Saturday, July 14, 2012

My experience with a $9,000 fish

We went to the lake this past weekend with my brother and some friends. We spent most of the day Saturday just enjoying the peace and quiet, the smell of the lake and the admiring the fresh buds on the trees. We enjoyed some grilled chicken for supper and just relaxed all evening while watching DVD's.

Sunday we took the boat out so our friend Roger could could snag some Spoonbill. I had no idea what snagging meant or even what a Spoonbill was. I was in for a crash course! After watching the guys try to install the fish finder most of the afternoon, they decided it was defecting and packed it up to return it to Bass Pro. They were convinced that they would need the device in order to find the Spoonbill. We girls had decided that we were going to go out on the lake whether they fished or not. The guys decided to take a shot in the dark and go where they had caught a Spoonbill before.

Now this snagging is a lot of work. Roger was the only one fishing because you have to have a special license to snag Spoonbill. My brother drove while Roger sat on the back seat of the boat. He pulled out a very long, thick fishing rod with line on it the size of clothes line wire. Maybe just a bit thinner but this is a fishing story after all. I asked him how long it took to snag one as if he could get one anytime he wanted. He told me that his quickest time was 2 hours. I could not believe anyone could continue doing that for a minimum of 2 hours but he assured me it was worth the wait.

As luck would have it, we didn't have to wait very long. After only 25 minutes of snagging I watched the fishing rod bend as if it would break. Roger starting reeling in it and Sammy cut the engine. After a small battle, Roger had the Spoonbill on the deck of the boat. I now understood the meaning of 'snagging'. The fish don't actually bite the huge hook. In this case, he snagged it's back. I'm new to fishing and I had never seen anything like this Spoonbill before. It was rubber feeling and very interesting looking. Of course by the time I got up the courage to touch it, the guys made some loud noise and it scared me so much that I screamed. "City girl" I believe is what they called me, but whatever. ewww! I also got a little freaked out when someone pointed out that I had a spot of fish blood on my leg. There was a lot more blood than I would expect.


Roger got out a rope and fed it through the fish's mouth and out the gill for a make shift stringer. After tying one end to the boat, he dropped it back over the side so the fish would stay alive. We then had to call the Fishery and report the catch.

Making the stringer

Apparently the Spoonbill eggs are a hot commodity. They are sold overseas for the going rate of $750 per pound! A person cannot keep the eggs to sell themselves, it is a felony if caught. They guys had a friend that had no prior record but got caught selling the eggs and went to prison for 3 years.

So we had to tag the fish, just like you would a dear. Roger fed a wire through the mouth of the fish with his tag attached. The Spoonbill eggs have such a demand that the fishery has research stations set up where you turn over your catch of the day, limit one per day, and they clean them, fillet them and shrink wrap them for you free of charge. The only catch, (no pun intended) they get to keep the eggs. Seems like a fair trade to me!

There were tables set up out front where the workers would clip the bottom lip of the fish in 3 places with wire cutters. They would then slide out a bone looking thing and discard it. They tagged each fish and then put them on a meat hook that took them inside a trailer. We asked permission for me to go inside so I could see the process. It was a small trailer with work stations. There were 6 guys working and each had a specific job. When the fish came in, one guy would make a slit down the center, the next guy would remove the gross intestinal stuff. The next guy would pull the eggs out. When I first saw this, I had no idea what was going on. It looked as if the fish had been packed with that dark gray Styrofoam. I didn't realize what it was until the a guy put them into a stainless steel bowl and brought them to a scale near me. I got an up-close view of Spoonbill caviar. The eggs looked like millions of little BB's. This particular female fish weighed 56 lbs and had 12 lbs of eggs. I was in shock! This fish was worth $9,000!! After the eggs were extracted another guy cut the fillets. The fillets were then turned over to a guy who had something that looked like an electric potato peeler that took the skin off in a few seconds. They rinsed the huge fillets and then sealed them in a bag all the while keeping each label with each fish so you knew you were getting your actual fish. Spoonbill only have one small bone right down the center of their back. When they were done, there was a Spoonbill head and spine hanging from this meat hook. Again, just let me say, ewww! When they finished with our fish, I stepped outside and waited for them to deliver the fillets. One of the workers inside the trailer told me that the day before on Saturday, they had 16 workers and when they have a full house like that, it only takes 2.5 minutes from beginning to end. I was excited at the thought of seeing how many eggs our fish had. It was 25lbs with no eggs, it was male. Of course, the guys already knew this. The fish egg excavator guy told me that the males have little bumps on the back.


So we got our fillets, stopped at the store for some Bay seasoning and headed home to have supper. There were two huge fillets and each one would have fed maybe 6-8 people. In our case, one fillet fed 4 people and a Blue Healer. Sammy and Roger cut the fish into 4 pieces and placed each piece in foil, topped with butter, Bay's Seasoning and red onion. In about 15 minutes the 1" thick fish fillets were done and they were delicious.


Like I said, I am new to fishing so to a lot of you, this is no big deal but it was awesome to see a fish caught at 4:55 and be eating it at 8. I probably won't be snagging anytime soon but I can't wait to go fishing and I think I may have found a new hobby.

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