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Vol 46 | WINTER ISSUE | Jan 1, 2021

2020 Year in Review Chum Lines Fish Stories Fishing Well is the Best Revenge Ship to Shore The Galley Issue Photos
Fishing Well is the Best Revenge

Article by Jeff Waxman

It was midwinter in 1975. It was cold and damp in the Mid-Atlantic as most all midwinters are...but this winter we had a bonus planned. A group of us convened on a friend’s 46’ Bertram in St. Thomas in February for two weeks of fishing and running around the Islands. “Running around the islands” always seemed to include its share of drinking and raising Hell.
‘This was a private boat trip devoid of agendas or itineraries. We were intent on just fishing and fun...and had plans for lots of both. My job for the fishing was primarily as mate although we did switch around a bit.
We left Red Hook and crossed to the British side. We started out fishing the South Drop, working from Rams Head on St. John, all the way up the chain to Salt and Peter Island, trolling the drops and edges all the way.
We were fishing mostly rigged ballyhoo with sea witches on #12 wire....single strand. At the time this was pretty much all we knew. We were experiencing good fishing for white marlin, with occasional dolphin in the mix.
It was all good. The weather held, we caught plenty of fresh fish for our grill...and even got a free bottle of rum with every 100 gallons of fuel we bought. What’s not to like?
At some point in the trip, a winter swell (the result of a heavy northeast wind) started to lay out, so we decided to give the North Drop a go. The North Drop would provide us a better shot for blue ones and generally more action all the way around. In addition to the fishing considerations, we could anchor overnight in Little Harbor and trade fresh dolphin or tuna for lobster dinners and drinks.
So, off we run...18 knots with 8v71ti’s pushing the heavy 46’ loaded with not only fuel but seven guys and a full complement of gear. We passed through the Tortola/Jost Van Dyke cut, passed Anegada and were off to the Drop.
Once there, the fishing alternated between good and great. We released two blues, several whites and had enough meat fish daily for dinner trade. Although it was rougher than hell (even as the swell subsided a bit), it was a glorious time for bunch of young guys.
As the trip progressed we settled into a bit of a daily routine. Sometime around midafternoon, we'd typically pack up the spread and head to the anchorage to wash down. From there, we'd scrub the boat and ourselves before heading for Sydney’s Peace and Love...our nightly dining destination. Usually we'd bring a couple tuna or dolphin to be used in bartering for our dinner.
On our next to last day, we caught a large wahoo that changed our routine. If memory serves, the fish weighed 78 pounds. It was a good wahoo.
A couple of the guys suggested that we just have dinner on the boat. After all, they said, you really cannot beat fresh grilled wahoo steaks—especially if they are served with lots of rum. Their argument was sound and everyone soon agreed.
The boat needed fuel. I offered to clean and steak the ‘hoo while boys fueled up and scrubbed the boat. We fueled on Tortola, but the boys dropped me off at Cane Garden Bay to clean and steak our wahoo,
Equipped with the fish, a cooler, and a sharp knife I disembark at Cane Garden Bay. There was really nowhere to easily clean a big fish, so I headed off a ways in search of a suitable location. I was wearing khaki shorts and flip flops. I didn't bring along any rags or have any towels handy. Looking down at my khaki shorts, I begin to think that this might be a bit more difficult than I imagined.
As I pondered my situation, a plan emerged. I was maybe a quarter mile from town along a sandy beach and it was by now late afternoon. There was not a soul to be seen. My plan was to take my shorts off (I had nothing under them of course), leave the flip flops on the beach, and walk out into knee deep water to steak the fish. ‘This way, I figured, I wouldn't need any rags and didn't need to worry about getting my shorts bloody either. There was plenty of clean salt water—I'd just slice fish and pop steaks into the cooler... perfect.
As I was about halfway through dispatching the wahoo, things were going well. The knife was sharp, the cooler was half full, and I was standing in knee deep water with my back to the beach. I was in deep concentration.
‘Then, out of my reverie I hear a loud voice. The voice was clear and it spoke English with a heavy accent... Jolted from my concentration, it occurs in my head that perhaps I have company.
Without thinking, I quickly turn around to see who is there. Turning around, and providing something like some might call a “full frontal”, I come face to face with a tour bus...full of Japanese tourists!
The bus was full and it seemed like each tourist had a camera. Every passenger was by now happily snapping my picture. Were this sight not strange enough, the guide’s voice come over the loud speaker....“This is how the local island natives clean their fish!”
I sometimes think about that day on the beach. It makes me laugh. I also laugh when I think about the prospect of 50 year old naked pictures of me adorning vacation scrapbooks in Osaka or Tokyo. This may have been my earliest claim to marginal fame...?
“Fishing Well is the Best Revenge” is available now at Amazon.com and Bethany Beach Books. §

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