Species: Pacific Sardine (Sardinops sagax)
Location: Brookings-Harbor Marina, OR
Date: September 10, 2009
Rashomon Effect 4-of-6: My Eyes
I rubbed them.
I rubbed them again.
Rheumy, blurry darkness.
I blinked a few times and then fumbled in the darkness for my glasses.
Rheumy, clear darkness.
I shuffled through the cold morning fog to the shower, the heat cleaning my eyes of the night’s sleep, but the blur remained.
My contacts cleared the blur, and I looked at my red, sleep-deprived eyes in the naked light of the single bulb above the mirror.
It would be worth it, I told myself.
The salt stung my eyes, and the bracing wind dried them out. I was sick to my stomach, but the sun helped. I donned sunglasses and caught yet another rockfish.
The boat was pleasant, but staring into the water with salt spray and flecks of fish blood flying around, blazing sun, and whipping wind makes your eyes much more tired than a day on the shore.
When the boat docked back in its slip, Ben and I took to chasing silver flashes in the marina.
As we hooked anchovies one after the next, I noticed one fish that looked different. While the anchovies looked silver in the brackish water, this fish was blue. I tried placing my bait in its path, but the rhythmic dancing of the school was choreographed to avoid my hooks then surround them, so the odds of getting that one blue fish to bite were small.
Still, as we followed the school around the marina, darting this way and that, that elusive blue glint appeared more than once. Finally, as I walked to retrieve our bait bag, I noticed an isolated blue fish that looked injured.
Since we were snagging as many anchovies as we were hooking them in the mouth, I lowered my crappie jig (the Sabiki proved to be a pain when you’d hook multiple fish due to tangles), and found purchase in the face of the lonely baitfish.
It fought and dove much harder than the anchovies, but it was still a small fish: maybe five inches in length.
As it flopped onto the dock, telltale two-toned coloration and the horizontally-aligned black spots told me it wasn’t an anchovy. The guys on the boat would later tell me it was a Pacific Sardine — the one and only sardine I’ve ever caught.
I felt fortunate to have kept my eyes on the prize, especially when Ben landed one himself a few minutes later.
The jetty was dangerous because of the massive boulders, oceanic damp, and deep holes between footholds. Eyes wide, we stepped carefully around the jetty as we caught fish for the rest of the day in the close isolation of that rock spit just a few hundred yards from the bustling beach.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #30 — Kelp Greenling.