Miami Vice

This winter in New York has been the fourth worst on record, so needless to say I was ready for Miami and some warm water, sun, girls in bikinis and adrenaline, namely shark-territory spear fishing!

I have a very passionate love/hate relationship with Miami; it’s a strange place in my book. On one hand, it has the beautiful weather, girls and beaches, but on the other it’s a congested place, a huge city, superficial and lacking substance in many ways. The one thing it really has going for it is the beautiful ocean, coral reefs and abundant underwater life. So after an unsuccessful chase for some hot Latin mammals the first night in town, I’m determined to make my underwater hunt count.

Now I had quite the hesitation going on this trip and diving into these waters again, as last time I did it almost cost me a leg and possibly my life:

I had been free-diving and spear fishing together with my friends Adam and Fernando. We were on a reef about 2-½ hours sailing from Miami – it was a perfect day and there were a lot of fish in the water. We had shot a few snappers and hogfish already and after a little break Adam and I reentered the water while Fernando stayed on the boat. We have a rule that if you shoot a fish, you have a maximum 15 minutes in the water before re-entering the boat and relocate to a different spot lest the sharks come to feast on our catch…or us.

As soon as we entered the water we spotted fish, so we both dove down and I shot a hogfish while I see Adam taking off after a larger snapper. I attached the fish to my snare and re-loaded my spear gun. I began swimming around in larger circles on the surface for a bit, trying to locate another good fish. Spotting one, I took a deep breath and dove down…

It’s a really nice snapper behind a big leaf coral, but it immediately spots me and started swimming off. I initiated the chase and tried to catch up but couldn’t and began running out of air.

With my adrenaline pumping, I pushed myself to the point where my vision started getting blurry due to lack of oxygen but I can’t catch up. I broke off and quickly descended towards the glittering surface, and next thing I know, I spot a huge dark shadow to my right and realize it’s a shark. In the same instance, it changed direction and shot towards the surface and jumped out of the water.

Everything happened so fast that I didn’t really register what was going on before I get to the surface and I heard Fernando yelling SHARK! from the boat. I swam those 100 yards to the boat so fast I think I broke a new world record. I shot into the boat like a cannonball out of the water while Fernando was still yelling things that I didn’t even register. I then spotted Adam following my act, hauling his ass to the boat and as I helped him into the boat he tells me it was coming right for me, and that he had shot it.

So without me noticing, Adam had dived down to help me get the snapper and had been trailing behind me and as I descended, he saw an eight foot Bullshark going straight for my leg where the hog fish I shot some 20 minutes ago was hanging. Adam acted instinctively and shot the shark with his spear gun and that’s when the shark shot out of the water with the spear hanging off its side.

So, being caught up in the action, I broke our 15 minute rule and it almost cost me a leg.

That was 11 years ago and I hadn’t been diving in the Miami waters since.

the orginal that i  have found

Sticking to the resolution I made this New Years to “feel the fear and do it anyway,” I decided to try spearfishing again, with salsa dancing next.

By 6:30 am we were at the marina loading the gear into the boat sailing east into the sunrise.

We are heading to Bimini, a small island group about two hours’ sailing from Miami. The surrounding waters are perfect for spearfishing –crystal clear, mixed bottom with sand, grass, coral and a large variety of ocean life.

As I’m getting the gear ready and getting in my wetsuit, I can feel the excitement mixed with anxiety coming on. The incident 11 years ago is still fresh in my memory and it was with a pounding heart and nervous mind I dove into the water. I found myself in an alien environment and I began having a hard time breathing.

I started swimming towards a coral reef we passed just before anchoring up. As I got closer I could see schools of beautiful fish swimming around and my breathing slows down and I forget where I am, spellbound by the incredible beauty.

I circled around the reef looking for snapper or hogfish – I saw a few small hogfish, but nothing above size limit so I swam on again.

I got to an area with huge leaf corals and high sea grass and it was hard to see what lurking here; too many places to hide.

I spotted something moving out the corner of my eye and I instantly turned, seeing that it’s a Cobia, an excellent fish to eat. I tried to catch up to it but as soon as it realized, the nervous fish shot off like a missile.

The hunt continues; there are plenty of fish but they’re too small, so I swam toward deeper water.

As soon as I passed over the shallows and the water turns darker blue, I see a school of five hogfish, with a nice one in the middle. Taking a deep breath, I began to descend. The fish spotted me and began swimming toward a forest of leaf coral, where they split up and hide.

Keeping my eye on the big guy as he disappeared behind a large coral I realized with horror that I’m running out of air.

This is my chance, I think and I kicked forward, my speargun pointed straight out in front of me. As I turned around the coral I see his head in a small clearing and shoot, hitting him right behind the gills - dinner!

Back in the boat we regrouped and grabbed some lunch; you burn a huge amount of energy in the water and your blood sugar begins dropping by the minute while losing focus- a bad combo.

 Pulling the anchor up we headed towards a grassy area where there should be some stone crabs.

I had never hunted for them before and it’s supposedly quite an interesting experience, as

they live in holes dig into the grassy/sandy bottom. You get them out by jamming your arm down the hole, hoping there is a crab in there and not a Morey Eel or some poisonous fish, then grab hold of the bastard without snapping off your fingers, yank him out into the open water, trying to get a hold of his claws, again without him amputating your fingers. Sounds like fun! I was in.

Spotting a hole and diving down, I get closer to the bottom, thinking about all the things I use my finger for. I need my fingers, what the f*ck am I doing?

No time to think further – I’m at the bottom, and pushing my arm into the unknown. I bump something hard and I feel it moving farther back into the hole. I dug my left hand into the sand to better push my other arm further in – I’m all the way in, up to my shoulder now and I get a hold of a claw. Forcefully I pushed back, got him into open water and grabbed a hold of his claws, and it’s all over for Mr. Crab.

I’m happy to announce that I’m writing this with 10 fully intact fingers, no shark encounters, a returned lust for blue water and one hell of a diving ego! I stuck to my (spear) guns and kept my resolution to do the things that scared me, and gained my confidence back along with some delicious seafood.