Doin’ the Last Chance Boogie

My return to Santa Cruz went about as I expected. After a night back at where I had been staying, I got the boot. The situation between my friends had only deteriorated in my absence, and it was no longer a viable situation for me to continue to reside in. My good buddy Jacob had told me it was cool if I stayed with him, so I gave him a holler. He told me to head on up to his place way up in the mountains if I wanted, but he was on his way to our friend Catdaddy’s house to spend the night.  The next day they were planning to take their boat out of Moss Landing to go salmon fishing, and he suggested I should come along.

So my friend Catdaddy actually is the first person who started calling me Dogfish, so in a way he is the Godfather of this blog! His actual name is Brandon, same as mine. When we first met 16 years ago, I told him, “Dude, it’s weird calling someone else my own name. How about if I call you Catdaddy? Where I’m from in Louisiana, Catdaddy is a term of great endearment.” He was down with it, and a week later he suggested that he should call me Dogfish. I think around that time I had caught a dogfish shark and so that’s the origin of that. I thought it was a good idea, and so The Dogfish was born!

So anyways, I digress. I was super stoked! Hell yeah I want to go salmon fishing! I cruised on over to Catdaddy’s house and it was wonderful to see my boys, as well as Catdaddy’s lady Kelsie and our mutual friend Jenny. They all are part of my core family out here and I hadn’t seen them since before the pandemic. It was a great reunion, and we all had some drinks and caught up with each other. Man, I had really missed those guys! I felt like a new man being around my crew.

We got all rigged up and ready to go out early the next morning. After about 2 and 1/2 hours of sleep, we rousted ourselves and made our way down to Moss Landing to launch their boat, the Sea King. The conditions were perfect, the engine started without a fuss, and we made our way out to their secret salmon spot. When we got there, they were already rigged up, so they went ahead and lauched their lines out on the downriggers. I still was setting up at the time, so it would be a bit until I was ready to go.

Not three minutes after they were at depth, BOOM! Both their lines went off! That hardly ever happens when salmon fishing, especially right at the start of the day. It caught us all off guard! We must have set right on top of a school. I set my rig down and grabbed the net as they both fought their salmon. It was a chaotic scene! The first salmon to come up was Jacob’s. It was a savage fighter, and would keep going on wild runs everytime it came up to the boat. Finally, it surfaced and I moved into position. Just as I was about to net it, it made a hard turn into the prop and severed the line. That fish was a smart rascal, it out-manuvered us utterly!

There was no time to mourn the lost fish, as Catdaddy had gotten his fish up to the boat immediately after. This time, I sucessfully got the net into position and swooped it up. We whooped and hollered that at least we got one fish on the boat out of the pair! It was a chunky salmon that measured 30 inches, one damn fine fish with great color.

Catdaddy with the first fish of the day.

It’s not often you get blood on the decks so quickly in the day. It felt like a great omen. We trolled back and forth for a while with a couple of bites but no takers. Finally, a couple of hours later, Jacob’s line popped off and it was fish on! It was his opportunity to get his revenge on the fish he had missed earlier. After a short fight, he sucessfully got it up to the boat and Catdaddy netted it this time. It was high-fives and celebrations all over again. Two fish in the boat is a sucessful day on the water, and we had done it before ten o’clock. It’s a good feeling knowing your fishing expedition is a success so early in the day. Everything else from that point on is just gravy!

Jacob with the second fish of the day. It was a bit smaller than the first at 28 inches, but still a fine specimen with beautiful color.

Okay, so now that these guys had gotten theirs, it was agreed that I get dibs on the next one. After another hour trolling, one of the lines went off and I got into position to reel it on in. The fish was on for a bit, but then it came off unfortunately. When I reeled in the bait, it had been bitten in half, just short of the hooks in it. That was one crafty fish for sure! We were outsmarted once again by Team Salmon. The hours passed by and we didn’t get any more action. The winds stayed down, and the sun stayed hidden behind cloud cover all afternoon. You could not ask for better conditions. Around 4:30, we decided to pack it up and head on in to shore.

