|This will be my last column for WON. After 24 years it’s time to move on. Instead of writing something new, I have chosen to reprint a column that originally ran in July of 1992 in a special issue following the passing of WON founding publisher Burt Twilegar. The references are definitely dated, but it’s still one of my favorite columns and I resisted making any changes.
Thanks to Burt Twilegar, the magic of our saltwater sportfishing heritage was chronicled in WON for close to four decades. I want to thank his son Bob for continuing the tradition and thank all you readers for your support throughout the years. Now here’s “Burt’s World.”
The docks in San Diego — a bubble of white light spread by the sport boats with generators humming and diesel engines fired up. Bundles of rods, wooden tackle boxes, duffel bags and dock carts. The bite is on and cars and trucks roam the parking lots, waiting for a spot.
A barge anchored off the coast, in a cove, beside a breakwater. Children pulling in their first fish — a mackerel, a tomcod, a halibut, it doesn’t matter. The taste of salt and sun and life.
A half-day boat makes a galley move. Burgers hit the grill and sizzle, the sharp scent of onions frying spreads a chum line in the air and the frenzy increases. Birds dive, the wheel turns and an old white feather with a ruby eye is slashed by a bonito. A human torrent floods the deck, and spinning reels grind out a screaming refrain.
The bubble of the tide as it pushes up a midnight beach, a crackling staccato of surf and the bioluminescent surge of a line tied to a hook, attached to a sand crab, inhaled by a barred surfperch.
A cove with water clear, sand white, and the rocks blotched red, green, brown and black with moss, kelp, weeds and mussel. A swell peels from end to end, and the fleeting image of a school of corbina is flashed across the wave face.
Scales and water shimmer in the morning light, a braille of anchovies flung from the scoop with a deft hand. The baits scatter in a pattern akin to a fireworks burst, but the real explosions follow. The tranquil kelp bed erupt with bronze of calicos, the moss back of a yellowtail darts from the paddy, a bigeye tuna cleaves the water with muscled bulk. Albacore so thick the stern of the boat resembles the skeleton of an umbrella.
Striped marlin off Cabo, world record yellowfin tuna off Clarion Island.
The crank of a power handle on a 12/0 Senator, the Dacron snaking on the reel with a slimy hiss as the thick rod bends under the pressure of a loaded gangion. The weightless lift of line and subsequent bloosh as cowcod pop to the surface.
A broad spread between dorsal and caudal fins, the king of the billfish lazes in the sun, almost rested for the next dive to the dark richness of squid in the depths below. For the hundredth time in its life a mackerel is cast on its nose, for the first time the sword slashes, the greenback disappears. A wire leader and heavy gear — this could finally be it…