At home in Puget Sound we were fish killing machines – to the point where we stopped because it felt a little weird. There, the water is very cold, and we wore full-body hooded wetsuits and SCUBA gear to stay at 40-60 feet for up to 40-50 minutes at a time. We fished with pole spears, also called Hawaiian slings. They’re six-foot fiberglass poles with a three-point steel tip on one end and a rubber band at the other. You slip the rubber band over your right hand, stretch the rubber band four feet or so, grip the pole with the band stretched, then point the sharp end at a fish and slip your right hand slightly. Deadly to about three or four feet. It’s like hunting with a knife. You get very good at being smooth – sneaking up on the fish without looking at it or acting like a predator.
Here in the Sea of Cortez, we hunt fish with a standard spear gun using snorkel gear. It’s tough. The fish are down twenty-thirty feet and they’re free-swimming grouper and snapper and such. Very spooky fishies. Very hard to get close to.
I start the fishing trip by taking three Sudafed and blasting away with nasal spray, trying to get my sinuses to drain and my eustachian tubes to open up. We wear thin wetsuits made of polar fleece, not urethane foam, and I wear about four pounds of lead to help me stay down. A few deep breaths on the surface, and then I raise my fins high out of the water to push me down the first ten feet.
From the surface, everything looks pretty green/grey, including this bright yellow fishy.
Down below, the colors are more real and bright. The fish that aren’t prey are easy to get close to. As soon as a fish decides you’re a predator it’s gone. It’s all about being cool while you kill.
There are a stunning variety of fish here. In addition, we have standard reef fish like parrot fish, but since there’s no coral we can shoot and eat anything. There’s no deadly ciguatera, a paralytic poison that lives in coral and passes up the food chain.
So we’re having nice dives, and enjoying all the pretty fish, but not doing too well in the “bringing home the bacon-fish” department.
But we keep trying.