Fishing

The greatest fishing parties of my life took place while I was on board the vessel, sailing the oceans and the seas of the world. This must be obvious for many people who think that everything you need for a good fishing is the water. But, this is the least thing you really have on your side because the thing you need most is time. You may have the greatest and most suitable fishing tools, you may be surrounded by thousands of gallons of water from all sides and thousands of hundreds of fishes lurking around, but if you do not have the possibility to stop the vessel – at least for a few hours – and fish, everything may be forgotten. All you have to do is watch and admire the fish jumping around the vessel or some other bigger fish (or mammals) hunting smaller fish in their everyday life routine.

Only 15 years ago, it was very easy for a vessel to stop in one place – in the middle of nowhere – and fish a few hundreds kilos of fish, to fill the vessel’s fridges with fresh provisions. Sometimes a vessel could even change the route in order to find the best spot for fishing, or doing this while anchoring for a few weeks two-three miles outside the harbor. Nowadays, ships are moving at higher speeds and  there is almost no time to relax and have a break. A ship is running around the world for a few years almost continuously, without stopping more than the normal time required for cargo operations and there is no time for anchorage, nor drifting around for a few hours of fishing. Moreover, with all eyes watching your vessel’s every move, it is impossible even to think about stopping for a few hours while crossing the Atlantic (for example) or underway from one port to another. Anchorage days are shorter and shorter or, if they come in bulk, this may happen in the worst places ever, where there is no fish alive due to overfishing or pollution. During a four month voyage at sea you may be lucky to catch a few hours of anchorage, but, not always in good positions or in good weather. Nevertheless, you still have to carry your fishing tools with you because, if the moment comes, the last thing you need is to be unprepared.

I have heard many stories – dated from 25-30 years ago – about weeks of anchorage when the whole crew was doing nothing else but fishing. For this reason, they were eating nothing else but fish and they were even selling it or trading it for different products. They were catching so much fish, that all the provision rooms were filled and they were forced to get rid of it – one way or the other – in order to prevent it from getting spoiled. At that time, there was a lot more fish in the sea than today and there were no restrictions for fishing.

Since I started travelling on container vessels I had the chance of enjoying some incredible moments while fishing in the rich waters of Indian and South Atlantic Oceans. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time for a few times only, but I never gave up. I always carry my fishing tools with me and try to catch some fish when the vessel stays at anchorage, even if this happens very rare nowadays. Most of the times, I manage to catch something, even if the anchorage time is only for a few hours, but I hope I’ll get the chance for a longer anchorage time in the future. And I also hope the anchor will be dropped in a good fishing spot and not in a crowded and polluted area.

I have to admit that almost every time I tried fishing, I managed to catch something – at least 2-3 fish to be captured in a photo, but the greatest fishing parties I had so far took place in the anchorages of the ports of Savannah (USA), San Antonio Este (Argentina) and Karachi (Pakistani).

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In the afternoon of 3rd July 2008,  the vessel I was travelling on (HS Livingstone) was supposed to enter the Port of Savannah. We were all very excited to arrive in the city and have a walk in the center. The next day, America was celebrating Independence Day and we had the prospects of a whole free day to enjoy among the locals in their usual 4 th of July parties. But, only a few miles before picking up the pilot, we got the information that the vessel was going to drop the anchor and stay in the anchorage area until the port was opened again for cargo operation. We were all a little disappointed. Our plans to have a free day alongside – with the chance of going out into the city – had been turned upside down, but another idea came quickly into my mind. And not in my mind alone. A day of anchorage was something I had really been waiting for as it was bringing the chance of trying some fishing. At that time, I was not carrying any tools with me, but, as everybody else from the crew had a lot more than needed, I was immediately offered a fishing rod and started my ‘hunting’. I remember that fishing day very well as it was the first important fishing party of my life at sea. I spent more than 5 hours throwing the fishing rod into the water and the results were not great, but the experience was something I would never forget. I don’t know if there were many fish in the sea beneath us and I don’t even know if I was using the right bate. All I know is that I caught the most diverse display of fish in my entire life and some of them by mistake. I couldn’t bring all of them up on deck – I was only able to watch some of them for a few seconds before plunging back into the water – and, anyhow, after taking photos, I released all of them back into the sea. Most of them were not edible, others were too small. It was the only time I was able to catch sharks – some very little, but one quite big – and I even caught a star fish which I sent back into the water in a few seconds. My collection from that day included also a balloon fish, a flying fish and few other fishes, most of them small and very small in size.

