Sailboat Fishing on Alacazam Part 1
by Dick McClary
Sailboat fishing is more about food than sport, which is why the following sequence of events kicks-off with a barbecue, or more accurately, the lack of one.
Just about all the other boats in the anchorage had one, but we didn't. Tantalised by the smoky aromas and happy chortling that drifted across the anchorage I wanted one. Mary didn't, conscious of all those little carcinogens lurking in the charred meat, intent on doing bad things to us. Ergo, no barbie.
Now I'm not much of a cook, which is not the best of news for Mary, as she ends up enslaved to the gas cooker below. There's nothing chauvinistic about me, you understand.
But sailboat fishing is my thing, and in a thoughtless moment I said that "Of course if we had a barbie I would cook the fish on it". Before I could retract this casual remark I was whisked off to the chandlery by a suddenly enthusiastic Mary, later emerging $200 poorer and clutching a Magma barbecue and a large bag of charcoal.
As we departed Bequia on passage for Union Island with the sailboat fishing gear deployed astern, hopes were high. My thoughts were already on the fresh dorado steaks that would undoubtedly be sizzling on the barbie that evening.
But the waters of the Caribbean are clear. Fish can see for miles. The appearance of the shiny new barbecue on Alacazam's quarter-rail had them nodding wisely to each other and giving our spread of trolling lures a wide berth. If fish had fingers, I could guess what the index one would be doing. Mary said I was failing to catch on purpose, just to avoid cooking. They can be so cruel, women.
Sailboat fishing is not just about fishing from a sailboat ...
On dropping the hook in Chatham Bay, fishless, I was heartened to see loads of fishy activity on the surface. Just as soon as we had Alacazam safely anchored, I was off in the dinghy with a light spinning rod. With tuna creating panic amongst the baitfish wherever I looked, confidence was high. Mistakenly, as it turned out. My surface lure (a Yo-Zuri Hydro Popper), usually dependable in such situations, was totally ignored. Rumours of the recent purchase had spread far it seemed.
Now we hunter-gatherers never give up, so arriving back at Alacazam, fishless and ready to fend off sarky comments, I thought it might be worth trying a spot of jig fishing from the cockpit.
Jigging involves raising and lowering a specially designed lure close to the seabed. The trick is to lower the lure to the bottom, wind in a turn on the reel, lift the rod tip fairly smartly then lower it, allowing the lure to flutter back down again. Continue this process until a fish grabs the lure or your arm drops off. To give the fish no chance whatsoever I attached a string of small Hokki shrimps above the jig, a Williamson Gyro Jig in this case.
It worked. Within a few minutes I had a fish, not huge admittedly. Well, quite small really. A threadfin herring, every bit of six inches long. Holding it triumphantly aloft, expectant of praise and adulation, 'her below' pointed out that I would need to be careful which way I placed it on the grill or it would fall through. They just can't help themselves, can they? And so disrespectful of the little fellow who was destined to play such an important role in the forthcoming sailboat fishing events.
In the failing light, the prospect of a sundowner took precedence over any further incursion in the threadfin herring population, so the hapless victim was reduced to two fillets and consigned to the fridge.
To find out what happened next in this thrilling saga, you'll have to read Sailboat Fishing on Alacazam Part 2, The Sting in the Tail ...