Big Fish

I noticed the fish were a bit skittish today. When I went down to feed them, bread in my hand, instead of immediately surrounding me in a cloud of scales and crumbs, with the three French angelfish pecking on my fingers, they kept their distance. Then they came back, only to all shoot off again. They don’t like this bread, I thought?

Nope. Turned out the three large trevally behind them might have something to do with it. And the enormous yellowtail behind the trevallies. It was like the school bullies had turned up. Someone had told them about the snack spot.

I quickly realised, bread crumbling through my fingers, I wasn’t in any position to pick and choose who got the bread. And I had a lot of it. I’d been stockpiling the bread through the day. Well, I thought, here goes.

This is Bonaire. Large fish abound here because they aren’t being constantly picked off the reef. Even though it can get a little intense at times, it’s nice to see them. Still, at least no sightings of big toothy fish. Not on this side of the island anyway.

It’s just the tarpon and their sandpaper mouths we see. We’ve done two night dives over the last few days, and the tarpon have weaved through us and our torch beams like cloth. They do this when they’re on the hunt.

At first, the tarpon felt a bit close for comfort. Now though, well even big fish need to eat. Probably twice as much as the smaller ones. When they go by, I’ve started to seek them out. You can touch their sides and their tail and they don’t seem to mind. Famous last words, I know! But tarpon can’t move like sharks can. They are stiffer since they’re bony. And their bodies feel like pure muscle. They barely flinch when you touch them.

Didn’t mean I wanted the trevally to eat out of my hands though. I didn’t bring my camera so I’ll describe them instead. Round-headed, more battle-ship grey than silver. The fish looks like it once swam very fast into a wall. Bless them. Kind of small-eyed too which is unusual for large fish. Lips in a straight line. Not quite a frown, but neither a smile. More of a question.

I broke up the bread and the trevallies came a metre away to scoop it up. Behind, the enormous and much more dramatic-looking yellowtail waited.

Straight out of a tuna family lineup. The spiky ridges on its back could well make a Mohican want to chew his hair. And the name for the fish fit its description perfectly. Fluorescent yellow tail. Huge eyes too, which definitely gave it the air of intelligence.

This one was either too shy – or was just here to watch. It didn’t come close like the trevally did. The other fish didn’t come close to it either. I looked at the big fish. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t like a cuddle. I’ll have extra bread tomorrow.

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