Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Montserrat Fishing Tournament 2008

The weather forecast had been looking great all week long with winds speeds of about 9 knots expected for Saturday's fishing event. The Montserrat Tourism Authority had invited us down to take part in their event. This would be our third tournament there. Tony and Serge who usually work on the Adventure Antigua Eco Tour were coming on Xtreme with me as well as all of the other crew who joined us for the Nevis event bar Big John who was MIA in the UK.
We were planning to make a good adventure of it, but heard that becausae of increased volcanic activity, tours of the island were limited. We then saw the forecast change to include ground swell and increased winds. Little Bay in Montserrat isn't that great of a port when the weather is "rolling" which made overnighting less appealing to me. We changed plans slightly to just fish, clear in and do the weigh in, and then come back home.
Friday afternoon we met up at Customs and Immigration in Jolly Harbour to clear out. My young crew always eager to get an early start decided to meet up at the boat at 3:30 am! Crazy i know, but we did have to travel 20 miles to get to the fishing area and lines were allowed in the water at 5 am however dark it was. Luckily we found later that the lines in was actually 5:30 am. Anoher 30 minutes sleep!
It was dark when i got to the boat to find all the crew waiting for me ready and rearing to go. With nav lights and engines on we slowly cruised out of the harbour while setting up the rest of our bits and pieces for the journey down to Redonda.
Just before we powered up onto a plane, Uncle Nick and His crew passed us with "Nicole". We were going to fish the same area to start off with.
There is something very exciting about going fast at sea at night on a boat. 20 knots feels like 40 and 30 like 60 with just nav lights and your intruments inturrupting the blackness. I love it unless it's wet and going downwind to Redonda we kept dry while guili baited up at the back of the boat. Using the red forehead light to iluminate his baits guili didn't distract me and I steered down the waves. The first shimmers of light began to appear behind us.
Before we could see them we could feel the ground swell and the chop. IT was going to be a bumpy morning once we started fishing and we knew that it wasn't going to be anything like the original "fishermans" forecast we had seen on WindGuru the week before.
We got down to the drop off at about 5:45 am and there was plenty of light even though the sun hadn't come up just to the south of Antigua. Lines went out with the crew performing like a nascar pit crew. Th Adventure Antigua boats do sight seeing and snorkeling tours around Antigua and Barbuda and are not designed for fishing. We jus fish on our days off and when the fish are biting. Fishing properly is difficult because we don't have outriggers and because we have seats and all that shaded cover in the way. To do it well you have to fish with guys who have done it many times before and who practice. Serge was the only crew who hadn't fished Xtreme before so he kinda helped when asked to start with. Before Nicole got to the edge we were fishing and ready for action. Almost immediately we started having problems with our Furuno depth recorder. It was very difficult to see the bottom contours on the screen with the bottom dissapearing faster than i knew the real edge down 300 feet below was doing. Something was wrong, but we would have to try and make do. We fished the area that in the Nevis tournament had produced some good action with no results. Nothing either when we went further south along the drop off looking for wahoo. Nicole was having the same lack of action. We fished and fished catching and releasing a few barries along the way. The depth recorder was driving me mad too and after a few crossed lines and a few near misses with the planer I was ready to call it a day. IT wasn't even 10 am though. Just then i had a scratchy call from Nicole who we had left back on the East side to say that he had found a spot with some action. I thought he said "come north" so we pulld in the lines and went under the lee of the massive rock (Redonda) and continued north without seeing Nicole. It was so incredibly choppy over there that we were now getting wet too. With no bites, no sign of Nicole, the depth recorder not working and the choppy conditions I was hating it. I stopped the boat and asked who of the crew was gonna go over the side and check the transom mounted transducer which is the thing that sends the echo down to the bottom giving our depth recorder it's functionality. As usual, it was Tony, the strongest guy in Antigua who was ready to jump over first. Remember the waters here are deep and totally inhospitable. We had seen a big bull shark at this same spot four years ago and anything near Redonda is just spooky. Tony went over and reported that the wire holding the ducer in place had worked free which is why it was only working intermittantly. The big problem now was that with the 6 foot waves we were getting tossed around in, Tony was having a super hard time trying to fix the ducer. In the end he jammed a bit of plastic in the hinge hoping to keep it in place. We started fishing again heading to the North west which is where Nicole had acutally found the fish. They were 6 miles from us and had just landed two wahoo and lost another. Within no time the recorder stopped working once more which quickly dampened the mood once again. The reason the recorder is so important is that wahoo hang out on the edge where the continental shelf drops off into the deep. They feed on fish that congrigate on upwelling currents that are