Hall of Fame Fish story from the past -Fearless: The Wahoodad/Willy Intrepid 8-Day Report


I Should Upgrade My Account
Aug 20, 2010
San Diego
Boat Name
Any Boat that I can go on
Part VII Concluded: I Fall On My Fat Butt...Twice!
It was late Wednesday (late for us!), I'm standing at the stern of the boat, about five feet from the Port corner where another angler is fighting what looks like a good fish.

And for the first time since noon on Tuesday, I'm bit.

It was nothing spectacular as pick ups go. My spool spun a second under my thumb, hesitated for a microsecond, then started spinning again. I put the reel in gear, but only half way to strike, and I let the line come really tight. The fish was swimming pretty fast, but I really don't know if it realized it was hooked. Then I slowly pushed the drag up to strike, as smoothly as I could---no jerk there---and lifted the rod tip. I figured either it's coming off now, or chances are I've got him well hooked at this point.
The fish didn't come off. Rodless, Choose Your Weapon... We're all obsessed with our gear. We ask each other what we like and don't like, what we prefer for one purpose and what we prefer for another.
We discuss endlessly how to rig, how to bait, how to fish...all of it.
Well, I already told you the rig I was fishing: Daiwa Saltist 40 Lever Drag 2-speed (the blue one), with the drag set at 15lbs at strike, a hair over 18lbs at full (there's not that much more on a Saltist once you go past strike...I may need to look into that).
The reel was spooled with Jerry Brown Line One Solid, 350+ yards of 65lb white.
No mono at all.
The rod is an OC Rod I got from Toeknee, who posts on this board. It is a 7HF (I think I have the model number correct), a seven foot long black stick with some pretty good lifting power and a flexible tip. The reel seat and guides are first rate, and the construction of the rod is top notch. The rod is rated 30-60lbs, Toeknee maintains that it's a solid 50lb rod, and for a lot of people it might be. I pull pretty hard, though, and I get my substantial backside into it when I do, so it feels more like a 40lb rod to me. That's why I chose it to fish 40. I wasn't disappointed!
I was rigged with about 25 feet of 40lb Blackwater Shock Leader Fluoro. I have realized since that fight that I didn't need that much fluoro...10 feet is plenty, and is just 15 feet less for the sardine to drag behind it. But in this instance, I had chosen to put 25 feet on, and that's what I had.
I connected my spectra to my fluoro with a Tony Pena knot.
Those who were on the trip probably saw me tie it a few times. I think it is the best knot for the purpose (if you have solid spectra...hollow is a completely different animal), and I was very pleased to see that the crew on Intrepid tend to agree. Jesus and Romo are certainly Pena converts! In any case, I had absolute confidence in that connection. My hook was a 1/0 Owner Gorilla. That's right, 1/0. To be honest, that hook might have been one size too small for fish of this caliber, but 2/0 would do you fine, and 3/0 was more than big enough.
I have had discussions with some people---notably Mike Lackey and Fishybuzz---about Owner hooks. The circle hooks are excellent, but some anglers (those two in particular) have a bias against Owner's J-hook models. They don't like the "cutting edge," they feel it makes too big a hole in the fish's mouth, and you risk having the fish throw the hook in the course of a long fight. That hasn't been true for me, but I haven't done anywhere near the amount of fishing these guys have. I don't dismiss their opinions, and will always look to see if there is a better option. Having said that, I like Owner hooks, circle and J, and I have a bunch of them in my tackle bag. They have never failed me, and I have never seen a compelling reason not to use them. I was looking for a J-hook, I wanted it small to be stealthy, but I wanted it sturdy to not bend. As I recall, Miles was fishing Flyliner hooks, and he straightened two in a row, on two good fish. He was pretty unhappy about it, as would I have been. So, given what I wanted, I had a choice of Gorillas or Offshores, and the smallest ones I had were 1/0 Gorillas...so that's what I chose. Again, in this case I was not disappointed.

ASIDE: Many here will probably remember me singing the praises of circle hooks in general, and Owner Mutus and Super Mutus in particular. I've caught lots of tuna using circle hooks, along with pretty much all other species, and I like them a lot. So why was I using a J-hook? Because I it's much, MUCH easier to butt hook a sardine with a J-hook. I am already pretty good at nose hooking baits with circle hooks, but I had a heck of a time trying to butt hook the baits with them. I tried a lot, too. Then I tied on a J-hook, and suddenly it was much easier. 'Nuff said. In any case, I used an Erwin knot to connect the hook to the fluoro. It is the best knot I know, and virtually the only knot I use. Again, it has never failed me, not even once...though (again) I don't fish as much as many of the people who post here. I was wearing a fighting belt and expected to use it. That was how I was armed when I set the drag and started the fight.
I had been on for all of 10 seconds, and already I realized that this was a bigger tuna than any I had ever fought before... Sometimes I Have To Learn The Hard Way...

I have had a certain conversation with harddrive many times. He says that I'm stubborn, and refuse to learn something until it bites me in the hindquarters. I respond that I am analytical, not stubborn. If someone tells me something new and it makes sense, I don't need a lot of convincing. If, in my own subjective analysis, whatever they tell me doesn't make sense, I tend to follow my own counsel. Does that qualify as stubborn? Maybe so... This whole trip was a learning experience for me. Some of the lessons came easily and painlessly...others were carved into my hide in agonizing fashion. Either way, the lessons I learned I won't soon forget! In that vein, and in retrospect, there are some things that I did during this fight that I think I did correctly and well. Other things were very definitely errors in judgment, though in some cases I couldn't have known until the error smacked me in the face.

So... Things I Did Right:
1. When the fish hit, I had a rig in my hands in which I had total confidence, especially the reel and the knots.
2. I got the reel in gear quickly, setting the hook in the corner of the fish's mouth.
3. I put just as much pressure on the fish as I could all the way through, and I made sure I gained line whenever I could, especially early in the fight.
4. I took advantage of the few opportunities I had to make the fish fight while resting myself.
5. I had the fantastic wisdom to choose to fish on Intrepid. You'll see what I mean about that in a while.

Things I Did Wrong:
1. I did not go into the fight prepared to fish the rail. I'd never done it, never even tried, and didn't know how. A big tuna on light line is not the ideal learning opportunity.
2. The rod I was using was not constructed as a rail rod. That turned out to be a bigger mistake than I could have possibly imagined beforehand.
3. My rod belt has a gimbal pin, but I took it out before the trip and never put it back. The rod has gimbal grooves too, but I fished the entire fight with the rubber gimbal cover squeaking loudly inside the plastic cup of my rod belt.
4. I wasn't in as good shape as I wanted to be for the trip.
5. I was using a 40lb outfit, in a fight that was better suited for 60lb gear. That is the only mistake that, given the same circumstances all over again, I would repeat. I would have cut off my left arm for a bite at that point...dropping down to 40lbs doesn't seem like too much of a price to pay... Game On!

The first part of the fight was easy, so much so that I might have gotten a little overconfident, at least the way things turned out. I was on the stern with the fish pretty much straight back. It cut a little to starboard at first, and took me a couple of steps towards the other corner, but then it reversed direction, and headed back towards the Port corner again...where everybody and their mother-in-law to be (yes Jan, I am talking about you) was fishing.
There were maybe five or six anglers there flylining, and two people hooked up, all in a very small space.
I thought to myself "Oh-oh!" I had an advantage, though.
I had been gaining line steadily ever since the hook up. I was lifting up and winding down, which is how I learned how to fish. I had the butt of my rod in my rod belt, and the tip of my rod pretty high...I wasn't pinned to the rail. If I had been, that would have caused problems then. Instead, I was able to step back, and fish from behind the crowd. I've done that before, but never on such a powerful fish. It was fun and exciting, and my heart was beating a mile a minute. I actually fished there for a minute or two...it seemed much longer!...and I was able to keep pressure on the fish and gain some line.
I had no illusions that this would be a short fight, of course, but I felt like I was in control, given the mess that was taking shape in front of me. To make the point, there was a tangle going on, and three deckies trying to maintain order and save hooked fish. I kept pulling, though, and soon enough my fish decided to make a move up the Port rail. At first it was a subtle move, because the fish was still pretty far out. I kept gaining, though, and as a result put more pressure on the fish. I could tell when it really felt the strain, because it took off like a bat out of Hell, heading out and up towards the bow.

The sound of my reel surrendering drag was noticeable, and led to the briefest of conversations between Kevin (who was working the deck) and Colin.

