When I wrote my first blog post about my stay at Honko I talked about the regional planting day, which went down on the first weekend after I dropped in. The celebration of the day not only served to flavor the event, it showcased the importance of Mangroves to the local community, which in turn has flavored the rest of my stay at Honko. For this blog post I will talk about my experiences working with the fisherman, who were helping me learn the local fish.
Before I do that though I will have to make a quick take a quick non-secquitor and talk about Honko’s three dogs. The first dog, whose name is Dog, is the kind of guy who is young, handsome, well-meaning and not particularly intelligent. He is the pretty one of the pack. The next dog is a hard, hardy old lady by the name of Beebee. While that name actually means animal in Malagash, I like to pretend that it stands for brown boss. This is because Beebee is brown, and the boss of the pack. Intelligent, adventurous and active despite her grey hairs, she is the tough one of the pack. And indeed she will sometimes follow me and the other workers into the Mangrove, wading into the channels and across mud without pause. The final dog is a bit of a mixed bag. She is called Mama because she was pregnant when she was named. She has since had her puppies, who are right this very second doing the same thing they have been doing for the past 2 weeks. Which has been laying in a useless, whimpering, but admittedly adorable puddle. Mama herself is a bit clingy. She is the lowest on the totem pole.
The reason I bring up the dogs is because Beebee and Dog almost always follow me and the fisherman into the channels. Their play fighting and dashing around set a delightful, frenetic contrast to the steady plodding progress we make as we drag the fishing net. Of the various times I have been out with the fisherman we have gotten a variety of fish, some colorful and some drab. Some of the fish look pretty standard while others look downright silly. (Looking at you puffer fish) The sky above us has come in every color between cloudy grey and forget-me-not blue. The most consistent constant has been those two dogs chasing each other through the water.
The fisherman themselves are a pretty relaxed group. My ability to communicate with them is limited but that hardly stops the tone of these excursions from being light.
The nets pull up a smorgasbord of different fish. The most common fish is silver with horizontal bars which are a dark blue-grey. There are a variety of silvery fish who share both minor similarities and minor differences. There are occasionally colorful fish, which remind me more than anything that I am far away from home. One had a mottling of black and honeybee yellow. Another was yellow and silver, covered with spines and had long lacy fins. The word lion fish came to mind when I looked at it, though it wasn’t a lion fish.
A common resident of the net is the puffer fish mentioned before. That little guy swells just like he is supposed to when the net is pulled open. They look like a grape tomato shaped fish.
A couple other notable mentions include the dragon fish. A plated, snake like fish. There is also the snake fish, which is obviously an even more snake like fish. When that was pulled up there was a slight problem with communication. It took me a couple tries to confirm that it was a snake fish, not a fish snake. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be bitten before I reached in. It lacks fins, and is very smooth and does indeed look like a snake. Until you see its little gills anyways.
It has been an intriguing adventure working with these fish. Every net brings up different fish, some of which are local residents and other which are visitors for nearby reefs. No matter where they are from, they are all from Madagascar, which for me is incredible.