This section is from the book "Moose-Hunting Salmon-Fishing And Other Sketches Of Sport Being The Record Of Personal Experiences Of Hunting Wild Game In Canada", by T. R. Pattillo. Also available from Amazon: Moose-Hunting, Salmon-Fishing and Other Sketches of Sport: Being the Record of Personal Experiences of Hunting Wild Game in Canada.
As soon as the new bait was dropped towards him his eyes snapped. He was only a few inches under water now, and was very uneasy. As the bait was drawn back slowly and just entering the bowline, he whipped over on his back and rushed to his doom, for as soon as his head had passed the bite of the rope in the water the bow was dropped, the standing part caught up by the mate, and he was fastened behind the jaws.
" Seize the rope quickly and set back on it. Hold for your lives! " said the mate.
The boys didn't want any encouragement, for they started in with a seaman's chorus " Tally I.O.U. know." That helped our purchase (ropeyarn over a spike) not a patent by any means, for the weight of that monster cut right into the wood. Yet come he had to. The water behind the vessel was threshed into foam, as he resisted, with his immense tail, the friendly treatment he was receiving. It was 9 feet from the water to the top of the rail and the rope is now flush with it and his head is protruding above. Could you have heard the friendly salutations he received as his immense jaws were coming up into sight, yon might have concluded he was an old Mend, that had been looked for and expected for some time.
Sam the sailor hailed him. "You old vagabond! You'll never again smack those jaws over a poor seaman! "
Jack followed this with, " You venerable pirate! You have finished your body-snatching for ever! " while some other ones proposed the contempt of all hands be shown," by giving him three groans," the response to which was most hearty, some of them being as hollow as if starting from their toes.
The above is only a specimen and a small one of the full initiatory ceremony by which he was welcomed into the arms and control of the Albion crew. In justice to him, it must be admitted he was no mean foe in respect to fighting power, for at one time it looked, when our new ratline showed signs of weakness, that he might escape us after all. So he was treated by each and every one to a knife-plunge, which settled largely his resist-ance; yet fire hours afterwards he had suffi-cient vitality to try to get under the bottom, as his carcase was being moved amidships for final disposal. This fellow was 12 feet long, had a wound on his side, evidently made by a harpoon, from which he had escaped. The captain and mate, who had in their long sea life seen many of this shark family, declared he was the giant amongst them.
To return to the dolphins, they supplied us with abundant fresh food for the next four meals. The balance, about fifty, were divided equally amongst the crew, the different piles being chosen by lot. The fish were pickled, dried, and exchanged with the negroes for pepper. There is a peculiarity about these fish, not seen, I believe, in any other, that nearly escaped my notice, viz. their changing into the different rainbow colours when dying.
Attack and Capture of a powerful and terrifying Monster bearing the euphonious and dignifying title of" Devil-fish."
The cargo and lumber in the brig were sold at Port-au-Spain, Trinidad, to be landed at San Fernandez a settlement 30 miles down the coast, in the neighbourhood of the Asphalte Pitch Lake, bordering on the Gulf of Para. The water in that district is shoal a long distance from land, necessitating the vessels anchoring from one to two miles off, and landing their cargoes in lighters, or, if lumber as in our case in rafts warped ashore at night when calm. The above explanation is necessary to account for the appearance of four negroes on board our ship who had been hired at Port-au-Spain to assist the crew in the extra work of discharging.
The second day down the coast was a very calm one. Our vessel, being anchored a mile and a half off, was surrounded by large shoals of small fish resembling, in appearance, the herring of the Atlantic. Noticing some large fish threshing about, feeding amongst them, I became greatly interested in them, and my sporting proclivities were aroused sufficiently to inquire of the " darkies 99 what those large fish were.
" Oh, Massa Cap'n " (every official, with a West Indian darkey, is a " Massa Captain "), " he devil-fish. Ketch one for poor nigger: he grand eat when he get urn, but hard ketch um. Ketchum one I"
This appeal didn't quiet the desire to tackle one of them, so, after watching for some time longer, during which they approached nearer the brig, the " grains " used for catching dolphin and similar fish were procured and attached to the deep-sea line, some 200 fathoms long, used for taking soundings, or the depth of water when approaching the land from the sea. The "grains," it should be explained, consist of four pieces of half-inch steel, 10 inches long, with beards on the one sharpened end, and an inch and a half long. These four pieces are welded together, with a socket on the top, into which a staff is fitted, the whole attached together when in service by a snood worked on the socket with strong twine, also another on the staff, into both of which snoods, or eyes, the rope is attached; that on the staff being so arranged than, when a fish is struck, the staff detaches from the socket and is held secured by the line through the eye.
