Saturday, July 7, 2012

Asian Eyes' USA - Alabama Playing drums

             I went to school in USA back in the early nineties. It was mid-December and the weather was cool. Tony, Zak and I had arranged to go fishing for the last time. I woke up at early and put a pot of water to boil before I woke up Tony. After shower I prepared breakfast which was white rice with some leftover curry chicken.  Zak was up and about waiting for us. We took the same route and pointed out the smoke from the chimney, which was streaking slightly to the left. “Good day to catch red drum”, I said. “Wind is blowing from sea to land. It will be high tide in an hour and predatory fish will rush in”. We stopped at bait shop and bought a dozen minnows and a pound of dead shrimp. 
My rod waiting for action
There were half a dozen people at the pier when we arrived. Sam was there, puffing away a cigarette, as I approached. “Good mornin'” he said and gave me high five. “No fish ain't bitin'.” He spoke in his Southern drawl, showed me his empty cooler box. We put down our gears next to his. I fixed a rod with a minnow, dropped it below the pier, loosen the drag and leaned it against the railing. I took another rod to a pier T junction and fish the bottom with dead shrimp. No action for nearly half an hour. Sam and I chatted in between me reeling in my rod for the umpteenth time, with the shrimp still intact every time. I decided to rest the rod against the railing and checked on Tony and Zak. They were in the same boat as me and so were the others on the pier. Sam caught a catfish and threw it back into the sea, cursing away. I then checked on my rod with minnow. Some fish had ran away with my minnow. I baited another minnow and dropped it to the same area. Just then I noticed my other rod that was baited with shrimp did a light jiggle and then stop. I rest my minnow rod against the railing and rushed over to check on the rod. I reeled it in to find an empty hook staring at me. Instead of cursing the runaway fish, I said to myself “Good sign”. It meant the fish was biting.
           I dropped my dead shrimp bait at the same spot, this time holding on to the rod. Not long, my rod did the same slight jiggle and stop. I nonchalantly lifted up my rod. It felt heavy midway and I started to pull hard before noticing the line was moving. “Hey, I got a fish” I shouted. All eyes were on me now. I pulled and pulled the rod over my head that it rose like a question mark. The fish gave some fight, but moment later it surfaced. I could not make out the type, but it was grey dark with light black band across the body, not dissimilar to a sheepshead. “It’s a black drum” Sam said. I had never caught a black drum before. “They are nice eating”, Sam added. As I pulled it up, the black drum gave out some noise, like low drumming sound, hence the namesake 'drum' fish. I managed to land it onto the pier with Sam’s help. A crowd had formed as I had the only action at that moment. Great, now everyone will move closer to the spot I caught the drum. “Don’t take my spot” I blurted out to no one in particular. I took a closer look at the black drum. It shaped like a fat red drum, about 3 pounds, but no spot. It had 2 barbel whiskers by the side of the mouth and the body had some faint band like the Sheepshead, but no ugly teeth. Satisfied, I put the fish into my cooler, re-baited and dropped it to the same spot again. Once again, my rod jiggled lightly, and I whipped my rod up sharply. Whoa, a heavy line again. I got the second action where no one had any, including the super fishing guru, Sam. I pulled up another black drum by myself. It looked like a twin to the first fish.
Black drum converged in a school, gave out low drumming 
noise when caught
          After this I got action upon action from the same fishing hole. My rod did a jiggle, I strike hard, I land drum upon drum. I was so good that after couple of fishes later I can land a fish by one sweeping motion with my rod and line, the fish kind of flew over my head from the water onto the pier. The funny thing was I was the only one catching fish, everyone else was watching with envy, even they had by now converged near to “my” fishing hole. After my 8th fish, I told the anglers “maybe it’s my bait they are after”. They had been fishing with minnows. I helped Sam baited his rod with my dead shrimp, while others came over and helped themselves to our dead shrimp baits. They continued to fish from the same hole. I had stopped fishing and turned my attention to my other rod. My minnow had since long gone as I reeled it in. Then, there was a shriek from Sam when he struggled with his rod with a huge black drum at the end of the line. He skillfully avoided the pier legs and asked Tony to drop a string basket down to haul up the fish. It was a fine specimen and it could easily tip the scale at 20 pounds. Sam was beaming with pride. Good Ol Sam!
As mysterious as it may sound, after the “mama” black drum Sam caught, there was no further action. Minnows still wriggling when reeled in; dead shrimp left untouched. After an hour or so later, we decided to call it a day. Sam had the biggest fish while I bagged the most with 9 fishes. Before we headed off,  I gave away the last of my shrimps bait and the remaining minnows. Sam and I shook hands, knowing this will be my last fishing trip with him. He grasped my hand firmly and patted it with his other hand. We planned to meet up again at my apartment for dinner later that night. I waved goodbye to the other anglers who waved back and went to my car. Zak bought all my fish except 2 which I planned to cook for dinner that night. On the way home we stopped by the shrimper boat to buy some squids and shrimps, opting for the larger ones. 
Pecan pie - America's favorite pie from the south
Pecan - grows well in South USA and Mexico
         At home Tony and I put away the fish, squids and shrimps for tonight. I had some leftover curry chicken with rice from yesterday and took a nap. In the afternoon, Tony and I went to our local grocery to get some greens, okra, chickens, turnips and fruits. I threw a 'farewell' pot luck party ahead of my leaving USA on the New Year's day. Sam and Betty showed up with their Cajun style shrimp gumbo, Aunt May and Uncle Rob with American pecan pie, Zak and Rose with beef rendang, some college classmates came with sodas and tidbits. I cooked fish curry with the black drum with okra and serve with white rice, the squids I fried with onion, garlic, dried chillies and its ink, and deep fried the shrimps (no head, no shell except the tail intact) coated in KFC's flour. Tony prepared chicken satay with peanut jam sauce. Beyond this, there were pumpkin pie from the American couple who used to be my neighbor, 'chap suey', 'chow mein' and some fortune cookies from the Hong Kong's restaurant owner, soft drinks, pizzas, chicken wings from my MBA classmates and some exotic food called 'couscous' with vegetable and lamb stew from some fellow international students in my neighborhood. The list was long. Luckily some smart alec also brought disposable paper plates and cups.   
Couscous - a staple food in North Africa, quite similar to rice
         We had a jolly good time and by the time we sang Auld Lang Syne it was well into the night! 

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

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