A 75-year-old Cayman Brac fisherman is nursing his middle finger after nearly losing a piece of it in a fishing accident.
Arthlee Evans was fishing for snapper and tuna in waters off the Brac airport when the incident happened almost a month ago.
Since that time, Evans has been receiving treatment at the Brac’s Faith Hospital. While his finger heals, he is taking a break from fishing and spending his time enjoying the beach, feeding the birds and checking what other fishermen have brought in for the day.
“I certainly won’t stop fishing, it’s a livelihood and a pastime that I love and enjoy,” he said.
Evans told the Cayman Compass his line had snagged while fishing in deep water.
He was pulling on the line and releasing it to get clear when the line started coming up extremely fast – he pushed his hand over to clear the line from wrapping around the end of the pole and it caught his finger.
“It wrapped tighter and tighter and at one point the line became so hot it started cooking the flesh on my finger,” Evans said. All he could think was “I’m going to lose my finger,” he added.
With all his strength, he pulled back the tip of the rod and broke it, but the reel kept spinning. He broke the rod a second time and the line released his finger, he said.
With his finger wrapped in a piece of cloth, he headed for shore, phoning his wife Akiko on the way in and asking her to meet him at the dock because he needed to go to hospital.
“The first joint to the top knuckle was cut really bad,” Evans said. “The doctor looked at it and said it was a nasty cut and put 12 stitches in it.”
Sixteen days and several dressings later, Evans’ doctors told him the cut still looked nasty, but he wouldn’t lose the top of his finger, although the nail was gone.
“I could have lost a finger or hand; by the way the doctor described it, it was a very nasty cut,” said Evans.
“Fishing can be fun and can be bad sometimes. Thankfully, this is the only major accident I had in many years,” he said.
Alone on the water
Rising at the crack of dawn and getting the best catch is what the life of a fisherman is all about.
Evans said he loves to fish alone.
“I don’t like people asking too many questions on the boat. It’s very peaceful on the ocean and most fishermen don’t like to show their techniques or fishing spots,” he said.
Born in George Town, Evans moved to Cayman Brac 12 years ago. Starting at age 16, he worked for shipping company National Bulk Carriers for nine years.
After returning from sea, Evans joined the Cayman Islands Fire Service and worked there for six years.
He was transferred to Cayman Brac as a fire officer but eventually joined the Brac police and was put in charge of the police patrol boat, along with Lorenzo Berry, he said.
He also became a certified scuba instructor and worked at the old Spanish Bay Reef Resort on Grand Cayman. He also managed Bob Soto’s Diving for a year before starting his own business, Quabbin Dive.
He eventually sold his business and returned to Cayman Brac with Akiko to retire from the hustle and bustle of Grand Cayman.
Today, Evans fishes for The Brasserie restaurant on the boat Brasserie Catch 2.
“If the tuna is running, I can go out at 6am and be back by 9am with about six tunas averaging 55 pounds,” he said. “If I am fishing snappers, I can be come back home with 70 pounds of snapper by 2pm,” Evans said.
According to Evans, fishing on the Brac is a lot better than on Grand Cayman because there are fewer people fishing and they don’t have to go far.
Evans said most of his fishing skills come from his grandfather, Lemuel McField, who was a shipbuilder and carpenter.
“I would sleep at my grandfather’s so I could go fishing with him next day. When I was 12 years old, he built me a skipper boat which I used to go fishing with my brother,” he said.
Evans says it’s not difficult to fish, and 90% of young boys in Cayman in his time had to fish for a living. “There was nothing else to do,” he said.