Friday, July 30, 2010

Ever Gone Fishin' for Wolf?

Is it too late in my life to change my career? Ever since I caught a big ole fat, ugly sea wolffish last week off the coast of Maine in Small Point, I have been consumed night and day, day and night with the thoughts of a career change from a desk job to fishing the ocean blue. At the age of 51 I want — no, I need — to sail the Atlantic Ocean in search of another beastly sea wolffish. Okay, okay . . . the first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem: Hello, my name is Maryellen, and I have an addiction to fishing for sea wolffish!

My obsession started with a 2-week vacation to my ever-loved Hermit Island in Maine, a 6-hour drive east, then north, crisscrossing New England. Dust from our dirt road kicked up from the Ford F150’s tires as we peeled out from our “Home Sweet Home” in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Talk about leaving Vermont in the dust! I guess you could say we were hell bent on starting our vacation. We were like fifth graders busting through the school gate on the last day of school singing the Alice Cooper song “School’s Out”!

All our gear for 2 weeks of survival was strapped in and over the bed of the truck. Who needs to see out the rear-view mirror? Isn’t that the reason Ford has two nice big honking side-view mirrors protruding from the truck doors? The truck was screaming, “HERMIT ISLAND or BUST”! As we headed up Woodford Mountain not far from home, we caught a glimpse of our vehicle in a vacant grocery store window. Oh, my gosh . . . we looked like vagabonds, like gypsies on the run from the law with our cooler, our fishing rods, our sleeping bags, all tied down with bungee cords and jail-rated straps. All we needed was an old rocking chair teetering on the roof to complete the image of the Beverly Hillbillies! We sent a silent prayer to the travel gods that a strap wouldn’t snap! A broken strap would make us the poster children for the classic scenario 10 pounds of “stuff” in a 5-pound bag!

We chuckled at our 2-week pass to freedom to live and let live. We threw caution to the winds and the tide charts. Hermit Island or Bust all right. . . . Hell, we were on vacation; free for 2 entire weeks! Off we went, over the hills and through the woods to our island. We were free to fish, relax, body surf the waves, and, oh, yes . . . did I mention FISH!?! We planned to fish for anything — yes, anything — that would take our baited hooks.

We finally arrived “on island” without incident; no cooler became an airborne missile at 65 mph on Route 95 North. No high-priced traffic ticket for view obstructions was cited to us from the Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Maine state police. Life was good! Most importantly, all our fishing gear was safe and sound. Remember the island vacation mission: to fish! Nearly 6 hours after we left Vermont in the dust, we finally, finally arrived in the sand on Hermit Island for our well-deserved fishing vacation.

We were greeted at the Hermit Island “front desk,” called the Kelp Shed, by the cutest little teenager, named Kelley. She had the enthusiasm of a teenage girl shopping with her daddy’s credit card at the sale of her life at the mall! Kelley, with her freshly bleached smile, Valley Girl tone, and bright eyes, started her lecture about the island’s cruise offerings. She went on and on and on, explaining the island boat nature tours, island boat sunset tours, luncheon tours on the island’s 1946 wooden boat called the Yankee. I had all I could do to, like, keep my composure. I mean really, like, are you kidding me, Kelley? You are explaining to me the Yankee tours? We are, like, not island virgins here! We have been coming to this island since before, like, you were, like, born.

Who cared about a lunch tour or a sunset tour? “Do we sign up here for the fishing trip?” were my first words, as I cut off Kelley’s sermon about the Yankee’s cruise schedule. She was trying to say, “Welcome to the island,” similarly to a Wal-Mart greeter’s chant. Yup, yup, yup . . . we know all about the welcome part after coming here for 25 years. Like I said, Kelley, “Pleeez just sign us up for the next fishing trip out of the harbor on the Yankee!”

And a mighty fine job Miss Kelley, the happy-to-be-employed front desk clerk at the Kelp Shed, did. We were booked on the next fishing trip on the Yankee. “Be at the dock a tad before 8 a.m. on Tuesday,” were Kelley’s parting words. Oh, if she only knew her famous last words had the potential to change my life!

I could hardly sleep on Monday night in our little two-room rented log cabin in anticipation of our fishing adventure Tuesday morning. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning waiting for Santa. I woke to the sound of a lobster boat in the harbor at 5 a.m. I kept checking my watch — only a mere 3 hours till I was as free as Jack on the bow of the Titanic! In my mind I checked and double-checked my fishing list:

Rod, reel, line, bait: check
Sunscreen for this Irish freckled face: check
Enthusiasm to catch any gilled, finned, backboned creature: double-check
Drinks, lunch, cooler: check
More enthusiasm: Come on, Captain John of the Yankee; bring on the big fish!: triple-check
Camera: check

Captain John Gardner and his first mate Alex Farrell
on the
Yankee out of Hermit Island in Small Point, Maine.
Captain John said the last time he saw a sea wolffish
was 8 years ago in Labrador!

I boarded the Yankee a simple person, content with her station in life and simply in search of a good fishing trip. A family of seven with the most beautiful of fishing gear, complete with $50 lures, also were aboard with lore of catching a sea wolffish. Hmmm . . . wonder what a sea wolffish is, I thought. I planted my sea legs and fishing spirit on the starboard side, ready for an adventure at sea.

