Is this Bloody Deck enough for you all?
Those of you that know me know I mainly post on the board that the Oregon guys mainly frequent. Regardless, I know many of you and thought that since I spent the time to write this up, you might like to peruse it. Whatever board people may spend time on, I'm pretty sure we all share a passion for heading offshore and killing fish.
Be warned, this post is going to be long winded with a lot of pics, so this isn't going to be a quick one. For those of you that tuna fish, or just like to spend time on the ocean either a lot or a little, hopefully you will enjoy it. For myself, it is about sharing the passion that my father instilled in me for the sea, and how every trip West provides more to me as a person than just about anything else, outside of my family. I can share stories and pictures with friends, but truly the only people that can really understand and grasp the passion are those that know what it means to have your feet firmly planted on the deck of a pitching boat.
The season is not done. The tuna are still offshore, and there will doubtless be more time to harvest the bounty of our coastal waters until the storms froth the North Pacific to a point where salty anglers cannot head west for the year. For myself, that point has drawn very near with the gales of other obligations not related to ocean forecasts limiting my opportunities. Early this week, reviewing the forecast, and weather fronts, I fully believed that Thursday would provide an epic opportunity to head West and fish an amazing window. To that point, I also knew that I would only head out with perhaps one close friend, or solo if they could not go. Certainly not discounting the many amazing people I am fortunate to fish with, but there are times that call out for only your very best, and closest fishing partners. The partners that you don't need to mince words with, don't need to exchange pleasantries with, and share the same passion and the same mindset.
Before the Little Italy OTC event, the Sea-J was moved from her slip in Depoe to Big Tuna Marine, awaiting several weeks of camaraderie and spilled blood. Sadly, she forlornly sat at BTM as storms raged, and the best she could be called to action for was some salmon mayhem, where she performed admirably. Without doubt, she could have headed west from BTM Thursday to cover her decks in blood, but I really felt the need to get her home. This is where the passion comes in. Where the desire to make everything just right and execute a perfect day builds and creates the mindset to do whatever is needed. With excitement about the forecast, I headed to LI Wednesday night at 8:30pm from Portland. Arrived at BTM at 10:00pm and broke down the Sea-J for travel. By 11:00pm she was loaded on her trailer, and the truth about her last few weeks was scrubbed from her water line, and rinsed away next to the mill. We then proceeded on empty roads south towards home, stopping only to splash 40 gallons of tuna fuel in her tank before hitting the ramp in Depoe at 1:00am. A quick look across the bay to the moorage parking lot shows a single truck with a tote in the back- Marty. My thoughts are buoyed even more if the best tuna guy in Depoe has decided to head west in the morning. A quick text to let him know when he wakes up that I have the same plan. Offloaded, and the Sea-J is back in the familiarity of her own slip by 1:30am, and I'm off to the beach house firing up the ice machine by 2:00am. Last check of the forecast and charts at 2:30am, and off to sleep, to wake whenever I would to recheck the weather and head west on my own solo time table.
5:47am and I'm woken by a text message from Marty. Couple back and forths and he calls to see if I want to join him. Love to, but I want to enjoy the day and need more than 3 hours sleep. Weather is going to keep dropping and I plan on the late season brunch run that Seelicious and I have done so many times with success. I'll see him out there.
7:50am and another text wakens me. Marty is telling me to get up and get on my boat, the ocean is great and I need to get fishing- so I do. Gather my things, get ice loaded with the partial from the machine, go to another friends house and grab the rest of the ice need from his tote. Coffee, chips, cupcakes, gummi bears- all the essentials- are thrown in a bag and put on board. Rods are rigged and ready, engines warmed up, electronics on, and the journey begins out the hole in Depoe at 10:00am, solo, Westward.
It's been discussed before the merits and the dangers of solo fishing. It's not for everyone, and you need to be prepared. That being said, if you have the mindset, it can be akin to a spiritual thing. I've solo fished for salmon, halibut, and everything else, but never for tuna, not because I haven't wanted to, but because the circumstances were never right. Thursday they were right.
Heading west on a rolling 6 foot swell with sun shining, and no wind, the excitement couldn't have been any less than someone going tuna fishing for the first time- except perhaps for the fact that I expected, and intended to catch fish. No recent reports, no intel, no help, just a beautiful day to go look for the quarry. In shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops, the coast range slipped quietly behind me to the drone of my twin friends on the stern of the boat.
For an hour I run west at 25 knots towards the tuna grounds and waypoints that year in and year out produce fish. The day would be started like so many others- go until something looks good. The water temp climbs, and I am greeted like so many other trips by porpoise now and again. I never get tired of their swinging towards the boat to say hello, and then darting off in another direction to search for something more interesting than myself. At 25 miles it looks like mayhem is breaking loose just a slight course change to the south. I adjust my heading and hone in on the mass of swirling and diving birds that are pounding the water. There HAS to be tuna under those birds! When I get close I see massive bait balls and.... humpback whales...and.....mackerel. I jig through the birds and manage to hook up easily, but it's not what I'm looking for. Looking down over the side of the boat I see a 40 foot diameter ball of anchovies swim directly to the boat to take refuge from the birds, while thousands of mackerel swim just below them. No, it's not tuna, not my prey, but who am I kidding, this is cool as all get out! I'm by myself, 25 miles from shore, in an ocean absolutely TEEMING with life. Birds, and little fish, and bigger fish, and whales. Wow. This is why I'm here, far from home, to be surrounded by life that very few get to see.
