Apr 4, 2009

Fishing in Goa - an Impression Piece

Past the Euros in camper vans and the Goans playing sand cricket, at the south end of the beach, we saw a guy with a fishing pole. He was standing on a rock in the water catching fish at will. They were only 2-3 inches long, but he said they were a fine dinner, and it looked like good sport, so I inquired after his methods: tiny, #14 hook, small chunk of prawn as bait.

The next day, the appropriate materials were tracked down in the village. Hook, line, sinker from the shop at the junction. Small prawns from the ladies in the market, 2 Rs for a handful. Two young saplings to serve as poles, snipped from a vacant lot. We set out late afternoon and found the rock where I had the conversation with the fisherman. Mel caught a little one immediately. It looked about the same size as the ones the fisherman pulled out but we put it back, thinking there would be more. There would be no more. I caught a tiny crab; when I put it on the rock, it figured out it could just release the prawn from its grasp, it let go and walked back into the water.

Another rock, at the very end of the point, looked promising for sure. It turned out to be harder to get to then I thought and I sliced both my feet open on razor clams. It was a bloody mess and I didn't catch anything.

The next day we went to the river and got to talking with the ferry-man, who paddles people across the river in his single-outrigger mango wood canoe. Turns out he is also a fine fisherman– makes sense, with all that time on the water. He tells me my method is all wrong, and fashions me a makeshift spinning reel out of an old plastic Sprite bottle repurposed from a previous life as a buoy. The green plastic is by now opaque like sea glass- sea plastic.

A pebble serves as weight, expertly lashed and tied onto the line by the ferry-man. He discards my pole; the method is now hand line. The "reel" is cast by swinging the weight and hook around like a lariat and letting go, the line peeling off the end of the bottle after the weight of the pebble. It works surprisingly well, easily cast 20-30 feet.

Half an hour before sunset, at the very north end of the beach, there was a line of 20 people pulling in a huge net. Fifty yards down another 20 people pulled in a net. I set up in between, waded in, and cast. Then I realized both lines were pulling in the same net, it was a huge "U", and I had just cast right into the middle of their haul. I reeled in quickly, apologized to the 40 people staring at me, and got out of the way. Nobody seemed too fussed.

After a large communal effort the contents of the huge net arrived on shore. Mostly small fish, well under 6 inches. (Side note: the Indian gesture to show size of a fish with hands is to hold out one hand and touch the other index finger somewhere along the forearm to indicate length- nearer wrist, smaller fish, nearer elbow, bigger fish.) A grandma scrambles to catch the flopping escapees, stuffing them in her plastic baggie.

There was one beautiful fish, much larger than the rest. About 3 feet long and 2 feet high. Maybe a mahi mahi? Tuna family? It flopped around on the beach for a few minutes, then drowned in air. I wondered how much it would cost. 1000 Rs, max? ($25) Probably a few thousand dollars worth of sushi at home. This one will be consumed in India, and thus very likely grossly overcooked. A sad end. I want it raw, but barely run over with the blowtorch, like at JapanGo.

This story is supposed to end with me catching a big fish on my hand line, but, it doesn't. I tried for a few more days- from a kayak, from a pier, wading into the ocean. Then I was supposed to go out with the fisherman (for a relatively tall fee of 300 Rs) but I slept in. Probably just as well; I didn't really want to have to deal with killing anything anyway.

Not Mine

Trophy Catch

1 comment: