So the storm I wrote about in the last blog, in fact, did not deliver. It rained quite heavily across the bay, and got very windy here, but that's nothing new. Still no more than a couple raindrops. Our power came back during dinner, which was about 3 or 4 hours after it went out. We had a bunch of candles already lit and were enjoying some ramen with grilled red snapper and leeks (we typically eat much better, but not much water or a stove/oven will do that to you). When the power came on, one of the girls got up and turned off the light so we could continue to enjoy the candle lit dinner instead, which I thought was rather cute.
Yesterday was quite a bit of fun. I got to go sea fishing for the first time, and caught seven red snappers all between a foot to 1.5 feet long. Laura, Daniella and I got up at 6am to drive to Coromandel where we went on a barge to the muscle farms. While we were not hunting muscles, the buoys attract a lot of fish, so the farms make excellent fishing spots.
There was a team of four Kiwis on the boat who were competing for a yearly 3 day fishing tournament. They were amusing and in good spirits during the day and caught plenty of fish themselves, though they doubt it would be enough to win the tournament. One of them still caught a huge red snapper though, which weighed about 6.5 kilograms. That was larger than the largest caught on the previous two days, so they had a shot at it being the largest snapper for the tournament. While snapper can apparently get a good bit larger, they said on average they would only catch 2 or 3 snapper that large all year, so it was still quite a catch for the lucky fisherman, and greatly helped their daily average out on what was otherwise a light catch day. There were five to seven other folks on the barge fishing who were mostly quiet, and occasionally would catch a fairly big fish.
The two girls and I caught a total of twelve snappers that were at least 27cm (10.6in) long, and we caught at least as many smaller fish that were thrown back. I hooked two other fairly large native fish which I can't recall the name, but both managed to break my line and get away. The first was very early in the day and gave me quite a struggle. The second actually was pulled right out of the water about 10 ft from the boat and was about 15in long silver and had green along the top. But it too broke my line before I finished reeling it in, so our keepers turned out to all be snappers. Which was perfectly fine by me, as red snapper is quite a tasty fish and one of my favorites.
The couple that ran the barge were very friendly and patient with us newcomers. They supplied the rods, bait, and spare hooks when lines were broken. They also pulled most of the hooks out and measured to see if fish were big enough to keep. By mid day I was pulling a fair share of hooks out, but between the sharp pointy fins and hooks lodged pretty deep in the poor fish's mouths, I still needed their help on several fish.
We got back to the house pretty late, as we had to stop in Thames (another hour away) to pick up a bunch of supplies, and ate some pizza while in town. Fortunately the salt ice we used to keep the fish cold lasted through the night, but cleaning the fish remained for me in the morning. Since I caught most of the fish, I had no problem offering to fillet our haul. And after watching a video on Laura's computer of Jon instructing volunteers a couple months ago on how to fillet a fish I gave it a shot.
Filleting the fish wasn't that tough, though it took some time to get the hang of it. Mostly, I just had to cut behind the head, then along the dorsal fin and the belly, and then scrape the fillet off the spine/ribs along the side. The fish had only a small area toward the front filled with guts, and the rest was just muscle and bone.
The least desirable part was the flies. There were some 80 files, literally, within 45min of getting started. And filleting all dozen fish pretty much took me all day. I had a bucket where I was chucking the fish carcasses that would erupt into flies whenever a new one was added to the heap. Fortunately, this meant only a handful were interested in my area, and the fillets were in a pot of water which drew no attention at all. But still, the buzzing was pretty crazy. In the end, none of the fish is truly wasted. Tiny bits of extra meat went to the doggies, and the carcasses will be taken to the land and fed to the eels in our stream. Most of the fillets will be put in the freezer and used up in the next few weeks.
We grilled up some snapper for dinner, along with a tasty peanut and pumpkin stirfry Laura and Daniella put together. There's a little more left in the fridge for my cooking day tomorrow with Nicole. We're planning on a Cajun style dinner, with improvised red beans and rice, and some grilled snapper in hot sauce. But the best thing about tomorrow is that it's a free day, so I get to sleep in, until Laura cooks up some french toast which she's pretty pumped about making. It should be a good day. Just two left before our week long trip to climb Mt. Doom.
PS: notice how faded my hat has become? It was pretty much pitch black when I got here only a couple months ago. Super strong sun, salt, and sweat will do that to ya apparently.