Couldn’t ask for better company out on the high seas.

We made out way back to port and headed back to Catdaddy’s to cook up a salmon feast! Since my buddies were so nice to invite me out, I took care of the fish filleting and cooking. Jenny helped me out with the fish and veggies, which was really nice of her. I baked the salmon with butter, chives, garlic, dill, lemon, Tony Chachere’s seasoning and fresh ground pepper. Jenny made some nice zucchini and mustard greens. All the veggies except the garlic came from their garden, so our meal was about as fresh as you could get. It was the best fish I have made in a long time, it was a great feast. What a great way to end a truly red-letter day. It was the best day I’ve had this year!

I spent another night there and made my way up to Jacob’s place up in the mountains the next day. He lives in the most remote part of Santa Cruz county in an area off of Last Chance Road. The community that exists up there consists of old-school hippies from back in the day. The whole area is off-grid, so people up there are all rugged and self-sufficient. Everyone helps everyone out with everything, from milling their own wood to building structures to vehicle repair.

There’s still a bit of the old-west mentality up there, in that everyone has each other’s back. You don’t want to cross anyone though, people there won’t put up with any bullshit. I’ve spent time up there in the past and I really like it. Folks up in Last Chance remind me of people I grew up around in rural Louisiana. It’s nice, quiet and peaceful. Everyone minds their own business, it’s nice. Supposedly the name ‘Last Chance’ comes from the founding of the community back in the beginning of the 20th century, when grizzly bears were still around. Allegedly, this was the last chance a person could have at that time to see a grizzly in California. It’s amazing such a rural place still exists in the Bay Area.

The incredible view from up here. That’s the ocean in the very background, ten miles away. At night I can hear the waves breaking.

I rolled in around late afternoon to find Jacob there waiting on me. We were both pretty haggard from the events of the last couple of days, so we just kicked back and chilled. Another old friend of mine, Brian, was staying up there, he came in later and it was good to catch up with him. He is from South Carolina, so it’s good to be around another Southerner. All of us go way back, so I’m in good company up here.

In exchange for letting me stay up here, I’ve been asked to help with the many projects going on. This is fine with me, I’m glad to help out doing whatever I can. Yesterday we split a whole bunch of firewood that needed to be done while we had access to the neighbor’s splitter. At the end of the day, Jacob cooked up a mess of salmon and it was so freakin’ good. It was a great meal to end a hard day’s work with.

So for the time being, at least I have a stable place to stay with good friends and good vibes. It’s a nice place to be. Unfortunately, my economic situation is beyond critical. I’ve run out of money and am down to my last 60 bucks on my credit card. The only bad thing about living up here is the long distance into town. It’s about 45 minutes each way, and my V8 engine is a guzzler. Gas is a major concern. I’ve got maybe two weeks worth of food on hand. There is a local stream that has small trout in it, as well as a fishing beach about a 25 minute drive downhill. I hope I can supplement my meanger rations with some fish.

Since everyone thought I’d be going to Alaska, I was replaced by a couple of new workers at where I had been making good money. That was a hard hit. There is some work coming my way in a couple of weeks, but that’s a long time to wait. In the meantime, I plan to send in my unemployment application in and see if I can get anything from that resource. It will be at least another couple of weeks until I know what is up with that. I’m doubtful if I’m eligible for anything but it doesn’t hurt to try. I’ll try to hustle up something in the meantime, but with coronavirus running rampant in California, I feel another total shutdown is imminent. My bills are hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles, I’ve got to figure out how to pay for my storage units and truck insurance at the very least.

I thought I knew what stress was, but now I have entered into a new realm of uncertainty. My guts are in constant knots from all the anxiety. Thank god I have a good group of friends that are helping out as much as they can. I’m just hoping and praying that Alaska works out, it’s the only hope I have at the moment. I should know about that any day now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.


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