Hedge Witch’s American Cousin

People say the strangest things when they think they're anonymous, but a snotty comment on this blog actually led to the capture of a new species only 90 minutes from home!

August 5, 2013
Steve Wozniak (NOT the Apple guy) is a man on a mission: to be the first person in the world to catch 2,000 different species of fish. (He was already the first to 1,000, so his girlfriend set the new goal to keep him out of the house.) You can read all about it here. As of this blog post, Woz has caught 1,187 species.

Dateline: March 31, 2013 — Monterey, California

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but when I insult someone, I think it should be done right in public. (Cousin Chuck — nice hair. When did Supercuts get a drive-through?)

Yes, I really do have a cousin Chuck. He’s more normal than I let on, but not by a wide margin.


There is a certain accountability that goes with this sort of thing, as before you fire off that clever retort, you need to consider whether your intended target is larger than you, or unstable, or your boss — or, in my employees’ case, all three. The internet takes all the fun out of this. People say the strangest things when they think they’re anonymous, but oddly enough, a snotty comment on my blog actually led to the capture of a new species. So although I didn’t much appreciate my fishing ability and manhood being assailed, the inadvertent fishing tip was great. (Besides, if I want my fishing ability assailed, I can just go to Martini … or Marta.)

I get it that not everyone likes fishing, or my blog, or my haircut. These people — and there may be billions of them — exercise their right to not like these things by not reading my blog. But once in a while, someone just has to weigh in with something ad hominem. Heck — I once did a whole article on the insults I got from British newspaper readers who had never even met me — see The Yogurt Knitters Strike Back – Daily Mail (UK) article sparks furor. A woman named “Eileen,” who I am sure is off stalking Justin Bieber now, burned a lot of calories saying bad things about me. For example:

What an idiot and he is proud . what goes around comes around maybe a big big fish will get you one day you sad man. — eileen


OK, she made some lucky guesses. (And interestingly, a fish did just give me 32 stitches, but I survived.) But my most dedicated detractor was someone, possibly a relative, using the screen name “Hedge Witch.”

I actually feel sick with anger reading this! what sort of achievement is that? How many fish has he killed? did any get put back alive? It just makes me so mad! How can anyone be proud of this? it is totally beyond me. He should be had up for cruelty. Those fish were not put on this planet so that idiots like him can catch them purely for sport. — Hedge Witch, Brizzle Uk, 2/9/2010

I invited her to dinner and haven’t heard back yet. Fast forward a couple of years, and I can’t say I was all that surprised when I woke up one day last fall to see this gem awaiting my approval in my blog’s inbox:


_”How does it feel knowing that there are larger fishing then the world record ones you caught on the California state record list. Your world record black perch of 1lb 4oz is literally HALF the size of the CA state record of2lb 9oz. How can you do that? What kind of fishermen are you? Your buddy Martini Arostegui’s striped perch (1lb 8oz) is a whole pound less then the state record. That’s a bunch of BS. Where is your list of world record fish? I’d love to see how many others are not legitimate world records? Are any of you records over ten pounds? Looking forward to breaking your records”


Sure, I could take some cheap shots at the grammar and spelling, but the part that really hurt was when he called Martini my “buddy.” The guy who broke my striped perch record, a “buddy?” I have hiked six miles with this man while he wore an Elvis costume. He’s not just a buddy, he is family, and when you insult my family … well, you probably have a point. I figured the commenter had to be related to Hedge Witch, but at least she didn’t think she was the arbiter of “legitimate” world records.


I know I’ve mentioned this before, but just to make sure we’re all on the same page — IGFA records are not always the biggest example of a fish ever caught. They are the biggest example that someone has bothered to catch under IGFA rules, record under IGFA rules, and turn in to the IGFA. This might be self-evident for some of the glamor species, but as I believe I have repeatedly covered, I am not a glamor species guy. Most of my records are for oddball creatures that don’t elicit a lot of angling press, like whitefin sharksuckers and conehead eels. I have fished in hotel fountains and shopping malls. If you want a really good fisherman, look up “Arostegui.” I’m not all that skilled of an angler compared to pros like that — I’m just persistent and well-travelled, and for God’s sake, if you’d ever seen me in my Superman underwear, you wouldn’t take me that seriously either. Would Ernest Hemingway ever admit to catching a world record while naked? (See The Naked Truth of Day Three)

My critic, however, was not to be dissuaded, and despite my deafening silence, he wrote back the next day.