typical on steep drop offs. If you are fishing too far on from the edge either in the deep or in the shallows you luck is usually not as good. I was having a very hard time keeping on the edge. The GPS maps are not accurate enough yet to use effectively for fishing. Tony told me to stop the boat and he tried again. Once again this didn't work and finally i decided to have a go. Behind the boat under the engine bracket the transducer just flopped up and down with the boat as the big waves tossed us all about. It was impossible to hold on with one hand even with your legs braced against the engines. I tried hard to wedge the bit of plastic in between the hinge of the ducer while getting slammed hard into the engine. Looking back i think it was pretty dangerous for Tony and I to have been back there in those waves under the engines. One thing's for sure though... it was pointless as we didn't manage to fix a thing. If i fished slowly the ducer worked enough that i could follow the edge, but this was pretty useless as wahoo likes to attack fast moving lures. Finally, I decided that we'd go in to the lee of Redonda where we could try again to fix the transducer in the calm waters. Under the steep cliffs of the strange rocky island, Guili used wire to try and fix it once again. The rest of the crew jumped over with snorkeling gear to have a look. The waters there were very clear and even from up above i could see the vibrant colour below. Within five minutes we were ready to go once again, but this time i decided to go straight to the Montserrat edge to fish. On the way there we could see three other boats under speed going in the same direction. The day was coming to and end and this was our last attempt to find some fish. We started fishing on the northern most side of the volcanic island and fished slowly east following Nicole up in the distance which had been one of the boats we had seen. From all reports, the fishing had been very slow with not much action having been found. This wasn't much concilation to us though and we all hoped things would change.
According to the rules we could fish until 330 pm when we had to be back in the Montserrat port of Little Bay. It was getting close to 3 pm and we still hadn't found anything. Nicole had given up and was going in over the shallows. In the distance we could see Soufriere Volcano venting with it's precarious dome high into the clouds. This is the most studied volcano on earth and also one of the most active. It's pyroclastic flows have been known to travel up to 200 miles per hour incinerating anything in it's path. The beautiful mountain looked quite peaceful and beautiful at this time though. With time ticking away i decided to throw in the towel on the wahoo fight with 40 minutes to go. I told the gang we would fish over the shallows in the hope of picking up a kingfish. They get quite big and love to feed in more shallow waters than wahoo. As soon as i told them we were looking for kingfish we had a very strong bite on our planer line. Steffy was on the rod and hooked up within no time and despite the incredibly slow day the crew all sprang into action clearing lines and preparing to catch this fish. It faught like a wahoo with jerks of raw power. As it got within 30 feet we could see it was a wahoo indeed and when it saw the boat it took off with another blistering run. Steff faught it back and this time it came in deep. Wahoos shake their heads violently to try and get the hooks out and way down below with it's colourful bands showing I saw the hoo shake a classic hook shake and swim away free. The crew couldn't believe we had lost this fish, but i didn't have time for lamenting. "Lines out" i shouted. We had another 25 minutes. Using my GPS i ran right over the area where we had the stike and within no time we had another big strike. It got off almost immediately, so we kept fishing. A few minutes later we had another one on. This time steffy brought it to the boat and the fish got close enough for me to gaff it. Finally we had a nice fish on board and it was time to go in. We powered up and winthin no time we were in Little Bay and ready to clear in with customs and immigration. After quickly clearing in we went on to the fishing party to have some of the famous "goat water" that Montserrat is known for. Goat water is a delicious goat soup and went down well while prizes were given out. We missed the women's prize by a few pounds this time. The winning boat only had 5 fish so it had been a very bad day for fishing. We had some drinks and an early dinner and decided it was time to go back home. Jolly Harbour was just under 30 miles away and the sun was setting. Nicole had left thirty minutes before and we contacted them just before leaving to say we'd be on our way. The sun was setting as we came out from underneath the volcanic cliffs and entered the Atlantic. Although it was fairly choppy we were going right into the wind and no spray came into the boat. We were able to maintain a good 20 knots most of the way until we got closer and were able to go faster. Going quick at night is always a thrilling adventure and by the time we got back to the Jolly Harbour we were all pretty tired. It took us just under an hour, but we had left port a long 14 hours before. We have one more tournament to go this year which happens saturday November 15th in Jolly Harbour. There are more fish biting now which is great but the forecast says it will be pretty rough. Been waking up pretty early the last few mornings with a little jet lag from my UK trip and did this vid of our Montserrat tournament adventure:

1 comment:

ann phelan said...

great story...Tony is a brave one indeed..you could not get me over board out there...bull shark indeed.