Everybody knows that tuna are worth a lot of money, and I mean a lot of money.
The truth of the matter is unimportant. The common knowledge is that tuna are a very
valuable fish. While this is generally true of giant tuna, the more commonly caught
school fish are a different matter. The giants are exported to Japan where they are
considered a delicacy. The school fish, on the other hand are consumed here in the
states, and while they are a popular commodity, the price to the fisherman never
approaches the price paid for the giants. The value of the smaller fish is mainly
determined in the same way that it is set for any commodity, supply and demand. When
there are few fish available, the price is high, and conversely, when the supply
is down, the fish are less valuable, in fact, at times they are impossible to sell
at all. First time fish sellers are rarely aware of this fact.
A number of years ago, a fantastic tuna run led to an incident that demonstrates
how mans greed can lead to a severe case of gullibility. The fish were too plentiful
and much too easy to catch. Everybody caught tuna, many for the first time in their
lives, and as is an all too common occurrence, very little thought was given to what
would be done with the fish. This often happens when you are having the best fishing
of your life.
The fish were being caught a couple of hours south of the point, and during
hot August days, the ride home was boring to say the least. Charterboat skippers
had nothing to do but steer, look out for debris in the water and talk on the radio.
Conversations would run the gamut of topics, with the exception of fishing. Any intruder
into the conversation would be persuaded to get off the radio, sometimes rudely,
and at other times deviously.
Weekend fishermen, loaded down with too many tuna, would from time to time inquire
about how much they could sell their fish for, only to be quoted outlandish prices,
such as five dollars a pound for fish that were in reality worth about fifty cents.
Such conversations were generally short, except for one particularly mischievous
skipper, who claimed that he was a fish buyer stationed on a boat moored in Fort
Pond Bay. And so, the "Raging Queen" was born.
While the "Raging Queen" was a product of one captains imagination, it didn't
remain that way for long. Over the course of the following week, the full history
of the "Raging Queen" was developed. It was a tuna buyboat out of either Massachusetts
or Virginia, depending on who was answering the call on the radio, and what accent
sounded best to him. The boat was anchored at the extreme south end of Fort Pond
Bay. All of the marina operators had conspired to keep him out of Montauk Harbor
because he was paying a better price for fish than they were and they didn't want
his competition. The prices he was paying were impossible, but just as there are
people who will buy a Rolex for $150 from someone in a darkened doorway, there were
those who were willing to travel up into the bay to sell their fish. After all, it
was only three or four miles away.
The second weekend was the topper. All Saturday afternoon there was a steady
procession of sportfishermen running past the entrance to the harbor to seek out
the "Raging Queen". Charterboat operators, cleaning up their boats at the dock, would
leave the radios on either to participate in the joke, or simply to get in on the
laughs. Eager anglers, interested in cashing in on the greatest fishing trip of their
lives, would be on the radio asking for exact directions to the "Queen's" location,
only to suddenly stop transmitting and sulk home once the reality had sunk in. Others,
once they became aware of what was going on, would take a different tack. The cursing
of ancestors and threats to rearrange facial features would fill the airwaves. No
damage was done, but only, I am sure, because the perpetrators of the prank were
The ultimate embarrassment was heaped upon a local captain and mate who were
operating a large private sportfisherman out of the Yacht Club on that Sunday. They
had heard of the "Queen" and decided that they might as well make the extra money
in spite of the inconvenience. Instead of bringing the large boat, they opted to
transfer the fish into a small outboard, and bring the fish to the buyer. Once up
in the bay they were hit with a torrential rain, which reduced the visibility to
about an eighth of a mile. After spending forty-five minutes running around the bay
with a hand held radio, they finally realized they had been had. It would have been
considerably less embarrassing if when they returned to their dock, they didn't start
asking some of the other skippers about the "Queen".
This happened back in the eighties, but the ghost of the "Raging Queen" still
lives. Some weekend afternoon, on your way home from fishing, get on the radio and
ask where you can get the best price for your fish, and see if you can't resurrect
the ghost once again.