Monday, August 26, 2013

Eyes Peeled for Pork Pluggs

My Grandfather, the great Professor McFinn amassed a great collection of lures (among other artifacts) and one of the rarest examples he collected was a Japanese knock-off of the legendary Maynard's Pork Plugg. Now, the original Pork Plugg can still be found here and there but in the late 40's a few "bootlegs" appeared on the scene for a brief period (no pun intended: actually the Plugg is wearing boxers in my opinion!) originating from somewhere in Occupied Japan. You see, back then the stuff that came from Japan was mostly junk. This was before the transistor and all of that technology that the Japanese would develop like madmen while rebuilding their country and economy after the Second World War had taken it's toll. Stuff that was labeled "Made in Japan" was usually laughed at and tossed into the trash-heap. So, the Pork Pluggs that came out of Japan during period ended up at the dump for the most part. This is why the little boogers are so rare! You can spot one right off, the eyes have faded to a dull yellow and more than likely the ears and tail have fallen off or snapped.

Another reason for the rarity of these things was the way lure companies in those days treated their designs. They were Top Secret and guarded like national secrets. So, when the GoodLuck Lure Mfg. company got wind of the rip-off lures, they were P.O'ed in a big way. Agents from the company were sent to Japan and in a few days "Poof!" the bootleggers had disappeared into never-neverland. I shudder to think what happened to those guys.The fact is, Maynard's Pork Plugg was one of GoodLuck's top lures and it also had a special place in the heart of the company. You see, it was named after a good friend of the company: Maynard Jernigan.

The story goes like this: "In the early days of the Goodluck Bait Mfg. Company in Opelika Alabama, Maynard's Big Pig Barbeque stand was the favorite lunch place among the workers. Its owner, Maynard Jernigan was a local character who loved to fish and liked to suggest ideas for lures to the craftsmen (mostly bad ones). In honor of their favorite restaurateur, the folks at Goodluck created the Pork Plugg. A shallow diving lure with a plastic hula skirt and articulated ears, the Pork Plugg was an effective lure for its time. The back end of the lure was inspired by Maynard's ever-visible underwear and the eyes were said to resemble Maynard's after a long day on the lake."

So, I guess the moral of this story is "Don't mess with GoodLuck" and also "Keep your eyes peeled for a Japanese Pork Plugg...find one and you'll be rich!"

Happy Fishing!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The End of an Era

One of life's mysteries has been revealed today, leaving the land of legend to beasts such as Sasquatch, The Jersey Devil and The Abominable Snowman. It's very exciting and a little sad as well if you ask me. You see, I'm intimately connected to this legend. The story goes like this:

"In 1927 in an area of the South China Sea known as the “Santiago Hole”, researchers in a diving bell were struck by something large and aggressive at a depth of approximately 110 fathoms. When the bell was raised to the surface, the ships crew stared in wonder at the oddly shaped dent left in the crafts hull. And so, the legend of the Fathom Lurker was born. By the mid-1930s Professor McFinn had collected various accounts and descriptions of this deep-sea demon from a number of Pilipino pearl divers and used these to create this portrait, now considered the closest representation of the creature."

So, for years we've "sort of" known he was out there. I mean, how many drunken pearl divers do you take seriously? I remember hanging out in a bar in Olongapo one sweltering summer listening to the pearl divers tell stories of giant clams, monstrous squid and, from one particularly strange dude, a giant, pink scuba diving bear. We were hitting the San Miguels pretty hard and the stories were great but you had to take them with a grain of sea salt. That's why I've often wondered how accurate the description of the Pickle-Tongued Fathom Lurker was, how well did my grandfather research it?

Pretty damned well, apparently.

