Better Off in the Bay

Better Off in the Bay
By Abdel Ibrahim

I’m sitting in a pub near Shinagawa Station, sipping a pint, when a slightly inebriated gentleman with an unmistakable Geordie accent walks up and asks about the contents of the long cloth case leaning against the bar next to me.

“It’s a fishing rod,” I say. He does a double take and is silent for a moment.

“A fishing rod? You just bought that?”

“Yup, at a pro-shop around the corner.”

He looks puzzled, and I know what his next question will be, even though it hasn’t fully formed in his mind. He glances left and right and, before he speaks, I point in the direction of Odaiba and Haneda.

“You –you catch fish near here?” he asks.

“Oh yeah–lots.”

He pauses again and, in the course of five seconds, his face goes from a look of disbelief to bubbling with childlike curiosity.
 
I have seen this scenario play out more times than I can count. My interlocutor is an out-of-towner who, like me, was the resident fishing bum of his old neighborhood back home and is at this moment in the middle of a revelation.
 
Visitors and new residents of the Kanto area usually never think of it as a place to catch fish. We quickly get used to going about our business in the concrete latticework of Tokyo or Yokohama without ever seeing the ocean or rivers, so it’s easy to forget we live on the coast.

On chance encounters with people who express interest in wetting a line, I always tell them to start with sea bass. For residents of the greater Tokyo area, it is the most accessible, cost-effective and easy-to-learn fishery. Basically, if you can cast a lure, you can catch a lot.

In addition to river mouths and flats, sea bass congregate in large numbers near ship berths and numerous platforms, creating incredible opportunities for structure fishing, day or night.

Having been bitten by the fishing bug as a university student in the States, my buddy Aki Mori very bravely (and wisely) chose to forgo the life of a salary man to become a sea bass guide. He is possibly the only English-speaking skipper operating in Tokyo Bay at the moment. More importantly, he knows the entirety of these waters like the back of his hand and takes his clients as far as necessary to put them on fish.

Compared to most other skippers with whom I have fished, Aki is a lot more easy-going and humble. Perhaps it’s his youth, but I noticed he doesn’t try to dictate a “correct” method or tackle to his clients. I think his approach puts them at ease and goes a long way toward making them want to book successive charters.

I’ve spent a disgusting amount of time and money marauding fisheries from Hokkaido to the Ryukyu Islands. In many instances, I come home so physically and emotionally spent, I’m ready to throw in the towel and take up shogi.
 
However, it takes just one outing in Tokyo Bay—the place where I started fishing in Japan—to help me bounce back. Maybe it’s the only place I ever needed to fish.

Readers interested in fishing with Aki Mori can contact him through his homepage: www.fishtokyo.com.