Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Mexican Connection

  Today was an unforgettable experience. I am with my family on a cruise, and we arrived at Cozumel this morning. It was a very odd feeling at first, because, coincidentally, we were at Cozumel a few weeks before. That time, while fishing was an option, and I considered it, I figured that the area had enough other activities and that nobody else but me was really excited about the prospect of being out on a boat trolling for fish. Especially not in the summer, when it gets real hot and humid. Instead, I went with my friend to the mainland from where we saw Tulum and some cenotes, a really cool experience. But on the way there and back, we crossed the channel between Cozumel and Playa Del Carmen on the Yucatan Peninsula. Based on fishing instincts I’ve come to develop over the years, I could tell that the waters just felt “fishy" (in this case, good for fishing). There was lots of current flow, sargassum, the water was clear and blue with many reefs, and geographically the fish seemed to be sort of trapped in the channel between the landmasses. I told myself that the next time I was there, I was definitely going to go fishing. Little did I know, I’d return in less than a month.

Long story short, other summer plans had fallen through and we still had time to go on vacation, so we booked another cruise. Sure enough, this one was going to Cozumel. Of course I’d wanted to fish, and I looked into it, but in the end I said I was okay with skipping it this time. After all I didn’t want my dad and the rest of my family to spend time and money doing something in the heat that they might not want to do, which is totally understandable (to a point - fishing is awesome). Especially trolling, which involves just driving the boat and waiting for a fish to bite. Regardless, I still woke up feeling a bit disappointed because I was in Cozumel with no plans to fish. However, at the port, to my surprise, my dad willingly looked for a fishing charter, and we found one ready to go right then! I must say, I am so grateful for my parents. I leave for college in less than two weeks, but looking back, they’ve always been willing to sacrifice for my siblings and me. Booking this trip was just another example of that generosity that I so greatly appreciate. We were set to spend four hours fishing and snorkeling, which was shaping up to be a great day for all of us on the water.

When we got on the boat in the vibrant blue water, I could not keep myself from smiling, not that I would want to. It was an incredible feeling, being out on a fishing boat in the deep blue Mexican waters out of Cozumel. The captain and first mate, clearly experienced, went to work quickly and efficiently. We had five baits out, all at different lengths and depths, using the outriggers on the side of the boat. I was excited, hoping to hook up on a big fish to make our day.

Jacob, my ever impatient brother, had a sour expression about twenty minutes into the trip. It was reminiscent of the first time that I caught a Mahi Mahi, a trip on which we spent hours trolling around before we finally hooked up on one. Before we caught the fish, Faith by George Michael played on the radio, reminding me to keep my hopes up. I told Jakes to do the same, and played the song on the speaker. We trolled for about an hour and half, hoping and praying for a hookup, before a reel started screaming.

Quickly, I got in the fighting chair and the chaos ensued. As is common when a big fish is hooked, the crew and fishermen yell orders to make sure they are heard and everyone is on the same page. The mate handed me the rod and put it in the rod holder under the seat, and instructed me to pull up on the rod, lower it, and reel in while lowering the rod. Despite the slight language barrier, I understood what to do. I reeled in the fish, which was putting up a strong fight, taking line and going on runs from time to time. At times it wore me out enough to prevent me from reeling - I wasn’t as consistent as I’d have liked to be. While reeling it in, I didn’t know what was on the other end. The flight, which took about five minutes, felt a lot longer while anxiously pumping the rod up and down. Finally I brought it up to where the fish could be gaffed. The mate gaffed the fish and handlined the fish over the transom. It was a big Wahoo! A bucket list fish for me. I was overjoyed. Both of my arms were worn out because of the fight, but it was really worth it. We stood in awe of the fish as the captain put the fish into the cooler (it filled up the whole length of it), and then gave celebratory high fives. The Wahoo, built like a torpedo, is one of the fastest fish in the sea. I was really glad that we all got to experience that amazing catch, and that we wouldn’t go home empty handed with my family there. We were all really excited, and honestly a little shocked at the sheer size of the fish. It was definitely the biggest fish my brother ever caught. I crossed the fish off my bucket list right there on the boat.

We trolled on the way over to the snorkel spot and back on the way to the dock for a bit, and didn’t get anything. But that was fine, because we were more than satisfied with our big Wahoo. There are some days, like Jacob is used to, where I prefer quantity over quality. But on days like this, especially when you’re trolling for big game fish, quality is preferred. That Wahoo definitely made my day, and probably at least the week. Snorkeling afterwards was that much better, too, having caught the fish. The reefs, with lots of snapper and triggerfish, were also really interesting. It was cool to see the current living reefs built on top of limestone and other ancient fossilized reef; a sort of cathartic sight. This trip was truly great, and one of my favorite ever. It was awesome to be there with my whole family and sharing my catch with them. A new fish, in a new country. It was a day that I will certainly never forget.

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