“Didn’t think you would have posted my previous message on your site but I thought you would have stood up for yourself and responded to my query. What kind of man are you? Thought so…”

Ironically, the captain of my hockey team wishes I wouldn’t stand up for myself quite so often. I just love it when someone declares themself the winner of their own argument. Marta had a good giggle, and said “My goodness, someone with more free time than you! Impossible!”

Somewhere in here, I decided it was best to figure out exactly who this person was and make sure he didn’t have firearms, history with Justin Bieber, or connections to the IRS. My web-savvy friends did all the heavy lifting and figured out that we were dealing with an apparently harmless area resident. But I found an item that was far more useful. Some visitor from Fresno had met this guy on a fishing pier in Monterey, and they caught a painted greenling. I had never caught this species. Bingo. A fishing tip.

This worked out nicely because Martini was doing a semester down at the Hopkins Lab in Monterey and had figured out a lot of the fishing in the area. Even after living nearby for 23 years, I had never really thought of Monterey as a fishing destination — it’s a great place to visit, a summer and Christmas tradition for me and Marta, but I hadn’t really fished there much, which … may … explain why Marta likes it so much. Oops. We will certainly keep our romantic weekends there, but I might suggest that she tries to avoid afternoon high tides.

Cannery Row, Monterey. Steinbeck wouldn’t recognize it.

I took three trips to Monterey in the last half of March, and I went on each one expecting to catch a record perch. But life doesn’t always turn out how you want it to — just ask the Maginot Line garrison. The first time down, Martini and I went to a rocky shoreline in Lover’s Point — fill in your own punchline there — and got some solid perch. Solid, but not record. (Note — we did not fish in the marine reserve.) Martini has snorkeled the area thoroughly and knew every rockpile and hole, but the big fish didn’t bite. I then followed in the footsteps of the comment crank and went out to Monterey harbor. This is a wonderful place to visit — a chance to see, experience, and smell the local wildlife.


Tourists love them, salmon fishermen hate them, and they smell like hockey equipment.

After catching a good — but not record — striped perch, I set up some smaller gear and started casting bits of shrimp into the kelp forest. Among dozens of rockfish and small perch, I got six, count ’em, six painted greenlings. A new species only 90 minutes from home!

Thank you, Mr. Grouchy Blog Reader. And I hope you’re feeling better. I certainly am.

Martini and I then caught up twice over the last weekend of March. The first go-round, which also involved Spellman (see The Cottonwood Death March) was a rocky shoreline trip that featured creatures great and small. I got a beastly opaleye — quite a surprise to get this vegetarian on a piece of shrimp.

(Normal bait — frozen peas. No kidding.)

In a bored moment, I tried to get one of the small fish darting around the rocks — which I assumed were shiner surfperch — and was thrilled to discover they were reef surfperch, a new species for me.

Yes, I got this worked up over a four-inch fish. Spellman caught some larger perch, but these were not new species and hence will not detract from the reef surperch’s moment of glory.

Martini racked up a few new species as well, including this senorita. Hmmmm. Martini gets a senorita for the first time. There’s a joke in there someplace.

A beastly crevice kelpfish. (See Miracle at Aquatic Park.)

The next day, I gave the surfperch a shot off the harbor wall. I hadn’t caught much and was getting ready to head home when I had a light bite. I landed what I initially thought was a monkeyface prickleback, but after days of conferring with some very generous PhDs, including Dr. Milton Love and Dr. Robert N. Lea, both legends on west coast species, it was determined that I had caught the rather unusual ribbon prickleback.

Yes, I do get excited about catching stuff like this.

The ribbon prickleback gets its moment of glory in the fishing press.

Three days, three species, and I got to hang out with Martini and Spellman. Not bad. Of course, now I have to try to convince Marta that I will not spoil getaways to Monterey with fishing trips. But what could be more romantic than a record surfperch?

Postscript — despite the promise contained in his first comment, our anonymous commenter has yet to break any of my or Martini’s IGFA perch records, lame though they may be. So, and I mean this with great maturity — nyah nyah nyah.


1000Fish Reader Update
We are proud to announce that Mackie Rienhoff, a faithful 1000fish reader, caught his first rubberlip surfperch on an outing with me and his father on May 3. He was 11 years old at the time. I was 46 when I caught my first one; I’m not sure if this makes Mackie a snot or not. Mackie’s Dad, one of Marta’s favorite people, throws the best Christmas party in the Bay Area, and we’re hoping this will lock in our invite for a few more years, even though Marta can’t control herself with the homemade egg nog.

It isn’t supposed to be this easy.


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