Gone fishin' for the afternoon

Those who love fishing always dream of catching “the big one” – that elusive huge fish that breaks all the records. However, after an excellent afternoon of deep sea fishing in the waters off Grand Cayman, I can honestly say that hooking anything can be pretty exciting, and you can’t sniff at the smaller stuff. 

It was a gorgeous, sunny day with a cloudless sky when we headed out from the docks near Morgan’s Harbour. My brother Dominic, along with my father David and a visiting family friend, Owen McBride, had booked a half-day fishing trip with Captain Asley’s Watersports. Capt. Derrin Ebanks (Asley’s son) was taking us out on Hit n Run – a 40-foot tournament rigged Sportfish. 

Now, I’ll state for the record that I’m not the fishing type. I’ll happily eat tuna, mahi mahi, wahoo, and anything else that’s going, but the idea of sitting on a boat for hours, waiting for a strike, has never much appealed to me. Luckily, the Hit n Run has a comfortable, air-conditioned cabin, so I was looking forward to sitting in there and relaxing. 

Another thing about Capt. Derrin – he keeps a clean vessel. I mean squeaky clean. I mean I-would-like-him-to-come-to-my-house-and-clean-it-sometime clean. It makes a fishing trip that much more enjoyable. 

Our first bite  

So out we went, into North Sound, through the channel, and over the dark, deep blue sea. It wasn’t flat calm, but perfectly fine conditions for fishing outside the reef. I actually thought we were going to be heading miles offshore.  

I think I had actually gone as far as to warn friends that I might lose my phone signal for a while that afternoon. I therefore felt a bit foolish when I saw that we were keeping land easily in sight at all times. We made our way to the northwest, off Barkers and the like, and I settled in for what I was sure was going to be a good hour or so of waiting. 

At that very moment, one of the many rods suddenly started going bananas. We already had something on the line! 

Do you know the wonderful thing about a chartered fishing trip like this? You can do as little or as much as you want. In this case, Capt. Derrin and his first mate, Dougie Ebanks, had set up all the rods, put the bait on the hooks, organized the lures, and simply called one of us to sit in the fishing chair, ready to reel in the catch. 

As Owen was the guest of honor, we insisted he take the revered seat. The crew gave him instruction on how to keep the decent-sized wahoo on the line, as he dutifully lowered and raised the rod. Sure enough, there it was – our first fish of the day. 

Again, the crew took care of the fun part, and then we were off trolling again. Unbelievably, we had barely all sat down again, when another reel came to life … and another! This time Dominic took the chair, and Owen was sitting on the stern, taking to the whole thing like a fish to water, ahem. 

Reelin’ them in  

Between them, they brought in another wahoo and a tuna. This was already turning into a pretty good fishing day, and we’d been on the water for barely an hour. 

The luck continued for the rest of the afternoon. As Derrin revealed that they had caught five mahi mahi that morning, we were hoping to get one for ourselves. We weren’t disappointed. The boat headed for banks of floating seaweed, usually good spots to find the beautiful dolphin fish, and within about half an hour, we caught our first one. 

It was fascinating to see how each type of fish reacted when hooked. We couldn’t easily see the wahoo until they were close to the stern, whereas the dolphin would spring out of the water at a distance, their flashes of brilliant green and yellow appearing above the waves. 

Of course we did hook the odd small fish, and those were promptly unhooked and released. 

Catch and release  

Although we did have lines out for marlin, we didn’t end up catching any, but those would also have been released. Conservationist Guy Harvey often goes out with Capt. Derrin on Hit n Run for tagging projects, and will do so again in April and May. 

“Following the success last year of the offshore shark tagging project, the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) is planning another, bigger project this year in conjunction with the Cayman Islands International Tournament (April 16-19) and the Kirk Slam (May 2-3),” said Harvey. 

“Capt. Derrin Ebanks will be working with the GHRI on the shark and billfish tagging programs at that same time.” 

Heading back to shore  

By the end of the day, we were returning to the dock with a pretty decent haul. It had been a great afternoon – just over four hours of being out on the water, fishing and chatting. We knew it wasn’t always like this; we’ve all heard the stories of people on a boat for a while without even a nibble. That’s why you bring along beers and grub – then it’s fun no matter what. 

Each fishing operation has different rules on who gets possession of the fish at the end. Derrin is quite happy to share the catch, and we walked away with more than enough to keep us in protein for a good few days. 

A number of myths were dispelled for me that afternoon: 

You don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. in order to catch a fish. 

Deep sea fishing doesn’t always mean traveling miles from shore. 

Fishing is actually a pretty exciting, fun sport. 

When you look at the charter price you pay, especially when you are a Cayman Islands resident, to go out on one of these trips, it’s actually very reasonable. It’s a flat rate for a group of people (number limitations vary from company to company), and is a fantastic experience. 

An operation like Captain Asley’s will suit almost everyone because it offers quality equipment, a terrific crew, and did I mention that air-conditioned cabin? 

I highly recommend it. 

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Owen McBride wearing the required gear for fishing – a comfortable shirt, shorts, hat and a beer.

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Owen McBride brings in the catch, with the assistant of first mate, Dougie Ebanks. – Photo: Vicki Wheaton

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Owen McBride and Dominic Wheaton both have fish on the line at the same time. – Photos: Vicki Wheaton

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Capt. Derrin Ebanks holds the latest catch, a mahi mahi, as a proud Owen McBride looks on.

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A good day of fishing! From left, David Wheaton, Dominic Wheaton and Owen McBride.

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Capt. Derrin Ebanks doing the dirty work – cleaning the catch.
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