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Reference : 2018.01.13
Scientific name: Phycis phycis
Weight: 4,830 kg
Diver: João Paulo Rocha
Location: Terceira
Country: Azores, Portugal

On January 13th 2018, my friend Rui and I went spearfishing. On that day, due to sea conditions,
we decided to make a shore dive through Porto Judeu fishing harbour, for the safety both at
entering and exiting the water.
However, with a few setbacks in between and the usual amount of time needed to gear up and
observe the ocean, we entered the water around 10:30 in the morning. The water was cold and
the sea was rough, with the current pushing inland. Visibility was good, about 20 metres, give
or take; one of the reasons I like hunting in the winter so much. As I exited the harbour, I headed
towards a shallow spot just outside the harbour. My buddy stayed behind to hunt near the rocks,
for a while.
Right from the start, at each dive, there were fish in the holes and caves where I searched. They
were given away by the bright clear sands at the bottom. After an hour and a half, still no fish
caught; although I had spotted some well sized conger eel (Conger conger) and some forkbeard
(Physics physics) that just didn’t seem what I was looking for.
I regrouped with my buddy Rui. We stayed close to each other, in case one of us needed
assistance. From there, we went to a familiar place that I visit often. It’s about 13 meters deep,
with a small entrance to a large gallery (a small car would easily fit inside), filled with gaps and
hiding spots. The sand outside is white and clean with signs of fish, which allowed me to assume
the possibility that a nice big fish could be inside.
I got set for a dive, took some heavy breaths, followed by some slow breathes, and went under.
As I reach the entrance, with the flashlight on my left hand and the 110 cm speargun on my
right, I examined the hole from left to right and waited. All I could think of was the chance a
huge Conger ell could be inside. I gently turn my flashlight on to what was supposedly the
revealing moment. However, aside from some small Red Fish and holothurians, there wasn’t
anything remarkable. When I reached the other end of the gallery, to my surprise, I spotted a
huge Forkbeard. Because my gun was pointed to the opposite direction, I decided not to make
noise and wait. I was left motionless, fascinated with such a huge fish. She swam graciously
towards me, turning away as she lost interest. As she turns her back, I take the opportunity to
quickly point the gun and, as she turns, I hit her straight in the head, a full shot right between
the eyes. She instantaneously shifted colours.
Back to the surface with what would be the trophy of the day, I showed my buddy what I’d just
caught. He was really surprised with the sheer size of the fish, laughing with happiness. I was
really happy, and I spent quite some time contemplating the fish in the float. At that time, I
assumed it should weight more than 4 kilograms. Through the rest of the dive, I still had time to
catch one of the Conger eels I’d seen earlier. My buddy Rui caught some Thicklip Grey Mullet
and some White Seabream.
Back to the harbour, we got out of our gear and headed home. When I arrived home, I unloaded
the gear and the catch from my car. My brother came to see how the hunting went and asked if
he could make some fillets for lunch. I said yes, but I wanted to take some pictures first. My
mom also came to see what I caught and exclaimed “This is a big one”. Because I was going to
weigh the fish, we took guesses on how much it would weigh. My mom gave it 4.5 kilograms; I
was more inclined to 4 Kilograms. The fact is that the scale indicated 4.83 Kilograms, to
everyone’s surprise.
I took some photos and got the fish ready for lunch, as it was already a little late. Fish prepared
in fillets, some really nice fillets. I just had to season with salt, garlic and lemon and take it to the
fry pan wrapped in cornflour. It was a lunch made in heaven, served with sweet potato, salad
and a nice white wine.
Nothing matches the quality of a good fresh fish caught with your own hands just a couple of
hours before, and the family reunion that follows it, at the table. It’s the Azorean lifestyle at its