The Tug of War

27 Jan

A very old story when I was first getting hooked on freediving.  This story happened circa 2006, right about when the sickness took me over and I began to squander all my money on gear and all my freetime in the water.  I look back at this story some 7 years later and man have things changed…

In two weeks I’ll go in for my shoulder surgery, and after that I won’t be able to fish, spear, or be as active as I like to for a few months until it totally heals. So knowing that I took four days off to enjoy life :). I found myself three out of the four days heading out to one of the islands, the water has been clear and warm.

As always there are fish all around me on the island, and I end up bagging bonita (small tuna family) and some yellowtail. On the second day we saw a school of about twenty rush past us and we both shot really nice ones. Yellowtail sashimi and grilled yellowtail collars anyone?

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fruits of a hard days diving, fresh yellowtail sashimi and grilled yellowtail collars with a side or rice and spicy mayo mix

So this third day me and my buddy wearily dragged our butts onto my boat and we shot across the water again towards the island. Diving three days in a row is pretty  hard on the body!  It’s a quick run, an hour later we find ourselves on a different part of the island.  It’s rougher on this side and we’ve never gone that far before. We pulled into a spot that held yellowtail, but today the water was a milky blue. We could see baitfish scattering and running about. But this was the area where they saw a great white shark last week and also last year. In fact last year some guys I know saw it underwater and they rushed back to the boat.  You don’t stand head to head with the taxman, you let him have his space if he’s the senior accountant.

Looking at that murky water, me and my buddy said at the same time that it felt sharky, he didn’t even want to get into the water. Man when two guys get the heebie jeebies like that sometimes it’s a sign so we bailed out and headed back towards the frontside. I found a nice spot that had bait and a good drop off, that has been the recipe for our success the past few days.

As I struggled to slip into my already wet, wetsuit i could feel the cold material sticking to my body. My buddy opted to nap and he already had laid out on the deck of the boat. I grabbed my rabitech railgun “bad karma” and slipped into the water. I’m excited because the water is super clear and I see schools of bonita running thru, they look like silver rivers of fish there are so many. I take careful aim and hit two which I place on the stringer on my belt. They will make great sashimi for lunch, I’ve aleady planned ahead and have rice, wasabe, and soy sauce on the boat :).

No yellowtail show up so I head back towards the boat. A huge sea lion approaches me and agressively dives underwater towards me. He’s looking at my fish and I remember hearing a story about a guy that almost drowned because a sea lion grabbed his fish on his belt and took him down to eighty feet before he was able to release that belt. As I kick away the sea lion rushes towards me and tries to snatch the fish, I try to prod him with my gun but he does backflips under water and blows bubbles in my face. He bares his teeth and he knows he’s faster underwater and can hold his breath way longer. Again and again he taunts me, waiting for me to let my guard down so he can snatch those bonita. He bares his teeth and comes in for a bite and I kick at him and change his mind and he finally takes off.  Bastard.

I concentrate on my dives and work my way back to the boat. In the distance I see four yellowtail moving thru and they are all nice fish, about 15 or so pounds. I drop down and carefully try to guess where they are heading, and I pretend Im not looking at them. It works and one of them dips down for a closer look, pfwwwwwwt the spear shoots from my gun and I see a tiny spot of blood. solid shot! The fish took off and ripped line off my reel and I applied steady pressure and finally it stopped so I began pulling it in. Or so I thought. The yellow had wrapped itself in a kelp stringer about 50 feet down. I was still hyped up and started making drops, I could clearly see the fish and then I realized I saw something else.

Not one but two gigantic black sea bass headed towards it.  One was smaller, about eighty to a hundred pounds and the other was a six footer, I’m guessing two hundred maybe more. I’ve seen them once this year on scuba but never one that big freediving and the big one was absolutely huge, it looked like a cow underwater.  I suddenly remembered hearing some of the guys talking about seeing black sea bass swallow their yellowtail whole but couldnt believe it, yellowtail are about four feet long and twelve inches width.

Yeah well now I can say I believe it, the big one moved right up to it and sucked the whole fish in!  It was still strung up on the spear though and kicking so it would get spit out each time.  I tried to get to my fish about six times, but I was still hyped up and couldn’t spend that much time that deep.  On my first drop the little one took off but the big one simply turned and eyed the bonita on my belt without even showing any concern.   I kept thinking that fish could easily swallow my whole stringer and as it advanced I turned tail and slowly kicked back up to the real world.    When I got to the surface I held the line and could see the black sea bass hitting the yellowtail but they couldn’t pull it off the spear. Then I felt the line pull hard once and then the shaft came out easily, minus the fish of course. The black sea bass sank back towards the depth probably 15 lbs heavier.

I sat there dejected for a while and then reminded myself that I had just witnessed something that many people will never get to see.  And then I realized that I didn’t mind it so much that I got to see a black sea bass do that, most people dont ever get to see black sea bass and I had seen six this season, four freediving and two on scuba. and what a story, I still cant believe it ate my fish whole.  I smiled to myself as I reloaded my gun and kicked back to the boat. We didn’t get any more yellowtail today but we still had a great time out on the water.

I was going to try to go spearing for the fourth day at the island today but my hands are too cut up and I’m just too tired, getting up at four am every day and kicking all day long underwater gets to me after a while. I also have a sore spot on my chest from loading the spearguns over and over.  If you want to know what that’s like here’s what you do.  Take a broomstick and put the stick part against your chest. Now run into a wall. Do that six or seven times in the exact same spot and you will know what im talking about :).  But that’s not my main problem, I’ve got two more weeks till I get that shoulder fixed and I’m already thinking of how I can get a few more days off to go back to the island…

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