Last week, the deep-sea craft, "Dave" was scouring the bottom of the Santiago Hole in search of shipwrecks and whatever else they could find (and sell). The owner of Dave, Bob Saville is an acquaintance of mine who, in addition to being a greedy son of a bitch also has a good, healthy curiosity when it comes to critters of the sea. He'd heard the story of the Pickle-Tongued Fathom Lurker (of course) and he'd also heard rumors that it was often spotted ( those drunken pearl divers again) with a scallop in it's mouth. So Bob had created a sort of a scallop sandwich for the trip and he hoped to try to lure the lurker in.

As you can see in this photo, it worked.

Unfortunately, this is the only photo that Bob got. Apparently Fathom Lurkers aren't to keen on bright lights when the flash went off, the monster disappeared immediately. What happened next, Bob described to me as "Sitting in a steel Piñata at a Mexican baseball bat factory". The lurker attacked with such a vengeance that they had to yank Bob to the surface faster than you can say "I just pooped on the poopdeck" and as they raised the thing out of the water, the crew saw that old Dave's surface was dented like a damned golf ball!

Anyway, he got the photo and I guess that's good enough. I hope he finds himself some sunken Spanish doubloons soon so he can get some Bondo and patch Dave up. In the meantime, I'm glad to see that the old man was right once again. Bravo, Pops!

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Swamp Spook

We were down by the great Salahatchee Swamp in Southern Florida a couple years back, hanging with a guide named Skidmark Pete who we'd hired to take us deep into the swamp to help us locate a legendary gator down in those parts. We'd heard of him at many a bar in the Southern Florida region. They called him "Big Pierre" because he was the size of a damned Volkswagen Minibus and had an affinity for Frenchmen (the two confirmed kills attributed to him were a couple of French tourists but I'd bet he ain't that picky). Of course I had my tackle box with me and was hoping to land some Bass on the way. I believe I was using a Pork Plugg (God Bless You, Maynard...wherever you are) and as it turned out, the fish in the Salahatchee Swamp go absolutely nutso for that lure. 

We'd started out at about 9am which was a little late for me but Petrus had "gotten into some white" (that's moonshine, boys) the night before and I could have stuck a cherry bomb in his butt and he'd have still been sleeping at 8. That "fro" of his was all cockeyed and he was chumming the fish all morning. Maybe that helped. Anyway, I was nailing the bass left and right.

It was a banner day and I guess I got carried away because it was getting into the afternoon when old Skidmark told me I'd have to put my rod away if we were going to get serious about finding Pierre. The day had turned a little foggy and the heat sat on us like a damp blanket as we got down to business, winding our way through the maze of cypress and general swampweed.

I remember thinking "This Skidmark fella must have an internal compass lodged in his grape." as he navigated the place like the aisles of a supermarket. Boy was I wrong.

Turns out, Skidmark had been "into a bit of the white" the night before as well and, waking up feeling much like Petrus did, he got BACK into some first thing in the morning. I thought he was running some high-test in his outboard but the fumes I was smelling were his breath. Skidmark was drunk as a swamp-skunk and we were lost.

Now, a swamp is a funny thing in the pitch-black of night. Downright creepy actually. Especially if you know there's a gator out there who could eat you, your catch, your cooler...your boat. I was a little worried. Well, moving forward was useless. We'd just end up deeper and deeper into the swamp, so we found ourselves a little cove, dropped anchor and tried to catch some sleep on the deck. The night was buzzing with a million mosquitoes and the whine of cicadas created a drone that seemed to mute the terror of it all and I guess I dozed off.

At 3am, things changed. A fiendish cackle burst out of the night just beside the boat and jerked us all out of our sleep in an instant. I remember opening my eyes and being disoriented...I was staring up at the night sky through the cypress branches and wondering where the hell I was when that cackle erupted again and sent an ice cube straight into my right ventricle.

