We’ve been hangin’ with Passport a bit. Cruised on down to Isla Tigre to see the Re-Enactment of the Kuna Revolution, then up to Green Island for the last few days of Lobster season and some good ol’ fashion lobstering and snorkeling. Those avid readers will remember that W/ went into Panama City with Becca and Ann (Galivant) for a couple of girls days. and while there they picked up Becca’s old (she really doesn’t want me to say how old but never fear I will hint) college room mate; Emily, and in my name recognition world I call her “Legs”… She’s just about W/s height, maybe plus an inch or two.
Thus, Lobster season for us passed without a bang. IB and I were mostly skunked. We had spent the last 2 or was it 3 days in the water a minimum of 14 hours :) each, as long as there was light and we were routinely shut out. Oh; we saw a lobster; one, that would have been a good catch for a small 100 gallon aquarium; but, those last few days we never saw a lobster large enough to get a decent chunk of meat out of.
So there we were the day after Lobster season, waxing away in our self pity when the girls; W/ and Legs, decided to go snorkeling,
and in the early afternoon no less. Every good fisherman innately knows that the big fish are NOT out dining when the Sun is high enough in the sky to spread its rays into every nook and cranny there is under
water. But as neither IB nor I had much to do we acquiesced and said we’d go. I of course would still carry my spear gun as if I would have left it on Elysium I’m sure I would have ended up with dinner swimming right up to my face, stick it’s tongue out at me and bubble in the water. “Ha, Ha”! So I carried my gun. Today was a day the bio rythms of luck came together.
That morning I had just completed adding a new rubber on my spear gun. It’s a great gun; a Riffe, that I ended up having purchased two years ago in the Virgin Islands. We were in the VI’s and I wanted a good 3′ gun for spear fishing. The Bahamas spoiled me and I figured that a 3 foot gun would give me a good 1-2 meter range and that would be enough to feed our boat. We waited and waited for it to arrive at the dive shop and finally we just had to leave Charlotte Amalie so we went to the dive shop for a refund; we had to put a deposit on the gun as the shop owner didn’t want the gun ordered and not bought and we had made it clear that we would be leaving in 2 weeks. “No Problem” he said, his supplier always shipped promptly and thus we would have it in time. He didn’t want to lose a sale and I did want the gun so he let me have a 4′ gun for the same price I was paying for the 3′ gun. Sweet! I walked out of the dive shop smiling and W/ walked about 4 steps in front of me not wanting to be seen by the dork (me) carrying a 4′ spear gun as we strolled down the water front of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Back in the boat we stowed the gun and took off.
Just a week ago, and a couple of days before the end of Lobster Season I had accidentally dropped my 5′ lobster spear in about 80′ of water. IB volunteered to go grab his Scuba tank and we’d find find my spear as long as I keep the dinghy anchored in the same spot. I did stay anchored with the dinghy; we didn’t find the spear. We left a bit disheartened.
That’s how I had ended up lobstering with a 4′ Riffe spear gun. The first time I went out looking for the world record bug (Lobster) one of the rubbers on the gun had broken. The gun has two and will actually handle 3. Oh well. For Lobsters one band would be enough. But at the end of Lobster season I needed my double bands back and that’s how I ended up putting a new band on the gun the morning after Lobster Season.
Legs is just about identical to W/ same size, same build and similar snorkeling attitude. Surface snorkeling is good, looking around
is good, Sharks; Barracuda and BIG fish BAD! She is however a couple of years younger. They both believe; maybe with their petite size, they’re the bait. The 4 of us were on a fun snorkel trip, I with my trusty spear gun, the girls with wide eyes and shallow dives (I noticed W/ needs a little weight added for improved free diving) and Legs was learning to surface dive, IB was assisting all of us while Becca elected to hang on Passport.
We were floating along a reef with a nice 20-30 foot ledge. I was looking for Cero Mackerel (we had seen a maybe 50 swim this ledge the last day of Lobster Season and now I don’t see a one.) Floating is the right word for this dive. We were out just after high noon. the Sun illuminating us as stage actors, the water a little cloudy, the current basically nil and small fish abundantly hanging out in large schools. We had floated about 1/2 way down the reef with the girls on look out for anything imaginably threatening (W/ will spot 10 sharks to my 1), and Legs was constantly looking at her behind making sure there wasn’t anything attacking from that direction when she got IB’s attention and said she saw a BIG fish swimming slowly below and behind her. I was in front of the snorkeling party- patrolling, with W/ then IB and finally Legs bringing up the rear. IB told Legs it was a Butter Fly and she said “NO!, the fish behind the fan thingie with the big tail”. It was then that IB stuck his head out of the water and hollered at me, “Dave a big Grouper is down here!”. I immediately turned around and there was a nice size grouper slowly cruising away from the reef towards deeper water.
