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A TIME TO HARVEST



Barta Leadin

    As golden maples and oaks punctuate the countryside with yellow, orange and shades of green and snow starts to blanket the mountain states, fall is here and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It is a time to give blessing for the harvest of our table and appreciation of our freedom. Most of you know I am a believer and from the beginning of the Bible, in the first pages of the Old Testament, God refers to the land, the sea and the creatures that dwell in it be there for the bounty of man. Man has hunted and fished from the beginning of time and although the act of pulling the trigger, gutting and cleaning the bounty has been camouflaged in cellophane wrap and paid for by a credit card in proxy when you go to the butcher or the fish shop, although you are removed from the kill itself, you have in fact caused the fish or animal to be harvested.
    Whether it be on a fresh spring morning with the countryside painted in pastels or the tans of fall, when the trigger is pulled and the turkey is headed to the Thanksgiving table, a harvest is about to begin. In every inshore or offshore fish caught, there is a time for the harvest and at this particular time, one or two crew members must step up and use the gaff or the harpoon. It may be for a 600-pound swordfish, a 30-pound dolphin, a 60-pound yellowfin tuna or a 200-pound bigeye tuna. So please allow me to share my harvest table with you. At 65 years old in my wheelchair paralyzed from my chest down with more than five decades in blue water still extremely active in the outdoors, hunting and fishing, let me share with you the proper way to gaff and the proper way to throw and use the harpoon. What I impart to you is not rocket science but it is in fact the correct way to do both. I seek no advice from others; I seek no ifs, buts or maybes. If you gaff and if you handle the harpoon the way I am teaching you or the way I am explaining it to you, you are doing it correctly, you are harvesting ethically and your harvest table will be full not empty, with stories of the one that got away.
    Harpoon: a barbed spear-like missile attached to a long rope and thrown by hand or fired from a gun, used for catching whales and other large sea creatures.
    There are three basic types of harpoons: a throwing harpoon, which is the harpoon of years and years ago which classically is thrown from a stick boat pursuing giant tuna and swordfish; a boat harpoon, which is shorter in length and is meant to be thrown from the cockpit of a boat rather than from the pulpit; and the third, which apparently runs under the new fandangled younger captains of our time, is a short or push harpoon, usually the length of a standard straight gaff. It is meant to merely touch the lily or the harpoon point to the side of the fish and impale without throwing it at all. The first two require a reasonable amount of skill and perfect technique to be consistently effective.
    The throwing of a javelin and the throwing of a harpoon have a lot in common, but the absolutely perfect comparison of throwing motion is that of throwing of a baseball. A baseball pitcher stands on the mound ready to throw. First the pitcher acquires the target in the middle of the catcher’s glove: the pitcher’s eyes send a laser beam to the middle of the catcher’s glove. The catcher will place the glove exactly where he wants the pitch to go. During the windup and the release of the ball, the pitcher never takes his eye off the catcher’s glove. The pitcher, as he adds pressure and energy with his throwing arm, releases the ball at the exact correct moment that he learns through repetitive practice and muscle memory. After the ball is released, you will notice that the pitcher’s throwing arm is pointed directly at the target he intends to hit, and his throwing hand is smack down the line of the laser beam that he has made with his eyes. In the world of sports, this is called follow through.
    Throwing the harpoon is exactly the same. Your front hand helps lift and hold the harpoon in what I call the cocked position. The thrower’s eyes pick the target on your swordfish just behind the gill plate in the middle of the fish. The thrower’s eyes are forming a laser beam, think of it exactly that way, a red or green laser beam. The forward arm guides and starts the acceleration of the harpoon. The rear arm thrusts the harpoon as if it’s being thrown by a pitcher. The thrower’s power arm, when releasing the harpoon, is pointing right down the laser beam and the harpoon is traveling exactly down the laser line to the fish.
    What am I saying? Throwing a harpoon, hitting a tennis ball, throwing a lacrosse ball, throwing a football, throwing anything with accuracy requires acquiring the target with your eyes, turning the laser focus on, and throw starting its acceleration and ending up exactly where the object is to strike at its target. The No. 1 reason people miss with the harpoon is that they raise their head while throwing the device. I want to drill this into you again and again: Your eyes, your head, your throwing arm and your hand all must stay on the laser path along which you have targeted your quarry.

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