Saturday, May 12, 2012

Asian Eyes' USA - Dauphin Island Fish ghost

            I went to school in USA back in the early nineties. The university is by the coast of Gulf of Mexico, so I was able to do beach activities like swimming, camping and fishing. Since my classes were mostly at night, I got most of the time free. One of my favorite past time was fishing. Then there were some 3 public piers near the town I studied, and anyone who has $3 can enter and fish for the whole day (or night). Anyone who wants to fish may need to buy a fishing license from State Fishing department before they do so. The pier I went to was built on a beach full of fine sand, and the pier itself jutted out a mile into the Gulf. The three of us (Arthur, Jacky and I) traveled from our apartment in the wee morning one Saturday in early April. The long and winding coastal road to Dauphin Island public fishing pier offered good Southern countryside view. We stopped along the way to pick up bait; dead shrimps, cigar minnows and fiddler crabs, from a bait shop. At times we may use popper, spoon, lure, squid, sand flea and cut fish meat as well, but live fiddler crab and live small fish were great for predatory fishes, the ones we were after. Along the way we passed through a factory with its chimney bellowing white smokes. “Good day to fish” exclaimed Arthur, pointing to the white smokes that were shooting straight to the sky. “Smoke is straight, so no wind today, sure a lot of fish” he explained.
        Upon reaching the beach by the pier, we trudged along the trail that led to the pier entrance. I heaved our Coleman cooler box with 2 Ugly Stick rods (only 2 per person were allowed) on one hand, and baits, water and some snack on the other. The air was pleasant and March breeze blew cool air toward us. After casual greeting with the pier attendant and paying $3 each, we found our usual spot near the pier entrance.  This was the same spot where I got some great catches couple of times. This spot was closed to the washroom, a fillet station (American fillet their fishes before taking it home) and a small shop selling fishing supplies and souvenirs. Beer or alcohol was not allowed. This shop even had rods for rental to the curious sight seers who would like to try their hand in fishing. Occasionally tourists would pulled up by the pier, paid entrance fee and just wandered around the pier to gawk at us fishing, to look at our fishes we caught or just chit chat with us. Some even snapped photo with the fishes or with us heaving fish while posting for the picture.
Posing before fishing
The tide was rising and the water runs faster than normal. It was our unwritten rule that the last person to land a fish had to prepare dinner, and the second last washed dishes. I used a heavier leader than normal due to the swift current, baited a dead shrimp on the hook and was the first one to cast my rod. The moment my shrimp bait hits the bottom, it was quickly snapped up by a fish. I immediately set the hook and soon a fish, measuring some 10 inch, landed on the pier, flapping like crazy. It was a whiting (a.k.a ground mullet), a sandy bottom dweller white round fish. Someone said it was a nice fish on dinner table.  I quickly picked it up, examined for any flaws, glanced gleefully to my friend. “Dinner is caught, guys” I said cheekily, before putting it away in my cooler box. By now almost everyone had their baits in the water.

I re-baited my hook quickly with shrimp and threw it to the same spot I caught my first fish.This time as soon as the bait hits the water, it was quickly snapped up by a fish. I started to crank my reel furiously, trying to look out for the fish, expecting it to be another whiting. At last I can see the fish, but it was no whiting. What I had at the end of my line was a Speckled Trout (a.k.a. sea spotted trout). I retrieved the fish by pulling it up using my hand on the line instead of my rod. It has beautiful dots all over its body, its eyes still sparkled and mouth agape open close rapidly. Then what happens next boggled me. One after another, my friends pulled up 8 inch to 14 inches trout, left and right. It seem that everyone else on the pier, old, young, man, woman were having their hands full. Every fish caught was a trout. This lasted for like thirty minutes, and then it suddenly stopped as if some fish ghosts have passed by and frightened off all the trout.  We counted 16 fishes flopping on the pier. We picked up the fishes and put them away. I cleaned my hand and went to the washroom. After another thirty minutes with no action, with the ice chest nearly full, we broke for lunch, packed up to go home. On hind sight unknown to us at that time there was a limit in catching Speckled Trout where each person can only bag five. We are two over limit! 
Speckled trout or spotted sea trout
We gave 3 trouts to a couple who lived a floor down from us, 2 to Aunty May, our apartment manager, and the rest tucked inside my refrigerator. That night we had four grilled fishes, marinated in coconut milk, ginger, onion, garlic, chilies and peanut. We bought coconut milk in a can from our neighborhood Vietnamese sundry store and had to resort to peanut jam for the sauce. For wrappers we used aluminum foil. As additional bonus I steamed 3 fishes with salted bean, Chinese style, using a wok and a makeshift tall lid by improvise the aluminum foil to cover the wok to steam the fishes. The sole whiting, I turned it into a soup dish. The fishes turned out great and it was polished off in no time. I was glad I do not have to clean up, something I never like. We had a great dinner and slept soundly, dreaming of pulling in fish.

Location: Dauphin Island Public Fishing Pier, 109 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, Alabama 36528, USA.
Tel: +1-251-861-3607

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