Man vs. Beast narrowly ends in the author’s favor

I have great respect for treble hooks and their uncanny ability to become hopelessly lodged in human flesh, usually mine. My pointed opinion has been formed following multiple trips to hospital emergency rooms for the purpose of hook removal. So, as I’m sure you’ll understand, the recent unfortunate event that I am about to reveal should in no way reflect unfavorably upon me.

It was with wondrous skill and marvelous perfection that I so elegantly and accurately pitched a Livingston Lure (no plug intended) surface plug onto the pure, blue water of the Florida Keys. The purpose was to fool one of the famed flats’ most fearsome predators – an angry barracuda bristling with sharp and lengthy teeth reflective of an obviously deficient attitude.

My aim was precise. My cast was true. The surface plug touched the water with a slight splash. As soon as had I executed a few crafty and enticing movements with my wonderful selection, a very formidable barracuda made the mistake of attempting to reduce my presentation to crushed plastic and mangled metal. Gotcha!

The ferocious barracuda leapt from the water, dancing on his tail while sizing up his foe and trying desperately to dislodge the hook from his mouth! Again and again he tried until finally realizing this angler was far too skilled to be whipped by a single, wildly leaping fish now solely dedicated to wreaking vengeance upon me. Ah-ha! Mr. Barracuda, you and all your flashing teeth are mine!

A minute later the capable predator that offered spectacular and determined resistance was reduced to little more than a forlorn carcass lying in the water at boatside with a hook still firmly lodged in the corner of his mouth. The white flag was out. Once again I had subdued a treacherous foe. Once again I was the conqueror in a fierce, watery episode of Man vs. Beast.

So enamored with my feat that he desired to pay homage to the remarkable task just witnessed, fellow angler Mark Braun pleaded for the honor of removing the hook from that awesome predator who, a few minutes earlier, had been the ultimate ruler of his domain.

Now, with it reduced to little more than a lifeless-appearing “fish out of water,” Braun grasped the subdued creature in one hand while wielding a hook-removing pliers in the other. The barracuda, it appeared, was only playing possum and not willing to succumb without one final fight. Fight it did. That fish exploded from Braun’s solid grip into a twisting rage thrashing violently on the floor of the boat. It was a dangerous eruption!

We did the “high step” boat dance in the hopes of evading slashing teeth and barbed hooks, but to no avail. I felt a hook pierce my lower leg while Braun was doing his utmost to control the maniacal fish. Apparently satisfied that he had done as much damage as possible, the barracuda finally submitted to a sweating Braun’s tight grip.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that one hook of a treble still attached to the barracuda had only penetrated through my fishing pants, not my leg as I had suspected. Somehow I had escaped a piercing treble hook. Nevertheless, it was the closest of calls and a bit more excitement than we had expected from a fish we had believed to have surrendered.

The memorable episode ended well for us – and bloodless, which I deemed important. While most of the barracuda we caught were released, this one was not. He was sentenced to be used for shark bait, a very appropriate punishment for a truly cantankerous fish.