Virac fishermen battled swordfish for 24 hours
posted 15-Sep-2019  ·  
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On the day Mark Andy Tabor, 33, and his brother Ralph Vincent set out to sea on board their uncle’s motorized banca on July 4, little did they expect that by nightfall they would be engaged in a thrilling but exhausting battle with a swordfish.

Mark Andy told the Tribune in an interview recently that previously, his days of fishing as a livelihood were marked by a frightening experience with the fickle weather.

He was on another banca when they were caught in a suddenly developing storm while angling for fish at one of the hundreds of buoys at the Pacific Ocean. They decided to make their way back to the island at 5 A.M. that morning.

“Kakinusog na,” he said, describing the raging sea. “Gaguyod na ngani kami ning lubid.”

The trailing rope, about 80 “dupa” (the span of two extended arms), kept their frail vessel from sinking straight to the sea bottom everytime they sped down from the crest of each wave.

Then in 2015, his uncle, Virac personnel officer Winnie Tabor, decided to have a fishing banca constructed.

“Pan-o kang panahon, ang ama mi pano parasila. Ngonian gusto ko na man buhayon su pagsila,” he said, recalling that his father provided for his family of eight children by fishing until he was felled by a stroke in his 60’s, eventually passing away in 2014.

Construction of the wooden vessel in San Andres town took a year to complete, with the boat making its first voyage out to the sea in 2016 as the biggest such boat in Francia, Virac. It had two engines and could carry a maximum of 30 persons. And the safety-conscious Tabor made sure it was outfitted with lights, life vests and portable Global Positioning System (GPS) device.

    Soon, it was not only going out to fishing trips but utilized by the local church as the vessel of choice to carry the image of the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia and priests during the annual fluvial procession every Sept. 7.

    On ordinary days, however, it was Mark Andy and his sibling who rode on it for the five to eight-hour voyage, depending on the sea condition, to the buoys’ location in the open sea in front of Baras and Viga towns.

    We could see Samar and Rapu-Rapu but Catanduanes is just a broken image, just wisps of lights shining in the far sea, the elder Tabor said, describing the view at the buoys where about 10 fishing bancas congregate at each buoy where the sea is more or less 2,000 meters deep.

    July 4, 2019 started out as just an ordinary day. The two men cast out their handlines, using as bait “curacha” (small “turingan” caught on site).

    Then at 5 P.M., Mark Andy’s No. 70 line got a bite, a big one. Minutes later, they spied the fish, with its distinctive bill, breaking the water, struggling to cast off the hook that was lodged in its mouth.

    During the battle that went into the night and the following day, the fish managed to have the line wrapped around the buoy’s anchoring rope.

    Fearing the line would be cut, Mark Andy used another line and a hook to fish for the wrapped line and luckily snagged it.

    “Sinugpunan mi, tapos pinutol mi su nakabulubod na linya sa buya,” he said. “Pakawat na kami.”

    All the while as the hooked fish struggled at a distance, its male mate swam around their fishing banca, he said. He threw small fish at it but it wouldn’t eat.

    We played with our line to prevent it from being cut, sometimes using the engine to recover the paid-out two rolls of line, Tabor continued.

    “Igua kaming balon na pagkaon pero taranta na kami,” he recalled, adding that they took turns at handling the line after an hour or so.

    There were times that Ralph Vincent would fall asleep so I shouted at him, Mark Andy said.

    “Dai kaming pamangui, daing pamahaw,” he continued, saying that while they were drinking some coffee in the morning, the male swordfish was still there, breaching the surface “baging pigamidbid kami.”

    The fish eventually started to weaken at 4:30 P.M. of July 5, staying at a depth of about 50 “dupa” or 90 meters.

    I began reeling it in and then tied it beside the banca, with its male partner still swimming around, Mark Andy said. He recalled that at the end of the day-long battle, their fingers had blisters although had worn cut parts of a cycling bike’s interior to protect their skin.

    The brothers used a wooden paddle to lift the fish out of the water while pulling the line tied to it one at a time, until the 100-kilo swordfish was in the boat.

    It was only when they left

for home at 5:30 that afternoon that they lost sight of their catch’s mate. They arrived on the shore of Francia at 3 A.M. the next day, a Saturday, exhausted but thankful to God for the bountry from the sea.

    The swordfish (Xiphias gladius) is a predatory fish with a long, flat pointed bill.

    They are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood when they reach about 3 meters long. The largest one reported was 4.55 meters and 650 kilograms in weight.

    Found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, the swordfish are often found at depths of 550 meters where they feed on smaller fish, using the bill to slash its prey.

    They are powerful fighters and are known to dive quickly when hooked or harpooned, impaling themselves on the sea bottom with their swords.

    The meat of this oily fish is often grilled or cooked as steak.

   


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