Every year staff and friends from The Flyfish Journal descend upon South Andros, Bahamas for BahamaCon, a casual gathering at Deneki’s Andros South bonefish lodge, to chase bonefish, barracuda and all manner of beautiful things. Here is what happened this year.
Flats on a windless day, bow
a window into the world
the sun rides my shoulders like a yolk
as push pole burrows into sand and clay
along the mangrove edge of sea.
Bonefish make the reel sing
but barracuda make me scream
as they shred poppers and twist
wire tippet into curly q’s, twirl through
the air or sulk against reefs, smoking
packs of jacks and needle fish, blunt
my sense of purpose to do anything
in life except for search out shapes
among a thousand blues and greens.
It’s lights out at Cuda City, the way
a two by four named Isabel breaks skull
to still a wicked mouth to feed a family to
throw a bar-b-que to fill a freezer.
Always there are fish to eat.
Always there are fish to be eaten.
It must feel good to be surrounded
by so much food: the conch, the mahi,
the ahi, the snapper. But it is barracuda
Tori likes most. And barracuda
Isabel is reserved for. For barracuda
are the bane of appendages wrapped in gold
and silver wrist bands. And barracuda
like airplanes launching from runways.
And barracuda who go shopping each day
through supermarket flats. And barracuda
who will eat other barracuda without
a second thought. The only sense a barracuda
makes is the sense you impose on them:
out of necessity to restore your shaking hands.
Impossibly Violent and Savagely Fast
Words: Steve Duda
I thought he smelled like cucumbers—cucumbers splashed with lemon. I held him by the tail and pointed his face toward the camera. He was still alive and his teeth flashed and drops of water fell from his belly onto the deck of the boat. Barracuda—the big ones—leer. They sport an icy, maniacal grin—as if they’ve done something depraved and wicked and quite enjoyed the wickedness and depravity.
My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. This was a big ‘cuda and the guide wanted to take him home. The pictures were done and I passed the fish back to the guide who laid it on the deck. In a few seconds the business was done and the cuda was dead. The deed sounded like a 2×4 smacking a cinder block.
It’s easy to assign terrible motives to barracuda. They are chaos agents. They are the most violent things that swim. They are marauders. They attack by ambush. Their judgments are fast, sure and final.
The barracuda destroyed an eight-inch popper at 12:14 on a Tuesday afternoon. The flats were glassy. There was almost no wind. He was in three feet of water—not moving, just finning—waiting. The take was impossibly violent and savagely fast. Everyone on the boat screamed a little.
The first run was short and punctuated by a three-foot leap. His rage was white hot and he began his second run, right toward the boat. It was a long shot, but what if his next leap landed him in the skiff? Three-and-a-half feet of slashing razor wire ripping at sunburned calves, a whirlwind of scalpels desperate for something to sever. Everyone on the boat screamed again.
By 12:36 on a Tuesday afternoon, the entire scene had played out. The barracuda no longer smelled of cucumbers and lemons. His grin was still wicked and his eyes had lost their demonic glint—but just a little. The guide stashed him in the shade of the boat and we all got back to fishing.
The next morning, the guide handed me a foil package. I opened it on the dock. “It’s your ‘cuda” he said. It was a deep fried chunk that smelled like coconut oil and black pepper. Eating barracuda can cause ciguatera due to the presence of a foodborne toxin. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, usually followed by neurological symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, paresthesia, numbness of extremities, mouth and lips, reversal of hot and cold sensation, ataxia, vertigo, and hallucinations. I thought about the leering cuda, about how evil I supposed him to be—how wicked. I put a piece in my mouth. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking.
Slack Tide Meanderings
Words: Nathaniel Riverhorse Nakadate
This flat is a slow burn.
There isn’t much water moving.
The fish are laying low.
I feel like taking a nap on the bow.
Lunch was a peanut butter and grape jelly masterpiece,
washed down with a ginger beer.
Lazy tide, lazy me.
We’ve caught too many bonefish to count and a smiling
‘cuda the size of a park bench.
I’m supposed to be watching for more to cast to,
but the three dolphins at 10 o’clock are far more mesmerizing.
They swim sideways, and then turn on saltwater dimes.
I remember how I used to talk to them by rubbing my
hands on the rails of a surfboard, while prone and waiting
A turtle! Or is it seaweed?
My guide tells us about the sweetbread he ate with his
To that, I butter on sunscreen to my cheekbones.
I see a cloud that looks like a stampeding palomino.
“Bonefish 50 feet, cast now!”
A perfect cast because I am standing on my fly line and it
drops the shrimp fly better than I could have.
I pretend I do this every time.
Turquoise fin edges juxtaposed by cream white sands, as it
swims from my hands.
Everything begins to move again.
I am so damn happy in my heart, it could burst.