I think it's a fairly bright line, the one that separates those who fish and those who do not, those who think it boring, dirty, and cruel. I am, decidedly, one who fishes.
Fishing in a seven meter panga in the tropics is hot, sweaty, wet, bloody, fish-gutty, expensive, unstable, uncomfortable, slightly risky, kidney-pounding...and it's one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world. Keep your grand boats you millionaires and billionaires, I am happiest in a small boat with the local fisherman, and so it was today. Me and two Ticos who didn't speak a lick of English. But with my bad Spanish and some charades, we got on very well.
We pushed off the beach at 7am and headed south off Playa Negro where the first mate tossed the trolling rapellas over the gunwale, six rods total in the water. Within minutes there was a fish on, a rooster fish, my first ever. They give a couple quick hard fights and then tire. I landed five in the first 40 minutes and so we started off with a bang. Then it was calm for a bit before, at a slower pace, I landed five more roosters. We kept two, they are good for ceviche. We also caught two needle fish which are neither sport fish or good to eat. I nodded an apology as they swam off to freedom.
We saw bait balls, prey fish jumping and darting, breaching the water trying to avoid being eaten by something larger below the surface. Then we saw the fins, bonito! Incredible predators from the tuna family, these fish are great athletes and fun to catch, but not today. We chased the frenzies but nothing bit our lures.
Next, we headed offshore about ten miles to try for grouper in deeper waters. On our way we saw dolphins and sea turtles and I smiled till hurt. Just when the captain cut the motor the first mate swooped something up from the water and grabbed my hand and gave me a baby sea turtle. So damn cute, and it was alive! Maybe a day or two old. Most baby turtles don't reach maturity, most are snacks and meals for other sea creatures. I wished the little guy luck and gently slipped him back into the sea.
The first mate baited two boat rods with 50# test, five hooks each, squid, and a string of heavy weights. We paid out the line to the bottom and did a drift run, bouncing our bait along the bottom, concentrating, thumb on the line, feeling for the nibble, and then setting the hook. My first haul up was brutal. I fancy myself a strong woman, but I had hooked three croaker fish and hauling 175 feet of heavily weighted line with three 15-20 inch fish on, well, it took me about 10-15 minutes to land those fish. And then we did it again. And again and again. After a couple of hours of this I was exhausted. I landed seven croakers and the first mate landed none. I had a good day.
We reeled in our final drift and threw out the trolling lures for the long ride home. No more hits, but it didn't matter. I sat and watched the sea, felt the boat working, sea spray in my face, grinning, thinking of nothing and everything. I stood up next to the captain at the wheel, quietly watching the waves, the perfect line that is a sea horizon on a calm day..."mi amor es el mar" I said without looking over. "Yo tambien," he said, nodding and smiling. And then we were silent for a good long time.