Well, with this gear and the brig's cutter (boat) I started for the darkey's fish, taking the precaution to fasten the end of the long line to the thwart, also securing it about midway, which proved afterwards a very justifiable and prudent one.
Not over 100 yards from the vessel was a shoal with one of those fellows having such a lively time that there was no difficulty in approaching him. So with the grains near me, when about 15 feet from him, he came to the surface, I hurled them and they struck his side, when he gave a flounce which buried me in water, as if under a water-spout; but the grains did not hold. This experience should have sent me back to the vessel, but the laughing and shouting of those on ship-board, who had been watching the performance, only served to urge me on to try again. Well, I did not have to go far nor wait long, for just 200 yards to my right was another fellow making wonderful gyrations. So at him the boat was directed, and soon I was in position to try his lordship, or devilship, better termed. So when he came on top of the water the grains were thrown into the air with a circular motion, falling upon his back and burying themselves. Great Scot! what a plunge and a jump! the latter opening my eyes to the fact that it was not a salmon, hut a veritable "devil" I was hitched to, and my knife was reached for, to cut the line and let him go. No knife ! that was a deuce of a go! left in my coat on the vessel! So there was no alternative but to fight it out or lose the whole gear line and grains, which then I was not prepared to do; so I concluded to fight him awhile. My boat was trustworthy, and, unless he got under and overturned her, I did not fear his getting at me.
It was evident his sanctum had been ruthlessly invaded, and he intended making it lively for his adventurous invader, so he started off at railroad speed for the infernal regions, out in the Gulf of Para, and directly away from the ship. Fortunately, there was a small piece of canvas in the boat, with which I was able to seize the line, as he was rushing it out, and thus, by checking it, helped to speed the boat, so that she had headway enough, when the fastened portion was reached, not to snap it. At the time she was moving faster than she ever did before, and it became necessary to steer her to keep her from broaching to and prevent capsizing.
Just then, out of the water, came the ugliest appearing living thing my eyes had ever seen, and went 10 feet into the air. " Devil99 was no misnomer, and led me to the conclusion that the giver of that name must have had a squint of his satanic majesty. The grains had struck him a little ahead of 'midships, so, when he was rushing, the weight of the boat on the line inclined his body crosswise of the water, and helped to shoot him out into the air. My position was by no means enviable alone, and travelling at such fearful speed away from the brig and out into that boisterous gulf. Still, up to that time, there was no thought of letting him clear. Experience satisfied me, if he was the devil himself, he could not keep up that performance long. Then, noticing when he jumped, that the grains must have gone into his vitals, for they were out of sight, confirmed me in that decision.
While all this was going on with me, the mate and crew, for the captain was on shore, were not disinterested lookers-on, so that when he had dragged me a mile or more away he (the mate) ordered the four darkies to man the "jolly-boat" with four oars, and go to my assistance. Seeing this movement, my courage went up fifty per cent., the fear being for getting back out of the gulf. After he had jumped out three times, it was noticeable that the spring was leaving him, followed soon by a slackening of the line, as well as of the pace. Then hope and courage rose another twenty per cent., and I saw it was necessary to gather in the line as it slackened, so that he would not be so heavy to get up to the boat when he caved in, as every moment gave evidence he soon would do. Now the boat had ceased to move, and, deciding he was dead, the line was shifted aft and hauled in over the quarter, until the weight of his body came upon me. By this time the boat sent to my assistance was near, when the old darkey hailed me with
" Well, Massa Cap'n, you had a grand time. Old devil-fish no chile. Hay I you got him, hay?"
"I've got something the devil or his imp. Gome on board here and haul him up.
So with the aid of three darkies, he was brought to the surface, and secured to the boat for towing back to the vessel. I wanted to cut him clear, but they would not listen to the proposal.
" Fine fish, Massa Cap'n! Oh gran'! Don't cut him! Darkey give you thousand oranges."
They didn't know my knife was on the brig, or they would not have pleaded so hard. To bring the story to a close, the getting back to the vessel, which constituted a couple of hours of hard towing, we'll pass by, and view the prize as he lay on the raft. He was 8 feet long, 6 feet wide, 2 feet or more thick, much the shape of a skate, with a whip-handle tail. A head in ugliness resembling what is known among shore fishermen as a " drum sculpin " most repulsive when looked at. A mouth 18 inches or more wide, set with rows of shark teeth, and hung round with long smellers or suckers. After being cut up, he weighed nearly 400 lbs., his colour nearly approaching blackness.
With this recital, leave must be taken of my readers, with the wish that you may all enjoy in your outings everything that has been pleasurable in mine, while those that have been alarming, as those just recited, may be kept in the background or out of sight.