Barbarella
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Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting. — Dave Barry

The way my friend Jen tells it, her boyfriend Rob arrived home from work an hour before sunset on Friday evening, fishing pole in hand, and said, “I’m going to catch us some dinner, wanna come along?” I got the call from Jen as she was loading the car in front of her Clairemont home. Jen told me that she, Rob, and their neighbor Mike were heading to La Jolla Shores, and then she casually tossed in a polite, “You can join us if you like.”

“Wait, let me get this straight,” I said. “You’re driving to La Jolla? To try to catch a fish? Because you want to eat it? Rob just came home from work and was, like, ‘Let’s go catch dinner?’ That’s the weirdest freakin’ thing I’ve heard all week. Hell, yeah, I want to come.” Worried the sun would set before I could witness Rob’s demonstration of the food chain in action, I yelled to David, “Put on your shoes, beh beh, we’re going out!” as I rushed upstairs for a jacket. Ever amenable to my continuous whims, David was at the door and ready for adventure by the time I bounded back down the stairs.

The sun was low on the horizon when David and I pulled up at Kellogg Park. It wasn’t until we reached a small set of cement steps leading away from the sidewalk that it occurred to me that I would have to walk on the sand. It was too cold to remove my shoes and socks, so I grabbed my pants at the knee, hiked them up, and tiptoed gingerly across the soft earth.

The beach is not my scene. The thought of swimming in unchlorinated water gives me the willies. I’m convinced parasitic microorganisms will find a way to enter my body, and who knows what kind of creatures might brush against me in those cold, dark, wild waters. I don’t sunbathe, a pointless pastime that not only increases my risk of skin cancer, but also gives me a raging headache. And then there’s the sand. A night at Guantanamo would be like lunching at Nordstrom’s compared to the excruciating torment of the sand granules that glue themselves to my skin to chafe, abrade, and irritate.

As I inched my way closer to my friends, I made the mistake of checking out my toes. At first glance, I thought the sand was black, but when it began to undulate, I realized I was looking at flies — billions of them. I had been breathing through my mouth to avoid inhaling the putrid, salty smell of rotting kelp; but the moment I noticed the flies, I clamped it shut and suffered the stench, which was preferable to tempting pests with an open mouth. Still holding my pants as high as I could and taking slow, I-hope-sand-doesn’t-get-into-my-shoes steps, I finally came to where Jen and Mike stood. Rob was several feet away in the wet sand, a silhouette against the sunset.

“Has he caught anything?” I asked.

“Only kelp,” Jen answered. Mike extended his arm and offered me a clear plastic container filled with some kind of white-wine-and-ice-cube concoction. I declined, and Jen continued, “We have MasterCard as a back-up.” David walked closer to the water to chat with Rob, who joked about being a vegetarian and fishing for salad.

“What’s with all these flies? Something die over here?” I said.

Jen gestured toward a woman and young girl playing in the sand closer to the sidewalk. “That lady and her daughter are visiting from Texas,” she explained. “When we got here, she walked up to me and asked, ‘Are all the beaches in San Diego this filthy? This is La Jolla, the resort town, right? Where I’m from, people clean up the kelp every morning on the beaches.’ I hadn’t noticed before, but when she mentioned it, I looked down and saw all the trash and the kelp and the flies.”

“Yeah? I wouldn’t know,” I said.

Jen and I joined David and Rob by the water, our feet making sucking noises. The only thing worse than sand is wet sand. Rob drew the long fishing pole back like a golfer and swung toward the water.

“You should try this,” Jen said to me.

“Yeah, no, I think I’ll pass.”

“It’s fun, come on, I’ll show you.”

“I’m just not into it,” I said. “What if I throw that thing and accidentally hook a bird? Or a person? Not cool.”

“I’m not letting you leave until you try.” Jen seemed as stubborn as her red hair implied.

“Fine,” I relented. “But I’m not going as close to the water as Rob is. I don’t think I could deal if my feet got wet.”

Jen and Rob shared a look, the look of two outdoorsy people who don’t mind getting dirty; when confronted by someone like me — a person who prefers things more “sterile,” one for whom grime is the stuff of nightmares — all they can do is shrug their shoulders.

“Didn’t you tell me you had fun that time you went fishing with your dad?” Jen asked as she handed me the pole.

“Yeah, but that was on one of those half-day boats, so I didn’t have to stand in wet sand.”

Jen rolled her eyes and gave me a brief lesson in surfcasting. I raised the pole over my shoulder and gave it a good throw, letting my thumb off the line as I did so. The uni-paste-slathered lure landed in the shallowest part of the surf a few feet in front of me. I reeled it in, a laborious task, and found that I had caught a giant cluster of kelp. “I’m sorry, I can’t touch it,” I said. “When I caught a fish while out with my dad, other people took it off the hook for me.”

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Comments

jim87vette March 27, 2008 @ 8:15 a.m.

Well I think whatever is being protected was very safe that day lol.The beach the birds and the sunset(couple of friends) what more do you need?

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Barbarella Fokos March 27, 2008 @ 10:27 a.m.

Haha! Good point, Jim. And so is your second point -- it was a beautiful sunset. ;)

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Jane Belanger March 27, 2008 @ 6:33 p.m.

Speaking of lost arts... (this week's cover story) herein lies another one: the lost art of gathering one's own food. Most of us would starve if put to the test -- and if people had to actually kill an animal before they could get any meat, I bet there'd be a lot of overnight vegetarians!

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Josh Board March 28, 2008 @ 2:13 a.m.

Yeah, put me on that list, Jane. I just saw the movie The Bank Job tonight, and there's a scene where a guy spears a fish that they're going to eat. And, I was meaning to check the credits to see if it said "no fish were hurt during the filming of this."

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CarrieSchneider March 28, 2008 @ 8:31 p.m.

It's a good thing that Barbarella's ignorant friend did not catch a fish in what is a No-take zone of an Ecological reserve, set aside so that our species does not wipe out every fish in the sea. As the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps stated after a spear fisherman took a Black Sea Bass:

" After all, why did the spearfishermen choose to hunt near and within the reserve? Simply put: outside the reserves, there are almost no big fish anywhere else in San Diego. In fact, it is increasingly difficult to find any large fish (especially ones weighing in at over 170 lbs) in coastal waters across the globe. But they can be found inside reserves and near reserve boundaries, where protection from intensive fishing have allowed a few individuals to slowly increase in size and number over time. Unfortunately, this success is also the Achilles heel of the reserve, as they become targets for those who remain ignorant of the protection or defiant in the face of it. Either way, the spearing of this giant sea bass is the equivalent to killing a bison, bear or wolf in Yellowstone National Park, or like cutting down a sequoia tree in the Sequoia National Park. It is illegal and illegal for a reason. Just as we needed to set aside wild places on land where ecosystems could function intact and provide resources to exploited environments, so too do we need to set aside wild places in the sea. And we must enforce these regulations."

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Barbarella Fokos March 29, 2008 @ 11:19 a.m.

Good point, Jane. I like my food sterilized and plastic wrapped. I'd never survive on a farm. And Carrie, in my ignorant friend's defense, the lifeguard himself admitted that the signage regarding fishing was poor. Legal fishing in unprotected areas was literally a matter of feet to our right or left, and even further out into the water. God help the poor fish that swims in any of the three directions, and goes from "protected" to "game."

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