Kevin: Colin...
Colin: I've got him.

And he did. I don't know exactly what that was about, by the way. I had caught a couple of fish, and had given a demonstration that I had some idea of what I was doing. Nevertheless, I was obviously on a good fish, and I don't think Kevin wanted me to lose it for lack of assistance. So he assigned Colin to babysit me, never guessing how long that job might take. I will tell you right now that I was very glad to have the company. Colin didn't have to do much for most of that fight, but he was definitely my security blanket, and he both kept me laughing and focused at the same time. He gave me instruction when I needed it, especially to move up or down the rail a half a second before I was going to do so. I can laugh about that now, but the truth is he had a good sense of which way the fish was going most of the time, even before I did. The thing is, I was doing a good job of keeping the fish straight out from me, and I would follow the fish as it moved, but Colin knew before the fish did which way it would go.
He had me a step ahead each time, and that helped me gain line too. For what my opinion is worth, he's already a fine deckhand. And the boy is huge Not quite the size of Cameron his brother, but that immense presence and soft, deep voice were very reassuring. I do not in any way underestimate the value of having Colin there with me.
So we moved up the rail towards the bow, with the fish headed well off to port, for all the world as if it wanted to reach the rocks standing out there in the distance. Now all the line I gained at the beginning really played in my favor, because the fish made the first of what would be many runs, pulling drag quickly and steadily and headed for the horizon.
I am pretty sure if the fish had been 175 yards out when that run started, it would have spooled me. But I had already gained some 80 yards before the run, and leaning into the rod and pulling, I stopped it out at about 300 yards, I guess.

When the fish stopped, I went ahead and pushed the drag to full.

Way early, I know, but I had a sense that if I didn't make the fish work hard for every foot, I would regret it. I also did something I have never done before in a fight: I went to low gear. Here's the thing, I've never fished two-speed reels before, not like this. I've caught fish using a two-speed, but I never once had to drop into low gear to do it. But I was in a tug-of-war...the fish pulling an inch of drag every few seconds, and me absolutely unable to make any cranks when it eased up...it was just pulling too hard.
And then, as clear as day, I remembered a conversation I'd had with harddrive some three or four weeks before the trip. It was actually a IM conversation of all things:

Me: So, I've never actually used a two-speed reel...when do I put it in low gear? harddrive: Whenever you can't turn the handle in high gear!

It was as simple as that. No sooner did I remember that conversation than I also remembered I was fishing with a two-speed reel. I pressed the button, and I started gaining line. Just like that. Of course I wasn't gaining much line with each crank, but I was able to turn the handle some 20-30 times, and in the process, "horsing" the fish towards the boat. If I thought the previous scenario was tug of war, this was far beyond that. The fish was coming, and it really didn't want to. It pulled and pulled, but in low gear the reel wouldn't give up much line at all, and every time I was dragging it closer and closer. I bet that, in all, I probably gained 40 yards that way, but it was 40 yards the fish didn't want to surrender, so it decided to change the game plan for a moment...and scared the life out of me in the process!

The fish turned towards the boat, and came fast, at least until it lost the sense of pressure. I was winding for all I was worth, but I couldn't feel the fish.

I said to Colin "Oh NO! I think he broke off!"

Colin asked me if I was sure, but I kept winding in slack line.

Then I had another "Doh!" moment: I was still in low gear!

I still thought I had lost the fish, but I clicked the lever to put it back in high and get the line back in...and suddenly the line came tight...then tighter...then tighter still. Wow, you can NOT imagine my relief!
Plus, I had gained some 50-60 more yards of line.
That gave me the energy to pull even harder, and bring the fish even closer.
Back down the rail towards the stern...half way there and the fish goes the other way. Now Colin really earned his keep, warning me as I was coming to the piled up anchor line and helping me step on it without falling. I did turn my ankle ever so slightly on that rope later in the fight, but it never toppled me.
Thank you Colin!
It was then that I told him I was worried about the anchor line...that I had lost a good fish earlier in the trip by getting wrapped. Colin replied that I had nothing to worry about. The anchor was almost straight up and down, and my fish was way out off the Port rail, still maybe some 150 yards out. Back into low gear, dragging the fish closer and closer, until it turned towards the boat again. Again I was stuck in low gear, and again the line went slack, but this time I realized what was going on, and put it back in high right away. Yup, still on. Feeling cocky, I turned to Colin and said "Look at that! I love it when I get free line!" Then, of course, the fish took off on another long run away from the boat, and even in low gear (again) it took maybe 100 yards, leaving me more or less where I'd been before.

"Damn," I thought, "this is a mean fish!"

So when it ran, I started putting my thumb on the line against the fore grip, adding "cook's drag." I was lucky that the line never cut me badly when I did that, though I did wear a groove in my thumb by the end of the fight. But the extra couple of pounds of drag seemed to do the trick.
The runs the fish made were shorter, and the turns towards the boat became more frequent. I remain convinced that the only reason I didn't lose the fish in that phase of the fight was because of the line I was able to gain at the beginning. The fish did eventually take me down to what must have been my last 50 yards or so of spectra, but in sudden terror gave me the strength to grind it back...back...almost all the way back inside 100 yards.

By then, I had been pulling on that fish for more than 45 minutes.
It could have been longer for all I know, but at least that long...and now I was getting tired.

You all should have been expecting that, of course. I was fighting with main strength, and my strength was less than it should have been.
I had been sick for days, and I hadn't eaten much. Plus, I'd been pulling with my arms and my back, fighting what was obviously a pretty big fish in low gear.
I'm guessing that if I had had a harness, I would have been in much better shape, but my mobility would have been lost, and as things worked out, using a harness would have meant losing the fish. Period. No, the thing I really needed to do was use the rail...but I didn't know how.

One very lucky thing happened then, though: the fish moved back up to the bow, taking me up onto the rope again (this is when I turned my ankle, as if I needed that at this point), but also putting me right in front of the anchor stanchion.

OK, I don't know if that's really the right word for it. What I'm talking about is that cylindrical post that rises out of the deck in the bow, about four feet from the Port rail. When the crew pulls the anchor and stows the line for traveling, the line goes down into its hold through a hole near the top of that post. I call it a stanchion. Anyway, the fish was making another run against low gear, and the stanchion was right behind me, so I leaned back and rested my wide derriere right against the post. I spread my legs for balance, and let the fish pull against my weight, rather than my arms. I kept winding down when I could of course, but I probably didn't gain quite as much line that way as I would have earlier in the fight. It didn't matter, though.

Resting against the stanchion allowed me to slowly pull the fish a lot closer, while at the same time catching my breath. If I hadn't done that, I am sure beyond sure I would have run out of gas and lost the fish.
Of course, the fish eventually pulled the same stunt, running towards the boat, but I was ready. I had caught my second wind, and with more agility than I expected to have, I bounced off the stanchion, popped the reel into high gear, and caught up with the running fish in a moment. Now it took me back towards the stern, steadily, not fast or slow, all the way to the Port corner again. Then, after a brief moment, all the way across the stern to the Starboard corner, then almost immediately, back to the Port corner, and then back up the Port rail about half way.

At that moment, I decided that I had to find a way to use the rail, or I was going to lose the fight...so I sat on the rod butt. Really. I just pushed it down between my legs (off to one side, of course!), and sat on that puppy.

For as long as the fish was pulling and not running, that worked really well too. I was able to make cranks in low gear, and use my fat butt to fight the fish. Of course, the fish didn't stay where it was...it moved back up the rail a bit, and I sat on the rod again.
Another couple of minutes, and it went back all the way up to the bow, and I got to sit against the stanchion again.
Damn, but that fish was full of fight! Now the fight changed though. The fish was much closer to the boat...I know I was inside of 100 yards, probably closer to 80, and I was winning...if I could just last long enough.

Kevin Amazes And Impresses Me...AGAIN
The fish didn't stay up by the bow too long this time. Another five minutes I guess, and then it took me down the rail to the Port corner once more. It didn't go directly there, of course.
We stopped a couple of times along the way, but the fish didn't stay in one place pulling long enough for me to sit on the rod again. I tried twice, and as soon as I did, the fish moved.
So I started trying to use the rail in the classic way (see previous picture of Silent Jim and Wahoodad).
I tucked the rod butt under my right arm pit, palmed the reel with my left hand, and made cranks when I had room to do so.

