I like the ocean, at least to look at, and I like eating fresh fish. I've never been too interested in how the latter gets out of the former and onto my plate.
The lovely wife and I have recently arrived in Panama City and are staying with her oldest son and his family while we acclimatize and figure out where we want to live. My youngest step-son, Danny the Dentist, is a fanatic fisherman and immediately invited us to visit his friends Damiana and Didimo, who live on the coast in Los Santos province. When I say "on the coast", I mean the ocean is their front yard and their supermarket.
Well sure, I keyed in on the road trip and hammock time. After I agreed to go, the fishing on the open sea and the sea-sickness thing popped into my mind like a painful boil. Oh yeah, there was that fishing trip with a previous father-in-law in Oregon, when I spent the whole time feeding the fish in a most unpleasant manner.
Danny the Dentist is known for his chronological flexability and he had patients Saturday, so we didn't cross the bridge over the Panama Canal until after dark. We drove west along the Pan-American Highway and then south into the Azuero Peninsula. We arrived at Damiana and Didimo's house after 1 AM, actually we arrived at the end of the road and then carried a bunch of staple food, beer and fishing equipment along the beach and up to their house.
Damiana and Didimo have lived on their piece of land for 20-some years. To say that they are of modest means is beyond an understatement- when they bought the land for $35 they had to borrow it from her father. They've advanced a lot from then, but they still insist they're poor. (They're not, except monetarily) When we showed up in the middle of the night, they warmly welcomed us and pulled three corvinas (sea bass) out of the fridge. Now, I love corvina, but this was the best ever, with fried platanos (non-sweet bananas) on the side and lots of beer. Didimo and I ended up sitting there and talking about this and that for hours. Every once in a while he reminded me how much he loves Danny like a son, and my wife and me also by extension, and he actually means it.
After a couple hours of sleep, I groggily stumbled back to the car with Danny, and we made our way to a beach near the town of Pedasi, arriving about 7:30. Avidel, the Captain of the 27' fiberglass boat didn't look too happy about our late arrival, but it was hard to tell with the mask he was wearing. We loaded up and pushed off.
The sea was a bit choppy, thank God that Danny had given me an anti-barf pill on the way. Actually, the waves made the boat look kinda small. Avidel is one hell of a driver, but still the UP/SLAM-down motion of the boat made me not want to move. They told me that we were looking for sea-birds or dolphins, that's where the fish are.
After a bit, the hills of the coast were barely visible. My fishing pole started to bend, and I heard the RRRRR of the reel as the line flew out. Did I mention that I don't know the first thing about fishing? So Danny is telling me what to do, and I'm trying to reel in what seems to weigh something like a Volkswagen. I let too much slack in the line and lost what Avidel said was a 50 pound tuna. He saw it, and he should know.
Crap. The one that got away. I didn't have too long to feel like failure because we started to catch fish. Dorado (mahi-mahi) with their bright gold color and huge head. Yellow-fin tuna and Albacore tuna, fat and silvery. When one pole gets a fish, you reel in the other one so that the lines don't tangle. But sonofabitch, the other one had a fish also. That happened several times. The last tuna we caught flopped over the side and got nailed by a shark. We had so many fish by then we didn't even care much.
Cleaning the fish took a while, but was almost as interesting as catching them. We anchored off the coast where we started from. The Frigate birds, pelicans and grouper fish wait there to fight over the scraps which are recycled into the ocean. The three dorados and 15 tuna became fillets and went into zip-lock bags, filling a rather large cooler. Danny gave fish away to six or seven people on the way home, as he seems to know and be loved by a significant percentage of the population.
So, that's my little adventure, so far. Did I mention I love Panama?
P.S. I've left a lot out. Stay tuned for more.