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BEING EATEN ALIVE BY SAILFISH
Coles Phinizy
April 23, 1973
On a good day Charter Captain Cliff North has raised 200 billfish off the rediscovered island of Cozumel. In fact, as part of the day's work he has become accustomed to BEING EATEN ALIVE BY SAILFISH
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April 23, 1973

Being Eaten Alive By Sailfish

On a good day Charter Captain Cliff North has raised 200 billfish off the rediscovered island of Cozumel. In fact, as part of the day's work he has become accustomed to BEING EATEN ALIVE BY SAILFISH

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Almost everywhere in his range the common water roach shuns light and hurries for a crack when he gets too much. In Cozumel the roach ofttimes promenades at noon, weaving his feelers in a friendly way. The boat-tailed grackle is a sensible bird everywhere but in Cozumel. When the wind pipes up to near gale force, a normal grackle cancels his plans and hangs onto a good perch, head to the wind. On Cozumel in a hard blow the grackle, undaunted, goes on with its nest building. The wind knocks its feathers askew, tumbles the bird over the ground and blasts the wisps of nest material away. The Cozumel grackle laughs it all off raucously and starts picking up more nest stuff as if the day were fair and calm. The man-o'-war bird is an able pirate. He takes his own fish and robs other birds of theirs, but he is rarely fool enough to go for anything trailing on a line. Slicing the air on half-folded wing, the man-o'-wars of Cozumel sometimes dive on baits and hack off the tag end without getting the hook. "Look at that fool man-o'-war on the bait," Cliff North shouts from his bridge. "I hope a sailfish sticks him in his dad-gum gut."

The wahoo of Cozumel are very high flyers, and the local kingfish often jump as only a wahoo should, taking one bait on the rise, sailing 40 feet through the air and pouncing down on another. The sailfish of Cozumel are deep-shouldered like marlin, but even when cleanly hooked, they sometimes sulk in the deep like tuna. Some leap from the water belly up and bounce from crest to crest on their flanks, like bright stones skipped on a pond. They jump on the horizon and they dance beside the boat. Even when the gloved hand of the mate is on the leader, they keep on jumping.

In the Bal-Hai restaurant on Cozumel a lady scuba diver from the U.S. tells her newly acquired male companion about the beautiful experience she had on her first visit to the island a year ago. Diving on the great reef of Palancar, she saw an angelfish swimming upside down. Her companion corrects her. Angelfish do not swim upside down. What she saw was one of the little basses that swim belly up when they are under ledges. The lady is infuriated. "It was no bass, you Mexican ass," she shouts. "It was a queen angelfish a foot long, and it was swimming upside down in broad daylight."

Cliff North sums it all up. "Cozumel is a crazy place," he says, "but dad-gum beautiful, especially if you like a lot of fish."

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