My friends the humpbacks ply the waters, blowing, and spraying their musty breath across the boat as they charge forward after their own prey. I watched in wonder for awhile...tuna can wait....then push the throttles forward again heading west.
As I head west I get ahold of Marty on the V. He's got fish in the box, but advises that it was better where he was versus where he is. Another boat, Sea Wolf, is also out, and they are having decent action outside. I stop and cast on jumpers to no avail, and keep running. I then start to see more and more puddlers and jumpers around the 55/40 and decide to put in the gear and really fish. Nice early start to the fishing day- 11:45am. With not a breath of wind, and the sun beating down, it only makes sense to kick off the flip flops, take off the shirt, and fish like I'm in the tropics. Warm weather, beautiful water, and a pair of cargo shorts to hold pliers- nice. Putting the troll gear in with two Xraps and two clones, I anxiously wait for the sound we all love- the screaming sound of the clicker on the Talicas as line strips the other direction. After about 10 minutes, there it is... A relatively brief fight, and first fish in the boat. After that it is hit and miss for awhile... Some troll fish, cast to some jumpers, hook some deep on iron...everything but raising them to the surface with bait seems to be paying off. It is later September and the fish are behaving like it is the middle of August. Things start to heat up and I'm racing back and forth hooking fish, sliding extra gear out, playing one fish while one or two more are hooked and hanging. Some of the hangers come off, some stay on, but all in all, it's pretty productive. At one point I had to simply stop, grab a cold beverage, and sit down for a second before cleaning up again. I'm used to a lot of fish hitting the deck, but my system for doing it solo is a work in progress. When you are fighting one fish, and have two more hanging, you tend not to try and throw more gear out. Problem is, you then get all the fish in the boat and have no gear in the water, and the fish are gone. Bugger. Clean up the mess, get the gear back out, and do it again.
For pretty much the whole day I was totally by myself. I saw boats in the distance, and at one point had a boat troll about 1/4 mile away, but that was it. I was catching where I was, and everyone else was catching where they were. No big secrets on the water when there is hardly anyone out there. Numbers flowed like wine at a wedding, and the catching while not on fire, was consistent and steady. Late in the afternoon, I finally caught up with Marty and Mike, just after they laid into a 10 or 12 fish stop. As we were headed towards each other, a pile of jumpers came up between us and I heard Marty on the radio call out.. "We saw them first!". Too bad, I was closer and got there before them. One cast, hookup, and fight while the rest of the fish went down. After I boated the fish, Marty pulled up and said.... You beat us there by "this much!"
What a great way to hook up with friends. 35 miles offshore and talking in a normal tone of voice from boat to boat as you jig. I have to give credit where credit is due, Marty has been kind enough over the years to impart a wealth of experience and information on me that has helped me to no end. Guys like Marty are what makes the camaraderie of this pursuit so incredible. I have no idea how many tuna have hit the deck of the XTA SEA, but it is a lot.
We both called it about the same time and ran in together. Greasy water, and a smooth cruise back to Depoe. Running next to Marty, watching his boat slice eastward was a joy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jLAVmyGnuo
After a gorgeous day on the water, it was not a surprise to see the sun retreating behind some high clouds as we headed east. Back past the Depoe Whistle and to the Bell, the light was perfect for the return home and a quick visit to some of the locals furballs that lounge on our buoys, then through the hole by 6:15pm.
No matter the day, it is always a nice sight to see the entrance hole to Depoe Bay. Just a few more minutes and home.
I slid into the dock, tied the ropes up, and sat for a few minutes taking in the day. The fishing was great, but the day was epic. Would it have been as good if the fishing wasn't great? Honestly...no. I went out to kill fish, and that's a big part of why I love going offshore. But killing fish and being able to be a witness to what we are surrounded with....that is truly epic. Ended my solo day with 17 fish in the boat and perhaps another 6 or 8 that popped off, all rod and reel, for about 5 hours of actual fishing. I've had incredible days before, ones with good friends that were truly epic, and this one solo was right there with them. No shoes, no shirt, no problem. Great day.
So that's it. About as long winded as it gets. Perhaps too flowery, or waxing poetic, but days like yesterday are the reason men and women are drawn to the sea. The thrill of the hunt, and at the same time the celebration of life that so very few really get to see, much less understand. Days like yesterday are why I am so thankful that my father was a waterman and passed that passion on. Those that have not experienced what it means to be offshore can only get a hint of the flavor that the ocean provides. Thank you to all my friends and those that I don't know that share this passion! Tight lines and fair seas my friends!