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A story in which I gamble, and witness several bloody deaths.
“Eli!” a loud voice jolts me awake, and I sit up. At first I forget where I am, but the rocking motion of the boat, and the familiar faces of my dad, my grandfather, and Dan, the captain of our small fishing boat remind me; I’m on the second day of my salmon fishing trip in Canada. I prop myself up on the bench that I have been dozing on.
“What,” I grumble, annoyed to be woken from my sleep. “Is it time to fish?”
“Yep,” says my dad. “we’re here.” I sit up and further observe my surroundings. Our small motor boat has slowed down to a near stop, the sky is still grey and gloomy, and land is nowhere in sight. Perfect for salmon fishing.
“Wake me when we’ve got a bite.” I say groggily, lying back down on the bench. My grandfather and Dan chuckle.
“That’s not gonna happen,” replies my dad, a smirk on his face. “You want the fish? Then you’re gonna stay awake to catch them.” Great. I woke up at five today, and I’m not even going to enjoy so much as an hour of sleep. I climb off of my bench, and walk over to the fishing rod, which is attached to the boat by an apparatus that will drop a small weight into the water when the fish bites the lure. Supposedly this is to alert us that we have a bite, and to tire the fish out faster. I asked what we do now, and was informed that we were going to wait. Waiting. Wonderful! If there’s one thing that I really hate, it’s waiting. I shuffled over to my bench and sat down, resting my head between my hands, and look out at the choppy, grey water. It isn’t long before boredom sets in, and I find myself pacing around the boat, desperately looking for something to do. I end up sitting down, stuffing myself with fig newtons and staring, unblinking, at the rod. Suddenly, the tip of the pole begins to shake. I jump up, and grab the handle. My father, grandfather, and Dan surround me, as the weight drops into the water. It has begun.
“Remember,” Says my grandfather, (a salmon fishing veteran) “keep the rod up, and don’t give the fish any slack, or it will break free!” I knew the drill, I’d fished back in Maine at my camp on Lake St. George. None of this was new to me. It would be a piece of cake. How wrong I was.
The rod was nearly ripped out of my hands as soon as I took it out its stand. My eyes bug out as I try to regain my balance. I hear chuckles from behind me and try to regain a fraction of my dignity by digging the end of the rod into my stomach, and pulling up on the end. Now I begin to reel in the fish, which proves to be an exhausting and tedious task. For every three feet of line I reel in, the fish fights back, and drags it out another couple of yards. Finally, I can feel the fish tiring. It’s not the only one though. My stomach is aching from being impaled by the end of the rod and my arms feel as though they are slowly but surely being ripped off. Not to mention my growing impatience for the tenacious fish. I yank up the rod and crank as fast as I possibly can. After a good five minutes the fish is finally beside the boat, and I get a chance to admire my catch. All of my hatred of the fish melts away, as I see how beautiful it is. The sun reflects off the behemoth’s silver scales. This twenty-four inch giant blows my fourteen inch bass record out of the water, (no pun intended) and I truly believe that this fish could win the bet. hmmmm? What is the bet you say? Well, the night before my grandfather’s friends (who happen to be on another boat just like ours) were joking about how they could catch the biggest fish, and of course, my grandfather said that HE could catch the biggest fish. Well, after a long, boring argument we decided that we’d all cash in five dollars, and whoever had the heaviest fish at the end of the day would win it all. Naturally, I had to be the one to win the cash. Twenty five Canadian dollars would soon be mine! I was so busy thinking of what I would buy that I almost missed Dan taking out his pliers, and cutting the fish loose. I rushed over to the side of the boat, my mouth agape, just in time to see the sparkling fish flick its tail and disappear into the depths.
“Wha-? What?,” I stammered, unable to believe my eyes.
“To small,” relied Dan, tucking his pliers back into his shirt pocket. I should have been angry, but I wasn’t. This meant that there were REALLY big fish out there, just waiting to be caught. And I would be the one to catch them.
Seeing as the fish was too small to keep, I was allowed to keep fishing. It was amazing how many undersized fish someone could catch. It wasn’t until about eight o’clock that anything worth keeping bit. While I was reeling it in I knew that this would be my winning fish. I grabbed the fishing rod out of its stand and reeled in as fast as it my hands could crank.
“Keep the tip up!” my grandfather would repeat over, and over, and over. I had barely reeled it in two feet when the fish pulled, and brought the line out at least twenty. Apparently everyone else thought that this was hilarious and I heard a great deal of friendly laughter coming from behind me. After a long, exhausting battle the fish was finally in. One look at this monster told me that I had a winner. I beamed down at the doomed animal as Dan slowly dragged it up onto the boat. He plopped the gasping fish up onto the counter at the back of the boat and!................ The next part caught me completely off guard. Dan Jabbed his knife into the fish’s throat and slapped the fish’s still living, gasping, bloody body onto the floor. Blood flew everywhere as the fish flailed, desperately trying to make it back into the water. I think it’s fair to say that I was a little surprised. I new that we would be killing fish, just not in such a violent manner. As soon as the fish stopped moving, Dan walked over to the fish, and placed it on a large, flat scale. I shuffled over to the scale, making sure to avoid the splashes of fish blood, and checked the weight. Seventeen pounds! I couldn’t believe it! I sat back down on my bench, sure that I would win the cash. The next few hours consisted of stuffing myself with fig newtons, drinking Gatorade, and watching my dad reel in tiny fish after tiny fish. It wasn’t until about ten o’clock that my dad reeled in a fifteen pound king salmon and his turn was up. Now it was my grandfather’s turn. Right off the bat he reeled in a twenty five pound sockeye. I couldn’t believe it. I really thought that I could’ve won the cash. It was an impressive fish though. Three feet long, brilliant, reflective silver, it was a sight to behold. But it had ruined my plans, and I would have to catch a larger, even more magnificent fish. When it was my turn, I walked up to the rod, intent on reeling the biggest dang fish in the entire ocean, and it was my turn next.
I had had a lot of disappointment that day, but as I reeled my next fish in, I knew that it would all be over. This fish was going to be a BEAST. The rod was nearly ripped out of my hands, as the fish pulled with tremendous force. The tip of the pole was bent in a steep curve, and I was struggling to keep it aloft. My grandfather noticed this.
“Tip up!” he teased. I turned around and tried to manage a smile, but it was impossible to manage much more than a mangled grin. Reeling this fish in was almost unbearable. By the time the fish was in, my arms hurt more than I even thought was possible, and my stomach was burning with pain. But the fish was worth it. It was a king, the largest type of salmon, and it was HUGE. Dan pulled the fish into the boat using what looked like an oversized butterfly net. I waited with baited breath until dan weighed the fish. Twenty seven pounds! I beamed down at the dead fish. Finally, I knew that the money would be mine. It was eleven o’clock, we were returning to the motel at twelve, so rather than wasting my time watching other people fish, I lay down on the bench and fell asleep.
I woke up to the sound of cranking and yelling. I sat up to find my dad struggling with the fishing rod. I didn’t think much of it, until he brought the fish in. It was shorter than my fish, but it was one of the fattest fish I’d ever seen. Even then, I wasn’t that worried. But then Dan weighed the fish. The number echoed in my head. Twenty seven and one half pounds. I was amazed. HOW MANY TIMES DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN!?!?!
“Nice catch Dad!” I said, but on the inside, I was annoyed. Minutes away from winning, I was beaten by half a pound! Unbelievable. I guess there’s always a bigger fish. Anyway, at least I had an hour to sleep on our way home. I sat down on the bench and fell asleep. Perhaps I would catch the largest fish next year. Only three hundred and sixty four days left.