Brad, Dan and Scott's Sailing Adventure

"There she is boys! The SS More Powerful than Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the Incredable Hulk combined." This space will be used to post updates of our odyssey.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dan and Brad's Spearfishing Adventures II

After two days in Cruz Bay we were longing for clean clear waters to swim in. We decided to sail around the north coast of St John, south of Tortola and planned a stop at Newfound Bay. This bay is outside of the park which meant most importantly that we would be able to spear fish. Hal, Dan and I set the anchor then hopped in the dingy and make the very short trip to the reef that we had passed near the harbor's entrance. Hal dove off the side of the dingy, anchor in hand, to search for a sandy an coral free spot in which to set it. Dan, Hal and I were armed respectively with a six foot pole spear, a trident pole spear, and the spear gun. Tips had been sharpened on the three hour sail to the harbor and we had high hopes.
Dan drew first blood. Dan chased a snapper into a hole and made a dive after it, a grunt occupied the same hole and Dan quickly dispatched it. Hal then speared his first fish; a red hind. This fish is a member of the grouper family and very good eating. Throughout the day's dive I had been enticed by the sight of a very large snapper. Both Hal and I had seen him on our last visit to this bay. I identified the hole that he lived in but as I got close he would go and hide very deep under his cover. This fish was many times larger than any others we had seen on this reef. I left him with hopes that he would reemerge if left undisturbed. While searching other parts of the reef a good sized bar jack swam by and caught my attention. These fish are not wary enough and with close aim I managed a good shot through the gill plate and head. We now had three fish in the dingy and lunch was looking good. Hal and I then saw the large snapper swimming freely outside his hole. We made our way toward it but it once again retreated into the depths of his cave.
Catching this fish now became my all consuming thought. We gave it's lair space hoping that he come out again. Dan and I stayed near, hunting smallish schoolmasters. A large moving shape caught my eye and I grabbed Dan's arm to direct his attention toward the snapper. He was once again out and about, swimming near his hole's entrance. I made my way towards him, Dan hanging back,.not wanted to spook the fish. As I got nearer he retreated to his hole and my heart sank. I held out hope that he would still be hovering near its entrance. I maneuvered to swim over the top of the coral outcrop and get a view down into the hole. As I came over the top I could see the huge fish hovering in its entrance. I aimed quickly but calmly and shot for his head. The spear gun kicked forcefully and the butt of the gun hit me in the chin. The shot found its mark and the fish began to thrash about inside its hole. Dan was quickly on the scene and attempted a shot with his pole spear. I pulled on the spear shaft, trying to fight the fish out of the hole's opening. At some point the fish worked its way off the shaft and was free for a few moments. However, "Well fucked up", by the shot to its head; it was unable to retreat deeper into the hole. Dan Jabbed with his pole spear and managed to stick the fish in its side. He was trying to pull it out of a smaller opening, but the fish was too broad to come out sideways. I dove down and grabbed it by the tail, freeing it from Dan's spear as I extracted it from the hole. With a short swim to the dingy the fish was landed.
After the obligatory pats on the back and high fives a marathon fish cleaning session commenced back on Kaleidoscope. Given the size if this fish we had some worries about the possibility of ciguatera poisoning. Ciguatera poisoning is a bio-accumulated toxin found in reef fish and the predators that eat them. It is entirely undetectable by taste or appearance with symptoms ranging from D&V to death. I gave Dan a sample of the fish and he got started on the hour long process of using our ciguatera toxin test kit. I filleted the smaller three fish and we began cooking those while I worked on the snapper. I cut a piece of scrap meat for Hal who placed it on one of our hooks and lowered it over the side. This gave me a thought. In order to attract more fish to our hook I ran a dock line through the gills and out the mouth of the filleted snapper carcass. This was lowered off the side and tied to the stern cleat. A little while after the sun went down Dan saw the fishing line jerk and was all ran to the side to see what was up. We saw a large ray glide pass and thought that to be the culprit but were then confronted with the site of a shark attacking the snapper's body. The use of our spotlight made this a very vivid image. Upon retrieval of the line, only the head was left.
The ciguatera test proved inconclusive, but we knew that larger reef fish are more susceptible to the toxin due to bio-accumulation. Fearing this, we used Dan and I as guinea pigs to test a portion of the fillet. After eating our meals we identified the snapper as a dog snapper, the most notoriously ciguatoxic of the snapper family. We also decided, after closer review, that the cigua-test results much more closely resembled the positive control compared to the negative control. Oops. As I write this we are currently awaiting the effects of any poisoning. You will have to read the next entry to find out if we are still alive. In the event that we are not you may direct your questions to Hal, who abstained from the snapper.