A Year Later… February 20, 2014
It’s been a while since my last post but I’ve been busy. Within the last year I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with my Bachelor of Art’s degree in Communication Studies, I finished my college baseball career, traveled across Europe by train solo, built more spearguns, got my captains license, and had my Triple C’s Speargun premiere at our family’s Harrison Gallery.
My last column, about a year ago, was about a Wahoo trip without landing any. This time I am proud to say, I landed my first Wahoo! The Wahoo have been plentiful this winter and here is the story of a cold Saturday in January.
I went out on my friend Niko Gazzle’s commercial boat. My long time friend, Robert Ruiz was also making the trip—we have a long track record of doing well together. He and his spearo friend, Mike, woke up at 3 am to make the drive from Boca Raton so they could make the 7:30 departure.
I woke up at 5:45 in my very cold conch house. Our house’s metal jalousie louvers in place of conventional windows are made to let the island breeze in, not keep the cold out. This was no surprise. The temperature was going to be around the high 50’s all day. I hustled to get everything loaded up and drive to 5 Brothers for a café con leche and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. The early bird crowd that was bundled up outside gave me an awkward eye when I said I was going spearfishing, nevertheless they wished me good luck.
I pull up to the rendezvous location 15 minutes early so I unload, enjoyed my café, and stretched into my farmer john wet suit. Niko soon pulled up with fellow conch spearo, Blake Knowles. We picked up Rob and Mike a few minutes later and headed out into the chilly weather.
When we set up for our first drift, I plunged into the water with my new Conch Cannon in hand, the water felt surprisingly warm compared to the air. After 25 minutes … no luck. We reset and tried again with similar results. The air was cold on our wet bodies. I have a 1.8 mm wetsuit and I was really cold but tried not to talk or think about it (a strategy I used while playing baseball in North Carolina). We drifted again with no luck but the third drift paid off. We were all floating in the cold water when I poked my head above the surface to check on the boat in front of me. At that very moment, Niko ran to the stern, pointing directly behind me and yelled, “Wahoo!”
Apparently he swim in front of some of the the guys.
I turned in the water and to my surprise there was a Wahoo gracefully swimming behind me. Its metallic, navy blue color with white stripes looked bright in the clear deep blue water. I sucked in as much air as I could and duckdived. With my heart frantically racing, I cautiously swam down trying to be as smooth possible as I approached hoping not to spook him. One awkward kick and that fish is gone.
I lined up and pull the trigger on my new Triple C’s Speargun. The first shot with Custom Conch Cannon was true, and I hit him 2 inches below his dorsal fin. He took off like a rocket to the left, my float line on my right. The smooth line ran across my body as I attempt to clear myself of the hard float that would soon be coming.
I dodged it and got to the surface and let out a triumphant, “WAHOO!” while the float tore horizontally through the water 20 feet down. The submerged float bent around the bow of the boat, so I swam and hopped in the catamaran to chase him down. With another gun I hopped in, loaded the bands, and began to reel in the 100 feet of line.
The adrenaline was pumping and I was breathing hard! By far the hardest fight with a fish till that point.
By myself I eventually got him to 20 feet and dropped for a second shot with line in my other hand.
I surfaced with a triumphant holler and I began to kick towards the boat—What a rush, a 40 plus pound Wahoo!
I fiddled around on the deck with my fish, lines, and guns… unsure of what to really do because I was so excited.
Safe to say that picked everyone up. All of a sudden it wasn’t that cold.
The fish were here.
With a fish on the boat I happily drove the boat for a few drifts. Robert landed the next fish, followed shortly by Niko, then Robert again! It was turning to chaos! Fish, blood, Wahoo slime, and tangled lines all over the deck.
Back in the water now with about five fish in the box, Mike and Blake dropped on a school. I was on the other side and missed the action. Niko was kind enough to pick me up and drop me near Mike while he was fighting a nice Wahoo.
I jumped in the water and I instantly saw a big Wahoo hanging around Mike’s fish. My slip-tip had fallen off when I hit the water. With Mike and Niko on either side yelling at me about the fish I fumbled around to rig my tip with my shaky hands. Eventually, I overcame the cold, adrenaline, and pressure to drop down on the fish.
He makes two quick maneuvers showing his agility in the water, not wanting to chase him I back off and surface. I then see Robert drop on him, line up… far shot… he backs off and returns to the surface.
The fish turns around as Robert ascends. I take a deep inhale of air and drop in on him.
I got as close as I felt I could.
I fired and connected, knowing right off the bat that it was not a great holding shot.
The line and float tore through the water again.
The float ripped through Robert’s float line and tangled with the flashers as well.
I threw my bands around my shoulder and started swimming as fast as I possibly could, trying to free my float that was now dragging Robert, his loaded speargun, float line, and flashers.
I caught up as the fish dove deep and freed the tangled lines. He has taken my float under at least 6 times, 20 feet deep as I frantically swam a fair distance from the boat chasing my orange buoy. The boat hung around Blake and Mike as they fought their fish.
I was about 200 yards from the boat when I gingerly began to pull him up.
He dove again taking my float under.
I lightly hold the float line my grip acting as the drag to let him run when he wanted.
I slowly got him closer to the surface foot by foot and I saw my shot before he ran again. With boat in the distance I yelled in the general direction for another speargun. My slip-tip is holding on by 2 inches of the Wahoo’s skin.
I decided not to wait for another shot and I started pulling him up slowly, hand … over … hand on the blue float line.
With some patience and a little bit of luck I got ahold of his tail and grabbed his gills.
His head is Huge!
With my full attention on the fish the boat startled me as they slowly pulled up behind me. Robert was standing in front with a speargun in hand.
I stuck as much of the fish as I could out of the water as my head sunk under water due to the weight of the fish.
Exhausted, Mike gaffed him and I managed to pull myself over the gunwale and look to the deck.
The fish was a monster!
A fish of a lifetime.
We were all shaking the entire day from the cold. Blake’s face even was purple at one time. Yet we managed to land nine Wahoo. Blake, Mike, and I all shot our first Wahoo, and it was Robert’s first since 2006. Our smallest fish was about 35 pounds with the biggest I shot weighing 65 pounds.
If I ever write a book about spearfishing you can bet your ass this day with my new Triple C’s Speargun will be in it!
A special thanks to Niko, Robert, Blake, and Mike for making the trip happen.