"He who knows not and knows that he knows not is simple. Teach him."
OLD ARABIC SAYING
There are other fish in the sea. But to a certain passionately dedicated breed of fisherman, there is only one: a perplexing piscatorial personality known most widely as the striped bass.
Once he has hooked a striper or had one strike at his lure, a man is never the same again. He may lose interest in all other fish. He may lose interest in many things. He may work at a desk, in a shop, he may head a large business. After exposure to the striper, he may continue to go through the motions of attending to such affairs, but his secret thoughts will be of the striper and of how he may meet him once more. He may go out in the bass boats or pound the beaches month after month and year after year and never see a striper. But he will continue to pursue this fish, for the hex is truly upon him. Alone among fishermen, he is able to live interminably on faith and faith alone—faith that somewhere and somehow he will keep his rendezvous with the biggest and most beautiful striper of them all.
This strange love affair between man and fish has long been a source of bewilderment to other kinds of fishermen who believe that the primary purpose of fishing is to catch fish. This, in the view of the striped bass addict, represents the most shallow kind of thinking. As one of the striper men has said, "Did not George Bernard Shaw conduct his romance with Mrs. Patrick Campbell entirely by mail?"
That, of course, is no answer at all. Mrs. Patrick Campbell was no fish and George Bernard Shaw was a vegetarian. It seemed that there must be a better answer somewhere and to find it, a thoroughgoing, wholly objective investigation was undertaken and its findings will be herein reported.
First, a personal word from the investigator. It seemed to him that he was ideally qualified. He had lived for a time on Martha's Vineyard, an island lying off the southeast coast of Massachusetts, and was acquainted with quite a few striper fishermen. If one is acquainted with anyone on Martha's Vineyard, one is probably acquainted with a striper fisherman. But, an important point here, although the investigator had been surf casting and boat fishing in the loosest sense of those terms, he had never caught a striper, had never seen one caught, and never seen one alive in the water. He was free of prejudice. He could be impersonal and impartial, a mere seeker of knowledge. He hoped, by questioning those who knew the striper best, to emerge from this inquiry with a dispassionate, clear-cut picture of the fish that would explain its enormous reputation.
It was decided to limit the area of investigation to that section of the Atlantic coast covered by the striper himself in his two great annual migrations. Thus, the investigator took up the trail where the trail began. He made a pilgrimage to Annapolis, Md. and stood on the dock there in the company of Edgar H. Hollis, biologist for the state of Maryland, now actively engaged in striped bass research. Dr. Hollis, a youngish, bespectacled, serene-looking man, pointed out over Chesapeake Bay and said:
"There is the great nursery. A great majority of the middle Atlantic stripers come from here. The bass are spawned in the rivers tributary to the bay and move into its brackish waters almost immediately. At an early age some of them develop the urge to migrate. It becomes a lifelong habit. Those who have this urge are already gone from here and now are spread out along the coast, probably from New Jersey all the way to Massachusetts."
Reverentially, the investigator looked out over the choppy waters of the bay and thought of the millions of stripers there.
"Would they be getting them now at Martha's Vineyard?" he asked.