As quickly and calmly as I could I dove down and scooted belly tight to the bottom towards the Grouper. I think the fish was concerned with the 3 snorkelers on the surface as for the moment it paid me no attention. I approached the fish with the gun extended and knew I needed a good shot. There is always only one shot snorkeling with a spear gun and with a fish this size I wanted a good clean one as I fear this size fish could easily drag me along to the bottom trying to escape with the spear stuck in him tied to the gun and me holding on! I crept up slowly towards him and he still seemed oblivious of me. I’m now within striking distance but to be more accurate and to make sure the spear penetrates I get as close as I can. He begins to turn and I fear swim for the depths. My air supply is getting short, my adrenaline is rising, and about 8′ away from him I pull the trigger. While those above said they could hear the spear launch, the Grouper appeared to have missed the sound and it looks like I struck him about where I was aiming and have a good clean kill. As I swim closer I see that the spear has indeed penetrated him just above the spine, slightly behind the head and he slowly rolls over; I hope, dead. I grab the spear and swim slowly towards the surface hauling the BIG fish behind me. The girls estimate 7 lbs (obviously all those years of guys lying to them about size and length has had it’s effect), IB estimated 30 lbs and I thought in the 20 lb range. I offered to take the grouper to the dinghy and then come back and join them on a continuation of our snorkel trip.
I grab the fish through his eye sockets and begin my swim back to our inflatable dinghy. There was a Remora hanging on the Grouper and he still wants to hang by him. I don’t care. I’m full of adrenaline and conscious that moving a dead fish in the water can still offer dangers. The Grouper barely stirs, he’s either dead from a great shot on my part or died of a heart attack when he realized there was something bigger than him out here and indeed this time he was the hunted.
At the dinghy I try to hoist him aboard. Out of the water he is heavier. Damn fish must be more then 20 lbs. I try to launch him up and over the side of the dinghy and fail. In trying to get him in the boat I’m required to be extremely careful and not puncture a hole in on to the dinghy tubes with the pointy end of the spear protruding from the catch, after all since an inflatable can be blown up it can also be flatten. I don’t want to remove the spear till he’s in the boat, just in case he’s faking death and only taking a nap. I move around to the stern and using the stern as a lever I get part of the spear on it and lever the Fish up over the transom and into the boat. I’m exhausted. Fortunately IB and the twin bait (W/ and Legs) decided that they too should come back! The Ramora is looking for another partner and decides to attach to Legs first; for all of 3 seconds, before she flies out of the water and into the dinghy, second W/ who’s not fond of her new relationship with the Remora and she too exits rather quickly; this time not requesting any help to get in the dinghy having enough motivation to do it entirely on her own, followed a few minutes later by IB who had fun teasing the Remora while it attempts to seek a relationship with him. All aboard the dinghies we now we marvel at how big this fish we all participated in catching is. With W/ and Legs the bait, IB being the go between and I the shooter. We may have discovered a new and better way to spear fish.
We have to brag. We dinghy over to Infinity ( Frank and Gretchen - Frank being the best spear fisherman of the gringos in the San Blas; easily diving past 50′ and then shooting a fish), Audrey Paige (Dennis and Alaine) and finally to Passport where Becca decides
we must celebrate with a bottle of wine. We crack open - for us, not the fish. The decision is made to clean the fish on Elysium as our cockpit is large enough, we thought the dinghy wouldn’t be stable enough swinging a sharp filet knife, and the beach not clean enough. At Audrey Paige we measured the catch. Dennis has a formula for calculating the weight. The fish was 43″ long with a 30″ girth and his formula resulted in 48.3 lbs. How many fish like that will I ever have a chance at shooting again?
Becca was running errands in and out of our boat as she was the only one dry, W/was directing and trying her best to keep the area clean. Legs did her best to keep Gus, the Grouper (yeah, the girls had to name the fish) from sliding around and keep it upright while I wielded the filet knife, and once the filets were off IB then removed the skin. Amazing; to do this with 4 people took about 2 hours.
We washed and then divied up the horde of meat, giving about 1/3 of it away. The rest was to be consumed this evening and then frozen on Passport and Elysium. Right now I’m exhausted and going to take a shower while attempting to clean up the scales and fish slim hanging about in the cockpit. What a day, hanging out in Kuna Yala, snorkeling and chatting with friends, blue water, gorgeous beaches, spear fishing, cleaning fish, eating fish, and living to lie about it another day. Ain’t nothing better!