May 6, 2011

Blue Marlin Fishing After Filming Grouper Documentary- Part I

by Guy Harvey

Following the incredible Cayman Islands Squash tournament April 3 – 9, I got going on finishing the Grouper Moon documentary which I started in mid- February. By way of a recap, producer/cameraman George Schellenger and I spent 6 days in Little Cayman shooting the research work being done by the REEF personnel (please visit www.REEF.org) and volunteers along with staff from the Department of Environment, Cayman Island Government.

The timing was such that we experienced the dusk spawn of about 2500 Nassau groupers a few days after the full moon in February. We shot all the daytime census-taking and measuring of adults (using lasers mounted on underwater cameras) gathered for the spawn. We conducted many interviews with the different interest and user groups. It was a very comprehensive shoot.

So… on to Grand Cayman. In order to show all the marine conservation interests at work, I scheduled a four day shoot around Grand Cayman. I wanted to show what Grand Cayman has to offer on and under the water. We started out with an hour long helicopter tour with Jerome and Natalie of Cayman Helicopters, who run a superb heli-experience which can be customized, depending on what you want to see and achieve. That afternoon we dived the Kittiwake and were lucky as a huge school of horse-eye jacks enveloped the superstructure making an awesome scene in the 100 foot viz water.

Andi is hooked up

In addition, there were bar jacks, rainbow runner, squid, tons of juvenile squirrelfish, copper sweepers, blue tangs and other grazing reef fish taking advantage of the new growth of algae up and down the steel hull. An 80 pound goliath grouper has also adopted the wreck. George and I then went to the sandbar to get some stingray footage before heading out to Hammerhead Hill, one of my favorite north wall dives. We encountered groups of spotted eagle rays, a hawksbill turtle, six different species of groupers, and a big hogfish being cleaned by some mini wrasses. Just too cool! Enough for one day of action packed diving.

Day 2 and 3, we were aboard the “Hit ‘n’ Run”, a well maintained 40 foot Luhrs, owned and captained by Derrin Ebanks. I coerced, friend and restaurant owner, Andi Marcher (of “Ragazzi” and “Luca” fame) to come along with my son Alex to be anglers. In two days they each caught two fine blue marlin. The weather was just perfect…it never gets too calm for me, particularly when you are blue marlin fishing.

Day 2 started early. While we waited for the charter boat to arrive, we were amazed at the eagle rays, big sting rays, tarpon and bonefish that were rooting around in the sand by the dock. We left Morgan’s Harbour at the crack of 8 a.m. and trolled about a mile off the coast heading west toward the 12 mile bank all the time looking for frigate birds that would signal the presence of dolphin or marlin. We missed a couple of them, one was a cheap shot but the second was a ripper that had captain Derrin doing a dance on the flybridge.

Blue Marlin, just prior to release

I saw her come in fast from the right side as she crashed the short right lure, then came back around in a swirl for the bite with dorsal and bill out. The big marlin did not come tight and again came in on the same lure. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up when I saw the height of her dorsal fin. She ate this time, was hooked and started jumping straight away going off to the right and then (as a blue marlin can) turned around and headed off to the left like a jetski on steroids. Unfortunately, she crossed the left rigger line and that reel also started howling. Somehow…. the hook came out and after a series of fabulous grey-hounding jumps ….she said goodbye. Lots of great action but no results… and it was only 11 a.m.

We trolled down to 12 mile Bank, and worked the NE tip of this seamount before heading to the SW tip as the current was coming from the NW. This three mile long seamount comes up from 3,500 feet to 90 feet from the surface. You need to fish on that end when the current is coming from the west. A yellowfin tuna popped up chasing flying fish, then a couple more. Cool. This was the place to be. Where there are tuna frolicking, a marlin will be nearby. Sure enough, the right rigger went down, but no hook-up. The marlin blazed over to the left rigger and we were tight. Andi was the angler on 30# test which is ideal tackle for a marlin of 125#. After lots of jumps far away, Andi got the marlin to the boat and I deployed the PSAT(Pop-up Satellite Archival Tag) in the marlin’s left shoulder. I got my gear on and jumped in to film the release. Very good. It was carrying a 3-month PSAT, and headed into the blue. No more bites for the day as we trolled home in perfect weather. That evening, we had a couple of beers at the little restaurant on the Morgan’s Harbour dock. A perfect end to the day.

See our next week’s blog for Part II

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