Another Fishy Tale

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Wed 22 Feb 2017 17:50
George Town, Exuma  23:28.21N, 075:43.73W
We stayed in Thompson Bay, Long Island for a few more days enjoying another beach gathering with those we were sharing the anchorage with. This time we were blessed with the musical talents of our wandering minstrel friends which made it a perfect evening. There was another front due – yes, another one, so we opted to take our leave and head back to George Town via Hog Cay where we’d previously enjoyed a very pleasant overnight stay on the way up from George Town. There is always an ulterior motive for choosing this route rather than the more direct shallow banks route. It’s so we can trail the lures and hopefully catch something to eat. We had Hog Cay anchorage to ourselves for the whole afternoon and evening. It was flat calm and perfect for a swim.
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Beach fun. ‘Skip’ illustrating how tall he used to be before living on a boat......getting stuck into the food......and serenaded by our musos
The following morning we hauled the anchor and headed off into the deep blue water for the 18 mile motor to George Town. We were trailing a varied assortment of lures with ‘Skip’ changing one for another every half hour or so like a crazy football manager using his full compliment of substitutes. We have green ones, pink ones, shiny ones, dipping and diving ones – the repertoire is considerable and all can work on their day. But this didn’t seem to be the day for any of them as we motored closer and closer to the cut from the ocean side into Elizabeth Harbour. Until that is, over to port about three hundred yards away we could see a feeding frenzy taking place. On days as calm as this they are more easily spotted usually helped by a flock of seabirds swooping down to the surface to grab any bits and pieces the predators have missed. You can go to all the aquariums in the world and watch fish swimming in a man made environment but to see this event in the wild with hundreds of fish thrashing around is a spectacle to behold. This was definitely going to be the only opportunity to catch something this trip so the autopilot was disengaged and we made a sharp turn to port with our assortment of dodgy lures slowly making the same turn behind us.
Experience has shown that driving the boat straight through the feeding frenzy isn’t the best guarantee of success. The fish tend to forget about filling their stomachs in order to get out of the way of spinning propellers. So we skirt round one side of the melee and then turn sharply again to take the lures straight through the feeding mayhem. As we approached we could see good sized (for us) tuna leaping clear out of the water but were they in pursuit or being pursued? It was hard to tell from a distance. When we made the next turn to present our gaggle of silicone beauties dressed with vicious hooks to the seething mass of fish it became clear what was intruding on the tuna’s lunchtime activities. Right in the middle of the shoal on the surface was a large shark and it wasn’t after what the tuna were eating. They were far too small for shark to bother with. It and maybe more sharks beneath the surface were eating the tuna which accounted for the valiant efforts from the shoal not to become a target meal for the efficient eating machines in their midst. And now our lures were also passing through that same area. We didn’t fancy hooking the shark or any of it’s mates that might be lurking.  In any case most of the lures would have been too small (we hoped!).
It was akin to the three cherries coming up on the one arm bandit at the funfair. Or our American friends might describe it as a duck shoot when decoys have been deployed. All three lines we were trailing suddenly went tight as we left the frenzy behind having extracted our booty from their midst. We stopped the boat to begin the process of pulling the lines in. The starboard line no longer had anything on the end. Shame. But the port line with three pink squid-like lures had a tuna on each hook! All three were hauled onboard with the aft deck beginning to look like a bloodbath. When they were safely ‘in the bag’ we pulled the midships line in. It felt light and empty but surprise, surprise there was tuna number 4 having given up and raised the white flag. With the sizes ranging from 5 to 7lb each we had over 20lbs of fresh fish although skipjacks and of relatively lower meat quality. (You are not complaining are you? – Ed)
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What’s in the bag? ..........                                                one tuna.......                                                                                            two tuna..........                                                                                                  
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Three tuna.......                                                                                    four!                                                                                Voilà!
We motored on to George Town with ‘Skip’ cleaning up as much of the cockpit mess as possible. Before entering the harbour all four fish were processed in deep water rather than throw the heads and guts into George Town harbour and risk encouraging undesirable visitors amongst the swimmers of the anchored fleet. Tuna spoil quickly as well and are best dealt with before coming into range of any flies from onshore.
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Just a few pence at Hayling car boot sale  – the heroes of the day                                                                          Unhappy sunset - sign of things to come
Our first stop was to gift one of the fish to friends in the harbour as four was just one too many for us to freeze down. The rest we kept and are gradually eating our way through . Given the choice, a Mahi or two in the mix would have been nice. The only place you can select what you take home is the fish market of the supermarket and you have to pay for those. So we were happy with our catch. Who wouldn’t be?
To bring events up to date we are now sheltering in Masters Harbour a few miles from the main anchorages in the area as a low pressure system forms in the Gulf of Mexico. It will cross the Florida peninsula overnight and head northeast in the coming days. Winds are expected to be around 25-30 knots at the height of the event with the possibility of squalls and thunderstorms to 40 or 50 knots. We get one of these systems once or twice a season and just have to take shelter and sit them out. At least the fish are quite safe from our or anyone else’s trolling activities for a few days to come.
                                                                                                              One happy fisherman!