Sunday, April 29, 2012

Of Fishing
In my younger days I had a love/hate relationship with fishing. I had the patience to sit there and tease something along and was infrequently rewarded with catching something alive that I had no desire to kill or eat.  I had no mentor and subsequently the fishing desire soon lost its allure.  Then came the Florida Keys. Warm water fish.  Within a millisecond of my first taste of US 1 road side smoked tuna, any thought of ever eating a Betty Crocker shake it but don’t break it overcooked flounder (sorry Mom) or a Mrs. Paul’s Fish Stick, were forever obliterated.  I ate Islamorada specialties of truly "caught that day” fish with some conch fritters or a bowl of fish chowder with sherry for every meal while there. I was transformed into a fish lover. Killing the catch was now, well, going to be part of the deal and, forgive me, I was hooked. 
Early on I had a friend who I grew up with on the New Jersey shore, John Duxbury, who eventually became a Captain of a professional charter fishing boat out of NJ and FL. So fishing was efficiently limited to waiting till a boat showed up at  the dock towards the end of the day at the Whale Harbor Inn (a few beverages in hand always made fishing easier). The times I spent on board fishing were limited, but I understood the process, although I also understand the process of brain surgery and probably would have equal success at both. My other mentor was Jack Curtis, an avid, very experienced angler,  who I watched hook-up and wrestle Marlin and Mahi off the back of Thai Hot on returns from Bermuda. Net-net, my personal fishing time was limited. Better at steering the boat, I seldom took a rod. Also the chances of landing and subsequently eating a fish were much higher with experts, and, after all, that is the ultimate goal.
At the beginning of this trip I was well supplied and coached from Capt. John & Jack about fishing. I also had purchased a “how to” book titled ”The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing” by Scott & Wendy Bannerot, and with that we went to sea.  A lot of the time sailing and getting a fish to bite and get boated at the same time is tough. One has to have conditions that a couple can dowse sails and control the boat while dealing with a potentially large, very unhappy fish that doesn’t want to be dinner. Much easier for a crew of four to five guys then a cruising couple.  And, the fish that I was looking for had brand names like Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna and the like. Those fish liked deeper waters. They also liked areas that had small tasty things swimming about. Most waters of the southern Caribbean don’t have one or the other or both. Locals tend to eat everything, including the bait fish and the reef fish. But I tried. Dragging lures behind Thai Hot wherever we went.  And then it happened. Laura & I were motorsailing westward along the southern side of Puerto Rico when a small Barracuda took the lure.  It was a quick fight as the gear I was using was the “you’re dinner” heavy stuff not the ‘Oh Skippy, let’s go fly fishing for Marlin’ weight. Barracuda was not on the menu for a lot of reasons so it ended up being a catch and release.  The next hit was on our way to Turks & Cacos from Puerto Rico. I was surprised by the skyrocketing Bull Mahi-Mahi that was at the end of the line.  My first thought was DINNER, actually, lots of dinners. Throughout the Caribbean I was surprised at the lack of variety of fish and/or the price. Lobster dinners burned on 1/2 55 gal drums using garbage for fuel at only $54!, Wahoo steaks and a thimble of rice and frozen veggies for $36! Most places south of Guadeloupe there just wasn’t any offered. Shrimp that had been frozen and thawed more times than Newt has X’s or “fresh fish” / fish of the day, that came out of the freezer and was further tortured by the cooking staff. Red Snappers were common and we enjoyed them often. But I needed the real thing…

It was an ugly fight and gaff but, it is, after all, about results.

I'm not sure who's more surprised !

The evolution of fish, Swimming, Sashimi, Ceviche,  Blackened,  Happy Bride

I think we need a bigger cutting board..
(He measured 42 Inches)

Thanks to Jack and Capt. John.


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