Life List #28: Learn to fish.
Taking a fishing trip in Caye Caulker, Belize.
I hadn’t exactly planned on going fishing in Caye Caulker. But, when a vivacious Dutch girl I’d just befriended drunkenly stammered across the table, “I’m going to catch a fish tomorrow! Valerie, do you want to catch a fish?” really the only thing to do was drunkenly yell back “Yes! I want to catch a fish tomorrow!”
One of the guys I’d met earlier in the day on our snorkeling trip was trying to organize the excursion. The problem was that now eight people were interested in going and most of the outings capped off at four. He wasn’t having any luck coming up with a solution. As it happens, as we were debating, a fishing boat pulled up to the split and we were able to, somehow, pull off a drunken deal with the two guys running it. And so, the next day, all eight of us gathered early in the morning to join them in a hunt for big game.
I was actually pretty excited for the thought of it. After all, “learn to fish” was one of the first round items on my life list and something I’ve always wanted to do. Fish is quite possibly my favorite meat group and I always imagine myself fending for myself off of a little tranquil rowboat while camping somewhere: catching, deboning, grilling, the whole shebang. Though spending my day with monitors and oceans and giant fancy reels was far from my idilic vision, you really can’t complain about Caribbean waters and amazing new friends.
First in the day we went off and caught some live bait, throwing a net into the water to catch some unsuspecting creatures. Every so often one would drop to the floor of the boat, wobbling about. I grabbed one of them, flopping between my grip, to bring to the holding tank and joked that I managed to catch a fish with my bare hands.
And then ventured out into the water to hunt for big fishes. Barracuda, mostly. The two guys who owned the boat did most of the prep work: adding the bait, preparing the lines, and we cruised through the water until something caught on. Once it did, they’d grab one of us and everything would spring into action.
And by one of us, I mean one of the boys. Because, really, there were eight of us. And only three fish caught on all day. And of those only two made it into the boat. But we were “hunting big game,” as they said, and so it was harder to catch more than a few.
And then there was conch diving. Which I certainly couldn’t do. Because it involved snorkeling while holding onto a rop as the boat slowly moved and watching the ground for conch shells. Then, whenever the person snorkeling would see one they’d dive down and grab it. And lord knows I can’t dive. The two boys doing it managed to get a nice little haul though.
And thus, on my first fishing trip ever, I didn’t actually, technically, get to fish. But it was pretty damned fun nonetheless…
And the important thing here is not that I didn’t get to catch a fish, the important thing here is that I did get to reap the benefits of the day when we fried up the conch and grilled up the barracuda later in the night. And god was it tasty.
The next day, I managed to meet up with one of the guys from the boat and I was able to catch a fish off the dock. It was a huge, monstrous, manatee-sized bone fish…
OK, so maybe he set everything up and all I did was reel it in. And maybe I didn’t technically actually learn how to fish. But I caught a fish. Mostly. And I learned that is way easier and takes way less patience to just walk to the grocery store and order up a filet. And that’s learning something, right? Right?
So yes, if the opportunity ever presents itself again, I would love to learn to actually fish in that idilic little serene lake in my head. But, for now, this was good enough for me.
Learn to Fish was number 28 on my life list.