By Elliott Stark
The guys were fishing out of Miami Beach. They had been chartered for five weeks straight without day off. Between the morning and evening tarpon trips during the mullet run, a strange run of late summer sailfish, and a mixed bag of night time swordfish trips, the crew had been running wide open. They had plenty of bait, but were overdue on stocking up on some of fishing’s other essentials.
“The rigger bait is washed out. Why don’t you check it?” The captain asked. Upon inspection, it was mushy as could be. Their charter today wanted to run and gun, searching for dolphin and he wanted to troll dead ballyhoo. The ballyhoo that had been on the islander was softer than day old oatmeal—crunchy outside but a mush in the middle. “Who’s been taking care of these baits? Where’s the brine?” The captain hollered at his mate.
Scrambling, and realizing that he hadn’t picked up the brine order this morning at the tackle shop, the mate searched the cockpit. He happened to see a plastic jar that looked like it once contained cooking spices. The vial belonged to the day’s charter, the guy who wanted to catch dolphin on the troll.
“Hey bro, use this,” said the charter, tossing the vial to the mate. The charter had eye brow piercings, the kind of gauge ear rings that let light pass through the middle of the ear lobe and had tattoos emerging from each of the boundaries of his shirt. On the left side of his neck was written “Belieber” in blue, cursive ink. The shirt he wore had “World Tour 2013” and a list of cities and dates on it. It was a black shirt and on the front of his chest was written “Staff.” Tossing the vial of orange crystals to the mate, he said “This should do the trick.”
The charter was the road manager of Justin Bieber’s travelling world tour. Those who were familiar with that kind of think would have recognized him from the TMZ shows that talk about celebrity gossip and the latest carryings on of the Kardashians. The charter was in town to party it up in Miami, fish for a couple of days and then kick off the latest tour. The vial that he tossed the mate contained Bath Salts, the strange synthetic drug that can be purchased from behind the counter at shady convenience stores and causes its users to do such strange things as act like zombies and listen to techno music.
The mate didn’t know that this vial contained bath salts. Even if he had, he didn’t know what bath salts were. (Bath Salts are bad news. They are a new, synthetic drug that are addictive and cause erratic, sometimes violent behavior in its users. It also causes a number of health problems and its long term effects are largely unknown. Do not use them yourself or put them on your ballyhoo.)
“Bro, just pour this shit on the baits. It’ll keep them good as new. We’ll catch everything,” said Justin Bieber’s manager. “Okay, great. Thanks,” said the mate. He removed the lid and dumped the orange crystals onto the ballyhoo in the tray. There were about 24 baits in the pan.
After pouring the contents of the vial onto the baits, he spread the crystals with his bare hands. Just then the rod went off. He grabbed it without rinsing the bath salts from his hands. The bait had hit a pile of seaweed and popped out of the clip. He cranked a couple of times, cleared it and put it back in the rigger.
“Hey, why don’t you make use some sandwiches,” hollered the captain to the mate. “Gimme a hand full of chips too, why don’t you?” Forgetting that he hadn’t rinsed the ballyhoo and bath salts off of his hands, the mate set about to making sandwiches. He grabbed the slices of white bread, slapped some mayo on them. He then slung a couple pieces of roast turkey onto each of the three sandwiches. Wherever the bath salt from his hands touched the mayonnaise or the turkey, it created a foam that looked about like the product of lathered Orangeaway degreasing hand soap (the type that diesel mechanics use). He then grabbed the handfuls of chips, passing them first to the captain and then to the charter, leaving one handful for himself.
All three ate their sandwiches and chips, quite hungrily.
Within fifteen minutes of eating lunch, the mate changed out all five of the trolled ballyhoo for the freshly bath-salted baits. He sent them back into the spread, with a dazed look in his eyes. The captain had begun acting strangely. He was listening to Taylor Swift on his radio.
If this weren’t strange enough, he had cranked the volume as loud as it would go and was singing along. Not only was he not good at singing, but he was now slurring along into the handheld—forcing every boat within 25 miles that happened to be on channel 68, to listen to his best Taylor Swift.
The mate looked at the charter. He hadn’t noticed the captain singing, or perhaps he didn’t care. The charter hadn’t realized, until after the brining, that the vial he passed to the mate contained the last of his bath salts.
This was supposed to last him for the rest of the day and beyond. Not deterred, he was sitting in the fighting chair with the open bait cooler on his lap. He was eating the orange ballyhoo like ears of corn on the cob.
For some reason, neither the singing nor the ballyhoo eating concerned the mate. He was feeling pretty hopped up himself. He looked back into the spread to notice that all five of the lines were out of the clip. Thinking about what he should do, he looked into the water. The boat was in neutral and it had been for quite some time. None of the reels were screaming, the lines of each were slacked with a large belly, as if the dead bath-salted ballyhoo had all swam back toward the boat.
There, about six feet beneath the boat, was a 95-pound sailfish. The creature had consumed each of the five ballyhoo and had each of the hooks hanging out of its mouth or bill. The sailfish’s eyes were bloodshot and its pupils were dilated. This was the first time in recorded history that a sailfish had bloodshot, dilated eyes. It was probably also the first time in recorded history that a sailfish had consumed five ballyhoo brined in Justin Bieber’s road manager’s batch salts.
The sailfish was now chewing on idling port propeller.
The mate turned to tell the captain about this. The captain was singing Taylor Swift into the radio. He had removed most of his clothing and was wearing nothing but his old, skid-marked white underwear. He was swinging his Salt Life shirt around his head like a helicopter.
The mate thought this to be normal behavior. He sat down on the arm of the fighting chair next to the Belieber. “Hey buddy, mind passing me one of those ballyhoo?” he said.
The moral of the story: next time you are fishing in Miami Beach, don’t forget the brine.
InTheBite Magazine is the Professional’s sportfishing publication. It is based in Jupiter, Florida and aims to make readers better fishermen and boat owners. Stories featured in Tales from the Smelly Bilge may or may not have actually happened. You be the judge– either way, Tales from the Smelly Bilge are meant to be entertainment. Subscribe today.