Eschewing the expensive tourist-trolling fishing charters out of Bridgetown, I’d arranged a trip out to the north of the Island with Barker, a local fisherman. I hoped for an authentic Barbados experience. Later that same day, I saw Barker and his small wooden skiff just off the beach. He was bailing out furiously a large quantity of seawater from his boat. As I watched bucket after bucket of water return to the Caribbean sea I became anxious over the sea-worthiness of his craft.
The next morning, I waded onto his boat from the beach, and the reason for the water-expulsion became clear. Barker was using the middle section of the boat as a live fish-well. A couple of dozen sardine-like fish swam within.
We headed northwards up the sheltered western side of the island which borders the calm Caribbean sea. Barker pointed out some sights long the shore. The modern development of Port St.Charles Marina, expensive hotels and restaurants, flying fish breaking the surface. The cement factory.
I’d spent the previous week snorkeling amongst the corals of these warm clear seas with turtles, moray eels, stonefish, and many more. In complete contrast, our destination was a bar off the wild northern coast, where the rough Atlantic waters hit the shore from the deep ocean.
Barker was a man of few words, and of those I understood maybe half. Bajan creole is almost completely unintelligible to outsiders. I could understand the names of fish and other fishing-related terms; I just smiled and nodded to the rest.
As we rounded the northwest corner of the island, the sea rose up in a large wind-broken set of rollers. Barker pointed the bow into the oncoming swell, and we crashed our way over the waves until we reached the reef about a mile offshore. This was certainly an adventure. The small boat rose and fell around six feet with each wave, but it was comfortable enough to fish.
As expected, the fishing tackle was rudimentary. Hand lines of about 100-lb test, a few ounces of lead, a short wire trace and a hook. The lines were baited, thrown out and let down about thirty metres or so. Within a few minutes, Barker was into a fish. A brightly coloured triggerfish. He unhooked his catch and threw it beneath the loose boards in the bow. Barker was a commercial fisherman; no catch-and-release here. I had a few small bites I couldn’t connect with. Barker pulled in the first really good fish of the day: a great barracuda.
We re-positioned as the drift took us off station. Barker shouted across to a fisherman he knew in a larger boat. I couldn’t catch a word of the creole, but apparently his friend had already caught a large wahoo today. After a few missed hits, and rebaiting, I connected with a barracuda of my own. Not a monster, but the first of the species I’ve caught.
Barker lost a really big ‘cuda at the surface. I took another one slightly larger than the first.
Then fishing slackened off. A storm cloud on the horizon prompted a move back into the lee of the island. The rain caught up with us, and I was soaked. We re-positioned just off the cement factory. In a quiet moment, Barker asked what I thought of Donald Trump. No sooner had the president’s name been uttered we both registered massive bites. I couldn’t hold the line in my hands, and the fish easily snapped the line. A wahoo, Barker surmised. That was to be the last bite of the day. Barker pointed the boat back towards Speightstown.
I headed to the hotel for a set of dry clothes. The barracuda were headed for “Catch of the Day” on chalkboards in the tourist restaurants, “Grilled, fried or blackened”.
- 2 Great Barracuda