It was otherworldly. Sitting up, I bumped my head against the seat and was wincing when I looked over the starboard and was met by a bluish glow surrounding bright yellow eyes. White teeth flashed out as the thing lunged at the boat, cackling and cackling like a damned critter straight from the bowels of hell. Thinking fast, I reached into my cooler and grabbed one of the bass I had stowed on ice and tossed it to the shore. The thing wheeled and tried to catch it but, missing it, followed it to shore where it began to devour it. This allowed me a chance to get a better look at whatever it was. Damned if it wasn't a raccoon! Not your everyday 'coon but more scraggly and larger. It glowed an eerie blue and as it turned to look back at us, it's yellow eyes made me say "What the..??!!". It waded into the water, glaring at us, it's mind obviously made up that it wanted the rest of my catch. Petrus' camera clicked away as the engine roared to life. Skidmark was hitting the road, directions be damned!

We wandered through the swamp as the sun rose. Never did get a look at Big Pierre. By the time we'd found our way out, it was hot as hell and twice as bright. As Skidmark stepped off the boat onto his rusty-ass pier, I could see where he got his nickname.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Last week I received a e-mail from Pedro De Pacas, a guy who runs a charter-boat operation down off the coast of Brazil. He told me a chilling account of an encounter he had with the rare and terrifying Psychofish while taking out a group of off-duty cops to land some tarpon. He sounded pretty shook up about the whole deal, apparently it was a hell of a day. Here’s Pedro’s account: 

Olá Senhor McFinn,

I am writing to you in regards to your great knowledge of the creatures of the sea. You see, I had a remarkable thing happen on my Charter-Boat the other day. Perhaps you can help me.

We were off the coast of Salinópolis with about 8 police officers ready for a break from a rough week dealing with some gang activity in the slums. It was a beautiful day, a day my ancestors would call “Bueanafunaticalita” or “Mar belo e bom de pesca”, blue skies and calm seas. We were outfitted for tarpon and reports had stated large schools in the area so, we were ready for some great fishing and we were not disappointed. The tarpon began hitting almost as soon as we dropped our lines in.

Now, these policemen were real cara durão or what you Americans call “tough guys” and they were pulling the fish in with relish while smoking charutos gordos and drinking cold cervejas . Many of the guys would smack the huge fish in the face as they pulled them out of the beautiful blue water and exclaiming “Quem está difícil agora?” which roughly translates to “who’s tough now??”. I guess they were taking their frustrations out on the tarpon and letting off some steam or “desabafar”. It was pretty funny but also a little unsettling as they were getting more and more aggressive.

Around 11 am things got hairy and the “merda bater no ventilador”. As one of the cops was pulling in a beautiful tarpon, the water suddenly exploded with whitewater, blood and chunks of tarpon flying all over the place. There was a flash of bright color and the guys line snapped. Just then, another guy’s line went stiff as he landed a tarpon and the same thing happened. Like an explosion in the water and the fish was gone. Needless to say we were all on that side of the boat now trying to get a look at what was happening, you could see a streak of color now and then just under the water and catch glimpses of chaos below. Some “monstro marinho” was tearing into the schools of tarpon below and bubbles and blood were rising from the depths as its jaws ripped through the fish. Again it flashed near the surface and the boat erupted in gunfire! The cops all had their handguns out and were firing like mad, screaming “Tome isso, bastardo!” and “Maldito seja! Demônio da sea!” It was nuts! Bullets flew past my head and the water was transformed into a fine mist. Then, just as quickly as it had begun, it ended. The officers erupted in laughter and there, on the surface of the water lay the Demon Fish. Remarkably, one of the shots had nailed it right between the eyes and it was “Mortinho da silva” or Dead as a Doornail. I fished it in and took this photo. Please Mr. McFinn, if you can help to identify this as an actual Spiny, Speckled Psychofish I would be greatly honored.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Banging Away at the Bucks

A few years ago, I went out to Wisconsin to visit an old high school pal, Gig Winters. Not too swift on the uptake in school, Gig was one of these guys who managed to tie a sheet to his butt and somehow found himself sailing through life without a care. He'd gotten a job as a garbage man straight after he was kicked out of the 11th grade for blowing up toilets with cherry bombs and over the years, the crazy guy managed to inherit the business and make a mint. He spent a HELL of a lot of money in sporting goods stores and spent all of his time screwing around fishing and hunting and drinking beer...lots of it. So, I was a little hesitant when he invited me out for one of his excursions into the hinterlands. I wasn't thrilled at the idea of getting half of my head blown off by my drunken millionaire garbage man dropout pal, but...I said yes. Gig was at the very least a fun guy to be around and I needed a break.

