Of course, we pulled up some species other than toothfish, including icefish and some unidentified and bizarre finny things.
That evening (again, according to my watch but not the eternal southern summer sun), while drifting near an ice floe after dinner, we watched a leopard seal - the most fearless and ferocious of all the pinnipeds, and one that few people ever see - attack and kill an emperor penguin. "If I live to be 100," Dribbs said afterward, "I'll definitely never forget seeing that." Nor would I, though my memories might be in the form of nightmares: Leopard seals are definitely bad-ass.
But the next day, day two of our three-day adventure, brought one of the strangest encounters yet.
"Heave to! Fishing vessel Pesca Maria. Heave to."
The call came loud and clear over an electronically enhanced megaphone from ... a Greenpeace ship. I kid you not! What could they want with us?
The answer came soon enough. "You are fishing for an endangered species," yadayadayada. Ignoring the spiel, Castella disappeared into the cabin and came out with a rifle we hadn't seen previously. He hollered, loudly enough to be heard over the 50 yards separating us, sans megaphone, "Señor, if you don't find someone else to bother, I'm about to make you an endangered species," and held up the rifle.
The confrontation ended soon but still left us a bit freaked. I mean you'd think there would be some places you could fish on this earth with no one harassing you.
Despite all the amazing sights and sounds, our last "night" on the Antarctic sea was both the most incredible and frightening. The incident I'm about to describe is not in any way, shape or form embellished, as five other anglers, two crew members and damage to the Pesca Maria will attest. It all really happened.
About the Author: Red Nalo has written features on fishing adventures for most major outdoor publications (he's a past Sport Fishing contributor) and is working on a sport-fishing guide to Suriname.
An Adventure You Can Do!
The "here's how" part of replicating our trip is pretty easy. It involves no more than a visit to www.toothfishadventures.com or a call to Toothfish Adventures, Inc. at 212-779-5050. Yes, it'll cost you some serious dinero. Yes, you'll need to update your warm-weather wardrobe. Yes, you'll need to be OK with huge seas (or bigger, if it gets rough). But for someone with a real sense of adventure, a few days on the Pesca Maria just this side of the South Pole is well worth every penny.