One of the most coveted fish to spear within our family is a mutton snapper. I spent my early years of spearfishing watching my dad and learning his tricks and techniques to call a mutton in and pique his interest enough to get him close and take the shot. I’ve had a long line of disappointment with trying to get one in the cooler. Little back story on my history with mutton…
The first mutton I ever had a shot on, I worked hard to get him to come in close. I called him in by throwing handfuls of sand up in the air to mimic a feeding stingray. As I was hiding behind the cloud of sand, I saw him start to get closer and closer to me, still keeping his distance but definitely wanting to get a closer look at what was going on. My breath hold ran out, so I swam backup to the surface, knowing I would get a shot on him with my next breath. As I was breathing up, and my brother swam down, swooped in and stole my fish right from under me. Needless to say, I still hold a grudge over him for stealing my hard earned fish. But that’s what older brothers are for, right?
A couple of years later, I was still on the hunt to add a mutton to my list of kills. We were diving in bottom filled with endless holes and caves. It has always been one of my favorite spots on the island because of the beautiful swim throughs and the mystery of fish the caves hold. I was swimming along following a school of blue runner when I looked up and saw a mutton cruising along the reef line. I stayed
low to the bottom hiding behind any sea fan or structure I could find, closed the gap, and took my shot. I stuck him perfectly and next thing I know he was swimming off with the tip of my pole spear sticking out of him. He holed up nearby and I searched forever for him. I wasn’t going to give up until I looked in every nook and cranny. I never saw him again. I was heartbroken, not only to lose this particular fish but because I hate not retrieving the fish I spear. My gear failed on what would have been my fish of the year.
Over the next few trips to the Bahamas, I landed my fair share of moderately sized mutton, nothing huge. I always got excited to see one in the distance and would do my best to try to grab one’s attention. Fast forward to New Years 2019, we were out in the Bahamas diving in the shallows just enjoying the crystal clear blue water seeing what we could bring home for dinner. My dad and I split off from the group to explore a different part of the reef and we saw the biggest mutton we’ve ever seen on this island cruising in the sand with an ocean going trigger fish tailing behind. We tried getting his attention but he was not interested and disappeared. We joined back up with the group who had found a couple of lobsters and minutes later the mutton came up
over the reef, definitely interested in the lobster that was just caught. Over the next few minutes, the snapper got more and more curious. While he was distracted, I swam down and disappeared behind the bottom as much as I could. He made a fatal turn, giving me a perfect shot. He took off to and a hole and I kept minimal tension on the spear, making sure it wouldn’t rip out. He dragged me over to a cave where he rocked up and after my next breath I was able to get him out. I finally got my redemption on mutton.
To this day, whenever a mutton is spotted, we turn all our focus to it, seeing who has the skill to bring it in closer. I love observing different fish behaviors from all of the years spent in the water and will always continue to learn how to be a better spearfisher.