My Dad once caught a fish this big…No really he did, I should know, I was there!
For those of you who have read my posts regularly you know I love to talk about personal sports stories. It is a good excuse for me to make a “journal entry”. I haven’t written a post in awhile but have a tale so awesome, it needs to be immortalized with pen and paper…er um keystrokes and the Internet, well I will save my word doc as well. I have told this story many times, but have never written it down, so this is a perfect excuse.
Let’s begin. My dad is my sports hero. He was a humble wood shop teacher for his career, and oh did he love sports. He loved watching the SF Giants and the SF 49ers play ball. My dad grew up in San Diego, so he followed the Padres and the Chargers as well. I think he even supported the A’s and the Raiders…How could you dad?
I am the youngest of 5 kids, and my dad started later in life having kids. He was 43 when I was born. By the time I was old enough to even think about being active and playing sports, my dad didn’t have much energy to play sports with me. He would come out and play “Horse” sometimes. For those of you who don’t know what that game is, you basically pick a spot on the basketball court, or in this case the driveway of our house, and shoot the basketball. If you make it, the other person has to shoot the ball in the same place, if that person misses; they get a letter, and so on until you spell “Horse.” My dad didn’t play many sports me, but there is one thing he always did. He always took me fishing.
I was his fishing buddy. I think all of us kids liked fishing, but I liked it the most. I remember fondly many Saturday mornings waking up early, packing our lunches, well he did the packing, I did the watching, and we would drive what seemed like an eternity (40 minutes) to the beach. Our favorite fishing haunt was Sea Cliff Beach and Cement Ship in Aptos California.
SS Palo Alto
At the end of World War I, the San Francisco Shipbuilding Company finished building a concrete ship Tanker. It was too late to enter the war, so it pretty much just sat around in Oakland. The Seacliff Amusement Corporation decided to buy this ship and tow it to Aptos California. They grounded it and built a wooden pier out to the ship. They opened up a restaurant, dance floor, and even a pool. However a few years later with the Great Depression, the company folded. The State of California decided to buy the boat and pier and turn it into a fishing pier. They took out all of the amenities, and left it for fisherman, and for those who wanted to site see and just walk on the pier and boat. Then a big storm hit in 1950 and damaged the cement ship, so it was closed down for a time, and then it reopened to the public.
The Story Begins
Now that we have the state set, our story begins. The year was 1985. I was a ripe age of 7 years old. 1985 was a good year for sports. The 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. In England the FA Cup, Manchester United beat Everton 1-0. Pete Rose would break Ty Cobb’s All Time Hit Record. The Kansas City Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. LA Lakers would win the NBA Finals beating the Boston Celtics. Michael Jordan competed in his first Slam Dunk contest. Michael Spinks would beat Larry Holmes in boxing, which would be the first time a light heavyweight champion, would win a world heavyweight title, and it was the year that my Dad almost caught Moby Dick…Almost.
It was summer. I was living a kid’s dream, no school, watching Saturday morning cartoons, playing with my friends, and loving life. My Dad was finished teaching summer school for the year, which meant he had plenty of time to take me fishing. One Saturday morning, we decided to head over to our favorite spot and try out luck. We woke up fairly early, my dad got the food and the fishing gear ready, as I waited impatiently. Next we drove over to the local bait and tackle shop and bought some bait. You could buy bait at the beach but it was a little more expensive and it didn’t usually open that early. Bait in hand we set out on our adventure. After what seemed like forever, we finally arrived at the beach.
There it was, a majestic site, a long pier, with a beat up, amazing, cement ship. The fishermen were already starting to make their way out on the pier and ship and stake their claim, prized fishing spot, for the day. He found a nice spot out on the Cement boat. We always liked fishing on the west side of the ship, not sure why, but my Dad said it was better fishing over there. I didn’t argue. The local time was about 7:30am.
We spent the morning throwing our lines in, and waiting for bites. There were a few people around us that were getting some action, but we weren’t having much luck. I was having fun still, while waiting for bites; I would feed the seagulls when my dad wasn’t looking. He didn’t like me feeding the birds, probably because of the sign that we walked past at the entrance to the pier, which read, “Don’t feed the birds.” I was sneaky though, and an innocent 7 year old. There was also this cool opening, that you could look down into the belly of the cement ship, a lot of times sea lions would find there way in there and talk to each other. I may or may not have dropped bait down there on occasion.
The time went on. My dad was getting bored I think. Sometimes we would come to the beach in the afternoon, and my dad would put the SF Giants game on his little portable radio and enjoy listening to the game, but this was the mid-morning and there was no game on.
Well Matthew, shall we go home? Not much action today.
No, Dad, I am not ready to go home. Please can we stay longer?
Oh all right, just a little longer.
I worked my youngest kid charm on my dad, and we wound up staying longer. My dad noticed the guy next to us was catching Mackerel with a bobber and a live anchovy. We didn’t have any live anchovies only dead ones. But my dad thought he would try is luck with that type of rig. Instead of setting up his surf pole, which already was in the water, he decided to set up his little trout pole, complete with 10 pound test line. He put a bobber on it, with a 3-foot leader, and a full dead anchovy as the bait. Next he flung it out there, the little pole, had a hard time, the line only went out about 15 feet from the ship. My dad reeled it back in and flung it out one more time, again same thing happened. I watched on as my dad tried to get the bait out far enough. He reeled it back in, and then flung it out there again. This time, within seconds of the bait hitting the water, the bobber sunk deep into the water. My dad jerked as his trout pole bent down like crazy. From tip to hand the pole was bent.
I have something big!
I looked on with awe. My dad reeling in a little, letting out line a little. What was this monster of a fish that my dad had on his line? And please don’t let the line break, please don’t let the pole break, and please don’t let the fish pull my dad into the water. At this point a huge crowd started to gather around us, as was the custom among the fishermen. One guy started barking orders, telling people to get their lines out of the water; he even cut some fisherman’s line that was being too slow. Bold move bro, I like it. Suddenly we saw a glimpse of something, the sunlight danced off the giant fish on my dad’s line.
It was a whale!!! I thought. It was a Shark! It was Jaws! I didn’t know what I saw, it was huge. My dad kept fighting the monster on his 10lb test line. Time went on and the battle continued. An enormous crowd was now around us. Crab nets were hunted down and at the ready. Finally after 30 minutes of fighting the beast, we saw it. It was a giant Salmon! My dad managed to get it close enough to a crab net where the other guy was able to pull up the beast. The crowd roared with excitement, and the congratulations and hand shakes ensued. Oh my what a site. The Salmon was nearly as big as me. I gave a big grin to my dad. “Aren’t you glad I wanted to stay longer, you are welcome,” I thought. We packed up our things and went to the bait shop on the beach. They gave us a big box with lots of ice for the fish, and of course took my dad’s picture with the fish, so they could hang it on their wall of fishing heroes. We finally drove home.
Dad caught a whale! Dad caught a whale!
After returning home, I ran inside and told everyone to come and look at what dad had caught. We took a picture of me lying down on the ground beside the beast; it was nearly as long as me, I think it came up to my shoulders. It weighed in around 30 to 35 pounds. It was an incredible fish. This story out of all the amazing fishing stories that I have had with my dad will go down in history as the greatest and most thrilling. I still go fishing with my dad; here he is at the age of 83. Look he is still fishing with the same pole that he caught that monster salmon with.
There you have it my Scorum friends, I hope you enjoyed this fishing tale about how my dad almost caught Moby Dick…well kind of.
Your Scorum Friend,
Matt aka @bayareasportsfan