Gone Fishing

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So a Filipino guy, a Japanese guy, and two Chinese guys walk onto a fishing boat…

The Japanese guy takes a deep breath of fresh sea air and says, “Looks like a good day for fishin’! Hopefully we can pull something up I can sashimi.”

The Chinese guys nod, look out onto the horizon and say, “Or maybe we can steam our catch.”

The Filipino guy snorts, looks around and asks, “This boat come with a deep fryer?” (Hey-ohhhhh! Insert rimshot, groans, and forced laughter here.)

And so it was this past weekend, when I joined my buddy Marc and some friends on a two-day fishing odyssey on Bodega Bay in Northern California (and no, I didn’t really ask for a deep-fryer).

Prior to this outing, I had only gone fishing twice. The first time was back in college, when the afforementioned Marc and I hopped on a half-day vessel and fished out of Santa Barbara. Marc, a life-long fisherman, caught the majority of the fish that day. I, on the other hand, caught nothing but a case of the sea-shakes and puked my guts out overboard. Despite spending most of that trip lying on my back, or hunched over the side of the ship, I had a blast. Seriously.

Many years later in San Diego, I found myself on a fishing boat for the second time in my life. I actually reeled in quite a few fish that day, but it came after a late night of carousing and only 2 hours of sleep (it was for another buddy’s bachelor party), so much of that excursion is a blur to me. Strangely though, I didn’t get sea sick on that trip.

So when Marc recently invited me out on his personal boat for a couple of days fishing the Boogie-Down Bodega Bay, I knew I couldn’t say no. And besides, I made sure that this time around I’d have plenty of rest, minimal cocktails, and prescription-strength dramamine to keep my wits about me and to keep my insides on the inside.


Despite a crew that could deftly sashimi, steam, or deep-fry (ahem) anything pulled from the depths, our first day out at sea was somewhat uneventful. High winds and big swells kept us from escaping into the outer bay, but we did manage to putter around closer to shore.

I reeled in the first fish of the day–a small scorpionfish:IMG_4868

Not a keeper

Although I was ecstatic to reel something in, my more experienced shipmates advised me to throw the scorpionfish back into the waters–not because it was too small, but because scorpionfish aren’t good eats (at least not the ones in NorCal waters, they told me). So I unhooked the fish and let the little guy go. This would be a recurring theme for the rest of that first day–because the winds didn’t let up, we only found the undesirables at the end of our lines after each bite.

But not all was lost on our first day on the Boogie-Down Bodega Bay. Since we weren’t hauling in any fish, we decided to park the boat, and drive the truck up the coast a ways to find a spot to dive for other sea creatures. Yes, dive.



Big-ass flippers

Because I can only hold my breath for maybe a 5-Mississippi, I dared not attempt to see if my doggie-paddling skills could translate to diving for sea creatures. Luckily, Marc and his friends were very experienced divers, and were armed with snorkels, wetsuits, spearguns, and big-ass flippers.

While my wet-suited companions risked life and limb diving for tasty mollusks within the frigid and rocky depths, I took in the scenery on shore. After a couple of hours of diving, my companions finally made it back to shore with a boogie-board full of goodies.


Red Abalone!!!

That’s right folks. Red Abalone. Not a bad haul for a day without catching any fish. Not a bad day at all. That night, we feasted on a surf-and-turf meal of grilled rib-eye and abalone sashimi (something for which I would pay a princely sum at a high-end sushi joint). I’ll have a separate post about the Red Abalone soon, but trust me, it was the freshest and most delectable thing I’ve eaten from the sea.

For day two of this fishing excursion, I woke up and looked out of the window of our rented house to see the bay below socked in with fog. Fog is a good thing, I was told. If there’s fog in the bay, that means there’s no wind, and if there’s no wind, we could take the boat out further to sea. Score!

Our first stop of the day wasn’t to cast our lines, but it was to pick up some crab pots that Marc had left behind earlier in the week. Yes, crab pots. We were hoping that there would be some dungeness crabs that made their way into Marc’s traps, and sure enough, when we pulled the pots up we had some lovely crustaceans on our hands.

Not-so-deadliest Catch

Tony Dungee

Dungees in the cooler

After pulling up four crab traps, we ended up with 8 dungeness crabs, 4 rock crabs, and a stowaway starfish or two (we threw those back in). It was barely 9am in the morning, and I was already looking forward to a dinner of steamed crabs.

After hauling up our crabs, we finally got to some fishing. And the biting was fast and furious. Again, I pulled in the first fish of the day (beginner’s luck), and this time it was a keeper.

Not a stunt fish

I believe I pulled in a black rockcod first that day, but there was a steady stream of everything from black and yellows, ling cods, and grass rockfish (I have no idea what any of those are, btw).

