I was barely 6 years old when I got caught up in fishing. I used to spend my school holidays with my family in the coastal village of Trou aux Biches. Waking up every morning and dipping my feet into the water inevitably got me to be drawn to the open sea. The village rose to the rhythm of the fishermen who prepared to go out at sea. The memory of the reigning atmosphere from dusk will remain freshly embedded in my mind forever. The sound of crashing waves over rocks, colorful painted pirogues gently slipping through the water, fishermen calling out to each other before riding the ocean away, to cast their fishing nets.
I was captivated by the local fishermen, who would go “piquer zourites” (octopus fishing) equipped with harpoons – long steel spearguns with a hooked end. I quickly befriended them and started tagging along on their trips. They taught me some fishing basics, like how to place baits in traps and catch crustaceans attached to rocks. I was thus delighted to mingle with them and I soon became popular in the village: I was the little boy who had a genuine interest in their trade!
Growing up, I would embark on nighttime fishing trips, a whole adventure for the teenager I was! We drifted aboard the pirogue, sailing under the stars, torch lights on, targeting squid. This artisanal fishing technique consisted of attracting fish with light. From father to son, this occupation passed down through generations, each inheriting skills from the previous one. Their knowledge of the sea was hence perpetuated.
I was taught for my part the various fishing techniques, the motion of tides; I learned how to keep track of the full moon, the best time of the year to catch specific types of fish, I knew the exact spots : close to the reefs, in late summer afternoons, where to find white tuna, for example. Underwater landforms, distances from coast to coast, the depth and temperature of water held no secret for me! What started as a hobby grew into a passion which in turn taught me patience! It could sometimes be hours before getting a bite and I would therefore listen to the fishermen’s stories to pass time. The mysterious ghost ships stories sent chills down my spine, while the old superstition about absolutely avoiding going at sea on November 02nd (Commemoration of the Faithful Departed) made me grin!
The peaceful village brightened up when the fishermen returned home from their trip in the early afternoon. Villagers, tourists and fishmongers approached them to buy the fresh catch of the day: jackfish, groupers, snappers, sea bream …. As for me, I proudly returned to our summer home, bringing my own catch to the kitchen.
When I reached adulthood, I quite naturally surrounded myself with people who shared my passion and began to go on fishing expeditions outside the lagoon, on convenient, comfortable motorboats. We embarked at sunrise for a full day quest. For me, being stranded in the middle of nowhere, between sky and sea is an unparalleled experience. Following flocks of birds helped with trolling. It was always a delight to meet with friends on the boat, and the inevitable wait never seemed too long as we shared convivial moments together. While often exposed to the elements: rain, swells, ocean winds, blazing sun, we learned to cope and adapt to different situations.
Admittedly, like many others, I dreamed of catching the biggest fish and that made for an adrenaline-induced challenge on my sea trips from then on. When the fish finally bit, it became a sport, a duel between the animal and me. I had to put all my learned techniques into practice to fight my opponent of the day! The confrontation could last a while, but I could not give in, I had to stay focused in the face of adversity. With patience and perseverance, when the battle carried out at arm’s length comes to an end and one proudly raises his catch, what a glorious, memorable moment! Catching the biggest fish in a Big Game Fishing competition will forever be one of the most beautiful times of my life!
I still visit my fishing buddies in Trou aux Biches and accompany them on their sea trips. Spending time with them, far from the crowds and stress of life’s daily hassles is a renewed pleasure.
Fishing: a healthy hobby, a communion with nature. A treat for the senses. A delight that involves respect of nature, a priority according to fishermen: show respect to the sea and it will respect you back.
The rising sun, the ocean, a boat, a fishing rod, and that is what defines my happiness … a simple and invigorating happiness!