“Most people go a lifetime without catching a fish like that,” Capt. Mike Russell told me aboard the Chubasca III.
It surprised me, the rush of pride I felt there afloat in the 6,000-foot deep waters outside of Nassau Harbour, mugging for the camera with the 20-pound mahi-mahi I had just reeled in. A Facebook moment to be sure.
In Your Bucket Because…
- It takes only minutes to reach deep water from Nassau Harbour.
- It’s a beautiful day on the water with exhilarating exertion as a bonus.
- Of course fishermen will love the outing, but even novices will probably catch some good-sized fish.
My many trips to Nassau, capital city of the Bahamas, have been devoted to all cultural and recreational aspects of the island. It never crossed my mind that deep-sea fishing would fall into my bucket, but there it was: an invitation to go. So go I did.
In Deep Water
The early summer morning was crisp and a little choppy as we pulled from the docks aboard the 48-foot Chubasco III, whose name means a violent summer squall.
Or so Capt. Mike Russell, a seventh generation Bahamian whose roots reach back to the Loyalist migration to the Bahamas post-American Revolutionary War, told me.
His boat holds up to eight fishermen, and he, along with his son, Dave, knows just how to get to where the fish are and to get them on and off the lines.
So, yes, I admit: They made catching my first mahi-mahi, a.k.a. dolphinfish, as easy as logistically possible.
Dave loaded the heavy rods holding 80-pound test line with lures, at first. Two of the rods were strung through outriggers to avoid entanglements.
The boat held one large reeling throne and two smaller ones outfitted with rod holders. I sat in a smaller chair when I reeled in my first catch of the day – a skip jack tuna about 3 pounds heavy and a decent fighter. Our fishing party of six caught about a half-dozen of those and a couple of blackfin tuna.
Into deeper water about 15 miles out, we trolled the weed line with ballyhoo bait, and pretty soon a dolphinfish hit a line.
Dave pointed me to the big chair, and off I was reeling like crazy. And then not, because the crank refused to move no matter how hard I strained.
Then it gave a little, and I continued this battle of strength for what seemed like a half-hour, but more likely was closer to five minutes.
Then Dave had her off the hook — a shimmering, iridescent golden beauty that looked at once medieval and elegant.
Into the cooler she went as I tried to control the quaking in my tension-weary arms.
She later turned a neon blue color, but the greenish-gold hue returned after a while, and it was picture-taking time.
One of the guys caught the next smaller cow, as they call the females, then a lady friend caught one a few pounds up on mine, and someone else reeled in a bull. Just as suddenly as they started striking, they stopped.
Enjoying the Fruits of our Fishing Labors
The Chubasco Charters crew will arrange to have your fish cleaned and even frozen to take home with you, but we asked only for one of the mahis and one of the blackfin tuna for dinner that night, exhausted but glowing after eight hours under the Bahamian sun atop inky blue waters.
The Russells recommend Montagu Gardens in Nassau to have fish prepared, but most places will do it if you ask. We had plans to eat that night at Goldie’s in Arawak Cay, a collection of colorful seafood shacks and stands that represent the Fish Fry tradition of the Bahamas’ Out Islands.
Because Bahamian cuisine tends to be heavy on the frying, we specified none of that for our fine fillets.
We asked for the tuna seared rare, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. I was right: They did it Bahamian style, stewed with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and plantains.
Despite the overcooking, it smacked of the islands with good flavor. The mahi arrived to our table as ordered – nicely blackened and seriously fresh-tasting with slices of lime and melted butter. Bowls full of peas ‘n’ rice and fried plantains made it a Bahamian feast for the books.
A final triumph in a day of triumphs. Check that off my bucket list. Back to the beach for me.
Chubasco Charters, 242-324-3474. Half- and full-day fishing charters.
Goldie’s restaurant at Arawak Cay, 242-325-4300