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Sailing with Charlie: Teach a Man to Fish

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‘If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll go out on a boat and drink beer all day.’ Perhaps not the original famous quote but it hits home.

For many, fishing is an important part of boating and folks on a yacht charter can enjoy casting, trolling or bottom fishing. Charlie’s friend Joe went bottom fishing every day for a week but didn’t manage to catch one. Charlie gave him a few hints – but bottoms can be elusive. 

Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre
Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

Sport fishing and fly-fishing are available on most islands but ‘catch and release,’ a term promoted by conservationists who are probably unaware that they are not being particularly eco-friendly. After all, a marlin will fight for its life for hours. The fisherman may finally boat the fish, have his picture taken and then release it, with its mouth torn up and bleeding providing a nice meal for the circling sharks. So, might as well keep it, clean it, smoke it and eat it – smoked marlin is delicious. Also, unknown to many, both tarpon and bonefish, the fly-fishing targets, are edible and delicious if prepared properly. Charlie, however, prefers a nice tuna steak and they can be caught trolling – even Bonito, the cousin of the tuna, can be delicious if properly prepared and are a preferred fish in Mediterranean countries.  

For trolling a couple of rods with lines deployed behind the boat may achieve success with the right lures. Reeling in a big fish can be a challenge for novices. One day Charlie was out with a family fishing on a charter catamaran and a huge fish took the lure. Dad began reeling it in and after some twenty minutes managed to get it up to the boat. At the last minute the fish, a nice yellow fin, shook the hook and escaped into the water. Young 8-year-old Michael who had watched the whole episode ran into the cabin crying. His mum told him he should have just laughed. ‘I did,’ replied the distraught child. Dad never apologized.

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In some areas, ciguatera poisoning can be a problem so it’s wise to get local knowledge. Just because a fish looks ugly doesn’t mean ‘don’t eat it.’ Barracudas should be avoided in the BVI but Charlie once caught two good-sized ones while sailing down the windward side of Grenada. The pub selling fish and chips at Prickly Bay was happy to have them. Of course, there’s nothing like a tuna steak, a wahoo or dorado straight from the grill. Add a squeeze of lime and a spoonful of melted butter and there you have it – food for the Gods.

Charlie had to smile when he overheard a tourist ask a waitress in a restaurant recently, ‘What kind of fish do you recommend?’ She was a lady from the US (perhaps the midwest). “We have tuna, wahoo, snapper and grouper,’’ replied the waitress. ‘Which of those is the least fishy tasting?’ inquired the tourist, ‘Well, they’re all fish,’ said the waitress. ‘I know that,’ said the woman, getting irritable. ‘Which doesn’t taste like fish?’ The waitress paused for a moment and then replied, ‘the chicken.’

In the words of a Yorkshire woman. ‘Some mothers do have ‘em!’

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Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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