Passions, and America

It was not like shooting fish in a barrel, it was actually, shooting fish—from a barrel.

I was a U.S. Marine Corps Cannoneer.

My 155 mm Howitzer section, Kilo Battery, 4th Bn. 10th Marines. I was behind the camera, even then.

We fired 95 lb explosive projectiles about a dozen miles downrange. It was our job, and we got got very good at it. We didn’t love the job, but we loved America.

But I never saw the likes of this most unusual “howitzer”, ’till this strange October afternoon.

The fisherman, Joe B, had his cannon set up to blast bait out into the surf.

Joe’s artillery is a long, plastic tube loaded with a cylindrical round of frozen baitfish.

Joe first loads the bunker, or whatever bait fish, into a cylindrical form, adds water, and puts it in the freezer.

Frozen, it forms the perfect cylindrical projectile to fit the cannon’s barrel, along with a five-ounce sinker.

The bait/sinker round is slid down the barrel.

With air pressure at 100 psi, and a push of the lever, POW, bait is fired into the sea.

The five-ounce sinker keeps the bait tethered to the ocean floor. As the ice melts the bait is exposed—for a big bite. Joe says he wants to catch the big fish that won’t come close to shore

He’s not alone. Joe said last year a man, here, sent his bait out hanging from a drone’s hook, then released it past the breakers.

Joe’s cannon fired once while I was there and it did get out about fifty yards to clear the breakers. But certainly not the 350 yards he said was advertised.* Maybe, with more experience, Joe can improve his range. Even 50 yards is a rare cast with old-school hand casting,

*Update from Joe:”I ended up mastering the ’shot’ and now get the bait out around 250-300 yards!” Way to go, Joe.

Joe totes a car battery for the air pump, along with his bait and cannon barrel in a sand cart.

Joe said the bait caster cost him, delivered to the door, about $800. He said, “It is expensive.” I said, “Hey, it’s your pleasure, your passion, this camera cost more than that, it’s my passion.”

Many people pay a lot, and tote a lot, for their passions. How about photogs with a carbon tripod, the latest Nikon, a backpack of lenses and maybe a backup camera? Or golfers trundling their bag of joysticks?

If it’s worth the expense and tote-trouble, do it. Enjoy yourself. Hey, it’s your passion.

In the short time I was with Joe he didn’t get a bite on his cryo-bait , but he did get a small sand shark on his old-school hand-cast line.

Keith arrived from Oceanside on his new electric bike. The ride was fine but he had trouble with it on the sand, the front wheel was digging in. Some adjustments will be forthcoming.

Keith said it cost, $1,499, $1,600 delivered to his door. It’s made in China but delivered from Tacoma, Washington. He said it rides very well on the street, “great shocks,” He rode it to the Massapequa preserve 17 miles, one way. He’s very happy with his passion.

I recall my brother, Rod, and I riding our one-speed, hand-me-down bikes, to the Crossbay bridge on the road to Rockaway. We’d fish off the bridge’s side with the lowest-tech fishing poles. Those bikes, those poles, those times—sweet.

I talked to one fisherman about the new bang-on-the-beach. He waved his hand and scoffed at the new fangled fishing.

Sure, many will scoff. But what of the model T Ford? Didn’t that get a lot of dismissive hand waves. Did not townspeople shout, “Get a horse?”

My brother, Rod, was among the first to own one of the original video recording machines. It was about 1970 and the battery, cassette recorder, and camera were so big and heavy he had to stack them on a hand truck.

I could scarcely believe him when he said he could record a birthday party on it and show the video—on his TV! It was magic. Today, of course, we carry iPhones in our pockets that record everything, fish the “internet” for oceans of information—and make phone calls.

My brother, an Army Combat Engineer, (299th), also National Guard Tank Commander, was always ahead of the tech curve purchases in our family and very inventive on his own as well. My favorite was a personal mail alert he invented. Placing mail in the mailbox broke a light beam that caused a bell to ring in the house. Today door entry Ring cameras, not only let you see the mailman from inside your home, but from your desk at work, or—from a rock on a jetty.

When I told Rod about this bait caster he suggested it could easliy be adapted to a life saving device. It could shoot an inflate-on-impact device to help a struggling swimmer.

Sure this bait blaster is clunky and cumbersome. But maybe it’s the model T of bait casters. What of future fishing rods, rods fitted with slender rod-parallel bait-caster barrels? Fishing rods powered with CO2 cartridges or paintball air pumps; efficient mini bait casters that can launch smaller bait far beyond the breakers?

Suddenly, I had to pause. I had to enjoy all these Americans in their passions on this peaceful shore. There was Keith chatting with someone about his new electric bike.

Enrique, I see him so often, standing with his fishing rod or sitting on the jetty, just enjoying the day.

Enrique, always a warm smile:

And I looked down to the west jetty at Ray, silently hauling in his striper—the traditional way.

Traditional Ray, enjoying his passion.

Joe enjoys fishing, and he’s trying to add to his passion with his new bait-casting “cannon.” Whether you agree with his method or not, you must agree, it is his passion.

Joe B

To find something that puts a smile on your face, is joy. To find something that sustains you, especially in these most troubling times, that’s passion.

But please remember, as election day nears, as Veterans Day is on the horizon: Many Americans spilled blood for us on distant beaches of this planet. Too many never came home to enjoy the passions we love.

So, enjoy your passion. But remember, this is the UNITED States of America.

Keep that idea, and those veterans in mind.

Salute them in thanks.

Salute America.


Be well,


7 replies »

  1. Yes, better mousetraps, Andy. And memo books that grow to iPads, and iPhones; and six shooters to Glocks, subway tokens to MTA phone apps. We wouldn’t know what to do patrolling the subway today, Brother. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement. I am.
    Be well,


  2. Another great tale, Lee. Thank you! If you look up “potato gun,” you’ll see an easier, cheaper, more efficient and effective way to launch bait. We use a home made PVC pipe cannon fueled with a quirt of hair spray. A barbecue igniter provides a spark and ! Lightweight, battery free!


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