The Fish Sniffer - “If We’re Going To Pull That Hook Out Of Her With A Pliers, She Better Have A Shot Of Whiskey!”
“If We’re Going To Pull That Hook Out Of Her With A Pliers, She Better Have A Shot Of Whiskey!”

Written By: Cal Kellogg, December 20, 2013
Species: Crabs Rockfish Lingcod
Location: Golden Gate, San Francisco Bay,

“If We’re Going To Pull That Hook Out Of Her With A Pliers, She Better Have A Shot Of Whiskey!”

I was standing near the live bait tank, rigging a new leader when I heard her.

“Cal, I’ve got a problem, this isn’t good. This isn’t good,” Gena said with panic in her voice.

Turning around I was shocked by what I saw. Gena had a 4/0 shrimp fly imbedded in the top of her left hand and a 1-pound weight was dangling from it!

At that moment Gena looked a little faint. I rushed to her side, pulled out my knife and cut the shrimp fly free from the leader. Looking over my shoulder I saw Captain Chris Smith standing near the starboard corner.

“Hey Chris, you ever remove a hook from someone?” I shouted to him. He looked at me quizzically at first, but his face got serious when he realized that it was Gena that was hooked.

Seconds later Chris, our deckhand Dave and I had whisked Gena into the cabin consulting about what to do next as we went. We told Gena we could leave the hook in for a doctor to get out after the trip or we could pull it out ourselves. Gena wanted the hook out! We quickly decided that Dave and I would hold her arm and hand still, while Chris did the dirty work with P-Line Adaro pliers.

“If you’re going to pull that hook out of her hand with a pliers, she better have a shot of whiskey first,” related Mark, the California Dawn’s cook as he produced a bottle of Gentleman Jack that he’d given Gena as a holiday gift a few hours earlier.

After a couple chugs of the amber liquid, Gena was as ready as she’d ever be. I held her arm firm and Chris deftly jerked the hook from her hand. After dowsing the wound with whiskey and appling ice to the hand for about a half hour, Gena was back at the rail fishing once again.

To say that I’m proud of my tough little wife would be an understatement. Just about everyone on the Fish Sniffer staff has been hooked, but with the exception of her we’ve all gone to the emergency room. Not Gena, she went the John Wayne route of whiskey and pliers.

The harrowing events I just described took place aboard the California Dawn on November 21 when I headed out on a crab and rockfish combination adventure with a group of avid Fish Sniffer supporters.

Gena and I along with our friend Debra Twardus left Auburn at 3 o’clock in the morning on November 21. We arrived in Berkeley before 5:30 and found a handful of folks already aboard the boat.

By 6:30 everyone had arrived and we motored out of the Berkeley Marina. Captain Chris headed for the rocky shelves off the Marin County Coast. The plan was to load up on rockfish and lingcod before pulling our crab pots.

When we arrived at the rockfish grounds the ocean was dead flat calm and there was little drift. As a result, the fishing started out a bit slow, but as the drift built so did the action. Soon a variety of quality black and brown rockfish along with a parade of lingcod started hitting the deck.

The rockfish were receptive to shrimp flies tipped with either squid strips or Gulp! grubs, but you had to work your gear to get hit. The best method was to drop the rig to the bottom and then slowly reel it back up 30 to 40 feet and then slowly lower it back down. In some spots the fish were stacked on the bottom and in other areas they were suspended.

The lingcod wanted a big meal. I hooked several lings while mooching large brined mackerel just off the bottom and ended up with a pair of keepers weighing 11 and 14 pounds.

Other anglers busted lingcod that were a lot bigger than mine including a 26 pound monster that veteran California and Alaskan lingcod hunter Vince Gianino landed while fishing up on the boat’s bow. The incredible fish was Vince’s personal best California ling and easily held off all challengers for the jackpot.

By 1 o’clock our sacks were bulging with rockfish and lingcod, so it was time to pull in some crabs. The first pot we pulled boasted about 40 crabs, 22 of which were commercial grade keepers. In little more than an hour there were full limits of 150 big crabs in the Cal Dawn’s fish box.

A hooked hand, big lingcod, plentiful rockfish and huge crabs. It was a tired group of anglers that returned to the Berkeley Marina at the conclusion of the trip, but we couldn’t have been happier.

There was a good chance that Gena wouldn’t lose her hand. We had plenty of snow white fillets for the winter ahead and everyone was anticipating a great dinner of fresh crab!

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