An Outdoor View: Fishing around

A video on YouTube shows Royal Marines helping appreciative locals catch fish in Afghanistan. If you’re thinking, “Good for those Marines,” consider that they’re fishing with hand grenades.

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Scientists conducting studies in Africa recently reported that they’ve seen chimpanzees fishing for algae, using woody branches and twigs as fishing rods, some of which were more than 4 meters long. This raises several questions. How long will it be until chimpanzees figure out that they could be fishing for fish? When they start coming to Alaska as tourists, will they be required to have a sport-fishing license and obey the regulations, or will they get a pass, as bears and seals now do? This could get serious. How long will it be until a chimp is appointed to the Board of Fisheries?

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In Havana, Cuba, if you can’t afford a boat, you use condoms. Simply inflate a few, attach them to your line, and let the wind and tide take your bait out to where the big ones are. Along the Havana seawall, dozens of men nightly employ this low-cost method of getting their baits out 900 feet and farther.

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Condoms might be an effective way to fish from Cook Inlet’s west-side beaches. A similar fishing method works at South Point, on the Big Island, Hawaii. Fishermen along that wave-pounded shoreline use inflatable trash bags and the offshore wind to catch tuna, mahi-mahi and other large species. What halibut or king salmon could resist a herring dangling from a bobbing condom or trash bag?

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At the Tengu Blackmouth Derby, held Nov. 13 in Elliot Bay, Seattle, a 10-pound, 1-ounce blackmouth was not only the winning fish, but the only fish caught by the 25 members participating in the event.

Blackmouth are immature king salmon, the Puget Sound version of what we Alaskans call “feeder” or “winter” kings. Like fishing for feeder kings out of Homer or Seward, blackmouth fishing on a winter day in Puget Sound can be cold and iffy.

In the early 1960s, I lived in Seattle for a year, or so. My landlord, an avid fisherman, took me blackmouth fishing a couple of times. I remember sitting in cold, pouring rain in an open skiff, trolling for hours without a bite. Like fishing for feeder kings in wintertime Alaska, you catch just enough to keep you coming back for more.

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On Kiritimati Island, a.k.a. Christmas Island, fishermen armed with fly rods wade the flats stalking bonefish and giant trevally. The “GTs” can reach weights of more than 100 pounds. Fast and ferociously predacious, they roam the flats, looking for prey fish.

In the late 1980s, I waded those flats bonefishing. While fishing alone one day, up to my thighs in the warm, crystal-clear water, a pair of huge GTs cruised by at about 15 knots, maybe 20 feet out. Scared the hell out of me. GTs aren’t known to attack people, but their size and speed are intimidating.

In Australia, they’re now using drones to carry their lures out as far as 1,200 feet from shore to fish for long tail tuna. Some fishermen let the drone “troll” the lure until a fish takes it. Others use a line release on the drone. After the lure is released, it’s reeled in.

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I see where a hydrofoil drone is now available. I suppose this will be used by those who prefer to fish from a boat, but can’t afford one. What next?

Les Palmer can be reached at

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