Monday, November 19, 2007

Fishing report

Like I said in Friday’s blog, JD and Tony were entering the Xtreme with some friends and family and were leaving a bit later that we were. Being a much faster boat they didn’t need as much time as we did to get the chosen fishing grounds. Anyway, back on the Arawak Odyssey we didn’t even get to see the sunrise before we started getting strikes. We had our first fish and our biggest fish for the day, on board by 6 am. Usually when we get a fish on the line before sunrise it turns out to be a King Mackerel, but this time it was a pretty big wahoo. It ended up being our largest too at 50.7 pounds. I think it was Guilli who brought the fish in to the boat as the other crew quickly cleared the lines and planers. We don’t use wire lines which are typically used when fishing for wahoo and instead use planers to sink our mono filament line down about 20 feet. Anyway, Guilli is a big strong guy and man handled that wahoo to the boat. I could tell from the way that the crew worked that if given the chance we would be unbeatable. Everyone worked well and knew what they were doing, so mistakes were not going to happen. Sunrise was slow and colourful as we waited for more action. IT came quickly, but not in the form of another fish. As John leaned over the port side letting out one of the top lines a big dorsal fin broke through a wave almost in the glare of the rising sun. What had I just seen? As I tried to figure that out we saw the dolphins burst out of the crest of our wake. There were several of them playing in the waves and saying good morning to me and my crew. They were spotted I think but I couldn’t get a good look in the glare. They didn’t stay long and the wait for another strike was on again. Sometimes when you get an early fish the wait for the next one can be even worse, but we didn’t have long to wait. In fact within one hour we had a total of three wahoo on board all showing good size. By 8 am we had a fourth. The area where we were fishing has a very steep drop off where depths go from about 100 feet to 900 in a very short distance like an underwater cliff. Wahoo love to feed in areas like these and with the amount of flying fish scattering as we cruised by their schools there was no doubt why. Many frigate birds could be seen nearby as well every now and then dropping out of the sky and catching the flying fish in mid air as they were chased up by predator fish. This of course is a signal to other frigate birds as well as us that there is action to be had. Most of the surface feeding going on was being done by small tuna, but there were bound to be fish feeding on them too. Later in the afternoon when we were back at the dock cleaning fish, Big John showed us a “little tunnie” that he had taken from the belly of a big wahoo.
We were too far to hear most of the other boats over the VHF, and by lunchtime when we had 6 wahoo on board sitting in the fish box with three black fin tuna we knew that we had done well but wondered how well. Our special spot had gotten quiet and we decided to move closer to home and as we did so we could finally make out some of the VHF talk from some of the other boats. IT sounded as though Derek Biel’s Obsession was doing as good as we were and Vernon Hall’s Sky Lark had been busy too. We knew that only when all the fish had been to the scales that a winner would be known. In our last tournament a month ago, we had lost an engine after we reeled in and powered up to come on in. That tournament had been a tough one. I have had a quote from Antigua Marine Services for just over US $10,000 to fix that engine. I wanted plenty of time to get back into Jolly Harbour before the 3:30 “back in port” time, so at 1:45 just after we landed our 7th wahoo we pulled in all of our gear, turned off the engines long enough to check the engine levels, and then powered happily home. Whether we had won or not, we all agreed that it had been a great day of fishing with plenty of action. Our fish were all pretty big and we would be able to pay for our expenses as well as have fresh fish this week. What we needed to find out was whether we were going to be “Best in the West”. Last year it was my dad who won the Best in the West tournament, but I knew he hadn’t done well today after a short phone call on the way in. He had gotten three wahoo. JD texted me to say that he and Tony on Adventure Antigua’s other boat, Xtreme, had also gotten 3 wahoo and a king mackerel. We had at least beaten them.
Back at my uncle’s dock where the weigh in and party were held, there were 28 boats all lined up to weigh fish. There were boats from St. Kitts and Nevis as well as from Montserrat and overall it had been a fantastic success. Sport fishing was alive and well in Antigua. As we downed rum and cokes and relaxed a bit we saw so many wahoos come to the scales. Vernon had caught 9 of them and one of his was the biggest fish so far at 50.6 pounds. It was our turn next and there was a collective moan when our biggest beat his by just .1 of a pound.
The last boat to weigh in beat our with a 57 pound wahoo. As it got dark, Dr. Charles took the microphone to announce the awards. There were prizes for biggest fish by a woman, and second biggest fish by a woman. There were prizes for biggest fish by a youth and second biggest fish by a youth. There was a prize for biggest fish by a man, but no prize for second biggest fish by a man (much to the dismay of our crew). But the big prize was “Best in the West” which was figured by most poundage and went to Vernon Hall on Skylark. I remember my dad fishing with Vernon when I was a little kid, but for years and years Vernon hasn’t had a boat. His boat is just a year old now and the old captain got his grove back and was crowned best in the west. All of us were happy for him. We don’t know what position we came in overall, but judging from our total poundage and comparing it to Vernon’s I figure we would have been 2nd or 3rd. We did well and had fun. This is wahoo time and the 2400 lbs of fish that were caught will surely mean that when people eat fish over the next few weeks in Antigua and Barbuda it will be local instead of the imported fish from Indonesia or Thailand which seems to be so common these days. Wahoo is delicious so when you are here make sure you try some.

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