Incident Off Shinnecock

I happen to sell fishing lures in Japan. Two summers ago one of my Japanese customers, a Mr. Hinuoe, called me to say that he planned to visit me. Mr. Hinuoe explained that he was an avid bass fisherman and that he wanted to have an opportunity to enjoy the "real good" bass fishing in America.

There was only one problem: I don't know anything about bass fishing. This was embarrassing since I sell tens of thousands of bass fishing lures to Mr. Hinuoe each year. I decided that I better find another way for Mr. Hinuoe to enjoy fishing.

A few days later, Mr. Hinuoe called again to tell me that he would be coming with a friend the next afternoon. I told him that there had been a slight change of plans. We would be going deep sea fishing, not bass fishing. Mr. Hinuoe seemed concerned. Why could we not go bass fishing, he asked. Because Long Island was a very bad place to go bass fishing, I told him. This was a lie. Actually, Long Island has some great bass ponds and lakes. At least, so I am told.

The next day I picked up Mr. Hinuoe and his friend, a reporter from a Japanese fishing magazine. Mr. Hinuoe was a small, thin, but strongly muscled man in his upper 30's. His friend, who immediately suggested that I call him Snapper, was a tall spindly man with a large head, large eyes, thick glasses and two cameras around his neck. As soon as Mr. Hinuoe's friend suggested that I call him Snapper, Mr. Hinuoe suggested I call him Toby. Toby and Snapper bowed several times when we shook hands. Toby spoke very good English. Snapper's English was more limited. Toby spoke in a deep guttural voice. Snapper spoke in a lighter tenor voice.

I drove them to an East End hotel and took them to dinner that evening, introducing Snapper and Toby to American lobsters. Mr. Hinuoe said that it was a good thing that I suggested the lobster in case he met a willing American girl the shellfish would give him extra energy. I wished him luck, but wondered where he would find the time, since we were scheduled to go fishing about six hours later.

On the way back from the restaurant Toby insisted that we stop to buy two six packs of the "good Budweiser beer" (he had already polished off five Buds at dinner) and a can of sardines. It took a little time, but finally we were able to locate both the beer and the sardines. Toby explained that he would drink one six pack before retiring and have the sardines and the other six pack for breakfast. I was wondering when he was going fit in the willing American girl. I left the two very jovial Japanese gentlemen at their hotel and headed back to Southampton to get some sleep.

One of the things I have never liked about fishing is the ungodly hours. Consequently, I rarely go fishing, but in this case, I could not escape the agony of getting up at 4 am. I arrived at the hotel to find Toby with his six pack and sardines and Snapper with his two cameras. As soon as Toby got into my van he cracked open the sardines and a beer. He offered me both, I declined saying that I'd wait until I got on the boat.

We drove to the Shinnecock Canal to the boat of Captain Greg Smith. Greg was a large, tall, barrel-chested man. He had a young assistant named Mark. The captain loaded up the boat with fishing rods, bait, sandwiches and more beer. By 5:30 am we were headed out into Shinnecock Bay.

Toby and Snapper were impressed with the size of the boat, which was a 38' Bertram. They were also surprised with how fast it went. I noticed that Toby sat on the side gunwale looking a little bit strange. He talked in low guttural tones to Snapper. Since he was speaking in Japanese, I could not tell what he saying. Snapper was listening very seriously and bowing every few seconds.

In the east, the sun was just rising over Shinnecock Bay. It was a magnificent explosion of orange and yellow light. Across the bay you could see the sand dunes that formed Hampton Bays Beach and beyond you could see the blue expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

Mark scrambled around setting up rods for us. I settled into a deck chair enjoying the full glory of the sea view. There was quite a strong wind blowing and the bay waves were kicking up.

Soon the sun rose in the sky. Even though the wind was blowing 15 to 20 miles an hour, the bright sun brought warmth immediately to the air. It was one of those great East End days.

Mark baited the rods and handed them to Snapper, Toby and myself. We decided to start fishing even though we were only approaching the inlet. To my amazement, we began to catch fish almost immediately. As we started to enter the inlet, blues starting hitting each of our lines. Snapper and I were frantically reeling in our lines. Toby had one too, but he seemed distracted.