I am telling you now, I need a lot of practice with this technique!
Frankly, I stink at it!
Even so, I was gaining, and this was working better for me too. The fish was deep now, so the rail made the perfect fulcrum. My timing on cranking was terrible, and even though I was trying to palm the reel, the rod kept turning on the rail. I spent as much effort---or more!---just trying to keep the reel in the correct position, and much of the time I could barely make any cranks.

Of course, like an idiot, I had the reel in high gear throughout this part. Only as I got near to the corner did remember to put it in low gear again.

When I did, I discovered that was a mixed blessing. It was definitely easier to turn the handle, but harder to hold the reel in the proper attitude.
Trust me when I tell you, I was struggling, even as I pulled the fish closer.
Right as I arrived at the Port corner someone called "deep color" on my fish, but I never saw that.

It started to circle, though, even though it was pretty deep.

At first Jesus came up, and he tried to help me with my rail technique to no avail.

Then from across the stern came Frank. He was on a fish, and he had it much closer to the surface. Kevin was with him.
Frank got right to the corner, and made his stand...right next to me!
Both of the fish were circling clockwise, and in one instant they had wrapped.
"Oh NO!" I thought, but Jesus grabbed Frank's rod, and Kevin grabbed mine, while we both stepped back a second to breathe.
Quickly Kevin discovered the direction of the wrap and undid it.

Then I saw the most amazing fish dance ever:
Frank took his rod back an continued his fight with Jesus' help as the two fish circled. Every time Frank's fish wrapped my line, Kevin ducked under and immediately unwrapped it again.

Over and over, as the fish circled. As Frank tried to finish that fight, Kevin kept dancing around the wrap, ducking under Frank's line with my rod.
Finally Frank's fish was so close to the surface that the fish didn't wrap each other.

Kevin handed me my rod, and immediately my fish took off across the stern.
I was closer now. Maybe not deep color, but very close to that.
Once again, Colin was my babysitter as I fought the fish in the Starboard corner, when down the Starboard rail comes Ken The Bushman on a fish. His was a relatively fresh one though, and far out.
We crossed with any trouble.
As my fish started up the Starboard rail, Kevin called out to Colin: "go up to the galley door, and make your stand there!"
Colin just said "OK," as we worked our way up the rail.
For those who haven't been on Intrepid, there's a door on the Starboard side, just a hair forward of midship, that leads directly into the galley from outside. It's purpose is to make it easier to bring supplies into the galley, and trash out. It's a good spot for a door, obviously, and makes a good landmark too. It is also just a bit forward of Intrepid's stabilizers, which can apparently cut off a circling fish if things go perfectly wrong.
So there we were, and as I understood it, I needed to really try to finish that fish then and there. I did pretty well at first.
I had the fish first at deep color, and then pretty much at close color, but then it tried very hard to go under the boat, managing to rub the line against the hull.
I was terrified, and pulled with all I had left, and out the fish came, but it was done circling for the moment.
It took off pulling drag back to the stern, and then all the way across the that damned Port corner again.
I did a good job following the fish and saved a lot of line, but now the fish was 100 feet down again... And I was whipped.

An hour and a half, probably more, and suddenly I didn't think I was going to make it.
I tried to use the rail, but the reel was slipping in my hand, and I couldn't make any headway. I was puffing like a steam engine, fighting for all I was worth, but the rail wasn't doing me any good. The rod wasn't built for it---I had bare pole against the rail---and I just didn't have the technique.
So with all I had left, I put the butt back in my rod belt, and started the lift up, wind down, short strokes, willing the fish to come up at last.
Thank You Jesus...And Everyone Else!!!! I got the fish halfway up, and it just wouldn't come any closer.
I would lift up, but all I did was pull line off the reel, even with my thumb in the line against the fore grip.
I would crank that line right back in, but the fish was just not moving.
I have never felt that helpless on a fish before.
Jesus took my rod for me for a second, and showed me how to use the rail and the rocking of the boat. He made like two cranks, but enough for me to see how it was supposed to go. I took the rod back, and made another 30-40 feet.

Man. at that point the fish was PISSED.

I should say that one thing I've heard about fishing straight fluoro is definitely true...you feel the head shakes down to your toes. I had been feeling the fish's anger and frustration all through the fight, and it was an amazing feeling. I never felt head shakes like that before! But now it was far more intense.
The fish was jerking its head in absolute fury. I was 50, maybe 60 feet from a gaff, and I swear I felt I was tethered to a tornado.
It was amazing, but also exhausting. Now the fish crossed the stern once more.
I didn't let it take any line that time, but now we were all by ourselves in the Starboard corner...and I was beat.

I said to Jesus :
"just hold the rod for a second, OK? I need to breathe!"

He took the rod, and asked me "Are you in the jackpot?"
"No," I told him, "I'm not."
"The fish is about 50 feet down...is it OK if I get you some line?" he asked me then. "Go for it!" I told him.

Jesus made about ten cranks then---in low gear---and that's all. Now the fish was circling in everyone;s vision, and we saw that I had a ball, gnarly ball of tangled spectra on my line, but it was loose and not interfering. Colin and Romo were standing by with gaffs...all I needed was to gain another 10 feet, and I would have the fish.
Jesus handed me the rod, and then something weird happened...
The fish took it's circle wide, trying to go up the Starboard rail one more time, and that brought it right to the surface, right next to the boat.
I don't know if either Colin or Romo thought that might happen, but they were ready!
Romo got a gaff in the back towards the tail, and a moment later, Colin got one in the collar.
Then they tried to pull the fish over the rail. Let me tell you, they were struggling! It took three tries, but the fish finally slid defiantly over the rail, and flopped on the deck.
Someone told me later that Jesus had finished the fish for me.
In a way that's true...we were both holding the rod when the fish was gaffed, though I was the one holding it when the fish hit the deck. More importantly, it was Jesus who made the last crucial 25 feet.
If I had been in the jackpot, the fish wouldn't have counted, and I'm OK with that. On the other hand, I fought that fish for well over an hour and a half, the old fashioned way, and I brought it to the boat...four times...all by myself.

Did Colin help me all the way? Yes he did.
Did Kevin save me from being wrapped and cut off? Oh he definitely did!
When I ran out of steam, with 50 feet left to fight, did Jesus help me out? Damned straight he did!

If that makes you all think I didn't catch the fish, you're welcome to think and say so.

As for me, I consider that I caught that fish, and I count it as my personal best ever tuna. I will say this, when my fish came over the rail, I heard a couple of soft "Whoas" from the people watching. I don't think they thought my fish was that big until it came over.
During the fight, some people had given me some good-natured ribbing (Drop your purse and PULL Rodless!)
There wasn't any more of that after the fish hit the deck. I Don't Mind Looking Ridiculous!

The aftermath of a big fish like that is predictable in a way, though it was my first ever over 100lbs (122.5 at the scales, after four days in the RSW). Kevin took a couple of photos, and a lot of people congratulated me.
Fishybuzz (who had promised me a chance at my personal best on this trip) was giving me the old "I Told You So!!!!)
Brad and JWFogg had kind words too.
Even Wahoodad came over to tell me "nice fish."
Willy said the same later.
Kona Mike suggested that I keep the hook as a souvenir (I did),
and Kevin asked me if I wanted it to have the RSW treatment (of course!).

People started speculating then how big the fish really was. Estimates were conservative, of course, but the consensus was between 105 and 112. I was also told that a couple of the other fish that had come over the rail were probably bigger.

I didn't care even a little bit! I was ecstatic with that fish, and I was pretty sure it would go over 100lbs.
That was more than good enough for me... Romo was going to gut the fish then, but I asked him to let me get a couple more photos first, this time with the fish lying on its belly.
Colin helped me try to pose the fish, and it was a struggle on the slippery deck, but we finally got it how we wanted it.
Brad_G was going to do the honors, first with his camera, and then with mine. I knelt behind the fish, holding the dorsal fin the way Colin showed me I should, and Brad took a couple of photos. Then I tried to get my camera out of my pocket, and I couldn't...not kneeling like that.
So I tried to stand up, and just as I did, the boat rocked, I lost my balance... ...and fell on my butt in front of the whole boat.
I started laughing as much as anyone, and I tried to stand up again.
The boat rocked again, I felt dizzy, and...yep. I fell over on my butt a second time, this time all the way onto my back, too.
Suddenly the rocking of the boat was more like spinning, and I decided to stay right where I was a for a minute.
Lying on my back, I told Brad "never mind with my camera!" To which he replied "I'll email them to you!" I told Romo to go ahead and prep the fish for the RSW...no more photos for me! Then I went and sat down and drank some water...like three glasses full.
Of course, after that I had to run to the head again, but after another 20 minutes or so, I felt better.
I thought I could fish then, but then I thought better of it. I would wait another half an hour, drink some more water, and if we were still fishing, I would soak a bait.
Of course, right about when I was ready to think about fishing again, Kevin pulled in the anglers.

