25 April, 2016
April 24 started out with an early departure. We got off the dock at Spanish by 07h00, retracing the route taken by the ferry the day before. It promised to be a pretty day. The sun was blazing low on the horizon as we motored slowly out through the creek, and between the coral heads to the ocean. The low sun made it a little unnerving running through the coral, as it was blinding, and its’ low angle made the water black, and unreadable. We breathed a sigh of relief as the fathometer started reading ever-increasing depths. Fishing was on the docket, as crossing the New Providence Channel meant lots of deep water. I had rigged the last of our frozen Ballyhoo (Little fish, about 10”-12” long that the big guys like to munch) the night before, so baited up and got the lines in by 08h30. We got our first hit at 09h00. As the line was running off the reel and Suz was coming back to the cockpit, another fish hit the second reel. Twenty minutes later, we had 2 Mahi, a 47” and a 44” in the cooler. Within a half hour, the third Mahi was in the cooler, this one a smallish 42 incher. The Admiral said “No mas!”, but we dragged some artificial lures, anyway. I guess the fishing gods knew that we had had enough fun for one day, so for the next 6 hours, we rolled along over 1’-3’ seas, enjoying the passage to Great Abaco island, fishless. Sirius XM radio was playing a Prince tribute, so the tunes kept coming, bringing back some poignant memories for both of us (we’re both Prince fans, and have had some great times while listening to his music). By late afternoon, we were tied to the dock at the familiar Schooner Bay Marina (this is where we started our trip to the Abacos in 2015). One of my enduring memories of this place was being nearly devoured by the No-see-ums. I wasn’t disappointed. The “flying teeth” were out in full force while I stood at the cleaning table filleting fish. The task was made simpler (if not longer) by my new-found pal, Jack, an 11-year old on the other boat docked here. He was the fisherman in his family, and he was gonna catch a Mahi, so he would need to learn how to filet one. He brought his trusty new filet knife to the table with him, so our first task was to learn how to sharpen a knife. As we went about our task, and impromptu anatomy lesson, he regaled me with the family secrets (as 11-year olds are want to do). The least damaging went like this: “We didn’t have a very good day yesterday, my Mom especially”. “Oh, really?” (Note the open-ended question here) “Yeah, I was casting off the back of the boat, and my hook got caught next to the dinghy. The dinghy is inflatable, so I was terrified (his word) that I might put a hole in it. I pulled the line back, and got the hook stuck in me. These fisher guys were on the next boat, and they came over and tied a string to a hook, told Mom to hold the line tight, and jerked it out. Well, I guess Mom didn’t hold the line tight enough, ‘cause the hook flew through the air, and landed in her, even deeper. Then, they did it to her.” By the way, this story was corroborated earlier in the day, as 2 fishing boats were chatting on the VHF radio. Well, we got the job done. Jack got to try out his new filet knife, and my “Really big, really sharp” one, and took a couple pounds of Mahi filets home for his efforts. (this after he cut the eyes out of the fish, killed about 50 black flies, squirted the washdown hose, sharpened his knife, and chased a few birds-you get the picture). Mom, Sarah, took half of the fish up to the lodge, where it was cooked for her family’s dinner. A fun day. I think I’m gonna be a better Grandfather than I was a Father. Went to bed with a big smile on my face.
What a day. We were off the dock at Schooner Bay at 0800. By 0900, as I was putting the second line out, we got a hit on the first one and boated our first Mahi, a 44 incher. He gave us quite a fight. I rebaited, and we were trailing 2 Ballyhoo with green/yellow silicone skirts. Within 15 minutes, as I was cleaning up the blood from the Mahi, one of the reels started. Click……. Click…. Click, Click, Click………Cliiiiiiiiiiick. Started real slow, then that reel was screaming out line. “Fish On!” I really didn’t need to tell Suzanne, she had already slowed the Girl, flipped on Otto, and was headed back to the cockpit. The fish jumped, maybe 150 yards out, but I didn’t get a good look at it, because I was focused closer to the boat, but out of the corner of my eye, it sure didn’t look like a Mahi. Maybe a Wahoo, but it didn’t FEEL like a Wahoo (not enough brute strength). Suz asked if I wanted the other line reeled in, but I said “no”, ‘cause where there’s one, there may be another. Twenty minutes later, as we got the fish closer, and got a glimpse before he headed straight for the bottom, we could see that he was some sort of Billfish. Panic set in. We had to let him go, but really didn’t know how to go about it. Suz remembered a fishing captain telling her that you just grabbed them by the bill, removed the hook, and turned him loose. Yeah, sure. Anyway, we reeled him up from the depths, and brought him alongside. Raising him out of the water by the single strand steel leader proved a challenge, as he wasn’t done yet. Between the two of us, we got him up enough for me to grab his bill, while he resisted frantically. We snapped a couple of pictures after we untangled him from the second line which I had unwisely had Suz leave in the water, dehooked him, and sent him back to fight another day. He was only about a 40-pound Sailfish (or maybe my adrenaline was really kicked in), and we wondered what we would do if we hooked a really big Marlin. Guess that’s another question to ask the next time we meet professionals at a dock. We put the wide angle lens on one of the camera bodies just in case we had another opportunity. I’ll be darned. A half hour later, the same tentative nibble on the bait, then all H, E, double hockey sticks, broke loose. This time, as the reel was screamin’ out line, I focused on the waaaay out. Another one. Suz played him for 15 or 20 minutes, then began the give and take to get him to the boat. Meanwhile, I reeled in the other line. After a bit, the ratio of give to take tilted in her favor, and he was alongside. Another Sailfish! This one was pretty bloodied, and we were concerned that he might not do so well, but after we shook the hook out, he wallowed for a few seconds, and was off to the races. The next few hours, we trailed a couple of artificial lures while I went up top and started cleaning the boat. I was standing on the roof of the pilothouse with a hose in my hand, when Suz laid on the horn, throttled down, and screamed “Fish on”! By the time I got down to the cockpit, she was on the reel, and nearly 500 yards of line was out. A second later she said “I think we lost him”. Boy, did it take a long time to get all that line in. Done for the day, entered North Bar Cut and headed up Tiloo Cay, where we would anchor for the night. At anchor, we finished cleaning the Girl, and I filetted the Mahi, while Suz made fresh bread. She’s calling me for dinner (fresh Mahi), so I gotta go.
PS Still no net for pics.