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Skip's Log II: A fishing story

by Craig MacDonald

· Relaxing,Nature,Summer

The second in our Skip's Log: Excursions Around Matsushima Bay series

[Entry #2: August 22, 2019]

“Catching that fish,” says Neptune, “took me back many, many years.” After 52 years, he’s managed to catch that feeling once more. He continues: “I never expected ever to be on the sea again, but the opportunity is refreshing to the soul. One does feel closer to nature when catching a fish. Even though it was cloudy, we saw great beauty out there.”

It looks similar to, but simultaneously unlike, other reels any of us have seen. Hard to say how it is even supposed to work.​

I will attest to the beauty. The little fish that were not directly our concern but were jumping everywhere we looked, especially as we got back to the mooring at day’s end. The grin of triumph on Neptune’s face as he reeled in a mackerel the length of my arm. Or rather, the grin that grew after it was taken aboard—until that point, the expression on his face had been one in reverent regard of the moment and, in that moment, for the unseen creature at the end of his line. The glint of the mackerel as it first emerged into the sunlight-saturated shallows of our wake, in the last water it would have of its element—dazzling yet solemn. Really the length of my arm, you ask? Yes, you will have to take my word for it. This is a fishing story, after all.

The rod was apparently the very same one Neptune had used the last time he caught a fish at sea. I am always amazed at the precious things this man has around his home in Sendai, having moved to Japan some thirty years ago. He has kept so many of the things that could mean much to a man far from the place where he grew up. The stories attached to these things would suffice, but he has material proof and the occasion, when you see him wearing a particular sweater or using a particular tool in his (very complete) workshop, to point to the thing and tell you the story. This is Sturgeon but today we call him Neptune, and the rod he brought with him was custom made by hand in Vancouver more than five decades ago, back when young Sturgeon worked as a fishing guide at Painters Lodge.

The reel is another thing. Skip acquired it earlier this year, along with so much other stuff that had been on another sailboat like the Jonathan. Watanabe, who runs the place where the locals get their boats repaired and maintained, asked Skip one day this spring, “Can you use a new motor?” Watanabe was in the middle of scrapping a vessel that, like so many around here, had been neglected for years, probably since the end of Japan’s bubble era. Skip has since sorted out what he can use and what can only go to the scrapyards. One thing he salvaged is the reel that got fixed to Neptune’s rod this morning.

I never expected ever to be on the sea again, but the opportunity is refreshing to the soul.

—Neptune

It looks similar to, but simultaneously unlike, other reels any of us have seen. Hard to say how it is even supposed to work. Neptune is able to use it well enough, but still thinks he’ll find more than dried up old grease for a problem when he opens it up in that workshop of his at home. There’s no way to control the drag function, but despite that Neptune reels in the flailing, shimmering mackerel and lands it on the deck delicately enough.

We had thought we'd landed a Kinka saba, but once back ashore we were told by a man who clearly knew his stuff that it was a great-looking sawara. That’s the Japanese name for Spanish mackerel, said to be the tastiest mackerel you can catch around Japan.

If you and a couple of friends have the time and opportunity, consider heading out for your own fishing trip around Matsushima Bay. I recommend it highly, depending what feelings you have about the practice of fishing.

Editor's note: While the location where the Jonathan caught that sawara remains secret, Sendai Motions was able to get a tip on a different Matsushima Bay fishing hole from a Shiogama local. Jess, who works for Local Secret Tours, says Yogaiura is a good place for catching haze (goby). The goby can be caught from shore, so you won't need a sailboat to access this spot.

Matsushima Bay (松島湾)

Web (English): env.go.jp/en

Access: A short walk from several train stations along the Senseki and Tohoku Lines, including Hon-Shiogama, Rikuzen-Hamada, Matsushimakaigan, Rikuzen-Tomiyama, and Rikuzen-Otsuka Stations.

Yogaiura (要害浦)

Web: shichigahama.com/relax2

Access: About 15 minutes by bus from Tagajo Station or Hon-Shiogama Station, followed by a short walk. Bus route maps and timetables here.

From Tagajo Station: At Tagajo Station (多賀徐駅), board a #4 or #8 bus bound for Shichigahama Kokusai Mura (七ヶ浜国際村). For #4 buses, alight at Yogai Jido Yuen-mae (要害児童遊園前) bus stop. For #8 buses, alight at Obatake (小畑) bus stop.

From Hon-Shiogama Station: At Hon-Shiogama Station (本塩釜駅), board a #2 or #6 bus bound for Shichigahama Kokusai Mura (七ヶ浜国際村). For #2 buses, alight at Yogai Jido Yuen-mae (要害児童遊園前) bus stop. For #6 buses, alight at Obatake (小畑) bus stop.

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