Whilst on holiday last month in Guam I managed to get out on the water for some Marianas offshore trolling. The last time I had done this kind of fishing I was on the Laccadive Strait in a tiny blue skiff with a captain and deckhand in sarongs with about six words of English between them, and me by far the more ignorant of others’ ways, possessing a grand vocabulary of three words in Sinhalese. Anyway, some years later I now found myself aboard the Island Girl II, sailing from Agana Bay. I booked the charter online from the comfort of my home in Tokyo and everything was all in order on the day as the deckhand came to pick me up from my hotel in Tumon at 6:30am and we set out. Once again, my ear for foreign tongues betrayed me and I couldn’t catch the deckhand’s name, though he took pity on me and my open-mouthed look of stupidity and said, “Call me K for short”, though I was gratified later to find out the captain called him by the same name. It was about ten minutes drive to the marina and a stone’s throw from the car park to the entry port of the Island Girl; I was greeted most warmly by the captain John, who welcomed me aboard and indeed to Guam as well. Both Captain John and K were muscular, capable-looking men of the sea and the Island Girl was a model of military cleanliness (I’ve been on some disgraceful tubs here in Japan); we cast off at five to seven and were fishing by quarter past. As I enjoyed the view from the upper deck K remarked dryly that “We have a lot of competition today” and a quick look-out all around showed me there wasn’t a single other vessel of any kind out on the water…imagine fishing Tokyo Bay in similar circumstances! The weather was perfect – sunny with a touch of wind every so often to stop it being too hot, and despite fishing as much as I have done I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the sea, the Philippines Sea in this case. Every so often flying fish would leap from the surface before our bows, and it would take a fairly insensible character to not at least smile at the sight of a green sea turtle in its native element, but these seemed to be normal for a morning fishing in Guam!
Both Captain John and K were very good and explained what I should expect with this kind of fishing. It was nice chatting to K about the different kinds of fish and fishing available in Guam, and amazing to hear him rattle off the names of the target species in Japanese like an encyclopaedia. It turns out 80% of their custom is Japanese tourists (and most of the other being US Navy) which led on to a discussion of our hypothetical catch: in the event, the captain would make sashimi for me once we returned to moorings. Equally gratifying for an angler as superstitious as I am – right foot first going aboard of course, as well as numerous other things – K pointed out the “lucky” rod and how they always did well at a certain point (which turned out to be some kind of proving ground for artillery) which we were apporaching. Well, into my second beer and wondering if we were going to be in luck that day, a fish took the bait and I was onto a nice wahoo; of course on the lucky rod and just as we passed the lucky point. After a pretty good fight the fish was boated without mishap, then well-iced in preparation for being turned into sashimi. It is always nice to catch a new species and in such nice circumstances!
Looking back towards shore at the thick vegetation, long treacherous reef and dark, steep-to cliffs, all under a burning hot sun, I was glad I was on a fishing boat offshore trolling, drinking a local cold beer in my shorts and bare feet under a big hat, instead of being on an LCVP carrying an M1 Garand, 30 kilos of gear and facing a wade across 200 yards of exposed reef and beach under a plunging fire from three sides of jungle delivered by entrenched, desperate Japanese. Wherever you go on Guam you are reminded of the Pacific War, and no matter whose side you happen to take you can only thank your lucky stars it was fought by them and not you, where the hardest choice you’ll have to make during the day is what drink to have with your burger.
I had booked a three-hour trip, not having any more time to spare, and it turned out the lucky wahoo was my only catch for the trip. We concluded the morning’s fishing spotting the green turtle, and were back at the marina by 10am. Some locals were shore-fishing the entrance of the marina and I gave them a wave; they wanted to know if we were in luck, I held the wahoo aloft and how they cheered and celebrated my catch in a most gratifying manner, whilst K explained the locals always root for their boat’s anglers. After settling up Captain John set to the wahoo and withing minutes he had reduced it to fillets. He could easily hold his own against some of the fish dealers I’ve seen at Tsukiji!
As we watched the captain at work, K remarked, “Have you seen our stingrays?” which I thought was some kind of obscure joke until I looked over the edge of the gangway and a pair of giant stingrays were doing their best to climb the wall of the moorings, begging for scraps of fish like a dog or cat might do. They were about a yard across, and obviously well-fed. Even so, every so often a young GT would dart in and contest the scraps of fish with the stingrays!
K poured the soy sauce and doled out the wasabi, I regretted drinking all my beers on board and the scene became surreal with the sudden appearance of a young Japanese girl, wearing little more than what appeared to be two napkins, and an older Japanese couple wearing dressing gowns who asked in perfect English if they could try some of my sashimi, please?
The sashimi was the best you could ever eat in the world, of course, and suitably stuffed with fish my unexpected dining guests made their thanks and disappeared. Wahoo sashimi for me was something like halfway between mebachi maguro and kanpachi. K said it is even better wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two before eating, just like kanpachi I suppose. After I demolished the last of the sashimi K ran me back to my hotel in Tumon in good time and I thanked my lucky stars for having had such an enjoyable fishing trip. I’m loking forward to when I can next go to Guam, where I will definitely be fishing aboard the Island Girl again!