While working in Australia I had befriended a colleague originally from Taiwan and now an Australian citizen. He was an ardent fisherman, and had a boat. What more could you ask for? He also had a teenage son who liked to fish as well.
Li-Yen asked me one afternoon if I would be interested in joining him and his son in trying for some reef fish off the coast of Wollongong, the city where we were working. We set the time, and he stopped by my condo and picked me up and we headed for the boat launch. He trailered a very seaworthy 17 foot boat that had more than enough room for the three of us to fish. Once launched, vehicle parked and gear loaded, we headed for the reef. I was surprised that we went about 400 yards offshore and he shut down the motor. He started assembling the gear and we baited our hooks. Then he did something I had never seen before.
Li-Yen took out a sack of bread crumbs and dropped a couple cupsful over the stern of the boat. They fluttered in the water like grains of mica, and before long small fish rose up from the reef to have a free lunch. Watching them was fun, but more interesting was the larger fish that followed and selected the small fish for their lunch! Now I understood, he was using the time-tested fishing trick of chumming! I had used chopped fish and crushed clams for chum, but never bread crumbs.
It did not take long to get the first bite, and we started boating modest size reef fish in the one to two pound range, I don’t think I ever knew what they were called, and I had never seen fish marked exactly like them before. Li-Yen said keep or return based on their value as table fare, and we had a lot of fun filling the cooler. Then something strange happened, I got slammed with something much bigger. We were using fairly light gear, so the tussle was on. Eventually I got the catch close enough to the boat to identify it, and to my surprise it looked like a very large squid.
It was not a squid Li-Yen told me, it was a cuttle fish. Looking like a squid but with a much larger body, I knew the mouth was between the tentacles, and that was where it was hooked. Once caught the cuttle fish spread the tentacles like the bows of an umbrella, creating a lot of drag for a five pound fish. We got the net, scooped it up and brought it into the boat. I was pretty sure it was edible, and Li-Yen verified that it was in fact very good table fare. Into the cooler it went. When we returned to the launch area and were cleaning our catch, Li-Yen showed me how to prepare the body, which was much like a half inch thick tube, into small steaks for grilling.
That evening I had fried fish and grilled cuttle fish steaks for dinner, and they were delicious. I fished several more times with Li-Yen but we never caught any more cuttle fish. After returning home to Cape Cod I got an e-mail from Li-Yen telling me that he was planning to be in the US in a few months and could he come and visit me on Cape Cod. We could try for some striped bass that I had told him about during one of our fish story sessions. His son was investigating colleges where he could study computer engineering, and MIT was on the list. So we made arrangements for me to pick him up at the airport in Boston and bring him out to the Cape. Unfortunately we were a little late for the bass, they had already migrated to warmer water, but we did have a great sightseeing day on the water and he and his son collected some local shells. I had dug a bucket of clams before he arrived, so we settled on having clam chowder and fried fish from the freezer for supper.
The excitement of fishing new places is that there are always species you are not familiar with, and both catching them and consuming them provides wonderful memories. Of course the people you fish with enhance those memories.