It was time to head out and leave the Rocks behind.
It is a magical place, Alijos.
First it threatened to break my spirit, then it totally kicked my ever-loving butt. But in the end, I got my wish too. Lets be honest...could a hard story end any better than that?

Next: Part VIII: We Have Places To Go And Fish To Catch...
Photos: 1. Rodless has an OC Rod too...
2. ...and he thinks he knows how to use it!
3. My best ever tuna, at the gaff
4. The boat took this photo...dashing angler, don't you think?
5. Yes, an moment later I was sitting on my behind






Part VII Addendum: After Action Report

Now that I have some space between me and catching that fish, now that I have written it up, and in so doing forced myself to remember every detail, some last thoughts on my equipment, my fishing, and the Alijos Rocks.

Equipment: I was under gunned...but it was my own fault!

When I was recovering from that fight, and on into the next day, one thought that kept going through my head was that I had nearly been burned because I had, in a sense, brought a knife to a gun fight. In a way, that's true too. The rig I was using was only barely up to the task of catching that fish. But that wasn't the rig's fault, and for two reasons:

1. It was a 120lb fish, and I was using a 40lb rig. People have written here many times before that this is something that can be done, and now I have evidence to prove it. But come on...how much drag do you really want to put on your 40lb rig? 20lbs at the most? A fish that big and that angry, 19-20lbs of drag still equals a long fight, and a long fight means that a lot of things can go wrong. The truth is, it says an awful lot about my gear and my knots that nothing did go wrong. I may have brought a knife to a gun fight, but in the end, it turned out to be a damned fine knife!

2. How well any rig works is more about how the angler uses that gear than the gear itself. The most accurate expression of how I fought that fish has to be "operator error." All I really had going for me was a whole raft of stubborn determination...and the worst technique imaginable. I'm going to learn how to fish the rail properly for my next trip. When I do, I know that very same setup will be all I need to whip a fish of the same size in half the time.

In the final analysis, the whole setup is really a 40lb rig. What I needed was a 50 or 60lb rig, set up to fish 40. Why? Because I really don't expect---most of the time!---to be catching fish larger than 80lbs on a 40lb setup. If I need to use 40 to catch a 120lb fish, I need a rig that is made to catch fish that big, even if I use lighter line on it.

I don't know if that makes sense to anyone else here, but it's clear to me.

Saltist Lever Drag reels...

I have no complaints, just a single, small quibble. The reel worked like a champ for me. The drag was strong and smooth and held up well the entire fight. It may be lightweight, but it fights fish like a much heavier reel.

Before I fish again, I want to make sure the drag washers are properly greased, because the reel really took (and stood up to!) some abuse. But I have no worries about that either. The one tiny little thing is that the drag ramps up steeply, and "strike" is pretty darned close to "full." I mentioned that in my description of the fight, I know, but it bears repeating. As we were heading out Sunday, I set the drag to 15lbs at strike. I then pushed it to full and only got about 18.2 lbs. The reel is supposed to have a wider range than that (17 at strike, 23 at full), but for fishing 40lb line, I didn't want strike to be heavier than 15. During the fight, though, I really wished I had 22lbs at strike!

Again, though, that is more a function of the fish than the reel. Even on an 80 or 90lb fish, that reel would have owned it. It put out a lot of drag, given that it was set up to fish 40lbs. It's just that catching a fish that size on 40lb line is pushing that reel to its limit...pushing the inside of the envelope, if you will.

Again, it says a lot about the reel that I did catch the fish, had no failures of any kind, and the reel was in perfect shape at the end of the fight, even if I wasn't.

I'm Telling You, An OC Rod is a GOOD Rod!

Just like the Saltist reel, the rod I was using was up to the task and then some. There are two reasons why it was the wrong rod for that fight:

1. It is probably just a hair light for a fish of that size.
2. Mine is not wrapped as a rail rod.

But having said that, I am very, VERY happy with that rod. I believe that model is a fantastic 40lb rod. It's just that very few 40lb rods (again, like the reel) are honestly designed to catch 120lb tuna. Period.

There were a lot of Seeker enthusiasts on the boat, of course. I used one (borrowed from Fishybuzz) for the very first time, and I came away truly impressed. They are fantastically strong rods...so much so that a rod Fishy uses for 50lbs (the one he loaned me) could easily be used by other anglers to fish 60. So yes, the Super Seeker I used to fish 50lbs had more lifting power than the OC Rod I used to fish 40lbs.

I would have been astonished it that wasn't the case!

But you know what? That OC rod is a damned fine rod, and the best deal I can imagine for the money. It is light and strong and forgiving, and it performed like a champ. Remember, I had to drag that fish back in from about 300 yards out, kicking and screaming, if you will, four different times. I put one HELL of a lot of pressure on that rod---especially early in the fight while I was fresh---and it gave me all I could have asked for and more. Really! I'm keeping that rod, and I'm going to fish it...a lot. It is a fantastic 40lb rod for me, and I am going to use it at Guadalupe and at Cedros and offshore too. Anytime I want to fish 40lbs, and think think I might run into fish 40-80lbs, even up to 90 or 100lbs, I know I can count on that stick.

Shameless Plug: Tony Hale (Toeknee on the message boards) is the proprietor of OC rods, and a great guy. His rods are quality products from top to bottom, well-conceived, well-designed, and well constructed, using top of the line components and materials. For anyone who is in the same boat I was...lots of enthusiasm, no gear...OC Rods are a fantastic place to start, especially for fishing 50lbs and under. His prices are more than fair, and his rods will catch you fish. If you are like me, and you need to begin assembling an arsenal of rigs as you expand your fishing, you really can't do better than OC, especially in this economy.

Evidence? Hey, I used an OC rod to catch my biggest ever tuna. It was the wrong rod (a little too light, not configured to fish the rail), and I pushed it as hard as I possibly could. The rod did me proud, and that's good enough for me.

Yes, I will buy other makes of rods. I really liked the Super Seeker I got to use this trip, and I like Calstar Grafighters as well. But you know what? I will buy more OC rods too.

I Need More Gear!!!

The gear I have is good! I like it, and will continue to use it. To fish the Rocks the way I want to, though, I think I need a 60lb rig, and maybe one more 50lb rig. If I go longer, I will need more and heavier gear. More importantly, I need my heavier rods to be wrapped as rail rods.

Let me put it this way...
- 'Lupe is a step up in fighting class from offshore (and a wonderful place to fish...hope they open it soon!).
- Alijos is a step up in fighting class from 'Lupe.

Each time I have taken a step up, I have discovered that my gear needed to be better. Catching small albacore on an overnight boat (my first San Diego trip in 2001) really only needed 20lb line. Catching yellowtail and yellowfin on a 3-day trip (2003, 2004) called for 30lb line and a somewhat better caliber of rod.

Then I went to Guadalupe (2006). That was a different ballgame, even though I used 30lb gear. The good news is that the gear I used I borrowed from harddrive, and it was up to the task. By 2009, I started assembling my own gear (one paltry rig), but it was pretty stout, and served me well at Cedros. It turned out I was less well-prepared for the Rocks.

That's the truth of it too: I am well-prepared to fish offshore, or to go to 'Lupe, Benitos, or Cedros. I have what I need to catch fish up to about 90 or 100 lbs, and I am well-armed for the 50-70lb class. What I need now is gear that is designed to fish lighter line (40, 50, 60lbs) for bigger fish. I don't have those setups yet, but I hope to add at least some of that for next year (assuming I get to fish next year!).

The Rail Is My Friend!

More than anything else, much more important than any of the other items on this list, I must learn to fish the rail effectively and well. There's just no other way. I plan to return to Alijos, and more than once. When I do, sooner or later I will find myself in the same position again, too big a fish on too light a rig. Or even any big fish on pretty much any rig. I no longer have the physical strength to manhandle a fish of that size to the boat. Well, I showed that I can get it to the boat, but I didn't have enough left to bring it to gaff. Knowing how to fish the rail changes everything.

