Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fish Attack

Passage from the Marquesas to the Tuomotos

Fish on! Pzzzzzzzzzz goes the line and the crew of Kamaya jump into instant action. Books are tossed aside, sleepers are awakened and everyone heads for the cockpit. We all know our job: Tim grabs the rod, tightens the drag and gives a few tugs while Maya and Kai strap on his fighting belt and Ruth slows the boat down. Normally we need to furl the jib, but today, we happen to be motoring as there’s no wind. Ruth eases up on the throttle and I start reeling in easily but slowly.

“Can you see it yet?” I ask Maya who’s perched in her usual fish spotting seat on top of the radar arch.

“I think it’s another sailfish,” she says confidently. We had caught two of these gigantic fishes in the beginning of our big passage from the Galapagos to the Marquesas, but we threw them back in the sea, thinking that they’re more meat than we can eat, plus the books advise releasing billfish to support the sportfishing economy. But then we regretted releasing them because we did not catch a single fish nor even a single bite for the rest of the passage.
“Should we keep it or release it?” I ask, wondering if we’d really eat all the fish, especially since we have a fridge and don’t use our freezer. This one looks to be at least 6 feet long and weighs more than the kids.

“I’ve heard they’re good eating,” adds Ruth

“Let’s release it,” urges Kai.

With no clear consensus I suggest we slack off the line and see if the fish spits out the hook, if not, we keep him. Everyone agrees. I slack the line, we watch the fish, but it’s hooked pretty well and stays on.

“Get out the gaff!” I call.

Ruth holds the pole forward while I attempt to gaff him. I gaff him and start pulling him up but it whacks its body too and fro and falls off the gaff and starts swimming under the boat towards the prop.

“Put it in neutral, quick,” I shout.

Kai, who is now at the helm, puts the boat in neutral, but we fear it’s too late. A tug on the line doesn’t give at all.

“ Oh oh, it must be wrapped around the prop. There’s no wind, I’ll just dive in and free it up. It’s either that or lose this nice lure.” I say.

“What about sharks, there’s some blood in the water,” worries Ruth.

“I’ll have to be quick”, I say hiding my fear.

Luckily the water is very clear. I jump in looking around nervously and then dive under the boat. The first pass, I untangle the line from the prop. I start to pull in only to find that the fish wasn’t just tangled on the prop, it somehow swam through the front part of the shaft in front of the strut.

“How did it do that?” I wonder. Well, I’ll just tie him on and then unhook him. I have Ruth pass me a line and dive under to try my first hair-brained scheme. Well this doesn’t work since the fish is still struggling and I’m trying to hold my breath. I let go of the line and watch it drop down slowly. Whoa, I dive for it wondering why Ruth wasn’t still holding onto her end. She apparently didn’t know that she was supposed to secure it to the boat.

Now comes hair-brained scheme #2: I’ll disconnect the lure, untangle it from the shaft and then pull up the fish. Oh, but once it’s untangled how will I keep the fish from swimming off with the lure? Well, I’ll just tie a line on the end of the lure before unwrapping it completely.

This turns out to be a bit more hairbrained as the extra line just makes it that much harder to untangle. At one point I’m pulling fast on what I think is the free end of the line. I look around for sharks and see the big sailfish with its sharp point coming straight at my face because I’m pulling the wrong way. It finally comes free and I pass the end of the line up to Ruth saying “pull in the fish!”



Well, we finally get the fish aboard and cleaned. It made us many fine meals from sushi, to blackened, to breaded, to ceviche.

And we still have the lure.

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