Saturday morning, we headed to a marina to hop on a boat for some deep sea fishing. When we arrived, the other people on the boat were wearing jeans, sweatshirts, and boots. We, on the other hand, were dressed in board shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops. Apparently, those other guys had never been deep sea fishing before.
After everyone was on the boat, the boat left the dock and headed over to Fisherman’s Village. It’s a beautiful little area and looks like footage from whenever that travel guide on PBS goes to Denmark, except this place had palm trees.
I’m told that Fisherman’s Village is the home of the Banana Stand. But most importantly, Fisherman’s Village, for our purposes that day, was the place where we got some squid and sardines. The bait place was surrounded by pelicans, which I found to be remarkably gross.
After we got bait, we headed out to the deep sea. And it is at that point that I realized two things: (1) the dramamine was not working, and (2) the extra large coffee and maple muffin I had for breakfast was a huge mistake.
We seemed to be going around in circles for hours. I was feeling so terrible that I wanted to just give up and go to sleep below deck. And it was just at that point that we came across a mega pod of dolphins. Real. Live. Dolphins.
There were at least 100 of them, including baby ones. It was mesmerizing. They played with the boat, jumping in and out of the boat’s wake and sometimes even racing alongside us as we travelled deeper and deeper into the sea.
When we finally dropped anchor, we got some squid as bait and cast our lines. I was still feeling pretty terrible and was vomiting starbucks coffee and muffin in my mouth about every five minutes. But, I wanted to be a trooper and put some squid on my hook. I was feeling so bad that I thought about just calling it a day and eating the squid for dinner. But that would have been the easy way out and also fairly gross.
Once I did start fishing, I quickly caught some mackerel, which was disturbing to try and release from the hook. They wiggle and writhe at a remarkable speed. It was like trying to grab a spider that was the size of a rat and was slimy. I just didn’t want to touch it. I threw all the mackerel back, which I’m sure would have pissed off my mom.
Over the course of the day and the several more mackerel I caught, I had to ask for help with unhooking the fish from some of the boat’s crew, a small child fishing prodigy, and a girl who came on the trip with her boyfriend. It was humbling, to say the least.
The other guys caught a whole bunch of other kinds of fish, but I was too sick to remember what kinds, really. After a while, I went down below, put my head on a table, and slept for a while. Everyone joked that I had just spent $66 to feel miserable for half a day. I corrected them that I had spent the money to see dolphins and also to feel miserable.
When I awoke, I thought it was because we were about to dock. To my dismay, we were just stopping to fish at another location. However, I noticed that the dramamine had finally just kicked in. And I fished like a madman.
I caught more mackerel. And then I caught a huge friggin fish. I couldn’t believe it. When I finally reeled it in, I had a friend take a picture of it. Because I was sure that my wife would never believe me otherwise.
The guy behind me in the picture works on the boat. He unhooked most of my mackerel that day, and he told me that this fish was a Sheepshead. It was red (although, I am colorblind, and it might not have actually been red) and had grotesque teeth that shot in all directions. They measured the fish, and it was big enough to keep.
Soon thereafter, the groom-to-be at this bachelor party caught a red snapper. It wasn’t as big as my fish, but it was beautiful. It looked like it belonged in a cioppino.
Neither of our fish were the biggest fish of the day. That distinction went to a man who caught a huge halibut. Although, one of our friends accidentally caught a pelican in his line, and that was technically heavier.
Eventually, we had to pull up anchor again and head back to shore. En route, the staff would clean and filet your fish for a dollar. People crowded around to see, as if there were something to wager on.
The staff dispatched the fish with celerity. And although they cut off a more of the edible meat than they needed to, it was mesmerizing to watch.
They cut my fish and I put it into a plastic bag. Looking at it whole and then looking at it as two filets was somewhat of a letdown. The fish seemed much less impressive when cut into filets. But the skin was lovely.
The bachelor got his red snapper filleted as well, and later that night, we wrapped them in foil and set them on the grill.
Once off the grill, we opened up the packet and dove in to the fish. Well, the bachelor and I did, anyway. I think the rest of our group was more interested in the tri tip and chicken, which were both quite marvellously marinated and grilled.
When I ate the red snapper, it was surprisingly good. I’d had red snapper before, and I knew it would be better so fresh out of the ocean, but this was damn good.
My sheepshead, on the other hand, was not as great. Sure, I overcooked it a ton. But, the red snapper was overcooked too, and it was still great. In contrast, the sheepshead was really fishy and tasted like any other overcooked fishy fish I’d ever had. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t great. It was just ok. I think it didn’t help that it didn’t look all that appetizing.
But even if it was gross, I knew I would eat the whole thing. After all, these were fish that we caught ourselves. If nothing more than as a matter of principle, we had to eat the fish as an affirmation of our place on top of the food chain – a mantra that I repeated several times throughout the course of the day. I suppose I was just rather excited to have caught something.