More from the Delaware River: The Return of FINious.. the shad dog.
Finious WHIZZES the nets.
The Lenope said that when the Shad no longer run the Delaware the world is coming to the end. I think about that each year. Was the lead for my Inquirer Sunday Magazine Cover Story on Deming the Upper Delaware Rive
So from the Old View from Splinter Cottage Column … this is so old its from the days when not everything in print had to be selling something … other than a reportage on the joy of life… I hope Finious is still with us. As Pamela said as I followed Finious along the river: “THAT DOG!” I dragged her back to the river. Shad are running now.
Dateline: Lewis Island Lambertville, NJ h. scott Heist
Finious has a floatation device (OK, it is probably Phinious.) and whizzes the nets used to fish the shad from the Delaware River at Lewis Island.
which is just between the “Old” and the “New” New Hope, PA -Lambertville, NJ Bridges. The “foreman” of Lewis Island is something between a Yorkie and Rip Van Winkle’s beard. Sort of salt and pepper gray. A Cairn terrier by clan. A long legged Toto of the Delaware. This is a dog with no wish for Dorothy or Kansas for he is the Wizard of the nets.
A couple of hands, and maybe a half a hand again, high. Four or five pounds: maybe double if he is wet. His floatation device is yellow bearing the patina of professional use. Of mud, spray, fish scales and honest drool. It has a handle on the back so Finious can be carried like a suitcase. Undoubtedly the shad have not been waiting all year for to be caught, but he has. The net at Lewis Island is the only legal one on the river itself. And it belongs to Finious who signs it with a whizz. Finious is clearly: a dog with a mission. A dog with fins in his blood and fish scales in his beard.
The shad are fish on a different mission. They are migrating up the Delaware river from the ocean to spawn. Their mating ritual is about as subtle as any other teenager. Predictably there are male and female. The smaller is the male known as a: Buck. The larger female a : Roe. Some years shad are caught in larger numbers and other years … there are less. It may depend upon whether or not the water is high or low. Or the trawlers on the bay. Like the stock market: explainable mostly in aspect.
Almost any May evening, just before sunset, Finious watches, whiskers blowing in the river breeze, as his crew prepares the evening “haul”. He exhibits restrained patience , or perhaps simply: leadership. Gently, the fisherman unfurl the long black net into the cold Delaware River water. Repairing, cutting, and reweaving as needed. There is a bit of an eddy on the Jersey side next to Lewis Island. And the shad haulers can place their net with its bobbing floats and weights into the river away from the current.
A low river may take as much as 300 yards of net. The full river no more than a hundred with lots of lead weight on the bottom to get under the fish. Heavy stuff. A skiff is used to pull the far end up the river and double the net back on the fish who are swimming up stream. Looping back to the eddy where they began. Finous will ride in the skiff, forward like the whaler mast heads of old. Missing nothing. Imparting wisdom and judgment to Mallards and river folks alike as the skiff tows the net upstream.
Until then, it is practical work needing little supervision. And Finous, like an old Salt in Maine’s Camden Harbor or the Carolina’s Outer Banks simply surveys his crew and realizes the power of the waters. Tending only once or twice a night to “anoint” the net for providence, good luck, or simply to do a job that needs to be done when others are too busy for the thankless but necessary work they haven’t noticed.
It is called Shad hauling for good reason. The net, now rowed its full length upstream and looped back to its beginning, is withdrawn from the river. Hand over hand against the evening sunset. Silhouetting, blue black clouds and Shad folks alike. Heavy from water, current, floats and lead weights. And hopefully some Shad fish. And it takes quite a few volunteers. From young ladies beginning their double digit years to folks retired and enjoying the unpretentious perspective of Finious’s leadership. One can lead by example or by presence. Finous is of the latter persuasion.
Usually there are fish in the net. Although not always shad. Last week the river was low, as in an August drought. The 300 yards of net was relatively full. Over the weekend there was a hell of a rain, nearly 4 inches. Now the Delaware is up about five feet. So the current is swift with two men at the oars with a shorter net. As the skiff pulls away from the shore, it moves down river quickly pivoting into the eddy above the old bridge for the net to be hauled. Hand over hand. And in it are only two fish. Buck Shad.
In the low river, when the nets were full, the hauling took longer. Ending under the Spring Sunset. The bridges were busy. So was the river. A sculling crew occupying the New Hope , Pa. side. As the nets came to shore, fish inside it writhe and flip; proclaiming their preference for the water. Finoius barks direction for his crew and remonstrates the fish for their lack of courage and cooperation. And adherence to natural order.
Of course, Shad Haulers take only Shad. The rest are returned to the river. One by one. Each with a shout of type for the record keeper. “Bass”, “Catfish”, “Sucker”, “carp”, “gizzard.” And then flung up through the air, to fly for the first time into the sunset, before splashing home once again. This is Finious’s time. His manner is studied. Perhaps a little rehearsed. As the fish move skyward: he barks. Almost sounding like a staccato: “Your fired!”
Copyright H. Scott Heist 06 Splinter Cottage t:1.610.346.8538
A selection from: “The View from Splinter Cottage: Life on the River”
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Finious Whizzes the Nets” was both a reportage on Bucks Shad Fishing through the viewpoint of a tiny dog and one of 3 Bucks Dog stories done for the View from Splinter Cottage Column. As well as A PARODY DONALD TRUMP’S bullsheit TV view of biz bailed out by Daddy … the behavior of a small dog, often hilarious in a pup … is dangerous in a human. Working folks were getting really screwed.
I had been assigned to report on the guy and when called for a second round … I believe the question was toward a “publicity seeing moron” and why so much attention .. like most bad journalism ,(very different from the Russian Desinformatsiya word Trump used since the beginning: “fake news” ) The answer was “available and cheap.”.
Trump was riding high on ghost written books about his deals while going bankrupt “And why would you call me for “cheap?” “Well, its gone beyond that.” Yes it has.That’s the nature of the Russian concept of disinformation. Once an organization publishes the lies, those same lies become part of the organizations reputation and portfolio. Either the news organization has to take a stand, admitting it was conned or continue to be part of the swindle. This morning he was back to barking at Iranian Boats for distraction . “Its the plague… stupid.” S.
Hope this hasn’t spoiled Finious Whizzes the Nets for ya … it is the nature of animal stories to show the authentic of the critters compared to human society gone wrong. Consider Napoleon the pig in 1984. This was late in the last century to the beginning of this miserable mess.