Posted by on Jan 31, 2011 in Commercial Fishing, Stories | 5 comments

In the winter, when the sea herring arrive, a boat’s rail is always cold. If you put your bare hands on it while staring at a distant headland, the rail may grab a piece of skin and rip it off. The view is never worth the pain of attachment. I pick at a herring scale, remove it from my face. The tiny scales are like sequins, like party glitter. They cover everything—boots and totes, the galley floor, the fish-finder screen. We follow the herring shoals. With every turn of the screw our boat pushes further from home. There are days when I don’t belong out here. I picture her doing her hair: she stands in front of the mirror; between her teeth she clenches a hair band. We haven’t moved in together yet. She says, “I’m undecided about seeing a fisherman.” On the radio another captain has found a school. They are twenty miles from us. I have no idea what she does at night when we’re out fishing. The vibration of our engine rattles my teeth. The air is cold, still. Maybe we’ll find some fish after nightfall. Often during night, herring will rise off the bottom, bunch into tight schools. The captain will find them. For hours he will stare at nothing else but the fish-finder screens. Once he sees fish, he’ll stub out his cigarette and find his crew.  We’ll be at the galley table, drinking coffee. “O.K. let’s set in,” he’ll say. “There’s fish showing here.”  END

Photo By JP Lee, herring fishing south of Long Island.