Cumurupim (tarpon) play an important part in the lives of the fishermen of Prainha, not least for the financial gain which a big one guarantees but also for the prestige of landing one.
The men here all use a simple baited hook (Brazilian size 3 or 4 spade head) attached to about a half a meter length of 120lb plastic coated wire which in turn is attached to 120lb to 140lb line. The favourite bait used is espada, (largehead hairtail) though failing them, many other types of fish are used as the cumurupim eat pretty much anything.
The line is wrapped around a piece of polystyrene, rather like a giant cotton reel and, when they’ve made a catch, whilst balanced precariously on the edge of their jangada (the traditional sail rafts have no sides) the men use their bare hands on the line to pull in the fish.
Cumurupim migrate past Prainha between September and December, though in recent years their pattern has changed, some years arriving earlier, last year not appearing until December, what the cause or significance of this is, is not known. The average weight of those caught here is between 30 and 50 kilos, though this is cleaned meat weight as the fish are never weighed before having been scaled, de headed and gutted.
My husband Neu has brought back a fish of nearly 60 kilos (check the photo gallery here for some examples) but the record goes to his cousin, who in 2014 landed a whopping 80 kilo fish (which sadly I didn’t get a photo of). It took him roughly 2 hours to land and must have been nearer 90 kilos prior to being cleaned, it is truly astonishing that he was able to land it on 140lb line, pulled in by hand.
The following film shows a little of the effort and amount of work that goes into putting to sea on a jangada and fishing for cumurupim in this artisanal manner, there’s even a fish at the end!