Barbados Deep Sea Fishing on the Cannon II- I Finally Get Lucky
I’m about to go fishing, Barbados deep sea fishing to be precise. I wish I could say that my prowess as a deep sea fisherman was legendary. Heck, I’d even settle for paltry, but up until today even that would have been a lie and we all know that lying and fishing go hand in hand. I’ve known that since I was a kid where I was fascinated by a sign in Doroshenko’s Barber Shop that read “Are all fishermen liars, or do only liars fish? ”
Undaunted by previous skunkings in Kona, St. Lucia and Mexico Alison and I are booked aboard the Cannon II for a shared charter out of Bridgetown. Barbados deep sea fishing is not an inexpensive undertaking and therefore most people who don’t have a group large enough to charter a boat on their own join up with strangers to complete a charter and that’s what wer’e doing today. The arrangements for the fishing have been made through the Tropical Sunset where we are staying and a few days ago they did very well by us in arranging a snorkelling trip so I am hoping for a similar good experience today.
There is an old white guy waiting for us in the lobby and he introduces himself as “Just the hired hand” and he leads us out to a beaten up van so old it doesn’t even have seatbelts. It’s about a fifteen minute drive from Holetown to the Careenage in Bridgetown and on the way we learn quite a bit from this garrulous fellow. Turns out he is a native Bajan and his wife is the owner of the Cannon II that we are headed to. Along the way he points out a condo complex where Rhianna and Simon Cowell have places. He also takes a short detour to show us a tiny restaurant right on the waterfront where the fisherman land their catches which he says is where all the locals go for the best fresh fish.
Arriving at the Careenage we are led to the boat and get to meet our fellow passengers.
Before that, some explanations are in order about what is involved in one of these Barbados deep sea fishing excursions. Most of the boats have three chairs which are rotated between two persons per chair so the maximum number of fishermen is six. I can see there are already five people on board when we arrive, but one English woman is accompanying her husband and won’t be fishing, so we are six after all. Then the boss arrives – a formidable lady of about sixty-five who attempts to collect the balance of the funds. We had paid a deposit when we booked and had a slip showing the balance which was to be paid in cash. No problem for us, a young Englishman on his own and two guys who came together and were from Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick – more than half the boat were Maritimers! However, the English couple was another story. Not only had they forgotten their slip, but they didn’t know they needed to pay cash. What followed was something that could have come straight from a Monty Python skit as the English couple seemed to go into a combined panic attack with him saying over and over ” I dinno” and she saying” He dinno”. I don’t know if they thought they were about to be keel-hauled, but in a surprising move the guy from PEI said he had enough cash to lend them, even though he has apparently just met them. Instead, the boss managed to calm them down and pointed out an ATM not 100 feet away and soon the proper funds were in the proper hands and we are ready to cast off on our Barbados deep sea fishing expedition.
The Cannon II has a two man crew, the Captain who basically steers the boat and uses his skills to locate fish and the mate who does everything else including mostly getting the lines rigged and baited properly. If we get a fish on, both will do their best to see it gets landed. The mate is a young white Bajan who is the son of the owner and the ‘hired hand’. Apparently he and the Captain who is a black Bajan of about forty alternate responsibilities. It’s amazing to hear the difference in their speech when they are talking to each other than when they are talking to one of us – it’s like two entirely different languages.
Deep Sea Fishing in Barbados
The term deep sea fishing really means nothing more than you are trying to catch species of fish that fit the description of being pelagic meaning they don’t hang around on reefs and they’re not bottom feeders. They cruise the open ocean from close to the surface to hundreds of feet down in search of their prey – other fish. The pelagic species are the fastest and strongest of fish and include all members of the tuna family, marlin, sailfish and swordfish. The thing that lures fisherman to pay the big bucks to go deep sea fishing is the chance to land a truly huge fish, but the reality is of course that this almost never happens. Most championship fish are caught by expert fishermen, not Hemingway wannabes like us out for a few hours not far from shore. But there is always hope and given my lack of success in previous deep sea fishing outings I’ll be content with anything that’s larger than the bait.
The method of fishing is trolling which involves pulling a baited line behind a moving boat. Pelagic fish are fast swimmers so the fact that the bait is moving fairly fast is no problem for them. The bait we are using are ballyhoo, a small fish with a long protruding under jaw which identifies them as a member of the halfbeak family of fishes.
The mate goes through a pretty elaborate process of getting the bait ready and the end result is this.
So we are a couple of miles offshore, the water is hundreds of feet deep and we are ready for Barbados deep sea fishing! As I mentioned there are three fishing chairs on the Cannon II. The one you don’t want to be in is the middle one even though intuitively that would seem to be the catbird seat. Each of the side chairs has two lines while the middle chair has only one so it’s pretty easy to figure out that your chances are twice as good on the side as in the middle, but that doesn’t seem to bother the English gent who immediately appropriates the inappropriate seat. The seats on the side have both a downrigger which puts the bait down to eighty feet or more and an outrigger which keeps the bait on the surface about a hundred feet behind the boat. The middle seat has a line that is set halfway between the two.
Alison takes the first shift in our chair which is on the left side.
It’s not that long before we get out first action. The young English guy who is in the right hand seat gets a strike and has his hands full.
After about a ten minute fight he manages to bring in a nice looking wahoo which is a prized eating fish in Hawaii that they call ono.
Well, one jinx is broken – this is the first time anyone has ever caught anything on a deep sea fishing trip that had me on board. I can only cross my fingers that the ending of the jinx will extend to me personally and not just the boat.
In order to do that I have to actually get into a fishing seat and after the first catch Alison graciously yields the seat to me. The other two Maritimers take over the other two seats. Just sitting in the seat on a beautiful late February morning in Barbados with a Hairoun beer in hand watching the flying fish flee and thinking about not being in the blizzard that’s taking place back home, I’m in a kind of reverie when I hear a shout. The right side chair has another strike, but something’s not normal. Holy s**t, I’ve got one too! The mate hands me the rod and with shaking hands I finally get it into the rod holder on the seat and start the battle. It feels like a substantial fish or else I’m a lot weaker than I thought I was because it is a struggle to keep the rod tip up to stop the fish from getting any slack. This might be my first deep sea fish, but I’ve caught enough in other ways to know that you literally can’t give a fish any slack. After what seems like an eternity, but is only a few minutes the fish surfaces and I can see that it too is a wahoo.
The only way I’m going to lose him now is right at the boat, but the mate and Captain are both there with gaffs and at last he is aboard. The jinx is broken!
On the other side of the boat they have also pulled in another wahoo.
I don’t want to brag (well actually I do), but mine was the biggest of the three.
After this things slow down and there is no more action so we are essentially on a nice sea cruise socializing with beer and sandwiches in hand and watching the Barbados coastline pass by. I give up my seat to Alison for the rest of the trip, but alas no luck for her. All too soon it’s time to head back and before long we are back in the Careenage. The other two Maritimers have a place in Barbados and are staying for the winter so I was glad to say yes when they asked if they could have my fish. They were going to cut it up into steaks and bbq it tonight and whatever was left over would be frozen for later use. If he tastes half as good as the ono I’ve had in Hawaii they are in for a treat.
Before parting with Mr. Wahoo I had this last shot of us taken together.
This is my final outing on a fantastic trip to Barbados in 2015 and I can’t think of a better way to end it. In my next post I’ll have some advice on ten places to eat in Barbados.