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After two years, in November 2010, another day of anchorage – with a different vessel and in a different sea – caught me again unprepared without the necessary fishing equipment. Fortunately, as the vessel was sailing the rich waters of the Indian Ocean, almost everybody on board had some kind of tools (bought from ashore or handmade on board) and I was given the most interesting one – the special tool for catching squid (calamari). Catching calamari (by hand, not by nets) is one of the most interesting and exciting kind of fishing. This creature is so beautiful. With its soft and tubular shape body, the squid can swim very fast by taking water inside and then ejecting it, through a funnel like cavity. The special tool needed for catching squid is made up of a great number of hooks put up together in concentric circles. Getting closer to these hooks leaves the poor animal with no alternative, but becoming prisoner very easily when at least one of its tentacles gets stuck in one of the hooks. Taking it out of the sea is also exciting as the squid becomes ‘a little aggressive’ and tries to defend itself by throwing the water out and spraying everything in vicinity. Sometimes, a small quantity of dark blue ink is also expelled as a last way of fighting. Catching squid can take place only during night time, using lights, because these creatures are attracted to light and gather in big groups around the luminous spot in the water, giving you the opportunity to choose and catch the desired piece.  I don’t know how much squid I caught in those few hours of night fishing (between 4-5 kilos) but it was really a great experience. I don’t even want to think about the delicious meal we had after that – when fresh squid was put on the burning grill and everybody had his portion.

Fishing calamari in the Indian Ocean

Fishing squid in the Indian Ocean

While I was catching squid, the other guys from the crew were catching something else. Some were catching some kind of small fish and the others were catching some bigger fish, using the small fish as bait. The bigger fish – called barracuda – was a little too scary and quite difficult for me to try, so I continued the fishing party only with calamari, but keeping the score by counting out loud every time a barracuda arrived safely on deck (some of them were brighter than the others and managed to escape, by breaking the hooks and the line). All in all the capture from that night numbered 9-10 pieces. Another unforgettable experience for me.

Fishing baracuda in the Indian Ocean

 

The greatest fishing party of my life took place in the South Atlantic Ocean while I was on board a small container vessel which brought me to three ports in Argentina during a four month voyage. One of these ports is called San Antonio Este and it is one of the smallest ports I have ever seen in my life, being able to accommodate only one vessel at a time (together with some smaller fishing vessels). Arriving here was a moment I was anxiously waiting for, because almost every time the vessel was alongside, we were able to go fishing in the aft or even forward. The fish we caught was not too big, but, as it was coming in bulk, we were more than happy to collect it.

Extract from HS Liszt diary:

“ 24 March 2012

Yesterday evening we went fishing after coming back from our usual walk on the beach. The guys were already fishing forward and not in the aft like they were doing yesterday at anchorage. It is a little different now, being alongside, with all the ropes spreading around in the aft. Things can get complicated and even dangerous. So, everybody moved forward where it is more difficult to throw the line – the distance between us and the water being bigger than in the aft – but we had a great success. I and Christian caught a few kilos of fish – not bigger than the palm. So, did the others. The most interesting part of the evening was the grill. While 6-7 of us were busy fishing, one Filipino fired the grill and started preparing the fish. The preparation did not take too long because it included only salting the fish, without washing and cleaning it. After few minutes on the grill – on both sides – the fish was ready to be served, using no plates, no forks. I have to admit that it was delicious. And I also found out its name – red snapper.”

