The following was written for the Killarney newsletter…
As most of you know, we spend the winter months aboard our 40 ft sailboat, Windswept IV, in the Bahamian Islands. Fishing is an integral part of our life aboard and adds greatly to our diet.
Our rods are two five foot tuna sticks, equipped with Penn 113H reels loaded with 40 lb line. The short rods are an effort to keep line and rod from tangling with the bimini, the wind generator, and the rest of the gear on our rear deck. The rods are placed in homemade rod holders and deployed whenever the boat is moving. Lures used are rubber hula skirts over a number six hook or a silver spoon. Because barracuda chew them up, the rubber hula skirts are assembled aboard from components. This makes them less expensive and not quite as painful to lose. We also carry a Cuban or hand reel, which is mostly used in the dinghy. For fun, there is a light-weight, collapsible casting rod that can be used in the dinghy as well. An integral part of our fishing gear is a bottle marked “fish juice”. This contains some rum to be poured into the fish’s mouth or gills and has the same effect as on humans – renders him insensible. We also carry an Hawaiian sling with several spears for use while snorkeling.
So, with all of that equipment aboard, you would think that we would have all the fish we can eat. Not true. We try but do not always have success. That is why it is called fishing and not catching.
While sailing from Little Harbour, Berry Islands, towards Nassau, we caught our first fish of the winter. It was a six lb skipjack tuna and just solid meat. This was the first tuna that we had ever caught and we very much enjoyed it. From the fight to get it aboard to the delicious barbequed fillets, it was a real treat.
In Staniel Cay, Exumas, we snorkeled and spear fished almost daily. As Nassau grouper was protected until Feb 16th, we had numerous sightings of those delicious fish. But, we did shoot many glass-eyed snappers and one lobster. Actually, the lobster Murray speared but I grabbed it by the antenna as it tried to escape. Bahamian lobster are the spiny lobster and do not have claws but do have very long, very picky antennae. Luckily, I was wearing gloves.
Conch were seldom seen this winter but we did manage to pick some up near Rudder Cut Cay, diving in strong current and deep water. On the same occasion, we saw lobster and many fish but, with the strong current, they were very safe from our spear.
We sailed from Cave Cay back north towards Staniel Cay in the deep water of Exuma Sound. The lovely zzzzing sound was heard from one reel and Murray landed a 30 inch Mahi Mahi. A second one had hit the other line at the same time, but it spit the hook. Blackened Mahi mahi for dinner – mmmmm. We panfry the fillets in a cast iron pan with blackening spices on both sides. Very tasty and spicy.
Another skipjack tuna took our hook while we were in deep water making a passage from Cave Cay, south to George Town, Great Exuma. It was an eight pounder and we froze it to be enjoyed later with our expected guests.
Our son, Jeremy, his wife Cynthia and 2 year old son Matthew joined us for 10 days in George Town. For entertainment, while dinner was cooking, Jeremy got out the casting rod and caught many pan fish using some chicken giblet pieces as bait. Later in the week, Murray and Jeremy went out in the dinghy and trolled with the Cuban reel, catching a 24 inch cero mackerel.
But, one of the strangest fish stories happened one evening after a full day of high winds and rain. Everyone was showing signs of cabin fever, none more so than our grandson, Matthew. So, into the dinghy Murray, Jeremy and Matthew jumped and headed out for a little break from the boat. Exploring the nearby dredged area, Murray spotting something in the shallows. They went closer and saw that it was a fish. It was injured and swimming mostly on the surface. Murray called for Jeremy to use the bucket to catch the fish. It was much more lively as they approached and escaped many times before they finally got it into the bucket. It was a nine pound mutton snapper, one of the best tasting fish around.
Also while in George Town and snorkeling nearby, Murray and Jeremy spotted a slipper lobster. They look more like a bug than a lobster and have no antenna or claws. The body is almost square and the flesh is extremely sweet.
From George Town, Exuma, all of the way north to Little Harbour,Abaco, a distance of 200 plus miles in deep water, we trailed lines astern. They stayed very quiet. Finally, on the way to Little Harbour, we hooked into 3 Mahi Mahi. One was almost to the back of the boat when he spit the hook. None of them graced our table that night, as we didn’t manage to land a one.
All of the way through the Abacos, our lines were silent. No zzzing. Not until the very last night, as we were closing in our our last anchorage in the islands. Just outside of Great Sale Cay, Murray thought that he had hooked onto the bottom, as the reel spun out. Finally, he braked it down and started to reel in, fighting all of the way. I saw a glimpse of red fins and we knew it was a mutton snapper. When it was finally aboard and weighed, it was the biggest one yet, weighing in at 10 lbs of solid fish.
In the morning, we hauled anchor and sailed towards the edge of the banks, headed for Florida once again. Before we left the shallow banks, the line sang out once more and Murray landed an eight pound cero mackerel. With our freezer full and night falling, he washed the rods and reels in fresh water and put them away. Until next winter when the Bahamian Islands and their turquoise waters call to us.
For more information on the adventures of Windswept IV, check out our website: www.Windsept-IV.ca .