, 1956
The investigator examined its nursery, searched its feeding grounds, cross-examined anglers and scientists. Where, he asked, is the striper?
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 27, 1956

The Striped Bass: A Detective Story

The investigator examined its nursery, searched its feeding grounds, cross-examined anglers and scientists. Where, he asked, is the striper?

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

At the end of a two-hour voyage from the Vineyard, the investigator hurried over to the fish wharf where the bass boats were tied up. He inquired his way past Ike and Bob Tilton and Lloyd Bosworth, all well-known Cuttyhunk fishing guides, until he came upon a slight, tight-lipped man, looking about 50 and wearing a swordfisherman's long-peaked cap. He was touching up the paint on a bass boat named the Sea Coot. This was Irvin Winslow Hall, known to thousands of fishermen as Coot. The investigator stated his mission.

After a few moments of silence, Coot Hall put away his paint, wiped his hands on a rag and whistled for his dog, a Kerry blue named Cutty, and soon it came bounding along the wharf. Then Coot invited the investigator to join him and the dog on the front seat of a 1930 Ford truck for a jolting ride up the hill to the Bosworth House where Coot lives during the summertime.

Coot didn't have much to say during dinner, but it was plain that he was thinking hard as he went through three of the nine lobsters that the cook, Len Robinson, put before him and his guest.

Finally Coot Hall pushed his chair back from the table, lit up a cigaret and began to muse aloud:

"Here's something I believe," he said. "Ninety percent of the people in the world would like to go fishing. It's a human instinct. The great majority of people who go fishing just go for the relaxation it gives them. It's not a matter of life and death with them. Now, let's consider the striper fisherman. What kind of character is he? Well, once he's got a taste of it, something drastic happens to him. He'd rather fish than eat or sleep. A smoker will forget to smoke while he's striper fishing and a drinker will forget to drink. Once a striper fisherman is hooked, he's hooked for life. He may try to break away, but he'll come back to it as sure as he lives and breathes. People come here, men and women come here to Cuttyhunk from all over, St. Louis, Detroit and Chicago. There's an Englishman who comes all the way from England. There was a fellow from Philadelphia here just the other day, drove all the way, fished all night, played poker all day, went back to Philadelphia with one hour's sleep and said he never felt so refreshed and rejuvenated in his life."

The Kerry blue asked to be let out and Coot got up and opened the door.

"I don't know," he said, sitting down at the table again. "You say, what has this fish got, what's his character, what's his magnetic personality that does things to people. I don't know; it's something you feel."

Coot Hall made a sudden decision. "Come on," he said, "let's go see if there are any around."

It was at sunset, a good time to go. Down at the wharf the dog jumped into the boat and took charge. Coot Hall passed out oilskins and put on his own, turned over the engine and let the investigator take one of the twin tillers and steer the Sea Coot out of the harbor and around the island.

After a while Coot took the tiller forward, waving his hand in dismissal of the investigator as helmsman. It was beginning to get dark now and the Sea Coot moved through a sea wickedly calm, slick as a millpond. Coot pointed ahead. The investigator looked and saw the evil churning of the rip tide breaking over the huge submerged rocks. Coot throttled down for trolling and the Sea Coot moved into the rip. The investigator took his rod and put the butt of it between his knees. Coot came over and moved the rod so that it lay across his legs and then went back a pace and began casting, pinpointing his lure down behind a rock just visible above the water.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14