I know I’m going to dream about fish tonight, after a day of mackerel fishing on the sea. It feels as though my kitchen is rolling on the swell and the Easterlies that rocked our boat, the Ocean Warrior 3 all day.
We set off from Newhaven harbour at eight in the morning on what is, despite its name, a small chartered fishing boat. The skipper, Dave, took us straight out to some wrecks where he located fish on the screen in his cabin. Once anchored over a shoal, the mate, Steve, put on the tackle and bait on to our rods and off we went.
I’ve never caught a fish before but I had asked for a rod for my birthday two years ago as I wanted to develop what is a crucial skill for feeding ourselves. I’d been occasionally fishing off Seaford Head since then. Even though I’d accepted that I might not catch a fish today I was really excited when the first took my bait - a mackerel whose doleful eyes stared at me as I pulled the hook out of its mouth and threw it in the box to suffocate. Then another, and another. One of the men on board, Ron, lent me his mackerel tackle, which consists of six feathers and hooks that the mackerel seemed to love, because I immediately caught six on one line, almost as soon as I threw the line in the water.
When I caught two dabs on one hook, Steve told me I was a ‘dab hand’ at this. I was happy at that and also happy to move and roll with the boat. We all caught many fish between us. After a while, though, I stopped, though, as I felt that would easily do for my dinner, my friends and my freezer. It almost seemed unfair to the fish for the fishing, and their death, to be so easy. I felt grateful that these gorgeous grey-green dappled mackerels and the white, soft bellied whiting were giving their life for me. I said a little prayer as I put each one away and thanked them as I was gutting them back at home.
I now understand the lure of the sea, the magic of that suspended time with the wind, the waves and the fish. I hope that dreamy state will stay with me for some days yet.