Gig told me on the phone that he had something I needed to see that I wouldn't believe and, you know me, that's the one thing you need to say to me to get me to jump. I was on a plane in 3 hours and in Wisconsin in 5.

We set off in his truck, loaded with about 8 shotguns, some high-powered rifles and about 2 million rounds of ammunition. Gig's buddy Mick was going along for the ride as well. Mick was a bout 5 foot tall, skinny as a rail with coke-bottle glasses on and he smelled a little like Wild Turkey, bacon and cigars. I don't think the guy could see a foot in front of his face even without the half a bottle of Turkey he'd poured down his gullet that morning. Apparently this was Gig's yearly gift to Mick. Once a year, Gig explained as he weaved down the country road we were on, he took Mick out to hunt the very animal that was put on this earth expressly for guys like Mick (read: drunken, blind guys): The Target Speckled Whitetail. You see, this poor sap of an animal was born with actual targets all over it's coat. The damned things have all but gone stark-raving mad, running through the woods like a bunch of maniacs, constantly watching their backs for some trigger happy hunters like they had a "Shoot Me!" sign pasted to their butts. Mick was going to score him one of these if it was the last thing he was going to do.

Well, we made our way north to Lake Hunksahumpkin, stopping every 20 minutes so the drunken fools could empty their bladders and pour another beer down their throats. eventually arriving in one piece (amazing) at Gig's secret campsite. Now, you must be thinking I'm a hell of a fool to be hanging out with these two maniacs but I figured that I better stick around if only to stop these two fools from shooting each other. We set out along the shores, heading for a shallow area where the deer were often found hanging out, looking nervously here and there between sips of lake water. I was a few minutes ahead of Gig and Mick, hoping to get a glimpse of the critters before they got blown to Kingdom-come and sure enough, there they were. It was amazing! There were 6 of them in the shallows, their markings bright in the sun just begging for a bullet. I got my camera out and was setting up a shot when Blind and Drunk, the dynamic duo, stumbled out of the woods burping and giggling. Well, let me tell you, those deer took of running for dear life like a flock of birds and the whole damned world opened up with the Thunder of God as a hail of bullets flew over my head like it was Omaha Beach on D-Day! I hadn't noticed that Gig had given Mick a fully automatic assault rifle with a huge clip and the little guy was opening up a can of hellfire on the lake, his thick glasses shaking on his head as the gun rocked him back against a tree until the clip finally ran out and he crumpled to the ground with that gun smoking like Winston Churchill in a smoking jacket.

The deer were now deep into the woods on the other shore, running for their lives. Unscratched. I guess it happened this way every year, Mick had never bagged a deer in all the years Gig had taken them out and apparently, the ritual now included a laugh-filled trip back to camp and the consumption of many more beverages before a long night's sleep.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ship's Dog Shep

What is a ship without a dog? Not much, in my opinion. My grandfather had a fantastic dog named Gigi who was famous for her ability to spot fish deep below the surface. That dog could hold her breath for a good five minutes as she chased after those fish, she was tenacious. Oh, she wouldn't just leap into the water on a whim, my grandfather would never have put up with that. No, ol' Gigi would quietly sit beside my grandfather and gaze down at those fish as he was casting his line, still as a statue, the picture of patience. After all, you don't want your dog jumping in the drink just as that fish you've been chasing is about to finally go for the bait. Nope, Gigi would wait for the magical words "Git it!" from Pop, then she'd be after that fish faster than you could spit!

