Captain Wishi Steers the Boat into the Pacific – Pedasi
I wanted to see what life was like for a local fisherman here in Pedasi, Panama. I asked Capitan Wishi if I could go aboard and spend a real day fishing, just like him. He agreed and we decided to meet at 5AM at the small marina here in town. When I got up, it was still dark out and there were stars in the sky. The whole town seemed to be asleep, that is, except for the twenty odd fisherman who were about to embark on their day of work.
From the marina we got all of the boats out through the river mouth. The tide was coming in and we were going out, so immediately we got drenched in cold water as waves hit the small pangas that are used for fishing. Once in the ocean, we headed north as someone had been tipped off that there were large schools of sardines that way to be used for bait. We rode for about twenty minutes until we were in such a large school of fish the ocean seemed alive. Small silver fish were jumping everywhere and pelicans and frigates dove all around us for their share. More than once they came close enough to hit me. With only three throws of the casting net we had filled up our bait for the day.After we were done we headed south to Los Frailes, two large rocks that stick out of the water and are known as a good fishing spot. This journey took about an hour and once we arrived all of the pangas anchored next to one another. I had been used to using fishing poles, but now all of the fisherman began hooking their sardines to hand lines. For protection the fishermen use rubber squares that have been stitched into finger guards.
You wouldn’t imagine that much could be caught this way, but during the following eight hours sitting out there at sea, the men caught anywhere from two pound red snapper to a nine foot hammer head shark! What impressed me most about fishing this way was that it was almost a floating community of sorts. All of the village men shared their lunch as mangoes and coconuts were passed from boat to boat. They laughed and told stories amongst each other. At the beginning of the day they made bets on how long I was going to last with them. The safest bet was that I wouldn’t make it past 10AM, but low and behold I made it until 4 PM, through the day! Little by little I earned their respect and by the end of the day they included me as though I had always been a part of their group.
The work was tough and for the next day my body felt unbalanced. It was definitely worth the amazing experience, but I couldn’t say I could hack it every day. I now have more respect for the work that goes into eating fish, but I’ve also become spoiled with all the fresh fish living here in Pedasi. At the end of the day the fishermen sell their catch to their respective Co-Ops (there are two large cooperatives in Pedasi) and then the fish is hauled off to the Co-Op buildings where it is taken to be processed and exported. If you’re a local you can go straight to the Co-Op and buy your fish. This is what I have been doing for Casita Margarita as I’m the new head chef here. I grill out on Saturday nights for guests and the public and can also prepare sushi or give sushi work shops.