school of carangue

The low tide is about to turn. The surf is confused, pools of thick water ebb and flow in the shallows. Dave and I have just arrived from the breakthrough, leaving the boat at the edge of the lagoon, walking the coast a final kilometre to where the outflowing lagoon mixes with incoming ocean surf.  It is a likely feeding location for carangue, tarpon, rouge, bar, capitaine, and barracuda, slipping in from the sea to hunt the schools of baitfish, crabs, shrimp, and other forms of protein that congregate in the shallows.  Working our way down a beach of pristine white sand, we find the edge of the tannin-stained waters of the lagoon where it turns to become engulfed by the frothing salted caps that break from the ocean swells.

We are casting dexter wedges out into the surf, 150 and 200 grams, perhaps 90 metres on a good cast, and pulling back steadily through the roiling waters as the tug of undertow and uplifting wavecrests send the lures to various depths.  They finally sweep in on tumbling surf that crashes at our feet, sometimes surprising us with a freak wave that explodes against our legs, knocking us backwards.  It is loud, we can’t converse without shouting and only when we are close.  Pointing and gestures solve most communication issues.  I am studying the water before me.  In my imagination, it is swimming with fish, and the palpable energy leaves me tensed with adrenaline.  Seventy metres out into the swirling waters a school of carangue break the surface.  Perhaps six or seven of the fish appear above the dark-stained waters in choreographed unison, narrow bulbous heads slicing forward through the agitated water like a herd of charging horses, the flags of erect dorsal fins slicing close behind.  Button-eyes focussed on hunting, their silvery sides glint through the black water as it washes alongside.  It is a chance sighting, for there is no telltale splash as they break the water’s surface; amid the crash and roar of the surf, they appear like a fragment in a silent movie, and then just as quickly they disappear, dorsal fins reduced to a v-trail in the black water.  I try casting over the top of the sighting, but I am not so accurate.  I hope there are more nearby.

Suddenly a strike zings line from reel.  As I pull the 4 metres of rod to vertical I see a silvery streak of fish, perhaps a small tarpon, leap writhing from the waves.  As soon as I connect the action to my strike, the fish throws the lure, the little flash of silver spinning off back into sea, and all goes slack.  Perhaps one second of exhilaration, and I am back searching the waves for clues.  Several more casts, I can see the school of carangue break across the same pools, they look to be eight, possibly ten kilograms apiece.  Suddenly another strike nearly pulls the rod from my hands, the accelerating zip of line heading straight out to sea.  Within seconds the line snaps, and I am left to pull in the slack 80-pound-test braided line, a frayed end with no sign of lure or leader.  I am astounded at the power of these fish, and as I tie on another leader and wedge, I look over to see Dave with similar strikes, but reeling in empty.

I am soon back casting over the same pools.  The surf is increasing in intensity as the tide returns.  Within minutes I hook into a carangue, its vertical pancake-like body slicing parallel to the plage, line buzzing from the reel until it turns to deeper water.  I can feel the pressure of the incoming surf and can collect a few revolutions of line when it rides near the surface of a wave, only to lose ground as it dives to the undertoe.  After several minutes of struggle, it shows sign of tiring and I can pull it closer to the beach.  Eventually, a breaker recedes and it is left to flop over on the exposed sand, and I back up to pull it to higher ground.  By this time, Dave has approached to help, and as I back the fish out of the surf, a final flipping frenzy throws the lure.  Dave rushes into the surf and scoops the fish out of the shallows. I am surprised at the spunk of this smallish three-kilogram fish.

A few moments later, Dave hooks a solid strike, and in little over a minute lands a four-kilogram barracuda, which also throws the lure on the edge of the surf as I run in to block its escape, careful to avoid the needle-sharp teeth of the thrashing pike-like fish.

The incoming tide has flooded the pools by now, and there is no further sign of feeding fish. Though they are likely present, they are dissipated into the incoming surf, and thereby harder to locate.  Dave and I return to the boat, with one carangue, one barracuda.  During the boatride back to Sette Cama, we try a little trolling, and after several strikes, Dave lands an additional barracuda.

author and Dave Alexander with carangue and 2 barracuda

One response to “school of carangue”

  1. That’s a well written interesting piece David, thanks for sharing. And thanks for sharing the two fish that we later barbequed and enjoyed for lunch.

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