Why We Had to Shoot the Fish

Blackfish

The blackfish left us no choice, really. Bill and I would have been quite happy to let him go on his way. We didn’t want him on our trotline any more than he wanted to be on it. Yet, there he was and here were we.

What separated us – and joined us – was 100 feet of thin, white string with baited hooks five or six feet apart. It was a work in progress, interrupted by an early unwanted arrival. One that had taken the first bait on the line while we were still setting it out.

So here we were – in a boat, halfway across a slough, holding the end of a trotline – with a huge blackfish on the other end.

To retrace our steps would mean losing the line to unfathomable knots and tangles. But to continue was impossible with the thrashing and shaking on the other end.

This is what a trotline looks like when you double back on it.

We were stymied, confounded and discombobulated.

As luck would have it, we were also armed.

In the boat was a shotgun and five shells, because it was also hunting season and the wood ducks might drop in before we were through.

It had to be done.

Bill tugged the line, but there was too much slack and the fish’s head emerged only for a brief second.

I shot.

I missed.

Another tug. Another shot. Another miss. And another.

We traded positions.

I tugged.

Bill shot.

The line got steady and we finished our work.

Artist’s rendering of the fish after we shot it.

A few quiet seconds passed until Bill broke the silence.

“You know, you just don’t see that kinda shit on TV.”

A quarter-century later, we have Swamp People.

Newbies.

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