I had landed a bluefish. Snapper was doing great too. He was on the verge of bagging his blue. Mark was ready by the side of the boat with a gaff. As Mark began to lunge with the gaff, I heard this low guttural snarl. It was in Japanese. At that moment, we were entering the Shinnecock Inlet. In the channel the current was very strong and it increased the size of the waves. Up ahead you could see the open ocean. Large ocean swells were sweeping into the inlet.

"Organwahnohwah" cried Toby in loud voice.

He bent over double as if someone had shot him with a 44 Magnum. Whatever he said (the above is just a faint approximation), it didn't mean anything to me. But it meant something to Snapper. He dropped his rod and rushed over to Toby. Fortunately, Mark was nearby to pick up the rod and continue pulling in Snapper's fish.

I knew something was wrong because Toby had turned a deeper shade of yellow. And I could see that Snapper was very concerned with his friend's condition. He came over to me.

"Mr. Hinuoe, he not well." Snapper said.

Just at that moment another fish hit my line.

"Well, what's the problem?" I asked reeling in my line as fast as I could. Maybe, this fishing won't be so bad, I was thinking.

"Mr. Hinuoe, he no feel good," said Snapper.

I was trying to be sympathetic and not lose the fish. By now we were at the mouth of the inlet. The waves, being kicked up by the current of the outgoing tide, were now 6 to 8 feet in the mouth of the inlet. The boat was crashing through the large waves.

"Bonito," called out Mark. I looked 20 feet in back of the boat and saw a large Bonito breaking the wake of the boat at the end of my line. Things were happening fast now. The boat was rising up and dropping down. Mr. Hinuoe was holding onto the gunwale. Mark was still struggling with Snapper's rod. I realized that I had to do something. I put my rod down and went over to Snapper. Toby was still bent over double. I suggested that Toby go below decks and rest.

Snapper lead Toby below deck to recuperate. Unfortunately, Toby fell down the stairs into the galley and narrowly missed hitting his head. Snapper led him to a bed to lie down, but Toby had other ideas. He lurched into the head instead. Loud guttural noises came from within. I went up to the top deck to Captain Greg Smith.

I told him we had this slight problem. My Japanese guest was seasick. Greg was unimpressed. "It happens all the time," Greg said. I went below to Snapper. Snapper was looking a little sick himself, not with sea-sickness, but with concern.

"This not good," Snapper said, "Mr. Hinuoe, he a proud man. He a very great fisherman. This not good."

I knew what he meant. I had been to Japan and I knew it was very important for a man to maintain his respect. The Japanese have strange sense of right and wrong. I will give you an example: Mr. Hinuoe took me out to dinner and drinking in Kobe one night. We went to one place for drinks before dinner. Then we went to dinner. Then we went to a bar for after dinner drinks. Then we went to another bar...then another. Soon it was 2:30 am. I was getting tired, not to mention drunk, but still Mr. Hinuoe kept leading me on. Finally, we arrived at this one bar and it was now 3:30 am. I was really tired.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Hinuoe." I blurted out, "I've got to go to bed."

"Good," said Mr. Hinuoe, "Now, we can go."

I later realized that Mr. Hinuoe had been waiting all night for me to say that I was tired. Such is the Japanese sense of honor.

On the boat, Mr. Hinuoe was in an even more embarrassing situation. He had gotten sick in front of several Gia-jin (foreign barbarians). This disturbed his Wa (his inner sense of harmony) and shot his Bushido (his appearance of courage) to hell. So, in a little less than an hour, I had done much harm to Mr. Hinuoe and getting him sea-sick was only part of it.

I understood Toby's predicament, but now that fish were striking, I was getting interested in fishing. Accordingly, I told Snapper not to worry.

So, Snapper went below and told Toby to get some rest. I picked up my rod and started reeling. Mark pulled in Snapper's blue and came over to gaff my Bonito. Even Snapper got caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment. He came up from below deck and started clicking away with his cameras. He wasn't called Snapper for nothing.

