The stripers are here.
Every year, at about this time, the waters around Cape Cod fill with striped bass just arrived from down south, where they had the good sense to spend the winter. The striper’s combination of being tricky to catch and excellent to eat make it a favorite of local anglers, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a rod and reel goes out to try and catch one.
Well, call me Harry, because last week I went out to Cotuit Bay to see if there weren’t a striper with a my name on it.
The south end of Cotuit Bay is blocked by a glorified sand bar called Sampson’s Island, and there’s a cut on the west end where only about 300 feet separates the island from the mainland. Any fish that wants in or out of the bay has to go through the cut (or take a circuitous route through other bays to a cut on the east side), so it’s a prime fishing spot.
It’s where Kevin and I were one evening last week, casting from the mainland out into the channel. After we’d been there about twenty minutes, a minivan pulled into the little parking lot adjacent to the beach. More fishermen, we figured.
Sure enough, seven – count ‘em, seven – big Russian guys piled out. It was like one of those clown cars; they just kept coming. And then they took their boat out of the back.
Got that? The boat was in the car. It wasn’t on top of the car, or being towed by the car. The boat was in the car.
I pound this point home because I want you to know just how small this boat was. I think it was the smallest boat I’ve ever seen, a washtub with a bow and a stern. As we watched, one of the Russian guys carried it, singlehandedly, down to the beach. Another guy got the trolling motor, and a third brought a battery. They set it all up, clearly intending to take it across the cut to Sampson’s Island.
I look at the guys, I look at their stuff, and I look at the boat, which looks like it shouldn’t carry more than about 300 pounds, and it turns into one of those word problems you get in math class. In hell. There are seven Russians, each of whom weighs no less than 225 pounds. There is one boat, with a maximum capacity of 300 pounds. How many trips does it take to get all the Russians to Sampson’s Island?
The answer, it turns out, is three, because Russians – or at least these Russians – reject all conventional notions of maximum capacity. The guy driving the boat would take two Russians and a pile of gear and set off across the narrows at a brisk half-knot. The boat was so overloaded that the water came within inches of the gunwales. Kevin and I watched, bracing for the moment a wave would come over the side and swamp them.
The wave never came. This was fortunate, as they had no flotation devices. I suppose they could have brought them, but then they wouldn’t have had room for their charcoal grill, a tackle box the size of the Parthenon, or the two cases of Coors Light.
When they were all safely onto the island, they set up their grill and their lawn chairs, popped open beers and started casting. It was prime time, and they had the island to themselves.
It turned out that there wasn’t a striper with my name on it that night, but I bet my bottom dollar there was one out there that said “Boris” in big letters.