As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite activities here on Koh Jum has been fishing for squid. We take kayaks out at sunrise or sunset, equipped with a “squid lure” on the end of a fishing line wrapped around a plastic water bottle, and a plastic bucket to hold the squid should we be lucky enough to catch one. For whatever reason, we don’t even need bait; the squid (supposedly) just go after the colorful plastic squid lure, and their tentacles get caught on the hooks.
That's the theory, at least. I've been trying to prove it for 2 months. (There are plenty of squid dishes in restaurants on the island, so certainly someone is catching squid.)
I’ve had lots of nibbles, and one or two visual sightings of the bugger slipping off the hook (which doesn’t have the normal barb).
It’s sort of a game. I know I’m smarter than the squid. And I know I will catch one eventually. But I have been very patient because the actual process of squid fishing is so enjoyable: drifting in the kayak about 50 meters off shore, basking in the sunset glow, and admiring the light as it reflects off the wet rocks, palm trees, and jungle bungalows on the shore. I drag the lure behind me, occasionally bringing it in and then casting it out again.
So while the squid is playing hard to get, I am also not really giving it my all. I could try a different sized lure, I could try baiting the lure, I could spend more time out there.
But, I’m happy to report – the game is over. Sort of.
I finally caught one! He was firmly on the line as I hauled him up from the depths below, and scooped him into the bucket. I paused for a moment when he was at the surface – just like I was taught – to let him squirt his ink.
Once in the bucket, and secure in the boat, I unhooked his tentacles from the hook. He squirted his black ink again. And then again. Soon, the small bucket holding him was filled with inky sea water. As he squirted more, the ink would spray into the kayak and on me. This was getting messy. So I headed to shore rather than try to catch another one.
Cloaked in darkness except for that which was illuminated by the narrow high-beam of my headlamp, I carefully navigated around the rocks and onto the shore.
The squid was small – probably not worth killing, cooking, and eating – but I did want to show my friends that I finally caught one, and then we would let him go. But the little guy was immersed in his own ink. He was probably suffocating / drowning. So, being the nice guy that I am, I decided to replace some of that inky water with fresh sea water.
So I tipped the bucket just a bit to drain out some water and then…oh noooo…the crazy squid shooted out of the bucket and back into the ocean!
Fortunately I have a Go Pro clip of me with the squid, but between the night air and the black ink water, it’s too dark to see anything. At least I know I caught one, but he escaped as I was trying to avoid having him drown in his own black ink. Bummer. So much for being a nice guy. Next time I'm going to break his neck - if he has one.
The drama of squid fishing intrigued fellow-Helper Gaston, so he and I went out the next night. We didn’t catch any squid but we noticed a lot of small fish liked our headlamps. We could lure the fish to the kayak with the light. Just for fun, Gaston tried to catch one by scooping it up in the bucket. After a few tries, he succeeded!! He stowed the little guy in the cargo net on the kayak, and tried again. Success. I even tried to stun the fish first by smacking them with my paddle. (Not sure how well that worked or whether Gaston even needed my assistance.)
That night, we caught 6 fish while ‘bucket fishing’. We took them to a nearby restaurant, where our favorite chef Rosa cooked them for us.
The next night, we went out again. We caught 12! Well, Gaston caught 12. I failed miserably.
By the third night, we became more serious. We went to the store to buy mesh netting. Gaston and Maria made two nets with leftover metal rods and the new netting. We also found a third net in the storage unit.
The three of us went out again that night. We tried for squid again first, but no luck. Then we tried fishing with the nets. Easy! I caught 18. Gaston caught 19. I felt a little guilty because it was SO easy. And I felt guilty that we just put the fish in the kayak’s cargo net and let them suffocate. That probably wasn’t the most humane way to do it, but I didn’t have anything to kill them quickly with. (Not sure if fish have necks either?)
That night we cooked the fish at Uza Beach Restaurant and had quite a feast!
Despite the success at bucket (or net) fishing, I still want to have grilled squid before I leave…and I’m running out of days. Only 2 weeks to go!
P.S. Happy 75th birthday, Dad!!