A fishing lesson at El Magote

By Hannah Gorski

I felt the bite, the pull of muscle, and I called, “I got one!”

The rod curved toward the water, and I leaned forward a bit to let the fish run. I knew it was not a big fish, but I was going to catch him.

Paul walked to my side. I reeled in the line, careful not to wind too quickly and to give myself time to marvel at the fish. He showed himself in the shallows, a yellow dorsal fin just behind the crash of a small wave. A jack crevalle. He shifted direction to stay beyond the wall of water and I leaned into the catch and then pulled on the rod while reeling in the line.

“If he wants to run, let him run,” Paul told me. I played the game and reeled the fish in slowly until he was close enough to land. I swung the fish over to Paul to unhook. I was excited, and then I saw the hook was not in his lip. The hook was caught deep in his throat.

“It’s caught in the gills,” Paul said. He tried to maneuver the jig out of fish’s throat. He looked at me and I knew the fish would die. Blood seeped from his gills and fell to the water. Paul tugged on the jig, and I heard the rip—breath torn from the insides. His gills were fiber-like and purple and I’m sure it was very hot inside his throat or very cold.

I was sad and I told Paul I didn’t want to fish anymore. He said to me I had to learn to strike quickly so the fish didn’t swallow the bait. It was an accident, so don’t feel bad. One fish wouldn’t make a difference. All the recreational fishermen on all the coasts of the world wouldn’t make a difference. It was the commercial fishermen who plunged nets deep into the oceans and took everything. They wiped out entire schools and destroyed the bottom of the seas. They trapped mammals and sea turtles with no way to breathe. There were black markets for swim bladders on the other side of the world, but the people there just didn’t know. “It always comes down to education,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, “so learn how to strike.”