The fishing passport means many things to many people.
There is a certain charm to fishing in different places—traveling to fish. This charm is exclusive to pastimes that involve interaction with variables and unpredictability of success.”
Fishing means many things to many different people. It has influenced or played a central role in the lives of many—from Jesus to Ernest Hemingway. If you’re reading this, it probably has its hooks in you too.
There are nearly as many types of fishing as there are fish in the sea… as there are people who enjoy the activity. And for each type of fishing there are those who would rather do that than eat. The fishing passport means many things indeed.
For Every Species, a Fanatic
Fishing for carp in the lakes and rivers of Europe can be a fanatical affair. For the tournament crazed bass fishermen of the world, living out of hotels and the pick up trucks that pull the boats from lake to lake is normal for 80,000 miles per year.
For every bass fisherman that’s good enough with a crankbait to earn a living on the road there are hundreds of others, even thousands, who dream of taking up the life themselves. Sometimes the fishing passport can be stamped from state to state.
There are tournament series for just about any fish you can think of—freshwater, salt water, those that use rods and reels and those that shoot fish with arrows. Some fishing tournaments don’t even use hooks– in noodling tournaments folks from the Oklahoma and the Midwest wrestle (or more likely wrastle) catfish out of their holes with the bare hands.
In marlin tournaments people fish aboard boats that cost $7 million and burn 3,500 gallons of fuel over a weekend. There are tournaments for king mackerel and for redfish… bass, carp, crappie, tarpon… you name it.
No matter where in the world you go—from East Bumfuck, Nebraska to Japan, you will… if you look hard enough or in the right places, find obsessed fishermen of some ilk. The interesting thing about it is the commonality of anglers.
Commonality Where None Seems to Exist
People who would otherwise have nothing else in common open up when they get to talking fishing. People who might normally be quite unsociable and curmudgeonly may open up to the person sitting next to them on an airplane if they see the signs of a fellow angler. It may be the magazine they place in the seat pocket or the fact that their shirt, hat and sunglasses all have a fish on them.
If the answer to the obligatory, “Where are you headed?” contains a lake, ocean or mountain stream, the two are likely as not to hit it off. Next thing you know, before the flight is over, everyone within three rows of the two have heard about fish stories past, present and future.
Each story is a stamp in the fishing passport.
Some bullshit, some completely reasonable—most somewhere between.
If these two have nothing else in common, depending on the level of their degeneracy, each will know someone who has a friend whose wife is really mad at them for a reason that is somehow fishing related.
In fact, each probably just joked to the other about the poor, dumb bastard. Each probably also knows, or has heard of, someone who stood up a prom date because the bite turned on.
The Charm of Stamping the Fishing Passport
There is a certain charm to fishing in different places—traveling to fish. This charm is exclusive to pastimes that involve interaction with variables and the uncertainty of success. Hunting possesses similar charm, as does perhaps food travel (going different places to eat things in the way they are prepared by those who make them best).
Bowling does not possess this charm… I have never golfed, so I can’t say for sure, but I don’t believe that golf might either. There is something special about interactions whose outcomes are not certain, especially when the variables upon whose success they all depend are unpredictable.
When you go someplace new and exciting to chase whatever kind of fish that lives there (even if it’s just the exciting local variety of the fish that lives there—catching a Hawaiian blue marlin was, in the moment, perhaps more exciting than catching one in a place where I’d caught them before) there exists a different degree of anticipation.
Sometimes this relates to the place… sometimes this relates to the fish… it most always relates to the people.
San Juan Puerto Rico is not only an incredibly beautiful and historic place– full of great people and wonderful hospitality. It is also home to a great marlin tournament that allows visiting anglers to fish: http://sanjuaninternational.com/V3/
Different Strokes for Different Fish
The ways baits are presented may be different – and you’ll certainly look like a bad ass when you rig the bait this way back home. The accent of the people you are fishing with may be different—as may be the curse words they exclaim when the fish finally appears.
The technique of fighting the fish or driving the boat might be different… What happens to the fish after you catch it (how you cook it, what you eat it with, what kind of drinks wash it down) may all be different.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen in golf, I don’t think. The thrill or novelty of catching a new or exciting fish– think roosterfish in Mexico, or tigerfish in Africa, or tarpon in Florida—the types of angling quest that motivate specific travel plans for their execution– might seem like common sense.
The whole, “Of course traveling to a mountain stream in Montana to catch a rainbow trout for the first time is new and exciting for someone from the south. Why wouldn’t it be?” type thing.
Each trip a stamp in the fishing passport.
More Than One Way to Eat a Tuna
But then there is more to it than that. Take yellowfin tuna. They live in most of the warm parts of the world’s oceans. Wherever people encounter them they enjoy catching them.
Tuna run like cut snakes when hooked. They are strong, determined fighters. The sight of a big tuna blasting a popper offshore will stay with you for the rest of your life. It will be one of your airplane stories.
In some places in Australia and Hawaii they catch tuna from land. Most places catch them trolling lures—but then again the lures they eat in one place might not find the water in another.
In Louisiana they catch them around oil rigs. On the Pacific Coast of Central America they catch them by running to the front of a school of dolphins (the tuna and porpoise school together—the porpoise providing the indicator), and pitch live baits. In the Atlantic, dolphins couldn’t give a shit less about tuna.
Bloody Mary, Mojito, Cold Beer? Depends where you catch the tuna… and who stamps your fishing passport.
A tuna is a tuna is a tuna, no matter where in the world you catch it, right? No. While the fish may look the same, the circumstances surrounding the catch will be different. What you do with the fish is perhaps the most charming thing about fish travel.
While just about everyone in the world now turns fresh yellowfin into sashimi, its local treatments are wonderful. In Cabo San Lucas, Mexico the local “you hook it, we’ll cook it” will turn it into a platter of fried, seared, sashimi, sautéed and whatever other type of tuna you need to go with your margaritas.
In Hawaii, their staple is poke… and it’s great. In Louisiana I once had a tuna steak with crawfish etouffee poured on top. I still think about it sometimes. Then there is the simple pleasure of eating pieces of it with soy sauce and wasabi as soon as it has cooled off… sometimes still on the boat (it’s illegal to fillet your fish before reaching the dock in the US… another pleasure of fishing travel).
The Importance of Hope
All of these things—the new and exciting places, foods and experience, combine to build into a knowledge base. Your first successful fishing travel experience leads invariably to a desire for more.
A friend of mine has a life policy about such things. He tries to always have a trip booked (not necessarily next week or next month, but within a year), so that he always has a trip to look forward to.
I imagine this to be a prudent approach to life.