The gokai, AKA bloodworm, is a nasty looking worm that looks pretty threatening. In addition to its abundance of legs and segments, it has a vein running the length of its translucent body that pulses blood down from head to tail. Its mouth looks like the Predator’s, and when you touch it the worm will whip around and try and bite you.
It only took me three days to work up the courage to pick up the whole worm without using pliers. Actually, I guess it doesn’t really hurt if they bite you but it looks like it does. So what can you catch around here, along the coast where everyone goes to dip their lines? You can catch as many fish as you like, as long as you don’t mind that they’re all going to be small.
The Japanese fisherman has a different mentality than the casual American sports fisherman. When he goes fishing, he means business. Armed with his 20 foot rod, bucket of chum slurry, and 5 hooks on his line all baited with either krill or gokai, he methodically plucks 2-3 inch fish from the seawall and puts them in his bucket. Using his flourescent, multihooked squid jig, he tirelessly snags cuttlefish that occasionally protest by spitting out their oily ink. He stares suspiciously at the passing stranger carrying a fishing pole, practicing his telepathic “go away, dick” stare, sneering in contempt of his meager 6 foot freshwater rig. Yes, the Japanese fisherman plays for keeps- none of this catch and release nonsense for him. If it’s edible, it’s getting cooked and eaten tonight. The reason that there are few big fish out there is that they’ve all been caught and eaten already, most of them before they had a chance to get big.
That way of fishing is not good enough for me. Fishing is about going out and relaxing, having a good time with friends and about connecting with nature. Fishing is about catching fish in unexpected places and ways, developing your own personal methods. Fishing, done the right way, leads to epic adventures and ridiculous tales recalled over sizzling barbecues and beers. That’s why were taking fishing back on Awaji-shima. Instead of going for two inch fish off of the seawall we are going to target the 20 pound carp, jumping mullet, and catfish that swim in the scummy river. We will hook the bass, trout, and char that lurk in the freshwater dams. We will close in on the big fish that eats the abundance of small fish that everyone at the seawall hunts relentlessly. Then, perhaps, the man with the 20 foot pole will look up and realize he has been missing out on something when he sees us having the time of our lives fighting to land something that we don’t intend to eat. Perhaps the next time he catches one that is too small, he will release it to fight another day.
This strange looking horned-triggerfish, called a kawahagi, quacks like a duck. It will live to fight another day.