29 Wednesday Jul 2015
Isn’t it great how some hobbies lead into other hobbies you may have never found otherwise? Cruising is like that in a way. Sailing and anchoring in remote locals puts you in touch with all manner of water activities and sports. We’ve seen wind surfers, kite boarders, rowers, and more recently, spearfishers.
When we first arrived here, I went out with Steve (SV Tango) while he used his spear gun. It was exciting for me to watch this guy combining hunting and snorkeling and the fish were great to boot. So I knew I had to try spearfishing.
I bought a little starter model gun off of another boat that didn’t use their’s and began the slow process of learning to shoot and dive. At first I didn’t even know which fish were edible and which weren’t. There was a period of intense research and looking into our fish guides and books. Most of them didn’t say which fish were good to eat. In fact, one of our reef guides basically said never eat anything. Its almost like it was written by a vegetarian. But then another cruiser gave us an “edible fish guide” and Steve continued to show me which fish could be gotten and eaten.
(Side note: The fishery here seems to have no limits, or at least none the locals will divulge and nothing turns up on google. The reef is extremely healthy and teeming with fish. So please, don’t attack me, I’m new. I’m not an environmentalist but I agree with conservation. I eat what I shoot and will continue to improve over time.)
The first few times I was terrible. Missing all kinds of shots. I adjusted the rubber bands many times learning the pains and pleasures of the double constrictor knots and how long I wanted the rubber bands. Even so, my effective range was very short and I consistently saw bigger fish that were close but my little gun could not land. I was determined to fix this problem.
As it turned out, we met some other cruisers that put us in touch with the owner of a Beuchat shop in San Andres. This guy rocks. He took our order and air mailed me a gun the next day. I also eventually bought some long fins from him.
Long fins turned out to be something I had never seen, heard of, or considered until now. So much to learn. They afford you much more efficient kicking so you can stay underwater longer. Speaking of staying under, I tried to do the whole “test your breath while sitting still thing” and was surprised that I can hold my breath between 2.5-3 minutes. I’m hoping to up this over time and get it to where I can do a full 2 minute dive. Diving takes up a lot of oxygen and so my dive times are much shorter. Right now I think a “long” dive for me is probably 45 seconds to 1 minute (maybe less in current). I can swim down to around 20-25 feet now. I didn’t know this was possible because for years I’ve had problems popping my ears. But starting in Mexico I began popping my ears 10 times a day and finally I can equalize. Though I need a lower volume snorkel mask because I know its giving me issues.
I have been honing my technique and learning from locals. The bigger gun has given me a much greater range, but it is a lot more difficult to load than the little gun, well worth it though, as I was able to land some much bigger fish than I had previously. I’ve begun trying different approaches I read about online, such as just going to the bottom in the shallows and “waiting” for a the fish. I have also tried to confuse groupers by digging in the sand when I know one is hiding in a hole. Sometimes it works!
Groupers, rock hinds, graysbys are my favorites, followed by a hogfish I got, and the snappers and jacks are good too. We have had all kinds of new dishes, from open fire fish roasts to chinese recipes I’ve been giving a try.
By the way, beach dinners are great.
Dani holding a grouper.
The lone hogfish fed six people. I steamed him with garlic and onions, then poured soy sauce, vinegar, and water ontop of him on the tray. I put it on the table and ladled some searing hot oil over the top of the fish with some fresh ginger. It turned out to be GOOD. I suggest you give it a try. Click here for the recipe I used for the base of this dish.
Hog heaven aboard SV Karl (White Spot Pirates)
Here is a clip of what the diving looks like:
So in short, I’m loving life at the moment. I spearfish almost daily and eat fish in the evenings. I’ve lost 15lbs since I started! Dani was really giving me the stink eye in Isla Mujeres because I had promised when we started cruising I’d get back into shape and exercise a lot but in MX I just didn’t. Here, its hard to keep me out of the water!
I suspect that my knowledge of reef fishing will continue to grow as we travel because I’m hooked – or speared – if you will.
(last photo credit: Nike aboard SV Karl)