It's a rare thing for any of us to keep a fish. I can count on two fingers the number of times we've kept fish to eat. Once was during our first ever trip to the tributaries, and the other was a fly-caught dorado during a trip for roosters. Both of those fish fed a lot of people.
While I am definitely against fishing for trophies, I am not opposed to fishing for meat in some instances. This happened to be one of those instances.
We kept one fish a day for us to have for dinner. We were counting on it so much, in fact, that we didn't really bring anything else to eat during our stay on Rubondo. We had some pasta and sauce, but perch, we were hoping, would be on the menu. We also gave one fish a day to our guide. We estimated our impact as equal to about one nile crocodile.
There are always conflicting emotions when keeping a fish instead of seeing it swim away. This time, there were even more. Should the perch be fished out as soon as possible to allow the lake to recover, as best it could? Would the lake be better off if the perch were eradicated? Would the people who live on the shores be better off if the perch were gone? In the short term? In the long term? I don't know.
Nile perch are very fatty. They cannot be dried in the sun, and must instead be smoked if they're to be preserved. This has caused deforestation along the shores. We weren't worried about preserving our catch, so we cleaned it and slapped it on the grill.
Because of the fat content, the skin crisped up like friend chicken, and the white, flaky meat was delicious after long days on the water. With a bit of salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon, we couldn't ask for much else.
We downed a few warm beers and sipped some whiskey as we sat around a campfire, telling stories, listening to the sounds of the forest and watching the constellations of the southern hemisphere turn overhead.
Each night, crocs came to the shoreline for the entrails we left out for them. We scanned for their eyes with our headlamps from the safety of the concrete firepad.
The trip was drawing to a close.