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In the small, but beautiful, port of San Antonio Este I had my part of great fishing. Every time we were alongside, if the water was calm, we were waiting for the high tide and going outside (mostly forward) for another fishing party. The fish was coming all the time, most of the time the grill accompanied the capture and everybody was pleased.

The greatest fishing party took place in the same waters, but one mile outside the harbor and it lasted for almost one week. We arrived in the area few days before Easter, but it looked like we arrived too late. The port was already closed due to Catholic Easter and the vessel had to drop the anchor for at least 5 days. These six days were the most exciting and tiring days of my life and I am still very grateful for the chance I was given.

Every afternoon, we were starting fishing together with high tide – 8-10 people together – and, in 4 hours, we were catching 70-80 kilos of fish (maybe more). We were catching so much fish, that our cookie and steward had to work until 1 or 2 a.m. to wash and clean the fish in order to store it in the fish room. We had to take a break on Saturday and Sunday – because we had to celebrate Easter – but went back on positions on Monday, the last day of anchorage, before entering the port. The most common fish everybody was fishing was the lapu-lapu – a kind of fish which is very famous and expensive in Asia because of its delicious taste and lack of small bones. One fish like this could weigh almost half a kilo and most of the times I was catching two at a time – an operation which proved to be very difficult for my hands. Most of the members of the crew were fishing in pairs and so did we because it was easier like this.

Extract from HS Liszt diary:

“6 th April 2012

9:00 p.m.

We’ve just come back from fishing. It was the greatest fishing experience of my life and I am looking forward to doing it again. Together with Christian, we caught more than 15 kilos of fish – only lapu-lapu and red snapper. Lapu-lapu was coming mostly in pairs and it was very difficult for me to pull the fishing line back on deck, so Christian was doing his part of the job, helping me bring the capture up on deck. I was throwing the line with little pieces of squid as baits on the hooks and the first fish got caught in only few seconds. After a few seconds more, the second one was coming and I had to pull the line right back, otherwise it could break due to overload (if a third fish was coming). We continued like this for almost two hours. The most difficult part of the evening was the pulling of the fishing line up on deck and the extract of the hook out of the fish’s big mouth.

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Some of the guys were trying different types of fishing and they managed to catch few big salmons, after loosing them many times. Each time the salmon was breaking the hook, the guys were replacing it with a bigger one … until the right size came into place and the salmon had no chance of escaping again.’

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“ 10 April 2012

9:00 a.m.

Last night I had the greatest fishing experience of my life. I know I said the same thing few days ago, but I am right this time. After one day break – due to Easter Sunday – we went back fishing on Monday. This time even more people were in the aft, but not everybody was fishing. Some of them were only watching, others were just helping. The cook, the steward and some other guy were washing and cleaning the fish continuously – arranging it in different boxes in order to be placed in the provision room.

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Christian and I caught more than 30 kilos of lapu-lapu. We worked in pair – like we did the previous days – and we ‘fought’ really hard to pull the fishing line up on deck. Once, we caught three fish at a time and we were very close to loose the line. For this reason, we decided to put baits only in two hooks, so we continued to take lapu-lapu  out of the water (two by two).

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IF– Salmon –

IF– Lapu-lapu –

One guy almost caught a very big salmon (maybe 10 kilo one), but the fishing line broke few meters above the water and the fish went back into the sea.

The grill was even more interesting as usual and the fish more delicious because one guy was cleaning the fish before putting it on the grill. Somebody must have told him that European people usually wash and clean the fish before eating it, so, trying to please us more, he even agreed to throw away the fish guts and put the fish clean on the grill. I had to take a break from fishing in order to taste the delicious fish, but I was even doing both things at the same time … using one hand for eating and the other to cut the squid and put it in the hook. I am sure I mixed the hands more than once, but it really didn’t matter. The fish was good and so was the fishing.”

I hope I’ll get more chances in the future to experience some good fishing. In the meantime, I am always prepared. I take my fishing tools with me all the time and wait for happy anchorage days.

PHOTO GALLERY

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