A Fish Story – The Early Bird Does Not Get the Worm

Fishing in a boat

Living in the Northwest and never having been salmon fishing, I decided recently that I’d better correct this deficiency in my upbringing.

Since two of my neighbors, Jerry and Jack, consider salmon fishing almost a religion, they visibly salivated at the prospect of converting someone. They happily planned a camping trip for the next weekend.

We had to get to the campground the night before, Jerry explained, because we had to take the ferry and they don’t run early enough. That should have been my first clue that we weren’t talking about a leisurely activity engaged in after a refreshing night’s sleep.

As we set up the trailer that night, I asked Jerry what time we were starting the next day.

“Oh, we’ll leave about 4:30 or so,” he casually said.

I was surprised. “That won’t leave us much time before dinner, will it?”

“Well,” Jerry said, “maybe you’re right. That only gives us ten or eleven hours, so maybe we should leave a little earlier.”

Ten or eleven hours? I thought he meant 4:30 p.m., but kept my mouth shut.

Promptly at 4:00 a.m. the next morning, thanks to my helpful suggestion, we had the truck fired up and left. At least, I thought, we’ll be the first ones to launch our boat.

Wrong again. We were number 11 in line at the boat launch. I didn’t think ten other people in Washington got up that early, much less showing up at the public boat launch. We were in the water finally at 5:30, with Jerry and Jack grumbling about the late start.

I soon found out that salmon fishing has a vocabulary all its own, much of which is made up and no one really knows the correct meanings.

As we headed slowly out on the Sound, Jack turned to Jerry, who was busily fiddling with hooks, sinkers, and other paraphernalia, and said, “Okay, here’s the plan. We start out trolling and do some jigging using flashers and cut plugs. Then we’ll switch to hoochies and use the downriggers. May later, we can do some casting and mooching and use buzz bombs.”

“Excuse me,” I said, puzzled, “but what language are you speaking?”

“Aw, quit kidding, and let me show you how to bait up,” Jack said, as he started to put a small piece of what I assumed was bait fish on my hook.

“What are you doing?” Jerry asked him.

“I’m baiting him up for some jigging,” Jack replied.

“That’s not what you use for jigging, that’s what you use for mooching. This is what you use for jigging.”

“What? That’s squid. You use that with the downriggers, don’t you know anything?”

“I know that I’ve caught more salmon than you’ll ever see, especially if that’s your idea of how to bait a hook for jigging.”

The argument continued as we trolled around slowly for two or three hours with no bites. Suddenly, Jerry pointed excitedly.

“Look over there! That boat is pulling one in.”

“Let’s go,” Jack said. I asked what we were going to see.

“We want to ask them what they used for bait. See, those three other boats are heading over too.”

“Does it make a difference?” I asked. So far, for us, it hadn’t.

“Sure it does. He’s catching something and we’re not, so we’ll switch to whatever he’s using.”

“But won’t everyone else switch too when they find out?”


“But if everyone is then using the same bait, won’t it be just pure luck as to who catches a fish?”

“Fishing is a matter of skill, not luck,” Jerry sniffed.

He looked so serious that I decided to lighten things up a bit and see if he had a sense of humor. “I’ve got an idea,” I said, “Look, I brought some beef jerky. If we catch a fish, we’ll tell the other boats that we used beef jerky as bait. I’ll bet most of them didn’t bring any and we could sell it for ten dollars apiece. It’ll be a real hoot watching everyone seriously trying to catch salmon using beef jerky!”

They both looked at me exactly as if I had suggested that we leave early and go steal babies.

“You don’t kid around like that with people who are fishing. Besides, they might believe you. I’ve seen stranger things tried”.

And so the day continued, without a single nibble. But I did notice toward the end of the day that they were both thoughtfully looking at my beef jerky.

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