This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

March 1st, 2004

About the Cudda

Here's the rest of the story on my husband's Barracuda which I wrote about last time. It really was a fighter, made four aerial leaps several feet out of the water, some vertical, some horizontal covering 10 to 15 feet, really spectacular. After about 15 or 20 minutes it was along side the skiff. Our guide that day, Stanley (Jolly Boy) Forbes was attempting to 'land' the fish. No net of course, after all this is the Bahamas 'mon.

Stanley and Jim were carrying on a running conversation, Jim asking if Stanley had a gaff, he didn't. How about something to wack it, like a priest? Nope. The next little sequence had to be seen to be believed. This is a big fish! 5 or 6 feet long, and very big, very ugly teeth. Stanley has his left hand on the bite tippet, and grabs the fish from the top, behind the head with his right. Then he lets go of the leader, changes hands, (all this time the fish is wiggling to say the least) and slides his left hand underneath the throat of the fish. Then with his right rips out one set of gills. The fish expires after bleeding out, still in the water. No sharks around. Oh yes, the fish wiggles loose the first three tries! That's why Stanley looks so wet in the photo.

So now, the fish comes aboard. Stanley looks at Jim and says, "Hey Jim, you gotta knife?"

Ya right, traveled through many airports lately?

Jim did have his Mini Leatherman, which he had packed in with his fishing gear. The blade on the little tool is about one and a half inches long. But it is very sharp. (It's Castwell's what did you expect?) Stanley decides where he is going to make the cut to get the fish in half, takes the blade and scrapes a batch of scales off so he can make a cut. He cuts away and gets the fish almost in half. (It was not gutted at this point.) Stanley weights well over 300 pounds and is strong. He tries breaking the fish in half by brute strength, no go.

So he puts the fish on the bottom of the boat, stands with one foot on the middle of the fish holding the tail in one hand and the head in another and breaks the backbone to get it into two pieces. I get to hold the big plastic bag and Stanley stuffs the halves in and we finally get it into the big cooler.

Here's the fly I told you about last time. I have no idea if it was intended for 'cuddas' but it sure worked. You can see it hanging out of the cudda's mouth in the photos too.

A side note here, all of the lodges we have visited provide a nice lunch. Usually a large sandwich per person (one for the guide as well) sodas, fruit, sometimes chips, fritos or such, (water is a necessity), or even raisin pies - the Bahamian version of a filled cookie. We had ham, turkey and tuna salad sandwiches. Now, if you are ever bored with ordinary tuna salad, I have a way to perk it up. You may already be making it this way, but it was brand new (and a bit of a shock) to me. If you chop up sweet or dill pickles to put in your tuna salad, chop up a few jalapeno peppers and add them too. Definitely not boring!

We've made several trips to the Bahamas, partially for business and of course, for the bonefishing. We've had many guides, and with the exception of one years ago at Deep Water Cay who was "in training" and never spotted one fish in a whole day, they all did a fine job.

There is a difference in guides, and a regional difference as well. Some of the guides work from a platform over the outboard motor. I don't know if it restricts how shallow water you can traverse, but I do believe the guide has a distinct sight advantage. The Bahamian guides all have a 6th sense on seeing bonefish, and while we've gotten pretty good at it, the guides are just outstanding.

Some guides will 'walk the gunnel' as they pole, some just pole from the stern. Since the bonefish move in and out on the tides, being in the exact right place at the right time is crucial - it also means the angler needs to have flies which sink fast for deeper water and lighter flies for shallow water. Light colored flies for light bottoms, and dark flies for dark bottoms. Or in the case of nothing being taken at all, get out Capt. Pauls' Junk Yard Dog. Worked this trip!

We've had guides who work very slowly, covering every spot on a flat where they've caught or seen bonefish. Some will work 15 or 20 minutes on a particular place, tell the anglers to "roll it up, we've moving." Stanley on this last trip, worked very methodically, knowing where the fish should be when the tide reached a particular point. We in fact, were anchored waiting for the tide to drop having lunch when the cudda in this article appeared.

If the guide knows of a 'resident school' of bonefish on a flat, you may have an opportunity to wade for bonz, and watching a 'v' wake of bonz coming toward you is indeed a thrill. Pick a target and put the fly in front of them. Strip, pause, and slow strip until a fish picks it up. Raise the rod - fish on!

We had a situation on the last trip with wind after a big storm, falling tide and a school of bonz. Gary Francis got out of the boat and pushed it - he could make more headway faster than he could poling. We actually chased a school of fish that way - and caught some nice fish.

We fished a secluded little island (cay) this last trip with Stanley who knew there were big bonz there. He hit it on the money - I missed shots at half a dozen fish over 10 pounds. Little things like dropping the fly in the middle of the school, hitting one on the nose and lining the school. Stanley got us back on them again and I did managed to hook one and lost it after a couple of nice runs. The guide did everything right. I blew it. But for me, that's part of the absolute joy of fishing for this fish. If I didn't get excited and go bananas it would be time to find another fish which would produce that kind of a rush.

Don't tell me please to try Tarpon - at least not 100 plus pounders. Been there, done that. After the initial take and run it is strictly a matter of physical strength, and I'm old and not interested in that any more. So there. Baby 'poons' are acceptable however.

More on the latest trip next time. Our thanks again to our host and staff at Emerald Palms, and our guides, Gary, Jason and Stanley. All were outstanding, of course. ~ The LadyFisher

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