Next: On To Part VIII!
Last edited:
Upvote 0


I Should Upgrade My Account
Aug 20, 2010
San Diego
Boat Name
Any Boat that I can go on
Part VIII: We're Going South? Huh?
Between myself and a few others, we really ruined Kevin's schedule. I know he wanted to troll around the Rocks a little bit more to see if the wahoo wanted to play...and he wanted to have a little daylight left for that. Then he wanted to get a head start on going to our next destination.
It was a good ride from the Rocks, and Kevin would have honestly preferred to get there before daybreak. I'm sure he had reasons for this, and I'd probably have agreed with him had I known them. But I, for one, am very glad we didn't pull the anchor or leave the stones at 2:00, 2:30, or even 4:00. I was taking care of some urgent, unfinished business, and I really didn't care that the business in question very nearly finished me. For better or worse, it was almost 6:00 (or later) when Intrepid pulled the hook for the last time at Alijos, and we didn't even troll our way out.
We had places to go, fish to catch, and we were late getting on our way. I'll give Kevin lots of credit for the entire trip, including this: I wasn't the only angler who wanted one last shot at a tuna. There were several people who hadn't had great trips so far, and if the bite was picking up somewhat, he wanted those people to score if possible. So with a steady pick on big fish, we waited awhile.

Just before 2:00, Kevin even went around to a couple of people who (like me) were suffering, and gave us a tip: "There's a huge amount of bait sitting right under the boat, and when I start the engines, it's all going to get blown out under the stern by the prop wash. Whatever stays in our shadow will come out when we run up the anchor line. Lots of times, we get a big, wild burst of feeding fish when that happens.

Be ready with a bait then, and you'll have a great chance to get hooked up."

That was a very cool thing for him to do. Even with one foot out the door, he was going to do whatever it took to get his passengers on fish. Even though I was lucky enough to score an 11th hour tuna, I'm not going to forget that any time soon. As it turned out, that wasn't necessary. Plenty of people hooked up that afternoon, well after we supposed to be on our way. The deckies did a world class job getting as many of those fish on the deck as humanly possible, even though several of them were real toads. When the time finally came to pull the anchor, we didn't have any sad sacks standing there with baited rods waiting for the blow off. Kevin had finally told us to wind them in...we were headed out without further delay.

By the way, there was indeed a blowout as we left our spot...maybe 20 big tuna rushed in to attack the bait...but only after the boat had moved away.

There ARE Yellowtail At Other Places Besides Cedros...
One thing that I didn't mention before was a brief conversation I'd had with Willy on Tuesday night in the salon after dinner. Willy told me that the plan was to head even further South once we left Alijos the next day, heading down to fish The Ridge. I was thinking it would be late afternoon when we did (and so it turned out to be!), but in any case I was surprised. I had thought the logical next move would be to Isla Cedros. Look at a map and Cedros made a lot of sense. It was a lot closer to San Diego, and thus much closer to Bluefin country. The boat would burn less fuel, and we'd have plenty of time to load up on yellows fishing a whole day there. Worst case scenario, we'd stay overnight if the bite there was off. And at the time we left San Diego,

Cedros had been HOT! But apparently that wasn't what we were going to do. Instead we were going farther South to fish the Ridge, and there was at least one very good reason why: besides yellows, there was a chance at a lot of other species down there, and especially wahoo. When you read reports about the fish caught at Cedros, you begin and end with yellowtail. Oh you can catch other fish, including Halibut and White Seabass. In addition, Calico Bass and Bonita are around, and Barracuda too. But the reality is, boats go to Cedros to catch yellows, and everything else is pretty much by-catch. Granted, the yellows there are often pretty big, but not always. More to the point, while it seems like Cedros is always on, sometimes it isn't, and there are plenty of other places where you can catch big yellows too. At the Ridge, we would almost certainly catch a lot of yellows, but we also had a decent chance at wahoo, plus at least an outside chance of some early yellowfin (they normally get to the Ridge later, apparently, but warm water had been moving through). Halibut, White Seabass, Calico Bass, and especially Sheepshead were plentiful too. The downside was that this would be Intrepid's first trip to the Ridge this season, and no one knew what we would find. Another downside was that we would be farther away from the Bluefin schools (not that they had been biting anyway!), so we would probably have less of a chance to go for them on the way home. But you know what? That's why Kevin is the captain.

To the Ridge we went. It would be a long ride... 15 Hours To Eat Up... It wasn't actually that bad a trip this time around, but we would be a little late getting where we wanted to be, due to our late departure from Alijos. Dinner was at 6:30, and they made it one call. They were planning to put the petal to the metal all night, and they wanted us fed and complacent while we traveled. I honestly can't remember what we had that night for dinner, except that I still couldn't eat it. Was that the night we had Rack of Lamb? Maybe so. I remember thinking that it really is an ironic world. I finally had a fish to really celebrate, the galley was serving something tasty, and I just had no appetite. I seem to remember getting a couple of bites in, with big waits in between, but I barely ate anything before I surrendered. I just wasn't hungry, and forcing myself to eat was making me feel nauseated.

I left the table, visited the head, got a cigar from my room, and went upstairs to smoke. That, at least, was one of life's simple pleasures of which my Mexican digestive system did not rob me. I was up there alone that time, and I really did enjoy a solitary smoke for once.
I remembered the fight that afternoon, and actually thought a little bit about how I would write it up.
What did I really need to remember? Ironically, the one thing that I meant to remember is one thing I very nearly forgot: the head shakes that fish put on me. The violence coming up the line was ferocious and exhilarating. I honestly can't wait until I get the chance to feel it again!

When my cigar was done, so was I. I headed down and took a shower, then hit the rack. Unfortunately, the salon was playing some movie or other, and quite loudly. I took the ship's entertainment in good part, and dozed lightly until the movie ended. Then I fell deeply asleep. I awoke once when JW came in, but immediately rolled back over. Later I had to take a midnight trip to the men's room, and managed to do so without waking JW.

The next thing I knew, it was morning. We weren't there yet, of course, and I had slept late for once. I didn't wake up until Javier called breakfast, and I fell out of bed with the sleep still in my eyes. I think I'd been tired the night before!
Once again, I couldn't eat breakfast, and this time it was (I think) Eggs Benedict, one of my very favorites. I couldn't even sit there. I had to get up and go after a couple of glasses of OJ. But at least Hector had my coffee, so I was good. The boat was good too. One of the things that went well for us was that we'd had a following sea on the way down, and we were going to get to our "spot" maybe an hour earlier than expected. That was still going to be a bit after 8:00 though. Nevertheless, the timing was good. By the time I'd finished my coffee and gotten dressed for the day's fishing, we were pretty close to wherever it was we were going. In about a half hour, we were there.
Kevin called out to us that we would make a drift and see if anyone was home. The boat would be moving, so we shouldn't leave our yo-yo iron on the bottom to get snagged.
Flylining was OK, and surface iron too. Dropper loops should wait, though, until we found a place to anchor up. I had been planning to try the dropper loop this morning, because that was one of my setups with which I had not caught any fish, and also because once upon a time I had been a pretty good bottom fisherman. I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico, and that was standard procedure for a lot of the fish we targeted there.

One of the reels I'd bought for this trip was a Tiagra 30W LRS, and although I had used it to troll a little bit, I certainly had not been bit on it. I'd meant to use it to fish night dropper loop at Alijos, but I never felt well enough or motivated enough to try that. I was going to troll with it on the way home too, but this seemed like my last, best chance to do some dropper loop damage, and I was hoping for big yellowtail.

One thing I mentioned before the trip was that I wasn't planning on tagging a lot of fish.
I was guessing maybe four or five of each species, and I had wild dreams of four Bluefin and Five yellowfin, some albacore, and five big yellowtails.
Man I was dreaming! All I had so far was three tagged tuna.
I didn't even catch a yellowtail at the rocks.
Now the chances at Bluefin and Albacore seemed iffy at best, and I wanted to DEFINITELY catch some yellows.
Hence the dropper loop plan. Except that we were going to drift, so no dropper loop either. I decided to flyline a bait and see what happened. The answer was, not much. The drift passed quickly, and a couple of people hooked up on the yo-yo, bringing up a couple of middling yellowtail. We went around again, and got very little.

So Kevin said we were going to make a quick move, and so we did. That was only a 20 minute hop, and on that drift I decided to yo-yo. That time I was one of three to hook a yellow on my scrambled egg 6x, and when it came up it was a fair fish...maybe 14lbs? Neither the biggest nor the smallest caught thus far.

