There goes Tokyo!
Go, go, Godzilla!
Blue Oyster Cult, 1978
Gary Mahle didn't want just any grouper. He wanted a big grouper.
"A monster?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied. "The bigger and scarier the better."
In the previous four hours, Mahle and his crew caught mangrove snapper, triggerfish, red grouper and amberjack among other things.
You couldn't have asked for a better day: air temperature 72 degrees, a soft breeze and blue sky, punctuated by an occasional cloud, just enough to give the eyes a break from time to time.
It was unlike many winter fishing trips, when the wind howls and the rain has a way of seeping into even the sturdiest foul-weather gear.
But so it goes.
When it is raining, you pray for clear skies. When it is rough, you wish the seas would lay down. When it is cold, you want it to be warm. When it is hot, you long for those winter days when it was cool.
You know how it goes . . . when you are hungry, you want food. When you have food, you want money. When you have money, you want good health. When you have it all, you think about dying.
"What's wrong with that fish," I asked Mahle after he pulled up a perfectly good grouper. "That fish is legal."
Mahle, who charters a 40-foot Dorado out of Nokomis, just shook his head.
"We could catch these all day," he said. "We are looking for something to brag about."
So as we waited for a big one to bite, I started thinking back to a time when life was much simpler. As a boy, I was happy catching sunnies. But it didn't take long before I no longer was satisfied with just catching them, I wanted to eat them too.
But it would take a day to clean enough Oak Tree Pond sunfish to make a sandwich, so my dad told me that I would have to start fishing for bass if I were to ever have a decent meal.
Once I started catching bass, I had to catch trout. Soon stocked fish weren't good enough, so I decided to hunt only native "brookies." And when you've caught one of these tiny fighters on hook and line, it becomes obvious that the true test is on a fly.
And the slope just gets more slippery.
I told Mahle about a buddy, Keith Dudley, who took an old boat and made it look like new. But my pal wasn't just satisfied catching trout, redfish and snook out of his hand-crafted piece of art.
"Now he fishes out of a kayak with a fly rod and flies he ties himself," I said.
Mahle appreciated the point.
If you catch snapper, you want grouper. If you catch red grouper, you want gag grouper. If you catch gag grouper, it better be 22 inches or longer. And once you've caught plenty of legal-sized fish, you want to catch a beast.
"A real monster," Mahle said. "Gagzilla."
I must admit, the thought of a 300-foot fish tearing through all the high-rises on the beach made me smile.
"Oh, no! There goes condo row!" I sang. "Go, go, Gagzilla!"
Mahle and his crewmates admitted they weren't fans of Blue Oyster Cult, the metal band known for its 1978 hit, Godzilla.
But they did appreciate the sentiment.
"You've got Gagzilla, Mangzilla, Jackzilla, Redzilla, Kingzilla," Mahle said.
Eager to get in on the act, I offered my own big fish name.
"How about blackfinzilla," I said.
The consenus was unanimous. Blackfinzilla just didn't have that ring to it. Which was probably a good thing, since those blue-water fighters had avoided our baits all afternoon and the livewell was empty.
But that didn't stop Mahle from tossing out one last piece of cut bait. It took a while for morsel to hit the bottom, but when it did, the fish were on it.
As the angler battled the brute to the surface, Mahle leaned over the side to get a better look. The fish was a big, but not as big as a nuclear-radiated-mutation might be.
But we sang along anyway.
"Oh, no! There goes condo row. Go, %% WARNING %%go, Gagzilla!"
With the fish in the icebox, Mahle headed for home.
"Now I will never get that song out of my head," he lamented.