About 2 miles out to sea on the calmest of tides, about 65 feet down on a clam-baited hook . . . a tug. Another tug . . . a pull. Oh, my gosh! My thoughts rushed to the catch of a lifetime. What the heck is giving me such a fight? What was attached to the other end of this ole rod? The Loch Ness Monster, a runaway freight train, or one big ole momma sea creature? This was the moment I was waiting for!

You can only imagine my screams of delight and horror as I cranked and yanked and cranked this monster of a sea wolffish from the Atlantic Ocean onto the deck of the Yankee! This ole sea wolffish came aboard the Yankee with chompin’ fighting teeth, bucking and flipping! Ohs and ahs and cheers from my boatmates echoed out to the Atlantic like a lighthouse beam in the dark. I heard voices in my head saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Captain John and First Mate Alex were yelling sailor lingo between them with huge, huge smiles on their sun-kissed faces. “Grab the net, grab the net! Careful, careful. Do not get near the head of that sea wolf. You can lose a foot or a hand! Look at those teeth!”

The Atlantic wolffish’s distinguishing feature (and where it gets its
common name from) is its extensive tooth structure. Its teeth
distinguish the Atlantic wolffish from all the other members of the

family. Both the lower and upper jaw are armed with
four to six fanglike, strong conical teeth. Behind the conical teeth in the
upper jaw, there are three rows of crushing teeth. The central row has
four pairs of molars, and the outer rows house blunted conical teeth.
The lower jaw has two rows of molars behind the primary conical
teeth. The wolffish’s throat is also scattered with serrated teeth.

For the next hour, while the Yankee sailed back to the marina, I checked my racing heartbeat and my shock at my deadliest catch as I grabbed a seat on the wooden bench that held 29 adult life preservers. Whew! What an adrenaline rush! I watched the sea wolf with mixed emotions. I found myself actually thinking this creature was soooo ugly it was beautiful, beautiful in function. It was an amazing, ugly, fearful eel-like bottom dweller. My sea wolf caught hold of my heart like Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Caribbean.

At the end of my almost-life-altering fishing tour, I reluctantly walked off the Yankee as if I had been voted off the island on Survivor. Is this emotion the same as what a pirate feels as he walks the plank? I was doing the same in reverse. My sea legs dragged as I reluctantly became a landlubber again. I felt like a fish out of water.

I carried my proud catch ’o the day, the almost-3-foot sea wolffish in one hand, my pole and wonderful husband’s hand in the other, back to our Beverly Hillbilly Ford F150. In my heart an obsession such as I have never, ever felt before began to possess my being. I surrendered to the need, the want, the downright compulsion to hunt the ocean floor for the ever-sought-after and elusive sea wolffish.

I begged Captain John from the shoreline to hire me, as inexperienced as I may be, as first mate, to swab the deck as a deck hand, as a spotter, as a cheerleader perhaps. He just laughed, telling me he would hire me based not only on my sea wolf fishing experience but also on my enthusiasm for the hunt! I started to imagine myself in navy whites, complete with medals of honor for landing a sea wolffish. I know it’s a silly fish-story daydream! Or is it?

Yup, that ugly, yummy-tasting fish was like an aphrodisiac. I had all the symptoms of a fishaholic: a racing heartbeat, blurred vision except on the horizon line, bait envy, and a high fever only to be quenched by 36°F Atlantic ocean water. I found myself hallucinating about quitting my day job, grabbing the boat keys, reels, docksiders, and my lucky green fishin’ hat to hit the high seas! Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to fishin’ I go! In this altered state of reality, I may even trade the F150 for a fishin’ boat!

And heck, who knows . . . maybe you will see my debut on the next edition of Deadliest Catch! HA!

P.S. This is a true fish story! What’s your story?

— Maryellen Mahoney, Special Sales Account Manager


Jake said...

Haha I laughed SO hard at the picture of you with the fish! Looks like a great time :)

Kim in Vermont said...

Awesome story!!! So glad you had a wonderful trip!

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Maryellen, you were NOT kidding!! The thing is practically prehistoric. You said "yummy-tasting"...broiled? Fried? Fricasseed? Inquiring minds want to know--how do you eat sea wolffish??!!


Anonymous said...

I wish I could have seen the event in person! I can almost hear you screaming when I'm reading the story! I'm glad you had so much fun!

Anonymous said...

OMG Mel, what a story. And I just love the jeans with the trim. Where did you get them!!!? Glad you had such a fun time.


Maryellen said...

Glad everyone is enjoying this story. Sure wish you could have been on board to share in my adventure!
But hey... you can join me in just a couple of weeks back on the island. See, I told you I just HAD to get back on island to board The Yankee to fish again!

Maryellen said...

Hi Ivy,
Prehistoric is certainly a great description of "the creature".
Everyone told me the fish would taste better than lobster. Naw..No way... nothing could possibly taste better than lobster!?
Since we were at camp we kept the cooking minimal and prehistoric to match the catch. We simply cooked the fish naked on our Coleman camp stove.
Well, everyone was right; wolf fish certainly does taste better than lobster. No lemon and draw butter necessary.
Now I'm getting hungry for the thrill and taste of another wolf fish hunt.
I am "back on island" in 17 days. Let the count down begin!

Anonymous said...

Amazing feat - it just goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind (and in this case I'm sure arms and legs) to! Maybe the uglier the fish the better it tastes? A hard act to follow when you head back to Maine but I'm sure you will go down swingin!

Anonymous said...

Wolf fish are endangered-- it's good stewardship to release them when caught. They are not good eating at all-- I think you're crazy ( good crazy though! )


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