25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Let’s Have Fun With A Tarralla
Last week San Pedro High celebrated Cultural Day and there was a group of early Mestizos with their fishing gear including fishing lines and “tarralla” cast nets. So I decided to try casting out the net to see if I remembered doing something I used to be good at about forty years ago. You might not believe it, but I think I cast it quite well.
Flinging a cast net, of course, reminded me of all the fun we used to have with our “tarrallas”. First of all there was the knitting of the cast net. Oh, yes, our dads used to teach us boys how to knit one. You had your homemade wooden needle, a piece of board that served like a ruler, and you formed every diamond of the net, one by one. Then you had to learn how to widen the net, how to put the sinkers, and the hammock inside that serves to trap the fish.
Practically every fisherman had a cast net- eight, ten or twelve feet long. Every boy also had a small one. Five year olds had a four-foot cast net and could cast them with tremendous accuracy. A fisherman did not consider himself a good fisherman if he did not teach his boys to use one. In fact, some of their wives also learned to cast one, and he would boast of it. Even some teenage girls learned to cast nets.
The cast net was mostly used to catch sardines, which in turn was used as bait for the fishing line. We caught sardines from the piers or shallow grassy areas near the beach. At times we also used to go along the beach and catch shads, grunts and snappers with the cast net. There were these special lightweight “tarrallas” used to catch mullet. They had to be lightweight because the mullet were very fast fish. The net had to be flung some fifteen feet away and it had to sink to the bottom of the sea very fast for the mullet were moving fast too. To catch mullet the fisherman would walk in the sea with water up to his knees, but would come out with a catch of a dozen mullet. Mullet, as you probably know, is a delicacy in the frying pan. Other fishermen had special “tarrallas” to catch bonefish, which usually fed in shallow beds and they too are a delicacy with fish balls. The snook also fed in shallow waters during the cold season of December and they too were a delicacy smoked in a barbecue pit. They also fell victims to skillful fishermen with their nets.
And so it was that twenty five years ago, “tarrallas” were as common as golf carts today. You do not see children flinging cast nets today, but you do see them driving around town and having fun with golf carts. (Next week I want to tell you how to make the mosquito nets that were very popular twenty five years ago.)