At the bow of the boat he stands, a net in his hand. The surface of the water before him is calm, quiet and glasslike. He stares at the water silently and not an inch of his body moving. His assistant moves the boat ever so slightly.
Here in Crooked Island he is searching for pilchards, small oily fish used in live bait fishing. Suddenly the water erupts with hundreds of small fish and the man, in a flash, blankets them with his net, catching them all. Not a one escapes him. The fish are dragged and placed in a water tank at the back of the boat.
“Now we can fish,” he says with a smile on his face.
We’re going just off Acklins to a spot he says will yield giant fish. Our boat jets from the tranquil waters of the mangroves into open ocean. The water soaks me to the core but we finally weigh anchor and cast our lines out. I’ve never used an actual fishing rod before. My guide explains to me how it works and what to do when I hook a fish.
His assistant’s line suddenly spins manically.
“It’s a big one,” he says, holding onto the rod. Suddenly a barracuda crashes above the surface of the water.
“You’ve hooked a big one for sure,” the guide shouts.
I watch with amazement. How thrilling. The assistant, after much work, reels the barracuda near the edge of the boat where it is eventually subdued and captured.
“That’s huge,” I say.
Over the course of the next several hours we catch dozens of fish, some mighty in size. I get the hang of the rod, apply ample amounts of sunscreen and enjoy the breeze when it hits me. We have a cooler filled with fish at this point and time has come for us to head home. The boat engines roar to life and we once again dance along the surface of the water at breakneck speed. Suddenly the boat slows down.
“Let’s try this last spot right here,” my guide says with a smile.
Before he says another word I jump overboard into the water. I plunge nearly 10 feet into the abyss. When I surface and climb back onto the boat he says, “You’re brave. I’d never jump in this water. There are some real monsters here.”
“Monsters?” I ask. “What do you mean?”
He laughs and hands me my rod. I hook the bait, taking great pains not to kill the pilchard, and cast my line out. In mere seconds my line starts moving. I wrestle with whatever is on the end of my line for a few minutes before it crashes on the surface of the water.
“A barracuda,” my guide says.
“Ok. Reel it in nice and slow. Ok. Now let it tire out a little. Just like that. Now reel it in.”
I reel it in and hold it up, once it’s subdued, noting that it is larger than the assistant’s.
“Now that’s how you fish.”