Gone Fishin’ with Harry Richman

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader/May 29, 1935

New York, May 29. Now the big tuna are running, and Harry Richman can hardly wait.

As he croons his lullabies in a New York night club these pleasant evenings, he hears, not the applause of the crowd, but the mumble of the surf on the white sands of Bimini, and the whine of the reels.

He sniffs, not the perfume of the beautifully gowned gals, but the soft breezes of the distant Bahama Banks, or perhaps of a quietly decaying fish, both being the odors of Araby to a confirmed fishing nut like Harry Richman.

He has given in his notice.

His pals Billy Leeds and a score of other boon companions are down there jousting with the larger inmates of the briny, and Harry Richman does not purpose going on accepting a paltry $4000 per week for warbling when he might be riding a fishing smack off Bimini.

It was Billy Leeds, generally identified as the heir to the tin plate fortune, that you read about the other day as being sought in his storm-beleaguered launch off Bimini, and who turned up safe and sound in a Florida port slightly surprised at the hullaballoo over his absence.

Billy Leeds’ yacht, the Moana, is at Bimini with a party of pals for the big fish hunting and few men know those waters better than the young millionaire sailor. Harry Richman is joining that particular party.

An Expensive Sport

It Is surprising the hold that fishing for the big fighters of the deep, tuna, marlin, tarpon, and the like, has taken on rich young fellows of late years, and, if anybody asks you, it can be made an extremely expensive sport, at that.

Among those now at Bimini is Woolworth Donahue, called “Wooly” of the Woolworth five-and-ten clan, a tall, slim, pleasant young chap, who is a bug on both big game and big fish chasing. He is with Ben Finney, a well-known young sportsman of New York, and they are fishing off the Dawn, captained by Clarence Hegeman, a veteran of those waters.

Young Donahue is fishing with what is described as a 20/0 Vom Hofe reel, the largest ever turned out by that particular concern. This may seem nothing to you non-fishers, but it is a man-sized reel.

The writer thought the lads were spoofing him last winter when they told him of a reel used by Julio Sanchez, a famous fisherman of a rich Cuban family, that cost $1200, but cautious inquiry among the knowing indicates that this figure is quite possible, and in the Sanchez case quite probable.

It only goes to show you about fishing.

Hemingway Big Hunter

Ernest Hemingway, the greatest living American writer of fiction, and a piscatorial prodigy in the Caribbean, is at Bimini, and recently nabbed a 381-pound tuna, said to be a Bimini record.

Hemingway makes his home at Key West, and spends most of his time fishing for the big fish. He is accounted one of the greatest of the big fish hunters who prowl the waters off the Florida coasts.

Bimini is a blob of sand some fifty miles from Miami, or about thirty minutes as the seaplane drones. It belongs to the British, and was famous during the rum-running days as a loading port for the hooch. Now it is famous for fishing, and on Bimini a large coterie of fishermen make their headquarters during the season.

This writer ls one whose every instinct revolts against the very idea of fishing, mainly on account of the motion of the boat, but he is an honorary member of the celebrated Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club, of Hibiscus Island, the greatest organization of its kind in the South.

He is greatly flattered by the receipt of an entry card for the club’s prize contest for anglers. The contestant fills out blank spaces narrating his piscatorial exploits, but the writer observes that there is a space for the signature of the weighing of the fish.

At least there is one on the card received by the writer and he hopes and trusts that this is not a provision for him, individually, in case he decides to do any fishing. It seems somewhat skeptical.

Record of All Catches

The Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club likes to know what members are doing any fishing, and another card received by the writer provides for record of fish caught by rod and reel, such as marlin, tarpon, sailfish, Allison tuna, bonefish, permit, dolphin, wahoo, amberpack, African pompano, barracuda, king-fish, crevalle, grouper, bonito, tuna, mackerel, redfish, robalo, set trout, bluefish, pompano, all these indigenous to Florida waters.

The writer feels sort of out of it after reading this list. There is no provision for entry of the only kind of fish he ever catches, and for which he holds a record in Vincent Liquori’s Italian restaurant, the Monta Rosa.

This is the ferocious anchovy.

But can you imagine a guy chucking a $4000 per week job just to go fishing?


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