Although Mike and I have been sailing over 25 years, we have never been inclined to cast a fishing pole during our time on the water. However, having met up with our buddy boaters, Trent and Monica aboard Pepper, who love to fish, I bought Mike a hand line for trolling for Christmas. It wasn’t exactly what we expected, so we sent it back and bought a used pole at Mariner’s Trading Post in Port Charlotte shortly after Christmas. We hung it on the ceiling in the spare cabin, and there it sat.
I had read there were fantastic fishing opportunities in the Bahamas, but the banks are so shallow, you could see the bottom of the ocean floor, and there were no fish to be had. However, on the eastern side of the Exumas, the ocean floor drops off considerably to about 6000 ft. below sea level, and as the day approached to sail on the eastern side, we heard several people discussing that now is the time to start trolling.
So we brushed the dust off and cast a lure off our unused pole. A couple hours later we received a VHF call from Pepper, excitedly telling us they had just caught a huge mahi-mahi that was the size of their cockpit. As I jumped back up on deck to tell Mike, all of a sudden you could hear “zzzzzzt” indicating we may having something on the other end of our line. Mike grabbed the pole and started reeling. Here’s Mike’s version of the story:
“Enroute to Georgetown I heard the reel of the fishing pole – making it’s first appearance for us – begin a noisy unspooling. I looked back and saw a fish leap from the water 40 yards astern. I seized the pole and positioned myself to reel in my catch. I had no idea what was on the other end of the line and if he was even still there. There would be moments of no response or activity at the end of the line and I would begin reeling it in only to be met a split-second later with a vigorous fight and another glimpse as he leapt from the water.
Finally, I had him alongside but had no idea how to get him aboard the boat. I think he was as perplexed as I was, this being a first for him as well no doubt. I made several attempts to measure his weight and the ability of my line to hold him by pulling him partially out of the water before dropping him back in. We were still under full sail at over 5 knots so he was briskly skimming the surface as we fought. Making up my mind, I lifted him once more completely out of the water and lifted him over the life-line and dropped him neatly on the afterdeck. He was a beautiful Mahi Mahi, glistening gold and blue. Before he could recover and decide his next move Gigi handed me a bottle of grappa and, leaning over his outstretched body I poured a healthy swig out of the bottle into his gulping gills. I hesitated and was ready to pour another swig when I saw the gaze in his eyes begin to fade and the color to drain from his body. The gold faded to grey and the blue to brown and just like that the life drained from his body. I apologized to him, and then set about donning gloves and fetching pliers to retrieve my only lure.
I still had sailing to do and landfall to make and filling a 5 gallon bucket with seawater placed him head first into the bucket, his tail protruding a good 10 inches above the top lip.”
Mike omitted a couple of details so I will attempt to fill them in. While we were tooling along under sail at over 5 knots, it never occurred to us to slow down the boat, so it’s amazing he didn’t get away and we didn’t run into a commercial vessel that passed fairly close to our starboard beam. We had to rely quite a bit on Trent and Monica: 1) to figure out what we had caught, 2) to figure out if he was dead yet, 3) to ask them what to do once he was dead, and 4) once we were anchored in Georgetown, how to fillet, scale, and wash the fish, estimated to be a 12 pounder. Jasmine was excited as we were, at one point she dumped the bucket containing the fish over and we had to restrain her in the boat to keep her from enjoying her sashimi snack for the evening.
Overall, we were quite excited and proud of ourselves. Although Mike did all the work, I got to clean and prepare the fish for dinner, and it didn’t cost us a dime. It was the best mahi-mahi dinner we had ever had!