We also managed to fit more diving into our schedule. Except this time, the diving took place directly off of the boat rather than from shore.

Freshly harvested abalone

At the end of the day, we caught a total of 28 fish–eight of which I personally reeled in (yes, I was keeping track).

We eat fish

That night, we ate like kings. Or like Neptune. Or like that old dude in The Little Mermaid–assuming he ate fish (I never saw that movie).

OK, so we ate a lot of seafood that night.

Steamed Dungees

Rice, seafood, wine

Chinese-style steamed fish

It’s hard to say which sea creature I enjoyed devouring the most. The steamed dungeness crabs were incredible (I much prefer dungees over blue crab). The fish we steamed were great too–one was steamed with scallions and ginger, and the other was steamed with chopped scallions, ginger, and preserved turnip and then drizzled with hot peanut oil (gotdang!). But I must say that the fresh abalone was my favorite–probably because it’s so rare that I have abalone, let alone abalone that’s only been out of the water for mere hours.

Since we caught so much fish, and picked quite a few abalone, I was able to vacuum pack some fish and abalone, freeze them, and then fly them home with me. I’ve since had some rock fish sinigang, as well as some abalone lightly dressed in kalamansi.

Next Post: Abalone Kinilaw

In my next post, I’ll delve deeper into Red Abalone, how to shuck and clean it, and how to give it a very basic kinilaw treatment. Stay tuned for Abalone Kinilaw!

  • Jason June 29, 2011, 8:49 pm

    I can’t tell you how much this makes me want to go fishing!! It seems like you had alot of fun fishing and eating!

  • Joanna June 29, 2011, 10:41 pm

    NICE Catches! My hubby went fishing last weekend and brought home many fish! I was happy until I had to clean the damn things! I never did it before and cut myself many many times! haha

  • bertN June 30, 2011, 4:53 am

    I feel like removing the cobwebs from my fishing rods and going out to the sea again.

  • faith June 30, 2011, 10:54 am

    Bad idea reading this post at 2AM. It’s making me awesome. I love seafood and having it fresh is just awesome. And the prospect of that kinilaw is making me drool. I love sashimi and kinilaw!

  • Reese June 30, 2011, 12:19 pm

    Looking forward to your kinilaw post! My hubby’s dad has a killer family kinilaw recipe they refuse to give me.

  • foodhoe July 2, 2011, 8:52 am

    omg I’m drooling! My uncle used to bring us abalone like that when I was growing up, we always ate it with shoyu and lemon. Looks like an amazing fishing trip!

  • Mila July 7, 2011, 8:12 am

    The steamed fish made me salivate; the dungeness crab made my stomach growl. It’s nearly midnight and I wish I had a dinner worthy of the feast you shared.
    I don’t think I have ever seen red abalone, interesting looking shell, it looked like coral. Or I’ve been mistaking coral for abalone (darn!).

  • BurntLumpia July 8, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Hey Jason. It definitely was a lot of fun. I need to fish more often too.
    Yikes joanna. Hopefully you didn’t cut yourself too badly gutting all those fish.
    Do it bertN!
    Nothing like fresh fish, faith:)
    Hey Reese! Hopefully your father-in-law will share his recipe with you one of these days.
    Abalone with shoyu and lemon is killer, foodhoe!
    Hey there Mila! Yeah, I’d never seen red abalone either. It’s shell is really cool, and it looks like old brick when it’s all dried out.

  • Ria Barbosa Wilson July 14, 2011, 11:37 am

    Awesome post! I was really excited to see freshly caught red abalone (wild nonetheless!) – I’ve actually never seen one before, just your standard farmed fare in random restaurants I’ve worked in. So here’s the question? What did you do with the shell?

  • raul July 19, 2011, 4:49 am

    Nice photos. That crab loks deliciouse. Well done!

  • jb July 21, 2011, 8:41 am

    I’ve never gone fishing but I do remember my dad used to do it when I was small. Some Sundays, he’d come back with no fish, just the small shrimps. I was actually more interested in the tiny shrimps and didn’t really care if there’s no fish as long as the shrimps are there. Just saute with ginger and salt and they’re absolutely delicious.
    BTW, are the dungeness the ones we call alimango back home and the blue crabs like the alimasag? That’s what I’ve gathered from the appearance but no one (that is no one I know) seems to know the answer to this.

  • Jeff December 5, 2011, 7:10 am

    Those are the kind of fishing trips that get you hooked on fishing and you never get enough. Good artical makes you look for the forward to going fishing again soon.

  • Mini Hotel Soft February 20, 2012, 1:53 am

    Seafood’s is one of my favorite dish especially prawn’s. I wanna learn fishing too if i have the chance. Cool post, it catches my interest. Keep psoting ! Thanks .

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