Sailboat Fishing on Alacazam Part 4
by Dick McClary
Sailboat Fishing and the Rottweiller/Alligator Cross
Next morning we set off for Tyrell Bay anchorage, just around the headland. Hardly far enough to raise the sails so we put in a leg out to sea, to make sail of it. And of course I still had the remains of our hero in the fridge (who’s our hero? Take a look at Sailboat Fishing on Alacazam Part 1 to find out). I set up the 30lb outfit with a blue and white tuna feather, adorned with the whole hero fillet. Brown boobies, always a welcome attraction for this skipper, were much in evidence. The presence of these diving birds usually means there are fish around, so I was ready for it to happen.
But it didn’t, until I wasn’t.
We had passed inside Sisters Rocks, and had turned east to enter the anchorage. I was at the mast dropping the main, and Mary was helming and tidying away the sheets and other assorted string. My next job would have been to bring the trolling gear in, but it chose that moment to burst into action. By the time I got back to the rod the fish must have been 300yds or so astern, and trucking. I set the hook and hung on.
In the distance a long, lean fish leaped high into the air. A wahoo? King mackerel? Neither unfortunately. It turned out to be a barracuda, and a big one. Mary had two objectives; to keep the fish astern, and Alacazam off the reefs that border the anchorage, and the shoal that’s in the middle of it. The fish was doing little to help, which I thought was pretty unsporting of it, but my instructions to Mary were again clear and concise, along the lines of “mind-the-rocks-turn-the-engine-on-watch-the-depth-where’s-the-camera-get-the-gaff”. She just doesn’t know how lucky she is.
With our main half down and our slalom-like approach to the anchorage, Alacazam was again providing huge entertainment to anyone who cared to watch. Sometimes I wish we hadn’t painted her bright yellow. Blue with white flecks might have been better. We gaffed the barracuda and got it aboard.
Jonas and Ylva were there to welcome us in, having been one of our audience. “What on earth was all that about?” Jonas said, and something else in Swedish when he spotted the barracuda taking up most of the cockpit sole.
It’s not a fish you’d want to make a pet of, the barracuda. Distinctly uncuddly. Not so much a piscatorial spaniel, more a rottweiler/alligator cross — and this one looked very cross. A slug of Jack Iron rum poured directly into the gills had killed it quickly and humanely before it could carry out any malicious intent.
But what to do with five feet of dead barracuda? Many sailboat cruisers won’t eat them, especially large ones, owing to the risk of ciguatera poisoning. Ciguatera is a toxin found in many reef fish, and predators that feed on reef fish. It collects in the fish’s liver, so an old, large fish is more likely to have accumulated a dangerous amount of it than a small, young one. If you’re unlucky enough to eat a fish that has it, then you could be in for a very torrid time. It’s generally accepted that it’s only present in the resident fish populations of the northern part of the Caribbean chain. South of Guadeloupe incidences of ciguatera poisoning are very rare indeed. But a fish the size of this barracuda may have travelled far, and could just be down south on holiday.
The good people of Carriacou though, having eaten local fish for years, are made of sterner stuff. A quick call on the VHF, picked up ashore by a taxi driver, soon had a grateful islander, Sharwin, alongside to collect the fish.
But what of our little hero, the threadfin herring, who although having failed to provide anything for the barbie, went a long way towards it in tempting three good fish, one of which we cut away, one that got away and one we gave away.
Well, according to Sharwin, indirectly our hero fed forty people. Nobody died.
Well, that’s my tale about four days of sailboat fishing aboard Alacazam. Now let’s hear yours …