Teeth Dreams, by C.J. Chivers (continued)
The expedition began in our marina’s tackle shop. We purchased stand-up rods (to match offshore reels I had bought at a deep discount years before, anticipating this day), a harness, a stout gaff, and safety lines, and then talked through the basics of rigging heavy steel leaders to circle hooks.
Once equipped, we secured the necessary federal permit for harvesting tuna and sharks. Then we set to work—gathering bluefish for bait. With a few passes of umbrella rigs through a local rip we had iced all the three- to nine-pound bluefish we could want.
Next came chum-making, simple and spirited. The boys had recently helped me slaughter a batch of chickens that we had raised out back. With a manual meat grinder we combined bird blood and entrails with fish frames and bluefish chunks, making a dark mash that was all our own.
We did not pretend this was a secret recipe, something to be bottled and sold. We understood that we knew little enough of the feeding patterns of the Mud Hole’s sharks to say anything solid about fine-tuning a chum slick.
But bluefish, we could presume, would be eminently useful, as schools of bluefish darted through the Mud Hole, too. Their oily flesh could provide the foundation of a greasy mix.
Whether bluefish stirred with the guts, blood, and stray feathers of our chickens, spiked with the ground porgy and seabass frames, would be better than the bunker chum available at the marina was not important. The boy’s driveway brew need not be special sauce. It need only be theirs.
Jack worked the hand-crank on the grinder, while Mick fed it from the coolers. The gear turned. The bones crunched as they gave way. The buckets slowly filled, as did a sense of self-reliance—and a persistent cloud of yellow jackets, each of which hovered and buzzed until succumbing to swats that sent some of them into the chum buckets, too.
“This is really good chum,” Jack kept saying, his optimism rising as his forearms became caked with drying fishmeal and blood.
Tackle. Permit. Bait. Chum. We were almost complete.
All we needed was the right weather, which came soon enough with a summer classic: a forecast for a hot day with light seas and a southwest breeze.