The ocean is my hunting ground. A rubber band powered spear gun my instrument of death. My flippers sleekly propel me through the sea with the stealth of a mako shark.This is what I imagine spearfishing to be like. It was my most anticipated vacation activity. I told Phil for months that I wanted to learn how to spearfish- Survivor style. In my fantasies I envision myself free diving down to coral outcrops and hitting medium sized grouper with a Hawaiian Sling.
We spent our first afternoon on Caulker wandering around to different tour operators, asking if they offered this excursion. We were typically met with hems and haws and and noncommittal responses. I guess this was not a excursion that is typically requested on the island. Fishing trips and snorkeling are common, but we weren’t interested in that; we just wanted to spear some fish. We were told to find Jacob at the Bellas Backpackers hostel as “he’s the only one you want to do this with”. But when we looked for him at the hostel, he wasn’t there, and we were told his boat was broken anyway. So we kept asking around and finally were referred to a hotel where the manager’s husband supposedly knew how to spearfish. As luck would have it, the manger was out of the country but the front desk girls were able to contact her husband and get us all set up for the following day.
We met Jahlee at the dock.
Hopped in the boat and off we went.
First we cruised by the top swimming and afternoon hangout spot on the island, the Split.
After a quick stop for gas, we were off to find a good spot to hunt for fish.
So finally we reach our spot and then reality took over.
I am pregnant and slow as I slosh through the water, grateful I have a gun with a trigger so I can use my other hand to help paddle. I also don’t see any grouper- the only fish I’d recognize as edible.
Our tour guide told us not to hit anything “pretty.” Obviously I don’t want to spear the angel fish or those vibrant blue tang, but everything else looks so “pretty” to me too.
Then I see him- an ugly mother f#cker sitting on the bottom between two coral heads. I swim up to him, hover above my prey, assessing. Yes, he’s ugly as hell. I should kill him. I dive down and he still hasn’t moved, he’s just sleeping there in the sand! I put the gun to his head and pull the trigger like a coldhearted fish assassin.
He twitches a bit on the end of my spear as I swim to the surface- victorious. If ugly equals good eating then I have the filet mignon of fish. Excitedly I hurry back to the boat to ask our guide if this catch is a delicious delicacy.I surface and realize my goggles have played a cruel trick on me by making my prey look much larger underwater than he actually is.
I’ve shot a 4 ½ inch sand barracuda.
“Can I eat him?” Jahlee grins and says “sure, we could get a fillet off that.” But we don’t; we end up feeding it to a nurse shark hanging around the dock begging for scraps from better fisherman than us.
Luckily Jahlee takes a shift hunting and quickly spears us 3 nice hogfish.
We then pull anchor and head to a favorite spot of his to dive for conch. The conch are slow quarries and in only about 20 feet of water, pretty easy pickings. At least for me; Phil couldn’t go dive deep enough to grab one.
With dinner caught, we start heading back in but not before a brief stop on the back side of the island for a little more fun: tarpon feeding. We take the bait that we didn’t use fishing and use it to amuse ourselves with our own aquatic version of hungry hungry hippos. Tarpon are big and ugly and surprisingly fast. We learned they can jump out of the water to snatch a dangling piece of bait- wicked! I tested this myself and screamed like a little girl when a big guy leapt up with lightning speed and snatched a piece of sardine right out of my fingers.
Wait until the 0:56 mark to hear me scream.
We arrived back to the dock and Jahlee retrieved his tools and began cutting open the conch and filleting the fish.
Jahlee then bagged our catch, put it on ice, and we were on our way. He recommeded a few places on the island that would cook it for us. So for dinner we headed over to Terry’s Grill on the back of the island.
Terry’s Grill is exactly as it sounds. A man (Terry) and his grill, with some picnic tables set up around the back of his house.
So we gave him our catch of the day and then about 20 minutes later….
Grilled fish, cooked conch, rice and some pasta salad. Not the best meal we had in Belize, but still it felt pretty cool to eat the products of our afternoon of labor.