Tuesday, May 15, 2007

pre-fishing tournament stories

A fishing story to get us in the right mood…:

Last year on a practice run we went out form Jolly Harbour very early in the morning bound for the “east bank” in search of the blue marlin. We knew that the more we caught the better we would get at it, and we were very serious about making sure that we knew what to do when tournament time came a few weeks later. Some people thought it was funny that we were out on a practice run for a fishing tournament but I knew it was important. It ended up being a bit choppier that we had expected and it took us longer to get to the bank which was 20 miles from Jolly Harbour. The bank is one of the few shallow spots around these parts which isn’t on the marine charts and finding it was super difficult when I was younger. As kids my brother, other friends and I would go up there to fish for tuna and had to use three land marks in order to find the correct place.

We knew for sure we were in the right place because whenever we got there birds would cover the bank giving away both its position and the position of the tuna. Anyway, on this practice day I wasn’t on the old pirogue with my brother using land marks. I showed this pic of the small boat before and she used to catch fish, but i dont think we could catch a grander which is what we were after.

This time we were on the Arawak Odyssey, our 52 foot power catamaran which usually works doing the eco tour. Helping us find the bank and its edge were the electronic GPS chart plotter as well as the sonar depth recorder. The bank is a few miles form the continental shelf way out East of Green Island and the water around the bank is roughly between 900 and 6000 feet deep. The shallow bank itself is on average about 350 feet deep and the tuna and various other fish congregate on its edge. Wherever you find small tuna in these waters you will also find Marlin, and this is what we were hoping for. Finally we got to the bank and started trolling through the birds using massive lures which targeted big blue marlin. For about an hour we didn’t see any marlin or other big fish. Marlin fishing can be exceptionally boring, and many compare it to other forms of big game hunting. The hunt can be long and patience is of utmost importance. Suddenly we say something off in the distance that looked like a big floating object. Since floating objects in the Atlantic usually have loads of fish surrounding them we thought it would be worth going in for a closer look.

On the way there we saw some frigate birds and managed to pick up a few mahi mahi fish which gave us some of the excitement we were looking for. Their boisterous energy along with their beautiful green and blues always are things to excite fishermen. While fighting the fish we saw that the object off in the distance was getting closer, and we could see that it was actually an Atlantic row boat just coming in from The Canary Islands.

Some people say these guys racing across the Atlantic in tiny row boats are completely mad, but the thought of being in a row boat for a couple of months with all the excitement and mystique of being out there alone kinda excites me too. (not too serious mom, don’t worry)
Anyway, we managed to pick them up on the VHF radio and had a nice long chat with them. I guess we were the first people they had seen in about 70 days and seeing Antigua off in the distance filled them with excitement. We told them that we had just got some mahi mahi and that we were really looking for Marlin. To our astonishment they then gave us an interesting story. They said that half way along their trip, mahi mahi started hanging out with them feeding on other fish that would hide and feed under their row boat. Two days before a huge fin appeared behind them as they rowed into the sunset and it approached their boat rapidly before diving below them. They said they panicked for a moment not knowing what it was then saw it surface near them again immediately recognizing that it was a monster blue marlin. The marlin was trying to attack the mahi which were now trying to take refuge under the row boat. This photo by John Ashley shows a marlin hitting and killing a fish.

As soon as the marlin appeared next to the boat it vanished into the blue abyss and for nearly five minutes things returned to normal. All of a sudden there was a massive smash from under the boat’s hull and the two men knew that they had been rammed. What they didn’t know was why, but in my opinion the marlin hit the boat as it tried to kill one of the mahi mahi….crazy but true. The little boat actually took on water and they had to do a underwater repair job the next morning. Anyway, hearing this story the crew and I became even more determined to find a big blue. You will find out if our practice mission produced one tomorrow in part 2. hehehe