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The Dead Shot

By Angel Nuñez

“I made five dead shots today, exclaimed a proud Sanpedrano fisherman. “Cho, that’s nothing.  I made at least 20 dead shots today while spearing for hogfish,” boasted another one.

What were these fishermen talking about?  They were all skin divers who used to earn a living by spearing fish.  They did not use a spear gun, but rather a Hawaiian sling or shooter as it was commonly called.  All of these fishermen were very adroit in spear fishing. When lobster was a bit scarce, they turned to collecting conch, but that was not fun.  Or they would turn to spearing fish which was considered a very adventurous and profitable venture.  On a good day they could spear several dozens fish which they would fillet and place it in the icebox, or process the fish by corning.

To be an expert in spearing fish, a fisherman had to be able to hit the fish on the dead spot, and this was considered a fete to boast of by any fisherman.  Whenever they hit a fish in the dead spot, they hollered, even underwater, “DEAD SHOT!”  I imagine several fishermen used to swallow some salt water whenever they shouted in jubilation of a dead shot underwater.

You have probably guessed by now that the dead spot of a fish is somewhere on the head, near and above the eyes.  It was sort of like the temple of humans.  Fish have a temple and when you hit that spot with a spear, all it did was to shiver a few seconds and die almost instantly.

By now you can all understand why a dead shot was important.  First of all it saved time.  You did not have to be chasing after fish trying to catch them.  Secondly, you did not lose your spear, because many large fish did swim away into the distance and you lost your spear forever.
Thirdly a dead shot was important because you killed the fish instantly and it did not bleed.  Don’t forget that blood acts as chum and it did attract not only other fish but sharks as well and you do not want to be surrounded by sharks while spearing fish.  However, the most important reason why a dead shot was important was that it was considered to be an expert shot by any fisherman, sort of like hitting the bulls eye while playing darts or archery.

I must admit that twenty five years ago while I was spearing fish by the reef or in my father’s fish trap I did made one or two dead shots.  But they were by fluke, I must confess.  And now for a little teaser.  Do loggerhead turtles have a dead spot?  I’ll leave that for next week when I’ll narrate the joys and challenges of turtle hunting as we did twenty five years ago.


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