|Duxbury Beach, MA|
I'm not really going to make any drastic changes to the world. I'm not a charismatic politician, I'm not a hero like a cop or an EMT, and- pertaining to today's column- I have almost zero skills as an inventor.
I say "almost zero" because I do have an active imagination. Imagination is an important part of inventing, but there are other skills involved in the invention process that I lack, perhaps even aggressively so. I'm sure that plenty of guys thought that it would be nice to build a flying machine, but it was a task left undone before the Wright Brothers came along. I'm sort of in a group with the do-nothing guys.
I do have a few ideas that I wouldn't mind sharing out, in hopes that someone a bit more handy than I am can solve the little problems inherent in the design process. I'd have no problem taking zero credit and seeing zero dollars, if only I could see my beloved ideas brought to life by a better craftsman than myself.
I grew up on Duxbury Beach. Those of you who are familiar with Duxbury Beach know that there is some good surfcasting to be done there. You can pluck a striper or a bluefish out of the ocean while standing on the beach. I actually caught one from INSIDE my house once. It rules.
However, Duxbury Beach is long, flat and it takes a while to get to the deep water. That's not a problem if you have a boat, you just park it somewhere with 45 feet of water under you and see what the ocean has to offer. If you don't have a boat, you can only work the shallows, even if you are an awesome caster.
It's only a matter of time before a fisherman on shore starts to wonder what goodies could be had if he or she could land a cast wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy the hell offshore. I'm not a real fisherman, not even close to one... but I do love these ideas, and I'd like to float them down the line to a more crafty angler.
Before I start to invent stuff to aid this process, let's find out if it is even worth getting a cast a few hundred yards offshore. There are several factors to consider.
First, your average spool of fishing line is, oh, 300 yards or so. That's further than any human can cast, to my knowledge. Maybe Stan Gibbs could cast further than that, but he's fishing with Jesus now.
300 yards is a lot of friggin' fishing line. Look at a NFL game. That field is 100 yards. 300 yards is plenty of room for potential line snags, caught-on-the-bottoms, and some guy on a jet-ski slicing your line. In that light, it may be better to fish 50 yards offshore.
All of that reeling back and forth also trolls your line through a lot of seaweed. Your 20 pound test won't hold up if you need to tow 50 pounds of seaweed. In New England, you can also reel in lobster pots, which is an offense that I think a lobsterman can shoot you for.
Littering is something to consider. My surfcasting balloon idea may seem like harmless fun, until a duck gets caught in the balloon or whatever and dies. I had similar problems when experimenting with my Empty Six Pack Rings fishing gear.
Deep-sea surfcasting also lines you up for an ass-kicking, as you will be putting a lot of line into the water that might tangle up with that of other fishermen. Inventors might appreciate your deep-sea surfcaster innovations, but a serious fisherman won't be so forgiving if you keep messing up his line. I'm using Duxbury Beach as an example because you can get a lot of empty beach to yourself.
Remember that every cast is an adventure in Cape Cod Bay. You may even snag a Beast. However, you may also go through some ridiculous extremes to get your line out 400 yards offshore, only to have a crab steal your bait or even get your hook caught on the Lusitania. There are 1000 shipwrecks off of just itty-bitty Truro and Wellfleet.
Also, should you catch a fish, you may be in for a 7 hour fight to beach a schoolie fish that you should have to throw back unless you're really hungry and no one official is looking. If you get too much line out there, you may have a fight that runs from Duxbury to Scituate to Plymouth and back to Duxbury. There is a ratio between how long you fight the fish and how big that fish you beach is, and if you are on the wrong side of that ratio, the other fishermen can call you Chumpy.
The question that I actually have to call experts to ask about is if there is a great advantage in Kinds Or Sizes Of Fish You Catch. A good way to get laughed at in the inventor parties is to invent something useless. "Look, I made a seven foot Q-Tip!.... Why are all of you laughing?"
Using this chart of Duxbury Beach as a guide, you can see that a really good human cast would get you in 8-10 feet of water. If you wade out a lot and cast (a dangerous practice, seeing as Great White Sharks work off Duxbury Beach), you may get into 12-18 feet of water.... not too shabby, but we're thinking we can double that if one of our half-fast inventions works.
Generally and disappointingly, you aren't going to get a much greater variety of fish a few hundred yards offshore. You have go deep-deep to get tunas and stuff like that. However, unusual fish do make it close to shore, with "close" meaning "a few hundred yards." Why not take a crack at them, especially if you get to shoot a crossbow (see below) or something?
Anyhow, here are the ideas we have pondered and abandoned.
The vision you're having is correct... attach fishing gear to a crossbow bolt, aim the crossbow at an upward angle, and fire that sucker towards the deep water. The arrow could even act as the bobber, and you'd get the arrow back if everything works out right.
I just chose a crossbow because it looks like the most fun. A longbow may be superior, I'm not really sure. "Agincourt" keeps looking for an avenue into this conversation, although that was more of a rate-of-fire thing than a superiority-of-thrust thing. If Agincourt was a battle to catch the most fish, we might all be speaking French right now.
My last name is Bowden, so I really wanted this invention to work, because I could call it the Bow-Caster and make an informercial. I've got a pretty strange Bucket List, people... be happy that I'm not telling you all of the Bad Things on it. You'd have to sanitize your medulla oblongata if I did.
Before we get into the engineering problems with this, there are two distinct psychological problems.
One, you don't want the joy of casting to surpass the joy of fishing. This might happen is you get too into casting by crossbow. Eventually, your surfcasting experience boils down to something like watching pornography for the wooden acting scenes that bookend the hardcore stuff.
