Northern Marianas Islands: somewhere near the historic island of Tinian and the island of Rota, an area that leads to the Marianas trench- the deepest ocean in the world.
Brett and I sail on a beat up 24-foot sloop. All boats out here are beat up-this one has a rudder about to fall off. It’s got a 9 hp kicker to slowly get us to a port if the wind can’t push us there.
The sonar is showing huge peaks underneath the surface, holes down to 1200 feet, up to 200 feet, and back down again. The chart shows a shoal that is 50 feet. We circle looking for it and finally a peek rises from 1000, to 500 to 200 to 60…there’s nothing shallower than that out here. Free diving, we can reach 60 but not much more. Experts can go much farther. We have tanks on board in case we see something special peeking out of the cavernous ocean floor. We drop our heavy anchor and it seems to be holding.
Brett and I are in the water in no time. We can see the bottom, anywhere from 60 to 150 feet we are thinking. It’s so clear here. We can see 4 or 5 gray reef sharks at 100 feet circling the bottom. Brett dives down to the floor at 60 feet I can see him peeking into holes and under huge ledge rocks. Lots of reef fish, but nothing special.
On my way down about 10 feet off the ocean floor, pops a monster fish – can’t see color down here but I think it’s the prized red snapper! He is way down, about 150 feet. I pop out, and strap on a tank.
Upside down I descend with the tip of the speargun leading. In no time I hit 160 feet by my dive computer. I need to bag him quick. Still upside down his head pops out from under the same ledge and I lose a spear right through his gill plate. He puts up a good fight but I’m heavy with tanks- he is no match. I let him run as I ascend slowly.
The men in gray suits – the sharks - start circling closer.
I have a hoodie rash guard over my wetsuit top and I stuff the massive fish in my shirt between the rash guard and the wetsuit. His tail extending far out the bottom. Sharks are going to have to get through me to grab the fish and although they are circling, I can see they’re not coming close. I climb back on board. The monster teeth on this fish! I bagged this red snapper at 167 feet with tanks. I’d much rather have done a free dive, however, in these vast blue depths sometimes you need tanks to get the job done. Back on land I bring the snapper to the Chinese fish exchange, and they pay me $28.56 USD for the snapper. It was a good day in Micronesia.