If there was ever a “good karma” trip, this was it. Although circumstances always seemed bad at many points, things turned out well in the end...
I could not make the schedule work to fish with Bill and the crew that fished Venice and OBX this year in October with Captain Dom due to my wife’s birthday
I worked with Rich to set up some open boat days on the Black Rose but ultimately it ended up being a crew of my hybrid fishing/tuna fishing buddies from Dallas. My friends Neil, Charles and I planned to fly to Boston on Thursday and fish Friday- Sunday. Unfortunately, severe weather hit Boston and Neil and Charles ended up stranded in Saint Louis and I changed my flight to the following day. They hit the casino and won a few hundred that night and I volunteered to take a later flight the next day and ended up getting a nice travel voucher for a future flight. We were also able to extend our trip for one more day at no cost from the airlines.
On Friday, the weather was supposed to turn ugly around noon, so we opted to head to Stellwagen bank. We made a quick run to sunny skies and calm seas. There were tons of boats anchored there including the tuna.com (I am a huge Wicked Tuna fan) so we opted to drift along the edge of the fleet. A single sabiki drop was coming back with a full line of mackerel and herring so we put out a bunch of lines and I jigged / blind casted some swim baits. We were really limited due to the pending weather so opted not to run and gun. We fished until noonish with no bites (on our boat or any boat that we could see, we did see one boat come back to the anchor ball after several hours) and had to drive through a squall, some rain and some significantly choppy seas on the way back. The one cool thing was the sheer number of humpbacks. We probably saw at least 20 and heard them several times.
Day two we received some reports of some tuna down south (two 67” were caught the day before) so opted to buddy boat with Captain Dom to see if we could get on. Alex (MrBigFish from 360) was on Dom’s boat. We headed out to calm seas excited about running and gunning until we hit the fog. The water was 47 and at times, we could not see 50 yards in front of the boat. We stopped and discussed with Dom to figure out what to do. We had two options, re-trailer and move someplace else (which would have taken 2.5 hours) or the option we proposed was go to the spot, drop some baits and wit for the fog to clear off which is what we ultimately decided to do. We headed out to the general area, found a couple of nice rips and started fishing. The guys in the back were dropping sabikis and Point Jude jigs and catching bait while I was on the bow throwing a RonZ and letting it sink to the bottom then jigging it up the water column. On about the fifth cast, I get a bite that was obviously not a tuna and turned out to be a small haddock. We opted to use it for bait vs. dinner so sent it out to join a large mackerel that we had caught.
I continued casting the RonZ when suddenly one of the lines starts screaming. I saw the back rod (that had the haddock) bending but Charles grabbed the front rod instead. I jump down from the bow and join the chaos. Rich and Neil are reeling in the extra rods, Charles is cranking on his rod, so I grab the back rod. The lines end up wrapping so Rich grabs the front rod, weaves it around the back rod and places it in the port rod holder where Charles continues the fight. He then grabs the back rod, a standup 80 and hands it to me with a “here you go, you got a tuna”. About that time the tuna decides to head to Jersey and takes off screaming. I am holding on for dear life, yelling for a belt and wedging the rod between my body and the cooler.
The fish that Charles has does not act like a tuna, it seems more like a shark, short runs, no major speed and somewhat easy to pull toward the boat. Rich decides to focus on that first so if it’s a shark we can get rid of it and focus on the tuna. He manages to get me a plate, so I wedge the rod in the holder and continue to hang on. The tuna is still stripping line and I can’t even think about reeling. Meanwhile, Charles gets his shark close enough to see color and it’s a bluefin. Rich and Neil scramble to get the harpoon ready and less than 10 minutes into the fight, WHAM, Rich sticks it… and the tuna goes absolutely nuts. To say it was still a little green is an understatement, it takes off, breaks the line and is now only on by the dart and ripping out harpoon line. We are still fogged in, so we can’t let the tuna take all the line and put it on a ball, we would lose it, so Rich is fighting hard to stop the tuna. Rich gets it close and sticks a gaff in it and the tuna goes into another level of thrashing and chaos. It is slamming against the boat, shaking its head (and flailing the gaff) and thrashing its tail to the point where it could have really hurt someone. Neil gets a tail rope around the fish and then gets harnessed up and grabs the rod with the tuna I am fighting so we can get the first one tied off.
By the time I get over to the fish, Rich sticks another gaff and it goes crazy again, this thing would not quit! Suddenly the tail rope pops off and Charles and I are holding onto this fish by the gaffs while its going absolutely nuts. There was an intense minute of us holding the thrashing fish until Rich finally gets another tail rope in it and cuts it to bleed it. It still thrashes around for a couple of minutes before it finally stops. We drag it up to the middle cleat and finally tie it off.
The whole time, Dom has been on the radio asking for intel on how we caught the fish, but none of us have been able to answer. Rich finally gets 30 seconds to jump on the radio and update him on what happened, then we start to focus on the second fish.
The whole time, Neil has been plugging away, he has been gaining line and made it through the braid backing back to the mono. I get harnessed up and take back the rod only to realize… I can’t move my arms. My arms are literally numb. I end up holding the rod and Neil is cranking the reel when suddenly the fish gets a second wind and dumps the spool again. I ended up sitting on the bench, holding the reel and watching the fish rip off line. Suddenly, the fish decides to switch direction and charge the boat, so I must jump up and crank like crazy. Fortunately, the cranking under no pressure get my arms working again and I gain back a ton of line before the fish turns to the port and runs up to the top. We finally get a glimpse of fins and tail. The fish starts to circle, so I switch from corner to corner to fight it. Charles jumps on the wheel and Rich is coaching me while Neil is filming. The fish keeps going from side to side and charging the boat each time giving me the opportunity to get to swivel but then takes out line again. I am essentially pulling the line with one hand and reeling with the other but half the time, the fish pulls it back before I can reel it in. After what seems like an eternity (really about an hour) Rich is finally able to stick it with the dart. After the first fish, this was a simple tail rope and tie off and after the four-mile fight, the fish is hanging.
We pull out to tackle to winch it in and as Rich moves to the winch in the first tuna, he sees a shark. An 8-foot great white is now circling the boat obviously with fresh sashimi on his mind. We quickly grab the gaffs just in case, but we get the fish in the boat with no tax penalty. The first fish is 94” and I measured the second to be 82 but added another inch due to a bent tail to make it 83”. We gut them, ice them and head back to where we started. We tried a couple of different spots with no more tuna hook ups. Dom’s boat had a tuna bite they lost and a 400 ish Porbeagle that they opted to let swim away. We were drifting and dropping jigs and picked up a bunch of haddock and cod but no more tuna action.
Unfortunately, Monday’s trip was cancelled due to weather, so I am typing this from the airport instead of fighting a tuna right now. This was a bucket list item for me (50th birthday present) and I am glad that I set this up with Rich. This was an amazing experience all around and I already want to do it again. There is an open boat trip in October that no one has signed up for so if you want to do it, contact me. [img]https://www.360tuna.com/attachments/1-jpg.81860/
Our fish taped out at 86” and 329 and 94” and 369 dressed. Although we ended up with commercial fish and therefore no tuna, we ended up with 4 gal of haddock and cod fillets and had an amazing lobster dinner with some fresh caught lobster!