ON STRANGER TIDES

I ran through the mental rolodex at least twice before it dawned on me that I was looking at a roughly eighteen-inch long gar, probably a smallish alligator gar to be more precise. Then I remembered that Sean had said something about a rumor of an unusual fish having shown up in this particular piece of water.

Which was kinda cool, except that … we don’t have gar in SoCal – an “oopart” moment, for sure.

Not that I have anything against gar. In their native habitat they are top of the food chain predators and, depending upon the species, can grow to several hundred pounds. In their home territory they are highly prized gamefish and certainly an interesting, worthy and respectable fish by any account.

The problem is that SoCal is not their native habitat. This particular gar was a couple thousand miles too far west and/or a couple of latitudes too far north.

Now, I know that virtually every species in the ponds and urban lakes of SoCal is a non-native transplant or genetically modified mutant. For that matter, the majority of ponds and lakes in urban SoCal are freakish aberrations of the term “lake” and most didn’t even exist in their present form until relatively recent times and then often with huge, unintended impacts on the natural setting. From a purist’s perspective, urban SoCal is an ecological trainwreck.

Still, there is a fragile (often frighteningly fragile) and noticeable balance in our urban waters and the introduction of such a fish into a relatively small body of water had the potential to seriously throw a wrench into the works.

My goal instantly became to get that gar (and possibly any other recent introductions) out of that lake before a precious and prized fishin’ hole tipped out of balance and become just a wet low spot in the middle of a grassy field.

Fortunately, many in the local and loosely affiliated fishing fraternity felt the same way and over the next couple of days much energy was expended and tons of hardware thrown, pitched, reeled and twitched across that particular puddle.

Then on a Thursday night, after I had finished all my work related stuff for the day and was seriously contemplating another twilight gar-fishing trip, I got word from Sean that local rod-slinger, J_____ had finally taken the gar on one of his hand made balsa wood crank baits.

Sure enough, grainy, low-light photos were soon blazing across cyber space offering proof that the common “threat” had been eliminated.

Yet, there was no euphoria or giddiness over this victory. It just seemed wrong to celebrate the demise, however prudent, of a magnificent creature such as this gar, especially since it had ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time due to someone’s carelessness, thoughtlessness or twisted sense of humor.

The knucklehead who dumped or planted that particular fish in that particular place hadn’t done it or anyone else any favors.

Sometimes “oopart” isn’t interesting, it’s just dumb.

Still, when all was said and done, I had to admire the spirit of cooperation (competition?) from the local urban fishing community (which many would describe as a very pirate like sub-culture anyway). A bunch of widely divergent guys, with widely divergent fishing styles and tactics had momentarily formed a loose alliance to tackle a common problem.

“…We’re rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves.? Drink up me hearties, yo ho …”

I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

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