Day 21: A different sort of fishing trip, took us spear fishing over the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Claire and I booked a fishing trip with Sea Grass Tours, two guys in their 60’s who we were recommended to do the tour with. $60 USD each for a full day fishing plus snorkelling, we were excited to get on the water to see what we could catch.
The next day, we turned up to the boat with 6 other people on the tour. A variety of nationalities and ages, it was a lovely group of people. We were a little confused as there we couldn’t see any fishing rods. The boat wasn’t particularly large but it did have a hatch at the front, which I thought the rods might have been stored in.
2-minutes later one of the guys turned up with a load of harpoons; Claire and I looked at each other. ‘Looks like we’re going spearfishing then’, I said and we laughed.
The captain took us out to the coral reef, the second largest in the world, and we were told how to use the harpoons. The demonstration was sketchy, to say the least, and the equipment was a little worn however we got the gist of it. We were told to swim in pairs for safety and we were quite glad to do that, as there was definitely a slight concern that someone might end up spearing your leg! Safety in numbers.
We were shown a card with pictures of fish we could shoot and ones not to shoot. In short, if it looked ugly shoot, but it if it was colourful, leave it. We all jumped in the sea and tested out the spearguns, which were much trickier to operate when there was a current pushing us around under the water.
After about 20 minutes we had it mastered and we were now on the hunt for the ugly fish. Success came quickly with as I got my first fish quickly. Working in pairs, we returned to the boat to drop our catch off in a bucket on the boat. Whatever we caught in that bucket, we’d be eating later that night.
When we arrived the captain had also gone out fishing and was back on board gutting his catch, throwing the scraps overboard. Keen to catch more fish we went out again. Swimming away with my harpoon in hand I saw something large resting on the seafloor, you guessed it a massive shark!
Easily over 2 meters, a nurse shark had been pulled in by the smell of the dead fish guts being thrown overboard. I decided to give it a wide berth, as my marine knowledge of shark behaviour was somewhat limited and heavily based on the movie Jaws.
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Speaking with the captain later, I was told nurse sharks don’t attack humans, they suck fish into their mouths. This gave me a little more reassurance however I was now paying more attention to what else might be joining us on our hunt. It turns out that Claire hadn’t even noticed the shark, but every time we returned to the boat, we saw a least two sharks circling the boat so she eventually registered them.
We were given a lot of freedom to explore the sea and in addition to a fun activity, we basically spent a whole day snorkelling, seeing an abundance of fish and other sea life. Claire and I went hunting together and we had a great time catching fish and we even caught a lobster, due to Claire’s keen eye and my harpoon skills.
The captain had told us to look out for the lobster’s antennae which poke out of rocks and may only be noticeable for a few seconds. Once you think you see some antennae you have to float quietly to see if you can see any movement below. Claire had spotted some antennae and trying to see whether there was a lobster beneath, gestured to me to swim back and pointed downwards. Suddenly the lobster crawled from underneath the rock and we were able to get it.
Underwater the lobster looked massive and we actually high-fived underwater because we were so happy. Only after taking it out of the sea we soon realised it was an illusion as it was much smaller than first thought. Our smiling faces dropped slightly with the realisation that we would not be feeding the entire group, but we were absolutely over the moon. This could have been the same with the shark, but in my eyes, a shark is a shark.
Either way, the lobster was still going to be the freshest lobster we were ever going to eat.
When we got back to shore everything we caught as a group was cleaned and cooked for us by the staff. We had a feast! The lobster was the prize catch and the group very kindly agreed that as we had caught it, we should enjoy it. The lobster meat was sweet and succulent and utterly scrumptious. Catching our own food and eating it the same evening was an incredible experience and one we would be keen to repeat.
Harpoon fishing is another skill we can add to the CV 🙌🏾