Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Jaguar Part II

The next day we had arranged with The Jaguar to go fishing. In the morning we went kayaking for about an hour and met a dolphin in the middle of the bay. When we got back to the dock, everyone was watching the futbol game. Right when it ended, The Jaguar, or "Jags," as the brits had begun to call him, was ready to go, having gone out earlier to catch fresh sardines. Once again we all loaded into a boat and headed off into the lagoon. There were dead sardines all over the boat, which I initially thought was gross. Little did I know what was soon to come.

Claire had agreed to try fish if we caught it ourselves and I had been wanting to go fishing for the entire trip. So it was with great anticipation that we waited for the boat to stop. When we threw down the anchor, Jags handed me an empty soda bottle with fishing line wrapped around it. At the end of the line was a ball and a hook, upon which I was now instructed to string a couple sardines. This first time, it took me a moment to work up the nerves to pierce the sardine threw the eyeball and then bend its body back around onto the hook. As the afternoon wore on, hwoever, even this task became mundane. Before I could even get my sardine on the hook, both the Jaguar's wife and 8-year-old daughter had hauled out small fish called Pati, which, according Jags, were "first class fish." I wasn't exactly sure what a bite was going to feel like but after several failed attempts at casting my line all the way down to the bottom, I felt an unmistakeble tug and yelled "I got one." I began to lift the line out of the water and into the boat, as everyone watched expectantly. All of a sudden, the line went slack. Assuming the fish had escaped, I slowly finished reeling in the line. But when the hook came to the surface, it wasn't bare. Out of the water came a bloody fish-head.

I was so shocked I had no idea what to do, but the Jaguar started screaming for me to give it to him quickly. He reached over and grabbed the fish head, which bled all over the floor of the boat. In about 5 seconds, he had it on a bigger hook and back in the water, while his daughter and wife muttered Barracuda. Sure enough, in a matter of seconds, he was struggling with the line and dragging what seemed to be an impressively big fish to the surface. All at once the Barracuda broke into the air. It was about three feet long with a long thin mouth and razor-like teeth. Without flinching the Jaguar grabbed it by its tail and flung it onto the floor of the boat where it continued to flop around for about a half hour. "Make good ceviche" said The Jaguar as he handed me a new line.

By the end of the afternoon we had caught about one and a half buckets full of the small Pati fish. The fishing was exhilerating but a little demoralizing as we kept pulling up baby fish which then had to be thrown back into the water. At one point the irishman pulled up a small fish that had some how been hooked in the eye. He asked the Jaguar if he could use it as bait for a larger fish, since the baby was certainly not going to survive. The Jaguar however refused, insisting that there was a "fish doctor" somewhere down below. Later we all agreed that Jags just didn't want anyone else to catch a barracuda. If there had been a fish doctor, there would have also been a fish dentist who could have fixed the barracuda's front teeth.

When we returned to the dock, the Jaguar descaled all the fish and gutted them. This was probably the more gorey part of the entire thing and I already needed to wash my hands so I went back to the room. When I came out again, there were about 8 barracude steaks and 8 cleaned Pati fish ready to be fried. With lime and salt, the Barracuda was actually really good, although I didn't quite agree that the Pati was a firt class fish. Claire tried both kinds of fish and enjoyed it-- first time eating meat in over a year. We washed down the days adventure with some cheap but good Panamanian box wine and stayed up late listening to stories of far away places.

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