Owing to Neu’s illness he doesn’t have the strength to fish on a daily or even weekly basis anymore, but fishing is in him and he needs to return to the sea whenever he can, being almost more at home there than he is on land. When I first met him, I soon realised that going to sea was Neu’s reaction to every emotion, when he was happy he went to sea, when he was sad he went to sea and for every emotion in between, he went to sea.
Recently Neu has managed the odd day or two of fishing for cumurupim (tarpom). These huge fish migrate past Prainha for a few months every year and catching them adds an important boost to the fishermen’s income, though they are by no means an easy catch.
All the fishermen use a simple line and baited hook, when the fish takes the bait battle begins and the men try to pull them in using their bare hands on the nylon line. Many times the fish will dislodge the hook by leaping clear of the water, twisting as they go, a spectacular cascade of water with shimmering scales, flashing in the sun.
The average weight of the cumurupim caught here is 30 to 50 kilos, though it’s hard to know the exact weight as they are only weighed after they have been scaled, gutted and de-headed because the men are only paid per kilo of cleaned meat.
Neu has a reputation for his ability to catch cumurupim, he has in the past brought home a fish weighing over 60 kilos and this year he’s had a couple around 40 kilos. Last year Neu’s cousin brought one back that weighed over 80 kilos, astonishing that he could bring it back in on only 140lb line.
I love going sea fishing with Neu, as much for the sailing out and back on the jangada as for the chance to catch dinner. There is that exciting element of risk as we head out through the surf and then on and on through the changing colours of the sea, heading for ever deeper water and losing sight of land.
When Neu asked if I’d like to go with him after cumurupim, I jumped at the chance, hoping to capture it on film, hadn’t bargained on getting sea sick, not like me at all but Neu says it’s only because I haven’t been for such a long time, hopefully next time I’ll be able to enjoy it more.
The following video shows part our trip (not me being sick I hasten to add) there’s even a fish at the end!