By Mike Zusman
During the peak of the whitetail rut, my family took me on a Caribbean vacation – by force.
While my body was in paradise, my mind was far away battling intrusive deer hunting thoughts. Drinking my way into vacation mode was not an option, as the amount of alcohol required prohibited responsible parenting. I needed a different solution.
Having learned of the joys of spearfishing from my elk hunting buddies who live in Hawaii, it was on my list of expensive, time-consuming hobbies to take up. I decided this trip was the perfect opportunity to start the outflow of cash, and my mind immediately calmed down.
I booked a trip with Blade, a local I met on the beach. After explaining that I’d never spearfished before, and that I was time-constrained due to parental commitments, Blade promised an action packed three hour trip with “the best spearfisherman on the island.”
The next morning, Captain John arrived to pick me up in a small Boston Whaler center console. I climbed aboard, and we cruised down the beach to pick up my guide for the day, also named John. I affectionately call him Drunk John on account of his blood alcohol level that morning.
We beached the Whaler, and Drunk John tossed his pole spear, gaff, and snorkel into the boat. He apologized for his tardiness, as he was brutally hung over from a long night of drinking.
“Whatchu wanna catch, mon? I’m ‘de best spear fisherman in all ‘dis place” he bragged as he waved his shaky hands across the entirety of the shoreline.
I told him I wanted to spear a mutton snapper, and he looked at me incredulously.
“Mutton snappuh’? Can you swim?”
“Yes, I can swim.”
“You got fins an’ a snorkel?”
“No,” I replied. Drunk John looked pissed off.
The John’s exchanged words, and we motored over to a moored excursion boat. The captain and I held on to the gunwale of the target vessel while Drunk John boarded and rummaged through its compartments. He found fins and a snorkel and tossed them into our boat. With our act of piracy complete, we moved to a spot that he was eager to fish.
Captain John eased off the throttle before putting the outboard in neutral. Drunk John and I donned our fins and snorkels, and without saying a word, he handed me the pole spear before going over the rail with the gaff. I followed him over with the spear.
Swimming on the surface, I watched him dive to a coral and rock structure. He immediately started gaffing lobster after lobster, swimming each of them up to the boat.
As Drunk John was occupied, I kept my eyes peeled for a mutton. It didn’t take long for one to show up. I readied the spear and dove.
With each foot of depth, it became more apparent that I don’t know shit about diving. Yes, I can swim laps in the country club pool, but I couldn’t equalize to save my life. At 15 feet, the pressure was too great. I hurried back to the surface in a slight panic.
Drunk John swam over to check on me, encouraging me to shoot any fish I could, including one of the numerous Caribbean blue fish. While he went back to his personal lobster fest, I continued my mutton hunt, swimming with my eyes down, scanning the bottom.
Suddenly, and without warning, something painfully clobbered me on the back of the head.
Shocked but uninjured, I rolled over and surfaced to see the bow of the unanchored Whaler bobbing up and down in front of me. Captain John was busy texting on his phone.
“You get what you pay for,” I thought to myself. Unsure who was at fault, I kicked away without saying anything, continuing my hunt, but now keeping tabs on the Whaler of doom.
After another failed attempt on a mutton, I surfaced, gasping for air, before swallowing my pride and asking Drunk John to recover the spear. While I missed by a mile, I was glad I took a shot.
With time running out, and having cleared out his lobster honey hole, Drunk John made one final dive to spear a grouper for me. We motored back to the resort, and I brought the fish and a few lobsters to the beach side grill.
After a stiff drink and self-reflection, I picked up my fresh grouper and broiled lobster tails. With a delicious seafood platter in each hand, I traversed the resort to find my wife and kids at the pool.
Along the way, another guest who was no doubt underwhelmed by the resort’s dining options stopped me. “Wow, man! Where can I get lobster tail?”
I spoke to him matter of factly.
“In the ocean. Can you swim? Go talk to Blade.”