We were all feeling pretty smug as my passengers and crew reeled up fish, filleted them and put them on ice. We were fishing along the north shore of Santa Cruz Island not far from picturesque Chinese Harbor and Prisoner’s Cove where we had been fortunate enough to spot an indigenous (to the Channel Islands) island scrub jay.
The discussion was around effort that goes into a fish. We had a few hours of research into safety matters like weather reports and buoy observations, boat preparation, fishing gear preparation, bringing passengers onboard and crossing the channel to the island.
Then some hours of fishing and we were looking at a few more hours of crossing the channel, seeing our charter passengers off, and scrubbing the boat so it would be spotless for the next day’s charter. It makes for a long but enjoyable day.
All-in-all it was a fair effort for each fish, and we didn’t mind even one bit because we were out at sea, enjoying the Santa Barbara lifestyle. Of course, we did burn about 65 gallons of gas that day (do the math at current gas prices), bought bait, fishing tackle and gear, so the financial cost of each fish caught was another matter to consider. But still, we didn’t mind.
Our perspective changed in about a 30-second span as I pointed upward and we watched a bald eagle sitting on a high cliff above the boiler rocks raise its impressive wings to lift up to the air, swoop effortlessly down to snatch a sizable fish with those big talons right at the surface near us, and then beat wings to haul the catch back to its family in a nest high up on the island.
One passenger said, “That is power!”
Another passenger said, “That is grace!”
I said, “That iconic American bird just said, ‘This is the way it’s done, son!’”
I had the feeling that bird’s ancestors had been specializing in this fishing thing a mite longer than we have. Maybe we’ll get there in another million years or so.
The re-introduction of American bald eagles to the Channel Islands has been a source of wonder and appreciation for me. The Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary are more interesting and awe-inspiring places because of that hard work to reintroduce these magnificent fish predators and help them to thrive. Good work!
Reminder: The Western Dance and Trivia contest is coming up Saturday, Oct. 29. Drew Wakefield of our local Cork And Fork Radio 805 will be the fun emcee, at the Santa Barbara Elks Lodge 150 N. Kellogg Road, Santa Barbara, to benefit Coastal Conservation Association. Advance online reservations are necessary. Come party with us (the famous Elks Lodge bar will be open for business). Sign up at www.ccacalifornia.org/shop.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.