31 December 2006 | Wax Cay
Yesterday afternoon Alex and I went hunting for fish and lobster. It was my first time out with the hand spear so Alex showed me the ropes. We looked around on the banks side down to the reefy rocks at the South end of Wax Cay just north of the cut. I jumped in to check things out and on my first dive I saw the tentacles of a spiny lobster sticking out from under a coral head. "This is the place Alex!" I pointed to the rocks where I saw the bug and Alex wasted no time, down he went and the next thing I knew there was a lobster on a stick marching over the water on the way to the dinghy. I did some spotting for Alex throughout the day and chased off a few grouper but never got close enough to fire a shot. It was great snorkeling with Rays, Reef Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Parrot Fish some spectacular trigger fish, Queen Conch, Squirrel Fish, and a few less lobster and grouper, but it was just snorkeling.
Garret had gone with a crew a couple of days ago but I was busy with boat stuff and couldn't go and then Garret couldn't go yesterday. Today we were both set and determined to catch dinner.
This New Years, Normans Cay has turned into South Quebec. There are no less than 10 Canadian boats here, all from Quebec. I think we're the only ones flying the US flag today. My French needs some serious help. Jean and Denny, brothers from North Quebec, we taking Alex, Garret and I out for some fishing today (my French is bad but I have no idea what these guys are saying). Alex, Denny and Jean all have Zodiacs with lots of flotation and since we were going to go out past the breakers we jumped in with them.
The Exuma Land and Sea park is just south of Normans Cay and is a no take zone. Looking on the Explorer chart I saw a good sized reef just to the north of the cut about mid way through. I copied down the lat/long and brought my Mystic VHF with GPS. After zeroing in on the spot we took a look and while it was a nice shallow reef it didn't seem like a good hunting spot.
Next we headed out Wax Cay cut and angled North. We anchored in about 30 feet of water just outside of the reef. The Exumas have a continuous reef and wall area running along the Exuma Sound drop off. We worked our way hunting and anchoring up the reef to the north. We spent three hours snorkeling and crashing around in the dinghys in the 5 foot swell. I was on a boat with Alex and neither of us brought anything back all day. I checked in with Garret who was on the boat with Denny and they had a goose egg too. I took two shots but no bueno. Demoralized, Garret and I returned to the boat.
We were back at the boat before noon and as the day wore on I began to feel like I had to go back out and give it one more try. The Wax Cay spot Alex and I found yesterday just looked right for Lobster. I'm no expert hunter but I am an avid diver and have run across my fair share of Lobster. We were planning to leave for Warderick Wells tomorrow which is smack in the middle of the park. It would be several days before we could hunt again. Garret and I finally decided to head back out at 15:30 to take one more shot at it.
Lobster tend to hide in holes during the day and mosey around at night. As the sun sets they start to peek out of their wholes. Alex had shot the Lobster at Wax late in the day yesterday. We were hoping to find the same circumstances.
It was high tide so we cut straight over the sand bar on a B line for the south side of Wax Cay. We anchored Little Star right behind a big rocky reef and started our search. The first spot didn't have any walls or ledges and while promising didn't turn anything up. We were in the neighborhood but not exactly where I had been yesterday. We moved the dinghy North about 20 meters and rolled off the side for another try.
You know how when you've been really working on something for hours and hours but have no success you can get that gloomy cloud over your head feeling? Sort of a grinding air of futility in the back of your mind. I was feeling that. We had been hunting for no less than four hours today with an empty cooler. The sun was setting. It just wasn't pretty.
I took a final dive to check out the area and I saw it. The spot I was at yesterday. Reefy ledges and holes in a horseshoe around a 30 foot deep bottom. As I dove to the bottom the gentle swish of antenna wagging around in every hole greeted me. I surfaced and started to breath deeply to prepare for a long dive. I didn't say anything to Garret because I didn't want to get his hopes up and I had no idea if I could actually shoot one to the Lobster down there.
I made my dive and slowly reached the bottom making my best effort not to scare away any of the $39.95 dinners. A pretty good sized lobster was looking out of a hole near the wall where I came to rest. I couldn't get a top shot because he wasn't far enough out of the hole. I couldn't really get a good angle on a direct head shot because I had a 6 foot spear in my right hand and the shape of the reef angled to the left. The only thing I could think about was a shot I missed in the morning. A grouper was sitting right outside of a tunnel in the reef and I had him lined up but fooled around trying to get the optimal shot. When I was almost ready to loose he took off and I simply dulled the point on my spear tip.
Not again. I fired. The spear went into the hole. Dust and sand clouded the water. I pulled my spear out of the cloud and there it was. One perfect tentacle. That's it. Turning blue I returned to the surface to show Garret my catch. "Hey, there's good meat on these things!" I borrowed the short spear that Garret had and tried for about fifteen minutes to get back up into the hole where the Lobster had retreated to. No luck.
It was starting to get ominously dark. The big guys that run the reef come around in the gloom of dusk and they are hard to see in the failing light. I had the taste though and refused to return to the boat empty handed. There were two big Barracuda watching us at this point. I asked Garret to keep an eye out while I tried to skewer at least one of the critters down on the reef. We both agreed that this was prudent.
I took another scouting run. There were even more Lobster this time. As I scanned the area I saw a big daddy Lobster almost all of the way out of his hole. Again at the surface. Deep calming breaths. No word to Garret to jinx it. I pulled the spear back as far as I could, almost grasping the tip, and dove.
As I descended I wondered if the daddy lobster would still be there. He hadn't moved. I slowly swam right down on top of him, reached out to within a couple of feet and released. To my amazement I hit him center of mass. He tried frantically to swim back into the hole but I pried him off of the bottom and slowly brought him to the surface. I lifted him out of the water to keep the local predators from getting interested and started to swim back to the dinghy. Garret helped me get him into the boat and we both piled back into Little Star.
There were plenty more Lobster down there but we were beat. As the sun set we returned to the big boat and showed off our prize. I'm now an addict and can not wait for the next chance to catch dinner.