“中国鱼比外国鱼聪明”/ "Chinese Fish Are Smarter Than Foreign Fish"

“中国鱼比外国鱼聪明”

我在离北美五大湖之一——密歇根湖不远的地方长大。孩提时代,我经常和哥哥鲍勃一起骑着自行车到湖边去钓鲈鱼,由此养成了对钓鱼的终身爱好。

对我来说,钓鱼不仅是为了抓鱼,也是为了接近自然,了解水下的世界。我觉得这是一项很好的休闲活动。每次钓到鱼后,我一般只会留下一、两条打牙祭,其余大部分都放走了。即使钓不到鱼,能坐在水边、忘却世间纷扰,依然令我感到心满意足。

多年前,我就开始阅读和收藏有关中国鱼类的书籍,其中包括中国各省出版社出版的关于当地鱼种和分布的书目。我还看过一本杂志,叫做《中国钓鱼》。

和中国一样,钓鱼在北美和其他很多国家都是一项广受喜爱的活动。美国有本杂志专讲某一种鱼的钓法,叫做《鲈鱼》,它的发行量曾达到过60万份。在美国大部分州,都可以见到鲈鱼的影踪。

世界各地的钓鱼习俗存在很大的差异,这主要取决于各地鱼的种类。在中国,人们钓淡水鱼大多是去人工鱼塘,按所钓到鱼的数量和重量收费。其中最常见的,是数目庞大、种类繁多的鲤属鱼类,它们在水底觅食。

中国的鲈鱼、鳟鱼等鱼类都是食肉鱼,以其他鱼类、昆虫、青蛙等活物为食。而大多数鲤鱼科的鱼都是食腐鱼,主要吃来自水底的各种东西,属于非食肉类。

我很喜欢钓食肉鱼,其中的挑战在于要了解它们在某一季节、某一地点的食物,然后做出样子相似的假饵。相对来说,这是一种更积极的钓法,总要远足、涉水、投杆,而不仅仅是拿着鱼杆坐在岸边,等鱼上钩。要想精于此道,你必须了解当地环境及一些水生动物相关知识。

20世纪80年代初,我有机会第一次去位于中国东北部的黑龙江省。我受邀游览黑龙江,写一篇关于当地贸易、投资和旅游的文章。

通过阅读有关中国鱼业书籍,我知道在牡丹江以南有一片很大的高山湖泊叫做镜泊湖,那里有各种食肉鱼类,其中包括久负盛名的鳜鱼,又名中国鲈,这种鱼可以长到40磅重。我从书上看到,这是一种凶猛的食肉鱼,还知道它也是餐桌美味。

我提出想把镜泊湖纳入此次行程,并很高兴地如愿以偿了。于是,我带上一支四件套的钓杆,还有一些我在美国钓鲈鱼时常用的假饵——用木材和塑料制成的小鱼。所有食肉鱼类都吃小鱼,我想鳜鱼也不例外。

等到了镜泊湖,在说服东道主为我安排一次船钓时,我颇花了一番力气,这主要是因为他们非常担心我的安全。万一出了什么事,比如船沉了或者我溺水了怎么办?显然,这不仅对我,对他们也会产生不利的影响!但最终,由于我一再保证会非常、非常地小心,他们很客气地表示同意了。

我和同事,还有安排行程的当地陪同人员,在水边一家很好的招待所里住下了。这个地方非常漂亮。宾馆的经理恰好也是一位钓鱼迷,但他的钓鱼风格和我不一样。

由于我是第一个自带渔具钓鱼的外国游客,经理很想在开始之前看看我的外国渔具。我给他看了我的人工钓饵,他礼貌地说这种饵料在当地不管用。我俩就中外实用钓鱼技术展开了一番热烈讨论。

经理的基本观点是中国鱼特别聪明,不会上假饵的当。但看到我坚持要用我的“外国”方法去试一试,他还是表示欣然同意并祝我好运。

客船把我和同事送到一处岩角,那里的水流骤然由浅变深,通常是钓鱼的好地点。

船夫也看过了我的鱼饵,表示对这东西的信心为零。他也说中国的鱼很聪明,不会上当的。

现在的问题是:那里到底有没有鳜鱼?我的外国假饵能不能骗它们上钩?

我投出鱼杆,没过几分钟,就看到一条鳜鱼瞄上了我投下的假“米诺鱼”,我把它钓上岸,它还在好奇地打量这些样子奇怪的“入侵者”。很快我又抓到一条,紧接着又是一条……

肉食动物就是肉食动物,这一理论得到了证明,并且也再一次验证了孙子兵法的精髓:“知己知彼,百战百胜”(虽然我把鱼当作是朋友而不是敌人)。

我和同事早有把握能钓到鱼,所以出发之前带了只平底锅。我们就在岸边生火,当场做了一条鳜鱼当午餐。这是我吃过的最好吃的鱼,不过,我也得到了一个惨痛的教训,鳜鱼的背鳍有毒,被它扎伤,会非常疼。

下午返回招待所后,大家为我们的外国钓法获得成功而颇为高兴,也为我们没有溺水松了一口气。

若干年后,我前往台湾东南岸的兰屿,一个略为偏远但风景很美的地方。我又带上了我的鱼饵,当地的垂钓者又说我这种饵不管用。其中一位在美国生活过、也曾在那里钓过鱼的人更加离谱,说美国的鱼有很多,但比中国的鱼笨,中国的鱼没有那么多,但非常聪明。

又来了!我心想。我很高兴,能再次证明我的理论。结果那天我用一条小木头鱼钓到了一条漂亮的大马鲹,让当地人大跌眼镜。

从哈尔滨到齐齐哈尔再到镜泊湖,黑龙江之行是一次难忘的旅程,这其中当然包括了(但不仅仅是)那次钓鱼。我后来发表了相关文章,反响不错。

但最精采的部分还不是这个,跟我同去的同事后来很快变成了我的太太。她是我此生最大也是最美好的收获。想钓到这种大鱼,用假饵是不行的。

“Chinese Fish Are Smarter Than Foreign Fish”

I grew up not far from the shores of one of America’s Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. Starting from an early age my big brother Bob and I would often ride our bikes to the lake shore and fish for perch. Thus began a lifelong interest in fishing.

