Of Full Moons and Changing Mindsets



Posted on 02 July 2013  | 
Tuna hanging is a practice done by fishers to drain all the blood
© Jose InglesEnlarge
Our last tuna tagging activity happened to fall on a full moon last March. Normally, three days around full moon are rest periods because it is believed that tuna don’t take bait during such times. Thus, the boat I normally use wasn’t available because the captain had arranged a social appointment.

I found this situation strange. Believing that tuna don’t take bait during these bright nights is like believing that these animals consciously fast every full moon.

Getting a boat and organizing a crew when everyone else is not fishing is no easy task. It took me some convincing to get a boat captain willing to go on another boat with his crew to help me out. His name was Rio and he was willing to take his crew to this “high risk” adventure to prove a long-standing belief wrong. It also helped that their boat had been dry docked the past two weeks undergoing repairs and they needed some income. Joining this trip meant, at the very least, that they would be eating regularly.

While the boat was being prepared for the trip, several fishers with sinister smiles were milling around, cracking jokes about our decision to go out into the sea under a full moon. As we moved slowly away from the dock, I heard some of their parting words such as “bring home the baits with ice,” referring to what they assumed would be unused bait and ice from this futile trip.

When I asked the crew why tuna never take bait during full moons, none of them knew the answer. Such has been the practice ever since and no one has really gone against this practice. Rio further reasoned that bait availability is limited during full moons.

Despite not getting any tuna tagged on the first two nights, our hopes never diminished because each night, several tuna would take the bait but just manage to escape.

On the third night, we decided to fish further out, some 100 km from the nearest land mass. We rested during the day on one of the Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in the area. I even tried using a handline for small fish, using lures to pass the time. I was able to catch a rainbow runner, a skipjack, and two banded jacks! The FAD was teeming with fish and so Rio decided to fish here for the night. This never happened though because by late afternoon, a purse seine vessel came into view and drove us out of our identified fishing area.

Prompted to decide where to fish, we navigated further north to a “secret area” that has given Rio and his team more catch than most of the boats in their village.

This proved to be a real tuna area. I was able to tag five tuna within an hour and a half! The frenzy began at 3:00am when two huge dorados (15 kg each) and a tuna almost simultaneously took the bait, messing up the 10 or so hooks we lowered into the water.

It was chaos and took about half an hour to haul both fish, untangle the lines, and set new ones. At 3:45am, the second tuna took the bait. It took between 10-15 minutes to haul and attach the tag. The other four tuna came in succession of 10 minutes after each tuna was tagged and released.

There was jubilation and wide smiles from the fishers. By sunrise, a total of 6 yellowfin tuna and two dorados weighing around 340 kg were caught. All crew members, save for Rio, caught a tuna each. Never in their fishing experience had they reaped such good catch in so short a time.

Happy with our loot, we immediately sailed home.

It was late afternoon when I paid the fishers. This trip proved their long-standing belief wrong: that tuna don’t take bait during a full moon. The news of our success convinced many boats to sail the next day.

We had the last laugh.

Posted by Jose Ingles (Jingles)


Tuna hanging is a practice done by fishers to drain all the blood
© Jose Ingles Enlarge

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