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Date of Issue: March 25, 2009

Fish Tale: A frenzy of fish

The setting is Bean Point, where various fishermen are spread out in the shallow water along the beach casting into a calm sea, hoping to catch the pugnacious pompano but catching instead the more placid whiting.

It seemed that there had not been so many dolphins around this year, but I noticed more of them than usual that morning. They were leaping about at some distance from the shore, fishing back and forth, and after a while their movement just became part of the backdrop.

Suddenly, this rather tranquil scene erupted into a thrashing mass of frenzied fish. About a half-dozen dolphins were herding thousands of jacks, which were in a desperate attempt to escape, leaping across the surface of the water toward the beach. So large was the school — I’d guess about the size of a tennis court — that the sound of their thrashing could be heard from where we stood, and so packed that the water darkened.

What followed happened extremely fast. Those anglers more timid, perhaps wiser, beat a hasty retreat for dry land. Yours truly, being neither timid nor particularly wise, stood firm, caught between retrieving my line to save it from almost certain shredding as all these rampaging fish neared, and the intriguing prospect of hooking one.

At any rate there was no time to do much of anything. The jacks came right at me until they were close enough to be seen in detail, giving me a very high-speed eyeball-to-eyeball look. It was quite strange. There were so many of them moving so fast at such close range that all I could do was stand riveted to the spot.

At the last moment, they swerved at my feet and headed along the beach. Immediately my reel started to whine as the spool let go of the line, and it was obvious that I would either run out of line or it would snap. My light rod was not going to slow the snagged fish, to say nothing of the dumbfounded anglers and their equipment along the shore whom I would bang into if I tried to run in pursuit.

Almost immediately there was a sharp twang and the line went dead as the dolphins and their prey continued at breakneck speed down the shore.

For a moment, we were all a little stunned, having witnessed both the suddenness and the breadth of the unusual scene. There was an angler at the far end of our group who had a heavier rod and reel, and who was able — by running along the shore unobstructed — to land one of the jacks. And it was released to run again.