Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Fishing Tale – Attack of the Sea Grass

Written by, Michael Daubenberger

At some point, luck always has a way of running out and ours has with fishing.  It all started innocently enough when we oiled our reels one day at Crooked Island.  We figured our gear should be in tiptop shape for the monsters we would be catching.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  That’s the mantra we should have stuck with. 

Since we oiled the reels we have caught about 200 wads of sea grass and two 3-foot Barracudas.  Hardly worth writing home about.  We’re not sure if it’s the scent of the oil, the constant sea grass, our aged lures, or just plain bad luck but the fish aren’t biting off the stern of the Tanqueray.  5 passages, a fishing excursion and 340 miles later and still no fish to report.

Sara with Seagrass
However, the fishing has not been without excitement.  We have been traveling under some heavy seas that produce massive quantities of sea grass.  With the sea grass comes bites.  We watch the pole bend, the heart gets pumping and then we realize its just another clump of sea grass adding to our woes.  Time to reel in the lines clean them off and heave them back out.  Not a fun task when your sailing 6 knots in the ocean I may add.

Although we have not been hooking up on the passages, the Tanqueray is far from fish free.  There was the night at French wells on Crooked Island where we casted with light spinning tackle for horse eye jacks.  Our boat was surrounded by jacks hitting baitfish at the surface.  After dinner we figured why not toss a few casts out.  Little did we know we would be fighting them until midnight.  The first two broke the line straight off and the third was a true battle waged against all the anglers on the boat (Sara, Daubie, Max, Laura, and Myself).  The gear was light and the fish would not tire.  The fight ended with the whole crew jumping in the dinghy and chasing the fish until we were able to finally wrangle it in.  A 10 pound jack.  Great fighter, not to be eaten. 
Horseye Jack

Once again our fishing adventures turn to the underwater realm, spearfishing, at Atwood Harbor on Acklins Island.  Our first day in the harbor my pops speared two rock hind, a type of grouper.  The old man still has it.  He is quite proud.  The next day we collected lobsters with JJ.  See my previous story “JJ our Rastafarian host”.  
Daubie's Strawberry Grouper

Daubie's Stone Crab

We have some good spear fishermen in the family but I’m not one of them.  My father is and my brother is, but I instinctually scare fish away, and if I don’t, I don’t see them.  Lobster, I can spear.  Lionfish, I can spear.  Neither move when approached.  My spearfishing abilities were in drastic need of improvement. 

At Samana Cay I got a taste of progress.  Our first day in the water I got a good sized lobster.  Our second day a Permit.  The Permit I was proud of.  Permit are an excellent game fish and get quite big.  They are excellent eating and are not typically speared.  The Permit I found was swimming in a school at the edge of the reef.  I got to within 8 feet and took a shot with my Hawaiian Sling (The Hawaiian Sling is similar to a slingshot but it shoots a stainless steel spear, not a rock or marble).  A hit, but the spear went right through the fish.  I took another shoot and I hit again.  This time I get two fish on the spear at once.  As I race for the spear, one wiggles off.  The other, I am able to collect and proudly yard back to the boat.  Success!! 

I go back to the same spot.  The fish are gone so I take a shot at a snapper.  Right in the head but not enough umph.  The fish gets free and I search for him in the coral heads.  No luck.  Time to head back.  15 seconds later I’m met by a 7-foot reef shark swimming towards me.  I cock my spear back and watch him as he swims by not more than 15 feet away.  Lesson learned.  Hit your prey, get it on the boat, and out of the water quickly in the out islands. 

The weather comes in, bad weather that is, and we do not enter the water for a week.  Back in Clarence Town, Long Island, the fridge is empty, it’s do or starve time. Sara and I head out in hopes of spearing a couple pan fryers for dinner.  At our first stop I spear a grunt.  Grunts are small but tasty if you are willing to clean them.  I was.  We head to the next spot in search of another small snack.  Something easy. 
White Grunt

After 5 minutes we see the fish.  A good-sized Nassau Grouper.  I swim up to him slowly, avoiding eye contact.  He is constantly watching me but is not moving away.  I dive down, he turns sideways, a perfect target.  I pull back the sling and spear him in the guts.  The chase is one.  Even with a 5 foot ¼ inch diameter spear in him he is much faster than me.  He goes into a hole.  I follow.  The spear is sticking out and I give it a yank.  It won’t budge.  I release the barb, retrieve the spear and give him a kill shot.  It’s just a matter of working out the jigsaw puzzle to get him out.  Another 5 minutes and a couple bloody hands later and dinner is ours.  Again improvement has been made. 

Nassau Grouper
The next day we head to the same reef, this time with confidence.  We don’t see any big fish so I take a shoot at a pan fish that we have been curious about.  I’m 15 feet away and want to take some target practice.  I had no expectations of hitting the fish but some times you find the needle in the haystack.  It’s a direct hit, right through the head.  I collect the fish and a couple of conch and we head back to the boat.

However, our most productive fishing came at the most unexpected spot, the fuel dock.  We were filling up on fuel and water and I was chewing the fat with a couple of guys from a sportfishing boat, Tommy and Jason.  They had been out fishing the day before.  Tommy left and came back with a Mahi-Mahi.  He asks if I’ve got room in the dinghy for a fish.  Of course!  A forty-inch Mahi, with none of the work.  Next he comes back with a couple Yellow Tail Snapper and a Red Snapper.  I clean all the fish at the fish cleaning station.  Sure beats the cockpit of a rolling boat.  It would have been more fun to catch them, but it was great to fill the fridge before heading out.

Before this article could go out to post we made a quick trip to the reef outside the anchorage nabbing two big lobsters and a schoolmaster (snapper).  Not bad for an afternoon’s work!!

Sara with a couple Lobster
Mike with snapper and lobsters



  1. Great post Mike! Those last two lobster have me drooling. I feel the curse of the oiled reels slowly lifting. Watching as you head for the Turks, safe voyage you two. Love, Dad

  2. You make it look so dang easy! Still raining and cold here with intermittent spring sunshine and time for gardening. The only fish we eat are previously frozen by Cape Cleare! Love you both, m