Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Speed of Sound

October 11, 2009

This was kind of a makeup trip. Chip, Joel, and I went out with Jeff in late August and, well, we skunked out. That means that we didn’t hook any fish. This was not anyone’s fault, to my knowledge. It was just that the tuna were finicky and not interested in biting, that’s all. Oh yeah, and the other boats around that spooked them away and pissed us off.

So we went out on the water this past weekend to see what was what. The coldness of the morning was new to us, the first really cold one yet this year. Some steam came off the water from where we put in. The boat, Carla Noel, sped out to the deeper waters in good time and our first sight of fish, as the sun broke over the horizon, turned out to be blues – good sized ones though. I was delighted to land one, but the spirit on the boat was somewhat less enthusiastic, so we moved onward. It didn’t take too long to find the tuna. That was also true for about 12 other vessels out there. Some were friends and others were idiots. I hate to put it that way, but it kind of seems to be true. The friends are careful not to crowd or spook your fish and would rather find their own school to work on. The others seem to consistently follow you, crowd you, and then run over the fish.

This happened time after time. Over several hours we kept finding schools to work, but either the fish would go down quickly or some jackass would arrive and fuck the whole thing up. Usually both occurred.

But Jeff and the rest of us kept our shit together and moved on and on and on. There were a few mishaps and arguments, but these were quickly forgotten. Then, finally, there was a school we had found and stuck with for a half hour, and finally the fish came up and stayed up long enough for a few good shots. And it was good. It was actually really good and we were really lucky.

Joel: “I have a fish on my line,” in a musical tone.

Then his reel screamed like Godzilla.”

At the same moment I felt the hit on my tuna plug which slid just a couple inches under the surface. “I’m on!” But then slack, “I’m off.” Then again, a hit, “I’m on again.” Then slack. But I didn’t give up and kept the single-hook plug dog walking towards the hull. Then it happened: about six feet from the boat this beautiful fish glided forcefully to the plug, mouth open, then closed, and off into the abyss, my line screaming. “I’m on!” But no one heard me because Joel’s reel was still peeling off and all attention was on him.

“Hey, John’s on too,” eventually noticed Don Gunster. “Yep,” I replied. After a few minutes we were able to hold the fish for a few seconds and turn up the drags. “Okay guys, we’re going to have to communicate and work together on this one,” Jeff explained. “Who’s closest to the boat?” By this time I had cranked most of the lost distance back and the fish was only about five yards down. It was decided that my fish would come up first. Joel let his take some line out before his next attempt to draw it in.

Then Joel’s line snapped. Crack. “Holy fucking fuck fuckshit fuck!” yelled Joel. And I agreed. His line simply snapped somewhere and he was free of the fish. This sucked, but we still had one to get to the boat. Suddenly I felt some performance pressure. I fought the thing for a good 20 minutes, then, I must admit, my lower back began to unravel. This was because the fish set itself under the boat and the posture I had to provide created spasms and pain. I could have continued, but I weighed the outcomes and realized that if my back was to go out then I would really be in the hole. Seeing that Joel and Don had nothing else to do, I handed the rod over to the nearest of them, Joel. But his forearms were toast from fighting his fish. So the rod went quickly to Don. And he delivered. It only took a few winds of the reel to bring the leader to the tip of the rod, and then we saw the fish. A nice one (I already knew that). Jeff managed to close the deal and within minutes it was over the rail and onto the deck. It measured 65 inches and we estimated the weight somewhere around 150 to 160 pounds. It was a beauty.

At this time the wind picked up significantly. The relatively calm day changed rapidly and the seas began to act up on us. Tired, satiated, we collectively agreed to begin our trip back. After about ten minutes of blasting through the waves we found a school of big blues. I caught one and kept it (just had it tonight actually – kid’s request). The sun was low, seas up and spray on my face. It was beautiful out there. The last big trip of the year, and I realized this and thought about that on our way back to the ramp. I thought about a lot of things between soakings from the bow spray. Joel laughed as I received the 57 degree shower all the way back. I didn’t care.

We cleaned the fish at the ramp which was something we were hesitant about doing. Then, after conversing with folks who were pulling boats out too, we took one last look at the bay and drove off. We knew that this was the closer of the season. Schedules and bank accounts wouldn’t allow another one of these this year.

But the tuna immediately went to good use. It’s amazing how this fish brings people together. It reveals the best of us too. I hope it lasts a while.

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