While the East Coast may be sweating out its first heat wave of the year, here in Seattle the weather's been unseasonably miserable: sideways rain and bone-chilling cold. I've been down in the basement performing unspeakable rites, putting in calls to Nawlins voodoo shops, even screaming "Uncle!" at the top of my lungs. The cold rain and snow just keeps a-coming. So, if you can't beat 'em...
I put on the wetsuit the other day and went free-diving with my half-fish friend David Francis. Dave gets in a minimum of 100 dives a year. Long ago I stopped worrying about staying submerged even half as long, or seeing the things he sees underwater. I just like getting wet, working muscles that don't normally see a lot of action, and checking out the marine environment. There's food to be had, too.
Dave calls it human-powered hunting. We don't carry fancy spearguns; the Hawaiian sling is our tool of choice (although according to Wikipedia, what we've always referred to as a sling is more properly known as a polespear).
When I first started free-diving 15 years ago, there were abundant populations of rockfish and lingcod—or at least they seemed abundant to me—all along the jetties up and down Pugetopolis. Rockfish are slow-growing and often don't reproduce until several years old (and older), but the lings were considered fair game in limited numbers. Back then it seemed like we were the only ones targeting lings. Lately with salmon runs so depressed, more and more anglers are turning to bottomfish. We see them anchored off jetties that boats used to ignore on their way out to the deeper trolling waters. And now we see fewer and fewer lings. Each spring I wonder if this will be my last backyard ling hunt...and don't get me started on the chemical contaminants cropping up in these urban in-shore fish.
That said, we saw a few lings... If you want to read more about my adventures free-diving in pursuit of this toothy—and toothsome—delicacy, check back soon and I'll have details about a forthcoming magazine piece.