May 13, 2011

Blue Marlin Fishing After Filming Grouper Documentary- Part II

by Guy Harvey

Day 3 had calmer weather and we went out wide of the island and soon found a circling frigate bird. Under this was a big female dolphin, but she looked at a couple of lures and went away. Shortly afterwards, the first blue for day showed up and took a couple of bites on the long right before fading off.

We trolled west to the 12 mile bank and as we got to the NE corner, Derrin spotted a pair of fins stationary at the surface. I raced up the ladder to have a look…swordfish! No doubt. It was sunning in the middle of the day on the flat calm surface. As we trolled closer, the fish stirred, swam and then went under. We circled the area, and not three minutes later, the sword came up on the long right lure, bill out and took a slash at the lure, before going about its business. Derrin nearly fell off the flybridge in his excitement.

A little later, Derrin got a radio call from a local fisherman, Ferris Ebanks Cayman’s “old man”. He was drifting chunks for yellowfin and had just hooked a marlin so was going to pass it over to us to catch and tag. In Cayman, the local fishermen generally release the marlin they hook while fishing for tuna.

Alex Harvey waiting for the bite

Alex took the rod, and settled down for a fight. The local anglers use 80# line straight to the hook so there was no leader, and Alex had to use a light drag. After ten minutes the marlin jumped about three hundred yards away and we backed down on the belly in the line recovering it all and got over the marlin. It was beautiful swimming about thirty feet down, face and bill lit up neon blue as was its tail. I used my underwater video on the swim platform to get shots. The surface was so calm you could see the fish clearly. Time to go in!

I did a couple of passes on the marlin and realized I could overtake the fish and deploy the PSAT underwater without ever having to wire the fish and risk breaking the light leader. So said…so done. George got the necessary footage and just then the thin leader broke at the circle hook and the 175# blue marlin swam off carrying a PSAT. I had not more tags on board.

We headed east again up the north side of the bank, saw a marlin free jumping and headed over to the spot…kaboom! An agitated 150# blue took to the air, and it was Andi’s turn again on the 30# tackle. The marlin made some awesome jumps coming at the boat, and going across the stern before sounding. George was excited. All good, Andi pumped the marlin to the boat, and I went for the usual swim to get the release on film. Glenn and Alex did the honors and the marlin swam off hastily.

We immediately started trolling again and as Andi was letting out his line, a marlin ate the lure and started thrashing around behind the boat. We all looked at each other in amazement. How often does that happen? Alex was up and fought the fish to a standstill without any jumps in short order, and we called the marlin 300# and cut her off quickly, a very green fish.

This was the first time George had been marlin fishing. He certainly was thrown in at the deep end and was able to shoot a lot of great footage. No more bites for the day, and we ended up 3 for 4 on marlin for the day, 4 for 7 on the shoot. I was very proud of the crew, Captain Derrin and Glenn, who did a great job and I would recommend them to anyone visiting Grand Cayman who wants to do some big game fishing, or charter them for a tournament.

On day 4 George and I went to the sandbar early before any of the tour boats arrived and we had the stingrays to ourselves. They exhibit schooling behavior which is unusual for a typically solitary predator, and I wanted to capture some of this behavior on film. We then had another great wall dive accompanied by eagle rays and turtles, jacks and groupers, as well as the odd lionfish.

Next on the agenda were interviews with the Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petri and the Deputy Director Timothy Austin. Each gave solid interviews about the value of the scientific work being done by REEF and collaborating scientists and how valuable this last remaining Nassau grouper SPAG(Spawning Aggregation) site was to the Cayman Islands and the Caribbean as a whole.

It’s a wrap. We did more shooting around town and in the Guy Harvey Gallery and Shoppe and across the road at the original Guy Harvey Island Grill. George Town is a popular destination for cruise ship visitors and stay –over visitors and they enjoy the tranquility and cleanliness of these islands while browsing the shops, restaurants and beaches.

I am confident that this documentary will tell the success story of how the research effort and conservation of the last remaining Nassau grouper spawning site in the central and western Caribbean may see the beginning of a recovery of this overexploited species. Indeed, it is a success story with which the people and government of the Cayman Island should be very proud.

The Marine Conservation Board will meet within the next month to determine whether protection for the spawning sites should be extended. It seems to be common sense to protect any species at times of spawning but, particularly the Nassau grouper, which has been brought to the very edge of extinction throughout its geographic range by lack of proper management and just sheer human greed.

Enough already! Let’s get this done.

Dive safely fish responsibly. 

—Guy Harvey

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