Fishing You Wish You Could Try
When a photography contest prompted me to find something in my neighborhood that was “undiscovered” I drove off in search of the local fishermen. The first time I saw their art was entirely an accident, but this time I was on a mission.
I drove up the nearest coastline searching for signs of fishermen. I was feeling defeated as one mile turned into two and then eight. No seagulls, rusty trucks, or hoards of vehicles. I continued to search and eventually saw a seemingly impossible situation.
Far in the distance it looked like a boat was pointing to the left with its engine roaring, but it was moving to the right. How could I have forgotten my binoculars, I scolded myself. I stood in the searing sun for nearly an hour and waited for the puzzle to unfold. Finally, it all became clear in the sight in my camera lens. I was correct. They were facing left, engine full speed ahead, but moving right.
I peered through my camera lens and followed the water being forced out of their engines. I scanned right following the signs of a gentle arc on the water, barely visible, that seemed to extend forever from behind their boat. I felt like I was looking for the other end of the rainbow. Then my lens caught it. At the other end of the arc were more boats urging their engines to pull the opposite direction. The arc along the water was an impossibly long net being towed by the two groups of boats.
The first two boats I saw were attached to one end of the fishing net and were full speed ahead to the left, while three boats were attached to the other end and they were full speed ahead to the right. The weight of the net was so heavy that even with the engines on either end struggling to press on they were barely moving. Five boats on the net, nearly a kilometer apart, engines roaring and the whole production moving at a snails pace.
The process was so slow that I took pictures for a half an hour, got in my car for twenty minutes to cool off in the air conditioner, got out and took more pictures. I got back in the car, drove a few blocks to keep up with the boats, in, out, and so forth.
During one of my breaks in the car I sorted out where they were intending to come ashore and found a large group on land waiting their arrival.
I was greeted in broken English by the strangers and welcomed as I walked into their work space on the beach. Someone handed me water and insisted I take a cold juice too. I pointed at my camera and smiled eagerly. The person in charge nodded and smiled. Permission to photograph granted. We all waited as the boats continued to crawl toward us with an old pickup truck waiting for one end of the net. About a half-kilometer away on the beach was another team and an old truck waiting for the other end of the net. The boats got close, but eventually the weight proved too significant and even with six boats they could get no closer to shore. Additional boats from neighboring groups were brought over to help. The ends of the net finally reached the shore and the trucks hooked up.
The net was hooked to the front of the truck. The driver reversed up the beach as far as he could, the net was unhooked, the truck rushed into the edge of the water and the next piece of net was hooked to the truck. This happened at both ends of the net simultaneously. They were slowly inching in their catch.
The beach slowly filled with bystanders. It was a clash of communities as laborers came with plastic bags to collect the free extras that were too small to go to market, local moms came to buy direct from the fisherman, and tourists gathered to sort out what was going on. The seagulls arrived last. They know exactly when the fish will be shallow enough to make hunting easy.
When the fish were finally in shallow water. The fisherman waded in. They circled the catch with their bodies and began filling collection nets for the waiting refrigeration trucks. A few extras were tossed my way since I spent the day in the heat with the team, but not anticipating this I had no way to take them home and I gave them to people nearby.
The fish were gathered quickly while trying to keep the birds away. They were hauled to the cooler trucks by hand and lifted by strapping young men waiting at the top.
After an entire day of work, the cooler trucks were filled in what seemed like minutes.
The nets were hauled in for repair and folded in preparation for the next day.
The crowd disappeared in a flash leaving only the seagulls behind to argue over their snacks and clean up the sand.