We looked at each other and smiled, and our stomachs immediately began growling. I eased open the trap, took the fish in one hand, closed the trap, and dropped it back into the water. It was just as I raised the fish for John to admire that it happened. Do you know how slippery a jewfish is? One flip, one bounce off the rail, and one splash later, that little jewfish was swimming free!
It was almost dark now, and we headed for Man-O-War channel to anchor. All plans to fish the places we had originally dreamed about were dropped. The task at hand was dinner, and fast!
We anchored in the channel and set a couple of rods out as we contemplated what we were going to eat, each of us wondering separately if one particular species of here-to-fore junk fish would be good to eat.
Suddenly, one rod went down and just as quickly the other bent double. Two nice mangrove snapper came up - and both stayed in the boat!
A minor circus of sorts followed the catch as we began preparing to clean, filet and cook these two self-sacrificial offerings. The stove was setup on the big ice chest. Flour and cornmeal came out, and the fish filets were ready in no time. Soon the sizzle of fried fish was heard, and the smell was wonderful.
"These two filets are done", John said, "hand me the plate."
Remember that pillow case I told you about?
"Well that's ok, we'll just eat them right out of the frying pan", I said, "Get us a couple of forks."
Remember the pillow case?
Have you ever tried to eat flaky fried fish in the dark, out of a frying pan, with a pocket knife? Its really not too bad if you aren't really hungry and you keep your tongue off the sharp edge. We managed to eat the fish, and in fact, caught a few more that we cooked. We had our dinner, and sat back to relax..
Two things happen on a still night on the water. First, mosquitoes from neighboring mangrove islands are drawn to any light. Once you learn that and get bug spray in your eyes, the second thing starts happening - dew. Do you have any idea how wet an open boat can get from dew in one night?
Needless to say, we did not fish long the next day. It was back to the ramp, boat on the trailer, and head home. We had made enough stupid mistakes for one trip. So, on the way home, in order to prove we were smarter than we looked, we decided to have a jalapeno pepper eating contest. Remember the pillow case? The rules were simple: no swallowing them whole - you have to chew them, and the first one to quit looses. I ate one, and then John ate one, and so it went until we ran out of crackers and Pepsi. We never did finish the jar of peppers.
I have not been able to eat jalapenos since that trip. I also avoid all night fishing trips, unless the night is spent in a hotel room! And, by the way, I still say I ate more peppers than John!