Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Hand-lining for Scorpion Fish from a Sinking Boat in the Bay of Bengal

The water slowly pouring into our wooden skiff created a perfect habitat for the inch-long pill bugs and crabs who'd sneak up from under the board I was sitting on to steal the squid used as bait.

For $12, I chartered a lawnmower-engine-powered floating pile of boards for five hours off Ngapali Beach in western Myanmar somewhere in the Bay of Bengal. The crew consists of a fiftyish guy with a conical hat and skin that looks like pock-marked leather; a thirtyish fellow who's wearing a ragged Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt and whose job is to manage the massive anchor; and me, the only English speaker in sight.

After picking up our bait of squid and minnows handed to us in an empty oil can, we fired up the mufflerless engine and headed toward open water, but I was puzzled because I didn't see any fishing rods on board. The crew didn't speak a word of English so I made a hand motion like I was reeling in fish but they responded by just pointing into open water.

Without stopping for rods, the engine was suddenly shut off and the anchor dropped. Soon I was handed what I discovered would be our fishing implements: empty water bottles with lines and hooks wrapped around them. To use them, you hand feed the line into the water until the bait hits bottom. When the fish is on, you haul him in, leaving the line in coils on the boat deck. It's fishing distilled to its simplest form.

The water kept pouring in through the wood slats in the boat but I was somewhat reassured by the anchorman's persistent bailing. So much water was coming in that he had to bail every 15 minutes and there weren't any life jackets within several miles.

I ignored the water rising past my ankles and started reeling in colorful reef fish for a few hours until we hooked a poisonous-looking, spikey-finned scorpion fish which was unhooked and dropped into the eight inches of water in the bottom of the boat near my naked feet. By the way the crew was shouting, I knew they weren't planning to eat that son of a bitch, but for some reason they weren't throwing him back either.

The crew invited me back to their shack where they grilled the fish and climbed a tree for coconuts. They made me drink a horrible fermented beverage that had flies buzzing all over the top and was the color of skim milk. From what I figure, it was a type of coconut milk that they let sit in the sun for a week until the alcohol level reaches about 5%.

Probably the most unseaworthy vessel I've been on, our boat:

The captain of the Good Ship Sinky:

Crew #2, the anchorman:

Our expensive fishing equipment:
YES YES YES This is what blogs are freaking FOR, my man! I loved this post ... glad to hear you guys are having a great time!

How'd the fish taste?
Thanks, Jeff. How nice.

I didn't really make it clear in the post: we didn't actually eat the scorpion fish. For some reason, the fishermen just left it swimming in the 8 inches of water that had accumulated in the boat bottom.
This is some crazy cool shit. One of these days you're gonna wake up and realize that you, sir, are a legend.
I would argue that fishing in its simplest form is by using a spear. Tom Hanks would agree with me.

Quite an adventure LB. You are a worldly king among us, the plebes of a lackluster culture.
Shrubs: you are correct. Spears are more raw.
excellent adventure. If they kept it they might sell it to someone for an aquarium addition.

Lionfish are pretty popular marine pets and pull a pretty penny. How cool to see one in person straight from the water.
spears are for wimps....bare hands man, that's the only way. Or you stand by a waterfall and grab the bastards out of mid-air like the bears do.

What did you do with the scorpion fish? Is it still in the boat?
Left me hangin' with what became of the scorpion fish, but enjoyed the tale. Great story.
They left the scorpion fish in the water that had accumulated in the bottom of the boat. That's the last I saw of it.

Kind of a boring end, actually.
Maybe the scorpion fish stayed in the bottom of the boat next to a radioactive ingot and grew to have the proportional strength of some small fish that's really strong. Then the next time an unsuspecting bottle-fisher got in the boat, the scorpion fish rose up and avenged fishkind with a ferocious radioactive scorpionfish sting.

Or the boat sank and the scorpionfish swam away. Your choice of endings.
This was a good suggestion that you put up here...dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

Fishing Supplies

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