I'm proud to say I've got a similar mutt aboard the Frankie Anne III: Shep. 

Now, Shep is as good a fishing and hunting dog as Gigi was...he just doesn't quite have the finesse that Gigi had. He lacks a little class I guess you'd say. Where Gigi would sit still as a statue, Shep tends to quake a little, shivering with excitement, barely keeping down the urge to get after whatever needs to be got. We were in South Dakota a couple years ago in the Valley of a Thousand Pheasants (beautiful spot) and I thought I'd tease old Shep a bit. We blindfolded the poor guy and led him out into the grass and told him to "Stay!". Then we whipped off the poor guy's blindfold. There poor Shep sat, surrounded by those pheasants, about to bust. He was staring right at me, waiting for me to let him at 'em. Petrus got a pretty good shot of it. When I spoke the words, there was only nine hundred and ninety-nine pheasants in that valley left.

As far as fishing goes, Shep is a "Hit 'em Hard" type of guy. He'll wait for my command just fine but as soon as he get's the go-ahead, he's after them like a bull in a china shop. He never misses though, not once.

You gotta love a ship's dog. Here's to Shep!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hangin' with the Moosies

So, a couple years ago we were in the great North Woods of Minnesota looking for a strange critter called the Red-Bearded Spotted Moose. They're getting pretty rare. This isn't surprising because they're not a species greatly adapted to the presence of Man. Here's how the story goes:

"In the woods of Northern Minnesota roams a most unusual beast. A giant in both size and intellect is the Red-Bearded Spotted Moose, the scholar of the forest. Nothing gets past the Spotted Moose’s keen eye for inspection; its thirst for knowledge of its surroundings seems unquenchable. This has been, unfortunately, the downfall of the great beast. When the Red Beard spots something of interest, no matter how small, the giant is entirely captivated and may stand still for hours as it contemplates the thing. This has made it easy prey for hunters over the years who will often walk directly up to the animal and shoot it, point-blank." 

You can see why these gentle giants are getting scarce. Some butt-headed hunter's with a chip on their shoulder simply walk up to them and "pop a cap" in them. Tough guys. Sheesh. Well, we set out for the woods with plenty of fishing gear and other essentials. Powell, of course brought his sketchbook , plenty of gear and his wise-ass sense of humor. Runt carried most of the gear, we gave him jerky now and then, that kept him plenty happy. It wasn't long before we were rewarded. Just up the trail from the parking area near a well-loved fishing spot we stumbled upon our first Red-Beard, standing among a group of fishermen working in pretty tight quarters, oblivious to the whole thing. It stood there staring at a beetle or something that had landed on it's schnozola.

The fishermen seemed like it was nothing. They were too busy complaining about how crowded the fishing spot was "And now, we got this danged Moose fella here that we gotta work around, you know?" said one guy I asked "They're always gettin in the way. It's bad enough we got all these other yahoos up here, eh?" he continued in his thick Minnesotan accent. We got a good photo but Powell wanted something a little more private in which to work. There was too much complaining going on here, so we set off. 

We made camp about two miles in and Powell and I set out to the surrounding woods.It wasn't a bad day, we were in shirtsleeves and vests; a nice day for a hike. Powell had stashed a couple of beers in his vest and we'd left Runt behind at the campsite with a jar of peanut butter (he's crazy for the stuff) so we were basically strolling through the woods trading stories of other adventures we'd been on, telling jokes when we rounded the corner and found this armature Lepidopterist, intent on identifying whatever species of butterfly had lit onto his sniffer. He had no idea we were there!

Well, we settled down, cracked a beer and told some more stories as Powell sketched away. Not a bad way to make a living, if you ask me. Afterwards it was back to camp where Runt had cleaned out everything that wasn't in cans. He still hasn't figured out how to open those.

Happy Travels!....And hey, if you ever come across one of these amazing monsters out there while you're hunting, go pick on someone with your own dumb intellect, butt-head!