09 August 2012

Belizean Fishing

The other highlighted day of my Belize trip was the fishing trip we took in San Pedro. Fishing! It was an expedition that none of us had done before (except for Bekah, but we'd have to sneak into North Korea or something to outdo her) and never thought we'd do. But, then there we were in the tour office as the guide knocked off the price because he wouldn't have to imbibe us, and we couldn't pass it up. The five of us had the boat to ourselves, along with the native tour guide who spoke as much English as you'd expect a Belizean fisherman to speak. We couldn't even understand him when he told us his name, and we wouldn't have been able to understand his directions had he offered any. We rode offshore, sipping Cokes and Fantas, then anchored and cast our lines. I was impressed at how much I enjoyed myself out there. Maybe it was the allure of a motorboat and four ladies on a beautiful, sunny, Belizean morning, or maybe it was the live sardines being chopped before my eyes, but whatever it was I was having a ball. To catch the sardine bait our instructor cast a large net into a school of them and then hauled them into a small water tank in the rear of the boat.  All very Biblical and thrilling. I was the first to catch a fish, but it was endangered or something and we had to throw it back. Unhooking a fishing lure from a live fish squirming for life in your hand was not my favorite aspect of the trip, but a necessary one if you don't want to destroy the oceanic wildlife. The second fish I caught was also a throwback; I think because it was too small. Bekah caught the first keeper, a grouper. After that she and I went nutso, catching a few fish apiece. No one else got anything until we started trolling. I always thought trolling would involve small, naked dolls with lots of fluorescent hair, but apparently it's when you hook bait to your line and then drive in the boat. Basically it's fishing on the run. While we were trolling we caught a large 3 foot barracuda off one side of the boat and a 2 foot tuna off the other side. We caught them both at the same time, which resulted in an extremely frantic 4 minutes. Our captain was barking orders spanning the width of the boat, none of which anyone could understand. I was in charge of the tuna, and got it in the boat despite it's wild and ferocious thrashing. Did you know tuna's have teeth? Sharp ones. Captain No-name started yelling at me to stab the fish to put it out of its misery and to end the thrashing; this something I wasn't really prepared to do. I have never killed anything larger than a spider. But, knowing that my life as well as the lives of my shipmates was likely in danger, I grabbed the largest knife I could see, raised it up and struck it right through the fish. A little shocked at the horror I had just witnessed, never mind committed, I fell back stunned at my own violence. Apparently I stabbed it through flubber because it didn't even seem to notice. Only problem was now it was flopping about the boat with a giant knife coming out of it. Turns out the captain was telling to me club the fish, not stab it. That would have been equally disturbing I feel. As all this trauma was going on he was on the other side of the boat helping Karin wrestle a very large barracuda. He was not happy with Karin, something that made us all uncomfortable, and eventually the barracuda broke the line and got away.
For lunch we cooked the groupers and ate them, along with the conchs we found while snorkling. We put them in very chewy tacos. Talk about fresh fish, huh?
In the afternoon we just snorkled with sharks and rays. No biggie compared to wrestling tunas.

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