Friday, June 1, 2012

Asian Eyes' USA - Andrew’s visit

I went to school in USA back in the early nineties. I just completed my term examination final paper. We were itching for another action in fishing when we gathered 4 friends (Tony, Arthur, Jacky and I) to another trip to Dauphin Island Pier. It was a Thursday, so the crowd would be thinner. The bait shop did not have our supply of dead shrimp, so we only bought cigar minnows as bait. They cost $0.50 each so we only bought 20 and used a jerry can to ensure they survived the trip to the pier. The smoke at the chimney was blowing diagonal, close to 80 degree, meaning heavy wind near the coast. Nevertheless we pressed on since we had ‘invested’ on the baits.
 We reached the pier with no car parked on the parking lot at all. "That is weird", I think to myself, but did not paying much attention to it. As we approached the pier entrance, we saw a red sign stated “Sorry, we are close due to strong wind”. Silly me for not checking Weather Channel. “So guys, what do we do now?” I asked the rest. “Well, we can release the baits or we can go back and fry the baits for dinner” Arthur said. “I suggest we try fishing here, on the pier before the entrance door. The water here is some 2 to 3 feet deep. We may get some fish if we are lucky” replied Tony. “Alright then, since we are already here, we might as well try our luck” I said. We quickly assembled our rod and hooked on our minnows on its lower lip and dropped into the water over the railing of the pier. The float bobbed on the water surface and flowed out with the fast current. There was no action at all and occasionally I reeled in my bait and checked it to ensure it is still alive. Every time I pulled up my line, the little fish wriggled to get back in the water. I did that a couple of time, get bored at the lack of action and decided to take a walk at the beach. I loosen the drag and walked off the pier to the beach.
Strolling on the beach below 
the pier while waiting for fish
As I was on the beach, I looked up to the pier and happened to see Jacky’s rod arched and nearly tripped over the pier railing. I shouted to “Jacky, your rod, your rod”. Arthur ran to it and grabbed with both fists while shouted to Jacky too. Jacky flying out from nowhere and took the rod from Arthur’s hands, He fought the fish for some 3 minutes. It was a big fish, and just like in the case of Tony’s big sheepshead in the spring, Jacky was also unable to pull the fish up to the pier without it broke loose due to its sheer weight. There is no one else beside us at the pier to help lower a net to scooped it up, and we do not have net. “To the beach, Jacky, to the beach to me” I yelled from the beach below. Jacky looked at me, puzzled for a moment, before he understood what I meant. The beach was less than 50 feet away and he dragged the fish by pulling the fishing line towards me where I gleefully picked it up. The fish was about 24 inches long, and had a big spot near its tail. “It’s a Red Drum (a.k.a. Redfish)” I yelled at Jacky, holding the fish aloof my head.
Red Drum with a prominent 
spot on its tail
While the commotions hadn’t stopped, my rod started screeching and its tip bend over the pier railing. It was Tony’s turn to grab the rod while I was still at the beach. He tighten the drag and started reeling in the fish. Lo and behold, another big redfish. Smarting from Jacky’s experience couple of minutes ago, Tony too pulled the fish to the beach, effectively beaching it for me. With fishes in both hands, I grinned from ear to ear. We compared the fishes; Jacky’s was bigger by 2 inches. Satisfied, we put them away in our Coleman icebox. Both Jacky and I re-baited our hooks and cast away from the pier. Before we can welcome another pull, the sky started to change and rain started. The wind howled and blow from the sea. Just then we heard a police siren, saw light flashing red, meaning stop. As we looked towards the beach, 2 troopers raced towards us. “Guys, no fishing today, I saw your car and am surprised you guys are fishing. You guys do not see the TV or what? You better to leave now” said the first trooper when he reached us. We did not bat an eyelid and packed up in no time. Arthur managed to pour the remaining baits into the sea and we scooted off like the wind. Little did we know we had chosen a day when Hurricane Andrew blew into this part of the world when the fishes were started to bite!
The patrol car escorted us out of Dauphin Island and we arrived home in the nick of time before hurricane Andrew made land fall. We heard our apartment’s roof clattering, wind howling, rain dropping by the bucket and trees swaying and buckling. The electricity went out as Tony was cooking dinner per the fishing rule, and then we were in total darkness. I lit the candles and Tony continued cooking the Red Drum. Tony deep fried the fish and prepared a sweet sour sauce to go with it. The pot of leftover rice from yesterday was still fresh, along with some leftover crabs curry. In America, cooked rice may keep in the open for 2-3 days without it being spoil. It must be due to the humidity and temperature. Sometime I would sprinkle some water onto the rice and reheat it, but this time Tony fried it with onions, diced hams and eggs. He reheated the leftover crab curry and added some more crabs from the refrigerator. The 4 of us, guys, having romantic candle light dinner, feasting on the fish we caught, together with some leftovers curry with hurricane Andrew for company. That night I spend some time watching Weather Channel and learnt that it was a F5 category that hits us. I reminded myself to watch the weather channel the night before we set out for fishing.
Hurricane Andrew blew across Gulf of Mexico
in summer of 1992
By the way the limit to Red Drum’s catch during that time was 2 per person. Any Red Drum below 18 inches or over 27 inches cannot be taken. Those above 27 inches were called ‘breeder’ and American Conservation Law protects the goose very well indeed. One may be jailed if caught with possession with more than 2 Red Drums or a ‘breeder’. If you catch a breeder or young Red Drum, release it back. However if the fish turned upside down when you released it, meaning it is dying, then you can keep it, and have to do a lot of explanation should the law enforcer officer choose that moment to show up. Anyway it will be better to just release the breeder as soon as you caught it, after you snap a picture or two, of course. This way we ensure ample fishing activities in time to come. I remembered once I was caught red handed by a law enforcer of having 1 too many Red Drum. I plead ignorance and got away with it after showing my student ID that I was an international student. I was let go with a warning. Phew, was I sweating!

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

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