Before we left New York back in October, Ryan did a lot of research into island life and what “water toys” we should have on board for our trip.
We didn’t own any snorkeling gear, since it wouldn’t have been much use in the brackish waters of the Hudson River. So, before we left, we bought ourselves some flippers, goggles, snorkels and wet suits so we could explore the underwater world of the Bahamas.
We also said we’d buy a fishing rod, so we could learn to catch our own food. But rods can be expensive and we didn’t want to start with fancy fishing gear since it seemed, with our lack of experience, that we’d be more likely to break or lose a rod than catch a fish. So we held off on buying fishing equipment until we hit the flea market in St. Marys, Georgia, where a local fisherman taught us a few basics and sold us a used trolling and bottom fishing rod for $35.
Whatever possessed Ryan to buy a spear, though, I have no idea. I just know that it arrived in the mail one day, along with our snorkeling gear, and Ryan was beaming like a little boy when he took it out of the package. It was like watching Ralphie open up his Red Rider BB Gun on Christmas morning in the movie A Christmas Story. “We don’t even know how to fish,” I’d said at the time. “And you think we’ll be able to spear our dinner?!”
The idea still seems ludicrous, since it turns out our fishing skills didn’t improve much even after we bought a rod. The possibility of spearing a fish seemed about as high as catching a fish with our bare hands. So, for the past five months, there sat our unused spear, hanging out beside the pile of shoes it turned out I would never wear, until we met up with our friend Brian on s/v Rode Trip in George Town. After confessing that we’d never even tried our spear, Brian offered to take us out and show us how to use it.
So, on our last night in George Town, we weighed anchor and moved Hideaway over to Hooper’s Bay so Ryan and I could chase the pretty fish in circles around a reef and watch them swim away while Brian expertly speared two lionfish and a lobster.
It looked like Ryan and I were going to need a lot more practice at this skill. So, over our lionfish, lobster and pasta dinner on board Hideaway with our friends from Rode Trip and Senara, I consolidated a few things I learned from Brian about spear fishing:
- Wet suits make you more buoyant and therefore hinder you from swimming deep into the coral to go after fish. Note to self: Leave the wet suit behind next time.
- Lionfish have no predators, so you can swim right up to them and line up a shot without fear of scaring them away.
- You want to be about a foot away from the fish when you shoot. If you’re too close, the spear will just push the fish away. You need some space for the spear to gain momentum and pierce the fish.
- Lionfish are poisonous, so you have to be careful not to touch the spines on their skin. 45 minutes after they’ve died, though, the poison also dies and then they are safe to touch and eat.
- Lionfish are overpopulated in the Bahamas, so it is encouraged to kill and eat them. Which is fantastic because they are delicious.
Our spear fishing skills are about as poor as our rod fishing skills, but like any skill, mastery requires practice. And experimentation.
So, we’ll keep on practicing and experimenting until we get a fish on board ourselves. Until then, though, we’ll keep our fridge stocked with plenty of food. Because if we had to live off the sea alone, I’m pretty sure we’d starve.