One in a million...
After over 15 years of not, I <i>did</i> keep a good bass yesterday. She was beautiful - scales as big as dimes, purple hues, brilliant cream-silver sheen between stark black stripes streaming from a head made for business, solid as stone and able to knock foot long pogies and 24 inch black eels into a stupor with it's explosive mouth. A fish that took two hands to handle, features as big as life itself laying in the shallows. But after an incredible 75 yard battle down the beach her eyes were far away in a straight forward gaze and there was no fight as I grasped her tail and slid my hand under her thick stomach for the photo. The brilliance was quickly leaving her body and John and I both knew her will to fight (epic) and my determination to capture had already all but taken her life and the responsible thing to do was utilize the animal to the fullest as I surely will. She'll be the only I keep this year, and perhaps I won't keep another for 15 more years - I don't know. As easy as it is to rationalize keeping one bass in such a long time, the whole thing went sour for me when I saw a million immature eggs in a skein running along both sides of the gullet below the air sac when I evicerated the fish.
I have seen roe in many salmon, steelhead and trout over the years that one might think I'd be immune - but having come from an era when stripers were seriously endangered and having adopted a no-kill policy in the 80's, it was a gut-wrencher to realize what the gulls were about to gobble like so much intestine or gill - a million prospects for the same kind of fire and beauty as this female had for some young angler several thousand tides later in the continuum of events we call life.
Although I have no pride nor passion about the record of keepers I've caught and released before keeping one for my family tbale, the experience led me to realize that there is a price to kill a striper, and that each one is truly one in a million.