To me, fishing is as much about getting close to nature, and understanding the world beneath the water, as it is about catching fish. I find it very relaxing. If I catch fish, I may keep one or two for the dinner table, but release most of them to swim away. If I don’t catch fish, I still catch the contentment of being on the water and forgetting about worldly cares.

Many years ago I started reading and collecting books about the fishes of China, including volumes published by Chinese provincial publishing houses on their local species and distribution. I also read a magazine called “China Fishing.”

Fishing is an enormously popular hobby in North America and many other countries, as it is in China. In the U.S., there is a magazine devoted to fishing for only one species of fish, called Bass Magazine, which at one point had a circulation of 600,000 copies. Bass can be found in most American states.

There are big difference in fishing customs around the world, largely depending on which species of fish are available. In China, most freshwater anglers go to man-made ponds which charge fees based on the number and weight of fish caught; and many of the commonly available species are members of the large and diverse carp family of fishes, or other bottom-feeding species.

Bass, trout, and some types of fishes found in China are predatory species, meaning they eat other fish, insects, frogs and other living creatures. Most carp are scavengers which eat a wide variety of foods, mostly from the bottom, rather than feeding mainly in a predatory mode.

I enjoy fishing for predatory species of fish, in which the challenge is to understand their diet in a particular place at a given season and then imitate it with an artificial lure. It is a more active kind of fishing, often involving hiking, wading, and casting rather than just sitting on the bank with a fishing pole and waiting for the fish to come to you. To be good at it, you need to understand something about local circumstances and aquatic biology.

In the early 1980s I had the opportunity to make a first visit to Heilongjiang Province in China’s northeast. I had been invited to travel around the province and write an article about trade, investment and tourism there.

From my reading about Chinese fisheries I knew that south of Mudanjiang there is a large alpine lake called Jingbo Hu where a variety of predatory fishes can be found, including the much prized guiyu or Chinese perch, which can grow up to about 40 lbs. in size. I had read that they are aggressive predators and also knew they are a delicious eating fish.

I requested that Jingbo Hu be included in my itinerary, and to my delight, it was; so I brought a 4-piece fishing rod and some artificial fishing lures of the type we commonly use in the U.S. to fish for bass. They are made of wood and plastic and resemble small fish. Almost all predatory fish eat small fish as part of their diet, and I figured guiyu would be no different.

Once I got to Jingbo Hu, it took some persuasion to get my local hosts to arrange a boat for fishing, mainly because they were concerned for my safety. What if there were an accident, the boat sank, I drowned, etc. This clearly might have negative repercussions on them as well as me! But in the end they were obliging and agreed, based on my assurances that I would be very, very careful.

My colleague and I, along with our local travel companions who arranged the itinerary, stayed in a very nice guest house by the water’s edge. It was a lovely spot. As it happened the manager of the guest house was also a keen fisherman, although used to a different style. of fishing than mine.

I was the first foreign guest to bring fishing equipment and he expressed an interest in seeing my foreign fishing gear before the fishing began. When I showed him the artificial lures, he politely said they would be useless here. Thus began a lively discussion of proven fishing techniques in China and abroad.

His basic contention was that Chinese fish were very smart, and would not be fooled by artificial imitations. He was, however, most agreeable when I insisted to try it my “foreign” way, and wished me luck.

The boat dropped my colleague and I off on a rocky point, from where the depth of the water dropped off sharply from shallow to deep. This is often a good kind of spot for fishing.

The boatman also took one look at my lures and expressed zero confidence that they would work here. Again, he said Chinese fish are too smart for that.

Now the question was: were there guiyu here, and could I trick them into eating my foreign artificial baits?

Within a few minutes I saw a guiyu following my fake minnow as I cast and retrieved it to shore, curiously eyeing these strange invaders. Soon after, I caught one, and then another, and another.

The theory that a predator is a predator is a predator had been proven, once again demonstrating the wisdom of Sun Zi’s comment “Know yourself and know your enemy, and in one hundred battles you will win one hundred victories.” (Although I consider fish my friends rather than enemies.)

My colleague and I were confident enough that we’d brought a pan along in the event of success, so we made a fire by the side of the lake and cooked one guiyu on the spot for lunch. It was the most delicious fish I think I’ve ever eaten, although I learned the hard way that the guiyu’s dorsal spines contain a poison which can inflict a painful wound if you are stuck by them.

Returning to the guest house later that afternoon there was considerable excitement about the success of our foreign fishing ways, as well as great relief that we had not drowned in the lake.

Some years later I visited Lanyu Island off the Southeastern coast of Taiwan, a remote and beautiful spot. Once again I brought my fishing lures, and once again local anglers said they would not work. One of them had even lived and fished for a time in America, and went so far as to say that American fish were plentiful but relatively dumb compared to Chinese fish, which are not so plentiful but very smart.

Here we go again, I thought to myself, relishing the challenge of proving my theory again, which I did later that day by catching a nice big jack crevalle on a wooden minnow, much to the surprise of the locals.

The Heilongjiang trip was a memorable one, from Harbin to Qiqihar and Jingbo Hu, including but of course not limited to, the fishing. I wrote and published the article, which was well received.

But the best part of all was yet to come, because my colleague on that trip soon became my wife. She is the biggest and best catch of my life. In that kind of fishing, artificials don’t work.


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