In the meantime, Captain Greg headed out to sea slowly - in order not further sicken Toby.

For a time, all was heaven. I was pulling in fish. Snapper was clicking away with his cameras. After a while, Snapper started fishing himself. The ocean was rough and majestic. The sun was rising in the sky and already it was hot. In between the fish I cracked a beer. Mark gave me a much heavier rod, baited my line and cast it out. As I let the line out, Mark picked up a bucket of chum and started throwing out bait.

This wasn't so bad I thought. Then my line got hit, catching me by surprise. My beer went flying and the line went racing out. I pulled hard on the rod. I had something and I knew it was big.

"Arhwahtohbak" I heard from below deck. Snapper dropped his rod and raced to Toby below. I kept reeling. Mark dove down for Snapper's rod. Mark snagged it just as the rod was about to slip over the gunwale. I was reeling as hard as I could and realizing that the line was going out, not in. The drag was set lightly and whatever fish I had hooked was running away with the line.

"Marlin, 300 yards aft", I heard Captain Greg shout. And sure enough, this gigantic Marlin broke the surface of the water. This was going to be a great day, I thought.

"Waggahagwaktoh" I heard from below. It sounded like the death cry of Mr. Warf on StarTrek. I had changed the drag by now and was reeling like crazy. I was in one of the those classic deep-sea fisherman's chairs. Mark had set me up in a harness. I was pulling and reeling, pulling and reeling. It was hard work. I felt like Ernest Hemingway. Suddenly, Snapper appeared before me and was shouting something, but I couldn't quite make out the words.

"Keep reeling," shouted Captain Greg, "He's 400 lbs. if he's an ounce." Captain Greg was getting excited. It was hard work, sweat was poring down my brow. Mark poured water onto the reel to prevent it from overheating. Snapper was trying to say something. He leaned his face right next to mine and shouted.

"Mr. Hinuoe, he no good. He must stand on land."

It took a little while for the words to sink in.

"Look at him jump," cried Captain Greg. The big marlin pierced the ocean surface and rose up majestically into the air. He was only a hundreds yards away and you could really see him well now.

"He's 600, no 800 lbs. I never seen one that big this close to shore." Captain Greg shouted. I was reeling like crazy when suddenly the line went slack.

"You lost him," cried Captain Greg. "I'm going back," Captain Greg immediately turned. Mark and Snapper both slipped and fell on the deck. I looked behind me. Toby, who had been trying to come up on deck, fell back down the stairs.

"Mark, throw out more chum," cried the Captain.

"Mr. Hinuoe, he no good. He must stand on land." Snapper repeated. I looked below deck, beyond Snapper. Toby was clawing his way back onto the deck. And he didn't look good.

I went up top and told Captain Greg that I was very sorry, but Mr. Hinuoe, he had to stand on land. I was thinking about the lost fishing, the lost marlin and, most of all, about the lost $750 that I had invested in the boat. Captain Greg was very understanding (he had the $750). He turned around and headed back to shore. We were only about 3 miles offshore. I went below to see how Toby was doing. He was sitting in my fishing chair, still doubled up.

I thought that we would have to bring Toby to land. But when we got into Shinnecock Bay it was much calmer and Toby started to feel much better. Captain Greg suggested that we fish in Peconic Bay. And that's what we did. It wasn't the same thrill as being out in the ocean, but Toby was much happier. He even caught some bluefish. They were 4 and 5 pounders, small by comparison to the blues we pulled in offshore, but they were fish. Snapper ran around the boat and commemorated the event with 150 pictures.

Every once and while I caught Toby looking over at me, as I happily reeled in fish and sipped my beer. Toby's stomach still was not right. All he could do was shake his head. I thought I heard him mutter "Gia-jin American". Anyway, all's well that ends well. We had nice day fishing and came back late that afternoon. I am sure that Snapper and Toby had an interesting story to tell their friends back in Japan about fishing in the Hamptons.

Cecil Hoge, Jr.

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