Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Big Fish Story

     Fishing in the mountain lakes and rivers of Plumas County is a popular form of recreation, but I’ve only been fishing once since we moved here.  I guess I’m all fished out.

            When I was a boy, my father took my brother and me fishing regularly in Monterey.  He had a favorite boat captain named “Sam,” who had a couple of fishing boats and guaranteed a good catch.  He always kept his promise and I remember coming home with gunny sacks full of fish.

            Much later, I would go fishing most weekends with two buddies who owned a fishing boat in Santa Cruz.  It was an old diesel thumper that required ether to start the engine.  Combined with the smell of diesel fuel, I was always on the verge of sea-sickness before we left the harbor. Despite the woozy feeling, I never got sick, no matter how rough the sea.  Never - except once.

            That “once” was during a particularly rough sea on a foggy morning.  When you can’t see the horizon, you become more vulnerable to getting sick and turning green.  I actually saw a guy turn green once.  I don’t know if I was green that day, but I spent a significant amount of time hanging on the boat railing straining to see a horizon line.  I was on the verge of losing it.

            Some of my “good buddies” are very skilled at pranks.  As I was struggling to keep my breakfast down, I got a tap on my shoulder.  The late Glen Dennee, a friend since high school, was a foot from me when I turned around.  He was grinning with a slimy squid hanging and dripping from his mouth.

            I have a fairly well developed diaphragm from playing the trumpet most of my life.  When I spun back toward the ocean and let loose, I swear I sent everything I had eaten since my tenth birthday party straight at Japan.  And I mean “straight.”  The trajectory defied gravity and shot in a straight line as far as the eye could see. I felt a sense of pride at my power. It was like hitting a high C on my trumpet.

            More recently, I did some halibut fishing in Alaska.  Reeling in a large halibut is like pulling a minivan up a hill. But the largest fish I have ever seen was right off the deck of our previous home in Discovery Bay.  Right in my own back yard. 

            We had decking that extended out over the water and you could fish right off our deck.  I was working on the deck railing when I heard a commotion by my dock.  When I looked, I saw two ducks under the boat lift and one seemed to be very agitated.  I thought he was just in love until I suddenly saw a monster fish come out of the water in an arc and take that full-grown duck in one swallow.

            That would require a huge mouth.  I was startled at the length of that fish.  It was six to eight feet long with a head over a foot across.  Hitting Japan with an abdominal purge may have been slightly hyperbolic, but this description is accurate.  The fish I saw was even bigger than the one in the photo below.

            At the time of this incident, I was writing a weekly column for the newspaper and asked my readers if anyone in the delta area had ever seen a fish that size.  I was amazed to get reports of other sightings that confirmed what I saw.  It was a relief to realize I wasn’t delusional. 

            I don't know where the fish in the photo was caught, but you never know what lurks below the surface - even in the delta.  Well that’s my fish story for today.  Some of you may have even better stories.



  1. That is a great fish story Ralph. If I had seen the fish you saw I would never swim in that water. Several years ago my ex-wife and I were in Long Beach, Washington with friends. My buddy and I tested the waters and for the first time in my life the ocean water was warm. That never happens in the northwest. He and I walked about 30 yards out to where the water was up to our necks and we were bobbing up and down with the swells. About 10 yards in front of us something black popped up the water and scared the crap out of us. I turned out to be a seal. But then I got to thinking. The water has never been this warm before it must be the Japanese current. Then I thought perhaps the great white sharks follow this warm current. I immediately expressed my thought to my buddy and we both started freaking out with the idea. We had been bobbing up and down like bait. We instantly turned and headed back to the beach as fast as we could. It was like one of those dreams where something is chasing you and you can't run fast but we made it alive. About a year or so later I was in a restaurant at the coast and and I saw a photo on the wall of a giant great white hanging by it's tail from a crane with a guy standing by it and he looked like a midget next to the shark. Just below the photo was written, "This giant Great White was caught off the coast of Long Beach, Washington." I know a shark is not a fish but that is my best kinda fish story.
    Your ole pal,
    Jim Loar

    1. Regarding swimming in the water where those monster fish live, I used to swim in our little bay and I always wondered what was watching me splash around on the surface. I figured that I had enough "bulk" to discourage one of those monsters, but I guess a fish like that could grab a foot and pull you under. I guess sometimes we play the odds.

      I think you are confusing a dolphin with a shark. A shark is a fish and good eating. The last fish I caught on that boat I was a small shark. It got tangled in my line and I had to pull it in tail first, which was a long fight. Once on deck, I had to beat it with a club to keep it from biting us. I had no other option, but I sure enjoyed eating the sucker.