Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Looking Good on the Tuna Bite 7-5-08

First I just want to be clear we looked really really good.

Tosses and turns faintly echoed about the room anxiously predicting the alarm. When the buzzer finally released us at 3:00am, the three fishermen, Sam, Keith and myself pulled ourselves together and quietly made our way downstairs gathering our supplies (beer) along the way.

We climbed into Keith’s Blazer only to find the backseat filled with vanity top makeup mirrors. Keith claimed they were for an “experiment”. Choosing not to ask any further questions we headed to sea pit road.

After meeting up with 12th generation cape resident “Big” Jake Crowell up the road from the dock, we rolled out of the Blazer in silence and weaved across Saddam’s front lawn avoiding land mines and machine guns alike.

As we loaded the gear on board a light rain began to fall. The forecast called for calm seas but it would prove to be a long wet day of fog, rain and questionable visibility. We donned our foul weather gear and with a quick glance around I commented, for what we be the first of many times, that we looked really really good. Casting the lines to the dock and leaving Waquoit bay behind Keith turned up the engines and set a course east to the tuna grounds.

As you’ve read in the posts below Keith’s last two trips have successfully put bluefin in the fish locker. The plan was to head to those same numbers that had delivered before, a few miles southeast of the bc buoy, look around for birds, and follow the sealife and to the fish. The images of crashing tuna danced in my head as the engines droned on.

Once we came down from plane the crew jumped to action. After a two hour run we had our set in the water within ten minutes. Four squid bars; black, pink, green and a second black bar deep where complimented with a daisy chain and a bird/green machine combo on the short riggers. I turned to Jake and with a quick “Ah-Yah” we began the wait.

Sam and Keith spotted a few humpbacks early, but the fog was limiting our visibility and therefore our ability to follow the birds to the fish. For the first two hours we bounced between waypoints pacing the deck, waiting, and looking really really good.

The beers had come out a few minutes after the rigs got wet. But with the continuing lack of action and prospects as bleak as the weather we turned to apple blend skoal to change our luck. While the nicotine energized the crew the fish would wait their turn.

Sam spotted a few birds of the port bow. He quickly turned the wheel, anxious for some purpose to our actions. Another boat trolling the area clued us in that after the mornings inaction something was going on. We trolled up to the birds to find breaking fish. Beautiful, beautiful 15-25 pound stripers jumped from the water like popcorn. We hooked into fish on the daisy chain and a popper. Ripping the strippers in on the 80 pound gear was sinful, but a necessary sin as we pursued our greater goal. After briefly admiring our inshore trophies 12 miles into federal waters, we regretfully tossed the bass aside and refocused on the task at hand.

We pulled in the daisy chain and green machine to cut down on the striper bite. As we circled the schools hoping for larger fish a few brief knocks on the green bar raised our expectations but the action would again have to wait. . . but not for long.

Knock down on the black bar, knock down on the pink bar, a tailfin confirmed that we had tuna in the spread. Our blood rushed as we all saw the second black bar, the farthest back in the spread, exploded in white.

The fish dumped line from the real. The crew looked really really good as we hauled in the lines and got big Jake set with gamble harness and rod. Keith kept the boat in slow gear, constantly keeping pressure on the hook as Jake rhythmically worked the fish, reclaiming line one foot at a time. As we glimpsed the first hint of color the bluefin glimpse the first hint of the boat and dumped more line. Jake would not be defeated, holding fast through the run he picked up the grind again working one foot at a time.

I’ve often tried to explain why I love fishing. What I always come back to, what I strive and fail to illustrate is the moment. The moment when all the days expectations, the hit and the runs and the fight all become reality, the water gives up its secrets, and you see the fish.

And this fish was big. I swallowed my excitement as Jake led the beast along the port side. Keith lashed onto the leader. With the gaff in hand I saw an opening and plunged the hook into it’s back. Not a text book gaff but it got the job done and the fish in the boat. Jake had been as cool as the mist enveloping our craft, but with the fish onboard he exploded as his prize had done 20 minutes early.

We slapped hands, threw in a celebratory dip and put the lines back on the water. We still had fishing to do and we still looked really really good.

We trolled for another hour with minimal action. The chatter on the radio was negative, nobody seemed to share our luck and a few boys had lost some gear to the sea gods.

Looping back to where a lone knockdown had raised our attention earlier, an early dawn prediction came true. As we first dropped lines that morning Jake said he had a “good feeling” about the green bar. “Good feeling” means bluefin as a second monster crashed our green bar and dumped line.

Sam had been on board for the first trip of the year and participated in the multi-hand battle that took place landing a 120 pound fish without a gimble. This time he had proper equipment and Jake giving tips along the way. Sam worked the fish with determination. We had one fish in the box and heavy weight on the line. We knew this fish must return to the sea. As I took the helm Keith readied the lip gaff and pliers to prepare for a boat side release.

Sam pulled his trophy to starboard this round and Jake deftly hooked his jaw with the small gaff. Keith reached in and popped out the hook. We admired the fish for a few moments, sizing it equal to his brother in the fish box, before Jake released him to the sea.

Another dip in and more beers down we continued to fish but the action was done for the day. With worsening visibility we turned back West and got back on plan, wet, tired, satisfied and looking really really good.


Keith said...

Tremendous post. We did look pretty damn professional out there.

Jesse Lance Robbins said...

hell yea man, great post. zoolander himself would've applauded.

also, i recommend grizzly wintergreen as an additional dipping flavor.