Kevin said it looked like there was more life here and we would anchor up.
As soon as he did, I dropped the yo-yo in again, and was rewarded with another strike...a few seconds later, the fish got off, but as I was reeling in, I got hit again, this time close to the surface.
Another yellow, about the same size.
When the fish came up, Kona Mike was unhooking it, and he pointed out that one of the points on my treble hook had broken off. He said it was fine to fish the way it was, but I had other jigs to use, and I remembered that I wanted to dropper loop this day.
So I put away the yo-yo rod, and got out the big gun.
Some people were making hay on the dropper loop too! There had been two better yellowtails caught, plus a couple of Calicos and quite a few sheepshead. I wasn't sure what was the difference between attracting the attention of a calico or a goat, and getting to a yellow, but I nose hooked a big sardine to my 4/0 Super Mutu and dropped it off the stern. All the way down to the bottom and a couple of cranks back up. Just a few seconds really, probably less than a minute, and my rod tip goes down. I pull back and just like that I'm on. It wasn't a strong fight, and I was fishing 80lb line, so I doubted it was any kind of yellow. Whatever it was, it wasn't especially big!

I crank a bit, and up pops my first ever goat! It was a cool looking fish, and I bet it went 6-7 lbs. I didn't want it though...no way to bring it back to Mexico...so I gave it to the boat. I was going to go right back in then, but Mark The Human Hurricane had a backlash on his dropper loop rig, and seemed to be fighting it just a bit, so I put my rod down and went to help him. No, I wasn't being patronizing! I don't have the skills or the experience to teach anyonethe bright way to catch a tuna. I am a little better when it comes to yellowtail, but still not so much. When it comes to bottom fishing though...not rock cod drifting, but this kind of bottom fishing...I have plenty of experience.

More than enough to help a kid out. I helped Mark pull out his backlash, and we sat there for a couple of minutes waiting to see if he would get bit. Nothing, though, so we wound him up. Sure enough, a bare hook.
We baited him up, and I asked him if I could show him how I do it, and he agreed.
We dropped the bait straight down, cranked u three with the rod tip pointed down to the water. "When you get a bite, I told him, you'll know it.
We're using live bait, and it'll feel like something is trying to pull the rod out of your hands.
When you do, the first thing you do is lift that rod tip UP and get that fish away from the bottom.
Crank three or four times as quickly as you can, and then just fight the fish like normal.
Most of the time, as long as you can get the fish away from the rocky bottom, you'll get it in the end. Just like that, I get a good pull on the line, and I lift up to set the hooks, and make 4-5 good fast cranks. Then I handed the rod to Mark and let him pull the fish in.
It was a nice calico.
We baited him up again and dropped him in. This time he was on the rod, and I was just standing there, encouraging him. In due course, he hooks up again, and pulls in another sheepshead. I think he tagged it because the deckies told him they are good to eat, but I could be wrong. The good news is that he now had the hang of the dropper loop, so I left him to it and went to get my rod again. Just then there was a big commotion at the back of the boat: JustJan had been hooked up with what she thought was a healthy yellow, but low and behold, she reeled up a damned nice White Seabass with its tongue sticking way out of its mouth. I admit, I didn't get the "big deal!" excitement, but then at that point I had neither caught nor eaten a WSB. "Cool," I thought, "Jan seems happy." I pin on a sardine, go right back to the middle of the stern, and drop in. Sure enough, now I backlash my reel. Not much, but it's annoying because the mono is loose anyway, and the backlash just keeps going.

Finally I get the little loops out, and wind tight. Nothing. So I reel in. No bait. Okaaaaay... Another sardine, another drop.
My weight hits the bottom and I wind up my three cranks, but almost instantly I get a really impressive pull on the line. In fact, it took me by surprise, because we hadn't seen any big yellows. "What is this? A Halibut? It feels heavy..." So I did what I have been taught to do...really lift the rod, get the fish off the bottom, and start cranking before it decides to dive into the rocks. Great plan of action except... "Whoa! I am not moving this fish!" Actually, I did...about a foot! I stole a crank then, and heaved up another foot. What the...? A couple more cranks, a couple more feet, and suddenly this fish is headed to the bottom again. "Oh my..." I've caught big fish off the bottom, and I've used 60 and 80lb line to do it. I've caught Goliath Grouper and Gag Grouper, Amberjack, and various types of sharks. Frankly, some of them did pull harder than this fish too, but I was really caught off balance this time. And when the fish actually started to take drag I was dumbfounded. I was using a heavy rig, a strong reel and a heck of a stout rod. I had the drag at about 30lbs, and suddenly this fish is taking line? OK, it only managed to pull about 8" of line, but I was astonished that it could get 8 microns. "Just what the heck is this?" OK, no more screwing around! I did some heaving and cranking and made a few yards. I guess we were fishing in about 140 feet of water (it wasn't deep), and I yanked on that fish, bringing it up a couple of feet at a time. It never took more line, and it only moved a few feet to Port, but it kept pulling pretty hard. And then suddenly it wasn't really pulling at all. It was still a heavy weight on my line, some 60-80 feet down, but now it was dead weight, spiraling up from the bottom...and I still had no idea what it was.

Now I'm cranking it up, and low and behold it's a white seabass.
It swims/floats a little more to Port, and just to infuriate me, gets tangled up in someone else' goat. But then I saw that the fish was already the next thing to dead. It's tongue was a full foot out of its mouth...the decrease in pressure ended the fight. I was totally ho-hum about it. I'd never caught a white seabass before, didn't have any reason to think it was anything special. The fish itself seemed pretty big...maybe a bit bigger than the one JustJan caught a minute or two before, but what do I know? Really, all I've seen are the photos people post on the boards showing the Seabass they've caught, and how the other posters congratulate them. But I'd been reading that this was a good year for Seabass, right? OK, so I caught one too... But damned if everyone else wasn't going nuts. "That's a HUGE Seabass, Rodless!" Even Kevin was showing some excitement: "That's a fish of a lifetime, my friend!" Huh? Really? Man was I slow to get with the program! Turns out that these ghosts are harder to catch than you might think, and that anything over 35lbs is a pretty good-sized one. Apparently, many anglers fish a lifetime and never break 40lbs on these. Ohhhhhhhh... Yeah, I got excited then. It wasn't like catching a big tuna...it was a 5 minute fight on 80lb line! But it was a big fish, and my first Seabass. After struggling so hard at the Rocks, for so long, before finally getting my break, it was a very welcome thing to be getting big into the action pretty much right away the next day. Of course the boat wanted pictures, and I got a few. Then they put the fish into the RSW, and I went back to fishing.

Dropper Loop Is For The Goats...And The Calicos That was really the truth, too. I don't think I saw more than three yellows caught on the dropper loop all day, but you really couldn't count the sheepshead. Of course, many other anglers were foaming at the mouth then to get a Seabass, tying on those white jigs, and grabbing pieces of the frozen squid that Kevin put out then. They were all dying to get one, and in fact two more people did! Redbeard nailed one, maybe about 28 lbs, and then Luan Pham showed everyone how with the white jig and squid tentacles...the bait right on the bottom. His went close to 40 lbs I guess. After that, though, no more WSB, no more yellows. Not on the dropper loop. I bet you folks know how this is. I saw it hundreds of times growing up in Florida, and it seems to be the same in the Pacific. Once the bottom dwellers get fired up, it can be very hard to get your bait in front of the kind of fish you want to catch. In the Gulf of Mexico, with the Red Snapper closures, numbers in some spots went through the roof (even if, in this case, the closures really were necessary at the time). Grouper were open season though, and a lot of people wanted to catch them. The problem was, you couldn't get a bait past the snapper down to the grouper, unless it was a BIG bait, a whole live pinfish, perhaps. And if you used a bait that big, all you would catch was Goliath Grouper, the bullies of the reefs, and a protected species.
The same kind of thing was happening here. There didn't seem to be that many yellows around, and they sure weren't hitting the dropper loop. The sheepshead and calico bass were too quick to eat the sardines. Oh the fishing was hot, of course...your bait wouldn't last even 30 seconds at the bottom. But there were no more Seabass, and no yellows either. I caught a goat, a calico, and another goat, and gave them all away. The Calico was a nice one, in the 6 lb range I guess, but I didn't want to waste a tag on it. I should have, though: harddrive loves Calico Bass, and I would have been happy to give it to him. It wasn't like I was short on tags... Anyway, after three small fish on big line, I put away the dropper loop. Instead, I took out my other 40lb stick, a Saltist 40 star drag, on another OC rod. This was a sweet setup, and perfect for yo-yo. I tied on a jig I've had for a couple of years and never used: a full-sized chrome and blue Sumo "blue mack attack" with the white luminescent back and the big treble hooks.

