When the subject of reincarnation is raised, and the question is put to me: “What do you think you will come back as?” I am always jealous of my dissolute friend Peter’s answer, which, due to his high cigarette, alcohol, and caffeine consumption makes his answer — “A garbage dumpster” — highly humorous. Me, I have to pick the mighty Bluefish, aka Pomatomus saltatrix, mostly because I usually catch the first one of the season on or around today, May 13th, my birthday.
I have a strong affinity for the bluefish. My college writing teacher and mentor, John Hersey, wrote a fantastic book devoted just to the bluefish, Blues, in which he expressed his deep respect for this voracious, sporting, bulldog of a fish, one of the most ubiquitous in the world, and a star or villain of any Cape Cod fisherman.
The blues return to Cotuit in early May to ravage the schools of spawning squid. They come in close to shore and sun themselves on the sand flats, where they fin and lay stationary in the sunlight, waiting to attack anything that invades their space.
Off I went this morning, straight from bed, solo with no company, out to the boat and out of the harbor to the flats off of Sub Rock off of Sampson’s Island. There I casted the great Ballistic Missile, a fluorescent orange lure, and then reeled it back as fast as I could, causing it to splash and skip over the surface.
On the second cast my heart gladdened at the tell-tale swirl of a fin behind the skittering plug. With a firm pull the fish was hooked and began to run, vigorously shaking its head.
I got it aboard, avoided its toothy snapping jaws, slipped the barbless hook from its lower lip, and then gave it a big smooch before tossing it back in.
That was it. Birthday present delivered I motored home.
I want to come back as a bluefish. I hope John Hersey did.
Due to overwhelming reader demand for what to do in the event they are presented with a bluefish to cook, here is my favorite recipe”
“Honey, the Dog Is Eating Grass Again Bluefish”
Take one bluefish, preferably one caught early in the morning and then thrown into the stern of the motorboat back by the scupper plugs where it can curl, get stiff in the sun and baste in rainbow patina of gasoline and two-stroke outboard oil.
Filet with a rusty knife, taking care to leave scales and the rib bones in the flesh.
Leave the dark meat in the fish. For that is where the PCBs are most concentrated.
Take a cookie sheet. Preferably the kind that warps with a loud “thwang” when heated. Cover with aluminum foil. I don’t know if the shiny or dull side up matters or not.
Do not grease the foil. The fish must stick to the foil so your guests will have the electric thrill of finding out what happens when foil meets one of their fillings.
With the meat side up: cover the bluefish with a one-inch thick layer of Miracle Whip, the evil stepsister of Hellman’s Mayo.
Bake or broil (it just doesn’t matter) until the Miracle Whip is kind of browned like meringue.
Serve, and then remember you forgot to make any kind of side dish. Find Tater Tots and bake in oven until lukewarm while the fish gets cold.
Eat. Feel bad. Then start drinking. Get angry at nothing in particular and call your nearest relation “a leech who contributes nothing” or “an oxygen thief” and then start a mallet fight with the kids’ croquet set on the lawn in front of the horrified neighbors. Ask them what they are looking at.