Memoirs of a Navy Brat






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Going Fishing Becomes a Passion



I guess going fishing was the most natural activity that would interest me most in our new environment, with the sea just a few meters behind our quarters. At an early age of 10, there was nothing that evoked so much passion in me during my growing up years than the love of fishing, which in my case, was shoreline fishing.

Going fishing was a favorite pastime of some base residents. It was common to see navy couples and civilian visitors from the city going fishing along the shorelines of the base.The sea waters along the base's perimeter were fertile fishing grounds teeming with varieties of aquatic life: fish, shrimps, squids, crustaceans, clams, oysters, mussels, eels, jellyfish, etc.. You name it, I've seen it all and probably had caught or gathered it, except for the deep-sea varieties.

I didn't have to go far to have my first lessons in fishing techniques. As fate would have it, Juanito, the husband of our next door neighbor's household help, was a fisherman by trade. He would come often to fish by the sea wall, usually very early in the morning, and I wouldn't miss every opportunity to observe what he did while fishing. First, I just observed, then asked some questions, and then eventually tried what I had learned later on. It didn't take long for me to go into action as the thrill and excitement of seeing him land his catch was just too irresistible for me to ignore. I had to credit this fellow for the invaluable first hand fishing information and lessons, and a lot of other things that I picked up from him.

The first method I tried was hand-line fishing, sitting by the sea wall early in the morning during high tides, and dropping a line into the water below. There were several species of fish that routinely travel and feed early mornings in groups along the length of the sea wall. The baits we used for these species were either banana or mashed cooked rice. We plant the hook or hooks, if we use two hooks to a single line, into a small chip of banana or into a tiny ball of mashed rice. A single piece of banana or mashed rice the size of 2 golf balls is usually more than enough to bring in a basketful haul of assorted fish. The sheer thrill of landing each catch, especially if you hooked two fish at a time, was more than enough to compensate for the discomfort of getting up early from bed. To see my mother's face lit up with joy upon seeing  fresh fish, still jumping,  at the kitchen sink as she woke up in the morning, was more motivating to me than the economic value of the catch. During the last twelve years that we stayed here, the family's fish requirements were practically sourced out from our backyard.

I also learned to fish for other species which are farther out from the shore. Initially, I had to do it manually throwing my line, hook and sinker as far as possible into the open sea. Later on, I had an easier time when Dad brought home a fishing rod with casting reel. Live shrimp, peeled shrimp, or sea worm, were the baits I learned to use for species farther out in the water. I remember Dad also brought home some feathered artificial lures, but they were not attractive to the shoreline species. There's another kind of thrill you will experience with this type of fishing compared to the drop-line method, especially when your catch is big enough and a fighter. Here, there is a considerable distance to be negotiated and fought for before you land or lose your catch. The sound of your reel creaking as you start slowly pulling in your line against so much resistance, or as your stubborn catch makes that spurt to pull out extra yards of line as it darts from left to right, will make your adrenaline rise and your heart pump faster. Imagine your excitement as you finally raise your catch and land it on the ground after a few moments of tugging battle. I've won so many of such battles and lost quite a few.

Sometimes, while pulling in your catch, your line suddenly gets limp and find out that it's been cut. Or if you're fortunate enough, you land only the upper half of your catch. I later found out that I was being victimized by those preying small barracudas. This fish has very sharp teeth and would respond only to a live fish bait. To counter the sharp teeth, we've appended to the nylon line about ten inches of thin stainless wire to which the hook was attached, another fishing technique courtesy of Juanito. In clear water, the barracudas can be spotted near the surface waiting motionless for its prey. I'd just throw the fish bait, without a sinker so it does not sink fast to the bottom, near to where it is. Or sometimes, I would use a floater. You can actually witness how it would gobble up your fishing bait almost instantly.

Groupers are very exciting fish to catch for they are fighters and can be caught even in shallowest parts of the sea. I had caught groupers underneath the very stones I was standing on, just dropping a line with shrimp bait, dead or alive, into the crevices.  The pontoon barges behind our quarters, abound with different species of groupers, relatively big ones. They hide in the holes beneath the sunken pontoons. In fact, we had identified the different fishing spots at the pontoons were we normally always get a catch. I still recall that instance when my aunt came home from the market one morning with some live shrimps. It was hot, almost noon, but I decided just the same to go down to the first pontoon barge, dropped a line with the shrimp bait at one of the spaces between pontoons not very far from the gangplank, and presto, I came back to the house in less than two minutes with a foot-long grouper. They were all so happy and amazed at the ease by which I converted that one shrimp into a nice and valuable catch. That more than paid for the total cost of the shrimps.

When Dad and I initially fished for the bigger night-feeding groupers at the pontoon barges, we encountered a technical problem. We initially dropped thick nylon fishing lines tied permanently to the pontoons at several chosen permanent fishing sites, which we just checked the next morning for any catch. For fishing baits, we used small dead fish of the deep-sea tuna type, bought from the market. What usually greeted us in the mornings were cut lines which looked like it were scraped to the sharp edges of the pontoons below. To remedy the problem, we changed from nylon lines to telephone wires and immediately changed the situation. We just replenished the baits every night and checked in the mornings. From then on, groupers, which are some of the priciest fish in the market, were just common fare to us. I still recall our biggest catch, a two and a half feet long grouper which I could hardly lift out of the water. Dad had to be the one to pull it up.

The passion for fishing was like a beacon that lured me to the sea, a passion which seemed to push me to spend every possible spare time into going fishing. I still miss the experience until now.

[Fishing Trips with Dad]

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