I underhanded the jig out some 15 feet, let it sink to the bottom, and started cranking. WHACK!!! My jig got hit, but not eaten. I kept winding, but no love. Down again I went, and... WHACK!!! This time, whatever hit the jig stuck...a tiny little yellowtail, trying to eat a jig almost as big as it was. "Plunk!" went the baby back in the water, just as Kevin called us all in. In spite of the WSB, this spot just wasn't what we wanted. The water was dirty, and there weren't a lot of good yellows around, so we were going to make a move to another spot. The move would take about three hours and we weren't going to troll. The water was too cold for wahoo, and too dirty. So we should all have an early lunch, and then rest a bit. We should be where we were going by about 2:30. At that moment, Javier called lunch in 15 minutes, and just like that the boat was pulling the anchor...

Next: Part VIII Concluded: There's NOTHING Like A Hot Bite...

Part VIII (Concluded): The Ridge Comes to Life!

We were headed to a different spot on the Ridge, and it wasn't close. They called lunch a little early, I guess, maybe to get us all inside while the boat made tracks. But there was no way around it, it was going to be the better part of three more hours before we did any more fishing.

My story continued to be the same: no appetite, and a visit to the head after lunch. It was almost to the point where I wasn't noticing the annoyance. Strange how you can manage to accustom yourself to almost anything at times! The biggest issue for me had already manifested itself: I felt weak. I was eating a lemon drop every few hours...drinking some OJ or making myself swallow a slice of bacon in the morning, a bite of fish during the afternoon snack. But all in all, I really wasn't eating much of anything, and too much of what I did eat was sugar-based. Not good for me...

I don't remember what lunch was, but I do remember that the boat showed Avatar after lunch. I didn't watch the first half of the movie, because I was feeling a bit run down. I thought a nap would help, and I tried, even though I had never seen the movie. The sound was too loud though...I dozed through about half, and then decided to give up. I came out into the salon and watched the second half. Great movie, of course...

I guess it's no surprise that, even with the debilitating physical ailments, I was still in a good mood. I had caught a damned big tuna the day before, and out of the blue I had hauled in a damned good WSB this morning. I had two smallish schoolie yellowtail in the hold, and I didn't think I would have too much trouble catching a couple more. I only wanted to tag five anyway. Maybe I would keep more if they continued to be so small.

Most of all, my digestive "issues" were manageable, and seemed not to be getting any worse. Given my circumstances, I counted that as a blessing. All I could have asked for at that point was a hot bite and some fun fishing...

The Move Proves Anti-climactic...Or Not!

The combination of lunch and a long movie pretty much got us where Kevin wanted to go. I think he was taking us to a cluster of little high spots close together, looking for the right combination of clean water and biting fish. Don't ask me where we were though, because I have no idea...just somewhere on the Ridge.

In any case, it wasn't long after Avatar's closing credits that we got to the first spot, and Kevin set us up for a drift. He said that the water looked better here, and there was life on the meter, so we would give it a try.

I had already put away the dropper loop. I like yo-yo'ing an awful lot, and it had already proven productive. "Three more yellows at least," I thought...

So we drifted, and I yo-yo'ed. Successfully, too. It wasn't a hot drift for the boat, but I managed to hook and boat three yellows just on that one drift. One of them was small and I had Kona Mike release it, but the other two were the size we were seeing, 12-14lbs, so I tagged them and went back to fishing.

By the time I tagged the second one, we had drifted over whatever structure Kevin was looking at, and he took us around for another pass. This drift was less eventful, though I yo-yo'ed up one more middling yellow. That gave me five tagged for the trip, but after fishing the Salt Mine the year before, these seemed awfully small. On the spot, with so few tuna in the hold, I decided I could stand to tag a couple more yellows, and hopefully bigger ones.

By the way, it was during these drifts that I was trying to figure out the mechanics of fishing the rail. I have to say, it's hard to really feel how that is supposed to work catching small yellows on 40lb gear. They were literally 1/10th the size of the tuna that kicked my butt, and barely pulled hard enough for the exercise to be helpful. A big part of that is that I have caught a heck of a lot of fish in my life with the butt of the rod in my rod belt, lifting up and cranking down. That is how I learned, it is a habit very well ingrained, and thus hard to break. A couple of times I caught myself just hauling those fish out of the water, and had to make myself stop and use the rail...with inconsistent results.

That's when Terry_CA gave me something else to think about...

Who is Terry_CA? A good guy, for one thing. He works for California Fish & Game, and has a position of responsibility in his church. He has a wry sense of humor, a sudden and unexpected smile, and just about the best attitude you could ask for on a fishing trip. It was a joy sharing the rail with him, and he was by no means the only person on board like that.

Terry is an AVID freshwater bass fisherman. It is (as far as I can tell) his passion, and he is a master at it. He really knows how to underhand flip a bait and he makes it look as easy as pie.

Now I've done a fair amount of bass fishing myself, and in the hot Summer months we'd do plenty of flipping too. From a bass boat, flipping into the Hydrilla, I'm pretty good. I can drop a weedless jig (not what we mean on the West coast when we say jig) in the crack between two rafts of weeds, and tease a bass to hit it from out of the shadows. But that was a long time ago for me, and Terry is better at that than I ever was.

And even though he doesn't get to go on many trips, he fishes the rail like a champ. Terry knows how.

Anyway, Terry saw me fighting a fish with the rod on the rail, the butt under my right arm, turning the crank with my right hand. Yes, some people do it that way (Wahoodad is one of them!), and it gives you really good leverage to turn the handle. You use your forearm and elbow like a piston, and if you have the timing right you can really crank the handle fast that way too.

But it seems like most other people who crank with their right hands hold the rod under their left arms.

This gives you a different kind of leverage (again, on the reel), and if you know how to do it right, lets you expend less energy turning the crank. Your forearm is virtually perpendicular to the rod, and the movement is just circular around the periphery of the reel. Terry spotted me with the rod butt under my right arm, and very kindly pointed out that I would probably have less trouble if I held the butt under the other arm.

You know what? He may be right too.

I think my problem is different, though, and will only be solved through lots of time and practice. My issue is that I really have trouble with my left hand holding the reel. That's really the key, after all. You're not holding the rod with your hands, you're just using your underarm and the rail as a fulcrum. That's puts the most leverage on the rod itself.

But how do you keep the rod from twisting, especially when you're trying to make cranks? The answer is that you hold the rod steady by holding the reel in your left hand. And I stink at that.

Harddrive tells me that part of my problem when I was on the big tuna was the size of the reel. I have short, stubby fingers, but the palms of my hands are pretty damned big, and the Saltist 40 is a pretty small reel. It really is, in fact...part of the reason why people doubt its strength and durability. I learned to my everlasting joy that the Saltist is a damned fine reel, strong and durable, while at the same time quite light. The drags are good, the two-speed wonderful...and the profile only about half the width you'd expect.

Can any of you all palm a basketball? Really palm it? I cannot...a soccer ball is as big as I can grab that way. But I imagine it's the same feeling. Ever wondered how it feels for an NBA player---a 7' center---to palm the ball? Or for an NFL quarterback to hold a football? I always imagined the ball must feel like a toy in their hand, fingers reaching more than halfway around the ball, virtually hiding it from sight.

That's how the reel felt in my hand when I was trying to fish the rail.

And I discovered something I would have never expected: when you're talking about a mechanical device with moving parts such as a fishing reel, it's not at all like holding a ball...your fingers can really get in the way. I discovered that I couldn't find a comfortable way to hold the reel. With the rod butt under my right arm, it was a little easier, I'm not sure why. And in any case, I was really uncomfortable either way. If I paid attention to the attitude of the rod, or to how I was turning the crank, the fingers on my left hand would curl around the reel and get in the way. If I paid attention to my hands, I wasn't watching the fish, or timing the rocking of the boat.

This is all stuff that has been second nature to me since I was about six years old...but I never tried to use the rail before. Everything felt backwards! And in this instance, I guess my learning curve is very shallow...

Terry noticed that I was uncomfortable with what I was trying to do, and offered me a sound piece of advice. I could see that he wasn't sure he should, that maybe I would ignore him or be offended, but neither was true. I was happy for the advice! I'm going to try both ways assiduously, and try to figure out which way suits me better. But until I can figure out how to palm a reel with my Neanderthal left hand, I am going to continue to be the poster child for how not to fish the rail...

