Unlike Nemo, who also grew up in Africa, in Zambia, on the Zambezi, home of the fierce fighting Tiger Fish, I never heard of fishing in Asmara, Eritrea, in East Africa where I was born and lived until the age of eleven. Yes, they caught fish in Massaua, the Red Sea coastal city about sixty miles from home where we spent part of the summers at the beach, but that was with nets rowed out to sea in frail, rickety boats by dozens of young Eritrean boys who sang and frolicked while they worked. They taunted the sharks, plentiful in those waters, and after dropping the nets rowed back to shore. Later, singing and chanting in unison, they pulled the nets up onto the beach, nets full of every sort of sea life imaginable. Nothing was wasted. What they caught was their dinner that night.
Imagine now, three boys – unarguably African despite white skin, blond hair and blue eyes – being asked to go fishing at Folsom Lake near Sacramento by Aunt Judy and Uncle Preston, avid fishers for the catfish and perch that they had learned to catch in Arkansas.
‘Where are the nets and the boats and all the singing pullers?’ we asked.
‘No, here we fish with these long bamboo poles with a string, a bobber float and a tiny hook.’
‘Ok, we’ll try it.’
It was pretty boring to sit there on the bank, toss your line out there and wait for the bobber to be tugged under by the giant fish described by hopeful Uncle Preston. We took turns waiting and waiting for the giants from the deep. Finally, Aunt Judy lifts on her pole and flops a catfish on to the ground behind her. She’s screaming like a madwoman and laughing wildly. I’m wondering how she can be so excited at catching the behemoth that measures less than a foot long.
A few hours later it’s my turn to hold the sixteen foot long pole and wait for something to bite. All of a sudden the bobber disappears, the pole bends, everyone is yelling ‘Pull! Pull!’ and I feel the fish alive at the end of my line. My heart is pounding, I’m running towards the water, I lift the pole and fall face first into the lake but I’m not letting go of this giant. The water’s only ankle deep so I stand up and pull with all my might and the fish, a smallmouth bass about 18 inches long flies by, lands in the grass behind me, my brothers are diving onto it, pinning it down and I’m yelling ‘Don’t lose him!’ Aunt Judy and Uncle Preston are laughing and I’m enjoying the most exciting moment of my life.
This experience made me a life-long fisherman but I quickly learned in other attempts at this wonderful sport that, in fact, there’s a giant difference between fishing and catching. To this day, I always tell my grandkids as we fish together ‘They should call it catching. We don’t do so much of that but, yes we do a lot of fishing.’
My brothers and I have been fishing ever since that day, in many parts of the world and always in our own waters aboard Poseidon. We’ve done our share of catching, too, but never as exciting as that beautiful day on Folsom Lake.
Aboard MV Poseidon