I went down to Point Pleasant Saturday with my Son Christopher, step-father Lester and my good friend Lonnie to go cod and porgy fishing on the Big Jamaica party boat. It was a 16 hour trip about 70 miles out into the ocean, where we were deep line fishing the bottom near ship wrecks. We actually got to stay out a little longer because the captain wanted to let us try a spot that he thought might have good potential on the way back. That spot turned out to be full of dogfish though.
The first spot we fished turned out a lot of porgy and some of the largest sea bass I have ever seen. It was a shame that the bass were out of season for those who caught them. They had to throw them back in. Though I am trying to become a sport fisher and practicing catch and release, this was not the type of trip for that. There were so many people on the boat we might as well have just had a net down. My intention was to only keep what I thought I would eat fresh and then give my family and friends some. That turned out to be easy since I only caught three porgy and dropped one back in when I hooked my finger as seen in the article photo. They were delicious though. I didn’t know if I’d like them or not. Simple salt and pepper and fried in olive oil, they were great.
Deep lining is not a therapeutic form of angling as is fly fishing and just about anything else in smaller groups. The party boat was huge and crowded. People with PTSD (like me) would likely be uncomfortable for at least part of the trip. I cannot that I didn’t have a good time though. Being with my family and friend and having such beautiful weather in February was a true blessing. The mates on the boat were a good bunch of guys. They stayed busy as they were outnumbered like 20 to one by paying fisherman, yet they kept a smile on there faces and did their job well. I don’t usually write about party boats but I really wanted to give the Big Jamaica a mention because I would recommend them and will go out with them again.
My story here is more about that hook though. I have been fishing my whole life and I have always known that once a hook with a barb is too deep, it has to be pushed through and not pulled back. I have never personally seen this happen to anyone until this past six months when my friend Nicole (The Quilted Tyer ) got one stuck in her finger on our Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing trip to Roscoe in September and now me Saturday. Nicole has a great personality so it has been fun picking on her since that day; though it was no laughing matter seeing her in pain at the time. But when I did it to myself, I had to text her and let her know that I’d never tease her or anyone else again about it. A barb is a 4 letter word that can cause an angler to start shouting others quickly when stuck.
When it happened to me this weekend, the hook didn’t go in far. I knew I could get it myself so I told my son to hold the fish that I just removed while I did so. He was busy or didn’t understand so I just dropped the fish back in the water when suddenly the 20 oz. weight that I had resting on the rail fell also, yanking the hook all the way in. I still tried to remove it myself after untying the weight. I could feel the hook touching the tendon and I tried to steer around it to get it loose with no luck. I asked those around me for pliers but nobody had any to push it through so I went into the cabin where one of the mates cut it out for me after numbing it a little with ice. That is when the stories started coming out. The guy that pulled the hook out for me showed me a scar under his eye were a shark hook went through. One of the other mates got a gaff through his foot. Some of the other fisherman chimed in as well and that made me think of Nicole’s wound and the one Tom McCoy mentioned in his elbow in one of his books “How to Improve Your Fly Fishing and Catching” where he warns anglers to crush their barbs.
It is no wonder for people that have been hooked why a fish will eventually submit and lose a fight after a while much of the time. (the hook hurts!) By crushing the barbs or using barbless hooks to begin with it is much safer and more sporting for you and the fish. If you practice catch and release as many anglers do in effort to preserve the different species for the future then the less injury you cause a fish, the more likely it is to heal quickly and survive the trauma of being caught.
So if you are learning the sport of angling or are experienced and just want to be more sporting, get rid of that barb. You may lose a few more fish than you would have landed with a barbed hook, but it is much less barb-aric.