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Close Encounter With a Fish Twice as Large As Our Boat!
I ran a yacht charter company for years. Most people would charter the Hatteras or the Bertram for sport fishing. I have used the Fairline-40 for exploration cruises to uninhabited islands. However, as a sport fishing enthusiast, I find that Big Game Fish is still the “big boy sport” – the ultimate badge of machismo.
Anyone who owns and operates a charter fishing business must have one, two or more scary fish stories that are best not told except within the fishing fraternity. Ah-what the hell-maybe I’ll part ways with tradition.
Before I started my business, a friend of mine bought a Dusky – probably about 25 feet long – asked a few buddies to come with him on his maiden voyage. It took us less than 5 minutes to realize he was a newbie to fishing. Not only did he maneuver his boat like a nervous novice, but when he picked up his fishing rod, something was wrong. It just didn’t have the look, and it didn’t have the salt of a real peach hand. For starters, if you’re planning a fishing trip, tell your buddies so everyone can tell their wife or girlfriend not to cook dinner; not worrying about what time you will return; not to call the police if you are staying the night and, above all, that your friends know to bring personalized fishing equipment. It just so happened that the invitation to take a test drive turned into an impromptu attempt at sport fishing – notice how carefully I chose my words. I didn’t say fishing expedition.
DEADLY SINS OF FISHING.
We have committed every fishing sin imaginable. The day in question was so clear and windless that half an hour after an airplane passed, its trail of smoke remained motionless like woolen blankets hanging from invisible poles. The ocean was so clear that we could see the base of our beachfront mooring. When you feel guilty about the discoloration you cause pulling in the anchor, you know the visibility is second to none.
We had the usual coolers full of beers, four Penn International reels and two fighting chairs. It became apparent that our host was interested in learning the ropes: he even humbled himself to say so. He had all types of plastic lures and even live bait – in fact live bait is a misnomer as all so called live bait is dead by the time you are ready to use it. We had a frozen ballyhoo.
Half a case of beer and not even a strike. Worse still: not even a ripple on the ocean, just slow rolling waves. Suddenly, about twenty meters in front of us, something very big pierced the surface. I would have thought: top of a canister that slipped off an ocean liner except it was spotted (brown and tan). We had just convinced the owner to let someone else take the helm. After all, we had one of the best sport fishing captains among us. “He knew the game fish based on his first name.” The captain slowed to a stop, but the momentum combined with the stillness of the waves caused us to drift within 10 yards of the large floating dappled log.
At that time, I had never seen a lemon shark. I had never even heard of it. So when I realized this monster was a moving fish, my first reaction was to grab my Beretta. Jesse Weste, a senior member of the Antigua Sports Fishing Club, was at the wheel then, as captain. Unfortunately Jessie is no longer with us. As it says in the Torah “He continued to sleep with his fathers.” He was considered not only the most experienced sport fisherman on the Caribbean fishing circuit, but also the luckiest. The captain slammed into reverse so suddenly I fell. As I rushed for my gun, he shouted “NO…are you crazy?” Shoot all the lines… shoot all the lines.”
We had the two stabilizers plus two other lines because we had already been trawling for two hours. I stood up to take a picture and the huge thing arched its long body obligingly. The water was so clear that I was able to take a photo of the arched body below the waterline. However, when the photo came out, I could see the submerged part of the fish very clearly. It was over 40 feet. I remember when the captain turned to leave the danger zone, at one point the Dusky was parallel to the fish and it was at least twice the size of our boat. This incident I have never forgotten.
The other fear of fishing:
My stepfather lived in the mountainous alpine region of Europe. For him, fishing meant going to the lake or the river with his pipe, his water bottle and his coffee. It was his private head time – as all fishing enthusiasts must have. I was embarrassed when he showed me his grip. So I invited him Game Fishing to the Caribbean. The day I had planned was very rough. Excellent for tough and seasoned anglers, but not a novice like my father-in-law, so I postponed his trip and decided to go out with my planned captain and crew instead.
The Bertram sliced through the waves like a hot knife through frozen butter. Just then we saw a floating log and circled it. Floating logs in the Atlantic usually mean the growth of barnacles and oysters – small fish feed and larger fish seek out small fish. Sure enough: dung, dung – the outriggers jumped simultaneously. We thought: Tuna. The first one we pulled ended up weighing 85 pounds. We were shooting the second one when all of a sudden the tension on the line loosened. We said to ourselves: missed shot. Naturally, thinking I had lost the fish.
I decided to reload (change bait). I felt a slight resistance on the line: however I thought I had picked up seaweed, sea moss or a plastic bag. As the line broke the face, there was the head of a tuna dripping with blood. Just then, rows of angry teeth glared at me. I didn’t have enough time to interpret his message but I believe he was saying something like this: HOW DARE YOU TAKE MY BREAKFAST?
The angry reef shark kicked the Bertram a gigantic ass and all but the captain fell. “Shoot, shoot. Since we already had the lines setting them up for a fresh bait, as we rushed to take the remaining line, the angry creature headbutted us three more times before we could get past it.
The residue from his breakfast – the head – the head weighed 16 pounds.
Don’t dream of asking me how big the shark was. first I don’t know and secondly I wouldn’t answer the question: All I will say about it: It was really, really big.
I used to love jumping into the deep Atlantic on fishing trips: guess why I don’t do that anymore? “So you’re the one who stole my lunch huh?”
Basil Hill, former owner of See by Sea Charters, is now Vice President of UNIA, author of dozens of articles published in EzineArticles and author of The Golden Fleece Found – See below!
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