Two, if you get THAT into shooting the arrows, you may as well just buy a wetsuit and go spearfishing. This will take you offshore- and, thusly, out of this article.
The flight of an arrow is really a splendid thing, a little miracle of aerodynamics. You apply great and sudden force to the arrow, and it flies through the air... goddamnit, I'll say it, as straight as an arrow.
That miracle is messed up if you add the weight of a lure, a hook and whatever else you might have on the line. I say "messed up" because I don't know the scientific terms like lift, drag, bouyancy, flight-to-drag ratio and thrust-to-weight ratio. What I do know is that it will slow the arrow down, make it drop faster, and have a poor effect on the accuracy.
The arrow pre-dates recorded history, and is common among all cultures. If this idea actually had any merit, some Navajo or Mongol would have figured it out long ago.
A friend of mine who plays Dungeons and Dragons told me that I may need something called a Ballista.
I look for examples of my ideas being tried out somewhere on Earth while doing my research, and I was really counting on Redneck America to bail me out on this one. I found nothing on it, although it may be done in parts of the South where they don't have the Internet yet.
I like this one because it is almost 100% against the law. The lawbreaking occurs when we realize that a skyrocket only goes 100 yards or so, and that's before you somehow hook fishing gear to it. You need more power than a skyrocket, and at that point, you start getting into a private-citizen-discharge-of-artillery.
The basic idea is to use skyrockets to propel your bait into the deeper water. We'll get to cannons in a moment, but we can use skyrockets to illustrate the problems we have encountered.
The first issue is one of performance difficulties. A single skyrocket will not lift fishing gear, let alone carry it very deep into the sea. No, you can't tie 10 skyrockets together. You'll still only go 100 yards. I don't think that firing them off in a rifled barrel would help either, but I'm also not that into ballistics. Anyhow, at that point, you may as well buy some hip-waders.
A problem we encountered was that the fire-discharge of the skyrocket damages the fishing line. It's bad when you shred the line and it never gets to the water. It's worse when you get it out there in a damaged state, latch onto a fish, and the strength of the fish is the last straw for your damaged fishing line.
We also tried cannon. No, not a howitzer like they use to level Iraqi villages, but a personal-use cannon. If the TSA is really reading our email and Google searches, they'll have a few frightened moments when they see me looking for terms like "personal use artillery."
I had one of these cast-iron cannons as a kid, we used Bangsite to power it, and we could shoot a marshmallow about 100 yards. If we could do that legally, imagine what could be done if we were willing to live outside of the law a bit?
You want to be careful, because it will be very bad for your ego to be at the hospital, telling a nurse, "I was using explosives so I could add 150 yards to my surfcasting." You don't want the surgeon giggling while he's trying to re-attach your fingers.
Like I said, Johnny Law may not share your enthusiasm for alternative casting methods, especially if there are explosions involved with it. Check your local regulations.
This method involves attaching the bait to balloons, floating it out to a desired distance, and then snapping the fishing gear away from the balloon and dropping it into the sea.
This is the only idea I had where I actually found people doing it somewhere. In Australia, bait is floated out on balloons to catch fish such as shark and marlin. A black marlin weighing 200 pounds was caught off of Jervis Bay using balloon casting. They also go after tuna, kingfish, and sharks.
I was thinking more along the lines of a kite, but balloons are the only wind instruments being used in reality anywhere.
Check that... the guys who charter out of Scituate Lobster Pound use kites to fish for tuna, although they are usually off Stellwagen Bank, not standing on the shore.
This would be very similar to kite-fishing, but even cooler. You can kill the Jack Of Spades in Al Qaeda with a fishing rod, but it would be difficult. They kill them with drones all the time, however.
My nephew just got one of these for Christmas, and it is iller than Ben Stiller. It is some hyrdroplane looking device, with 4 mini helicopter turbines. It has a range of a few hundred yards, and even has a camera. If you're a pretty girl laying on Duxbury Beach and a strange machine is hovering over you and filming, it's probably my nephew.
This would be handy to adjust for surfcasting. You'd attach the gear to it, get the gear over the desired fishing spot, and disattach it somehow. You'd even have the camera to spy out the water you're working, maybe even drop the bait right into a school you've seen on the camera.
The problem here is that a good gust of wind could blow your drone into the Atlantic, and they are rather costly. You also don't want to get too technical about fishing. It is a man vs. nature sport, and using a mobile air camera to fish is sort of like Sea Rape. Tuna boats do it, but they're doing it to pay their mortgage, not because they want to cast 300 yards offshore on a lark. They're off the scale.
This is cheating, and real fishermen will snap their lines at you and try to hook your ear if they see you doing it. It is essentially like what Rosie Ruiz did in that Marathon. However, if you're not after style points, this could just be right up your alley.
As a boat or jet-ski is leaving the shoreline, have them tow your bait way the hell out and drop it. Make sure they are prepared for your fishing line to suddenly snap back when the line goes taut, lest you catch a 200 pound Angrius Boaterus.
Again, this could be a lot of effort and energy for an affair that might see your bait eaten by a crab in 30 seconds.
Know that real fishermen call this Punk-casting. You won't get your ass kicked directly over it, but the resulting conversation could be filled with many forked roads of potential diplomatic transgressions that would have you reading Nikes. Again, at this point, just buy the hip-waders.
I suppose this is why they invented boats, but that doesn't mean that a guy can't use his imagination a bit.
"Trust in God, but row away from the rocks."... old fishing proverb