In any case, it was at that moment---I stopped using the rail, put the butt of the rod in my belt, and cranked that puppy in---that Kevin called us in. One more little move, to the other side of the structure. There was life around...maybe we could get a better bite going.

I love it when the fish compete!

The move was a short one...ten minutes at the most. When we got there, Kevin somehow knew that we were there. We didn't make a drift, he just jockeyed us into position and dropped the anchor. The chum line started again, and we started fishing again. A couple of people got hooked up right away, but that wasn't a surprise. My first retrieve from the bottom did not result in any kind of bite.

That was the only time at that stop that I put a lure in the water and did not get hooked up...and I think just about everyone on the boat could say the same thing.

I don't know what the switch is that turns on a hot yellowtail bite. I know it has something to do with the fish competing for food. They are opportunistic feeders, and when they collectively sense the opportunity for a big feed, they go directly into attack mode. It is literally a feeding frenzy, and as long as they are in frenzy mode, they will hit anything that hits the water...instantly. That is exactly what happened...

Kevin took over the bait tank. Javier and Hector came out of the galley. Wahoodad put away his rod and grabbed a gaff...and the boat went nuts.

Me, I caught another fish on the yo-yo iron, and then promptly put that away. Titan had loaned me a long rod for the trip, and I hadn't had a good opportunity to use it. I had a Salas 7x in "brown sardine" (a.k.a. bird sh*t) already tied on. I went to the bow, and proceeded to amuse myself.

My first cast was a horrendous backlash, and it took Kona Mike's help to pull it out. That was embarrassing, and a first for me. Oh, I am an expert at backlashing reels! But I have always been able to pull them out myself. This time, I really couldn't.

ASIDE: Jim, next time you loan me a reel, will you please show me how to cast it?

When the line was free, I cranked up from the bottom...and got bit. It was smallish, and I let it go. The next several casts went well, and every single one came back with a yellowtail on the end. Watching the fish blow up on the lure was thrilling and fascinating and just about the most fun you can legally have on a sport boat. I must have caught 18 or 20 fish, one after the other. Two more I tagged, giving me eight in the hold. Quite a few I released. The other three or four were decent sized, but I already had all I wanted, so I gave them to the boat.

There came a point then where I suddenly fell out of my fish-catching trance. I was ready to wind up and throw, but I suddenly decided not to. The thing that caught my attention was that I hadn't taken very many photos thus far on the trip. I had promised Outhouse I would, and I had sincerely meant to. But I hadn't done quite enough catching to that point, and I had spent most of my time at the rail, with a rod in my hands rather than a camera. Now was the perfect time to shoot some pics...

ASIDE: I have posted quite a few pics this far in this report, but many (if not most) of them were shot by other people. Brad_G and JWFogg were both gracious enough to send me electronic copies of their pics, and a lot of what you've seen so far were theirs. A few more of the pics that accompany the rest of this report are mine, but even so, both of those two (and others) beat the heck out of me with a digital camera this trip. Oh well...there's always something you could have done better each trip, right?

I wasn't the first angler to put up his rod. JWFogg was already up on the sundeck shooting pics, and he had better determination than I did...as far as I know, he was never even tempted to go pick up a rod again. He was in photojournalist mode, period. There were others too, maybe four of five. I guess I was one of about six or seven anglers who were having as much fun watching (and fliming!) everyone else catching fish as they would have been catching fish themselves.

Hey, if we were talking about 20+ lb fish, I'd have kept going on the catch and release. If I had had a 20lb setup, I might have switched to that and kept fishing too. But most all I had was in the 40 and 50lb class, and these fish just weren't big enough to make that much of a fight. So I hung up my stick and started shooting.

There was a lot to see too. DirtyGirl and Garrett were fighting fish and laughing, Cong Vu and Luan Pham, Just Jan and Frank, damned near everyone, each doing their own thing and catching yellowtail. Fishybuzz was throwing a popper on one of his spinning rigs and laughing himself silly as the fish exploded on it. Later, I saw Half Day showing DirtyGirl (and then Garrett) how to work the popper too. I admit, it was fun to watch!

Albacore11 and Redbeard were doing serious damage. I'm not sure how well either of them did at the Rocks, but they were just hammering the yellows, with big smiles on their faces. Boltar really was a little ray of sunshine, and taking his frustrations out now. Mark the Human Hurricane was in heaven, catching yellowtail until his arms ached, and Brad_G was a picture illustration of nachas just watching his son.

It was a ZOO people.

Kevin was just brailing bait, and the deck was just covered in fish and blood. The holds were jammed, and trash cans filled, and the bite never let up. Not even a little bit. One hour...two hours...a little more. And one by one all of the anglers finally stopped of their own volition. We had absolutely full limits of yellowtail, all caught in about three hours, and we were done.

Kevin called everyone in, and the deckies started to drop countless fish into the holds. We were done fishing for the day, Kevin said, and done with the Ridge too. For that matter, we were well and truly done with yellowtail. We still had two days to fish, so it was time to head North and see if we could get the Bluefin and Albacore to bite...

Next: Part IX: Birthday Cake and Timing is Everything...

1. Fishy and friends...a bent rail!
2. Terry_CA on the spinner
3. Brad_G knows how!
4. Mother-son tag team...
5. Cong Vu demonstrates how to use the rail Vietnamese style





Upvote 0


I Should Upgrade My Account
Aug 20, 2010
San Diego
Boat Name
Any Boat that I can go on
Part IX: We Celebrate a Birthday and Do a LOT of Traveling...

Fishing ended that Thursday afternoon around 5:00, I guess. I wasn't wearing a watch, and I didn't know at the time at what hour the sun was going down at that latitude at that time of year, but we trolled our way off the Ridge for about an hour, and then wound in the Marauders for the last time with the sun still in the sky. We still had two more days scheduled to fish, but already folks were breaking down some of the heavy artillery.

The trip home had begun... Who Is The Birthday Boy Tonight? One thing I forgot to mention earlier on is that we had three birthdays on the boat, and they were on consecutive days. I don't remember if it was Brad_G on the 20th and Ken the Bushman on the 21st, or the other way around. I know that for each of them Javier made a cake, and we sang happy birthday. For those who appreciate a good dig, Brad hadn't yet escaped teasing for the Great Pecan Caper. The birthday cake Javier made for him was absolutely studded with toasted pecans, and of course Javier had to tell the story once again. Have I mentioned that Brad takes more than his fair share of good-natured ribbing with a very good grace? I wish I could laugh at myself that well. But in reality, he is a great shipmate, a fine angler, and---as became apparent on this trip---a good and loving father. Mark, you may not get this for a long time still, but You are a very lucky young man, luckier than you realize! All of this, however, is prelude to what was meant to be a true punking.

You see, July 22nd happens to be Fishybuzz' birthday...

ASIDE: Those who may have wondered at the caption I put on one of the recent photos, that is why. Fishy was fishing---and catching fish---on his birthday. Not bad for a 60-something Chinese dewdrop fairy... Dinner passed in relative quiet. We all had a lot to talk about and laugh about. A lot of people had caught a lot of fish...in fact everyone had caught all the yellowtail they wanted, and most had caught more. We were heading for the offshore grounds to see if we could find a cherry to put on top of the cake, but we'd already had a great trip, a fun trip, and even those who'd had a hard time at the Rock were loosey goosey now. Fish in the hold, and good food on the table. A bottle or two of good wine also popped and everyone enjoyed their dinner...except me. I still couldn't eat. I think that night I ate a bite of whatever it was, and that's it. Then it was time for dessert, and along came Javier's "birthday boy" speech. I don't recall exactly what he said, but he was going the extra mile. It was only when he was halfway through that I remembered... On the day we boarded, I had passed along two messages, appealing for a good laugh. First I gave Kevin a kilo bag of carmelized pecans with which to torture Brad...I have already related that story. Maybe you had to be there, but it was awfully funny when it happened, and Kevin and Brad were the two people laughing the loudest. But then I spoke to Javier, and let him know that Fishybuzz' birthday was the 22nd. They way the chef smiled then, I knew he would do something special for David that night. And so he did... Fishy's cake wasn't a cake. God knows no one was about to take a bite of it. It had a candle, certainly...we sang Happy Birthday, and Fishy blew it out. But the "cake" was made of raw ground beef, very painstakingly decorated (Romo had actually dissected many tuna to find a seahorse in one of the stomachs...that had been very carefully preserved, and was a part of the cake's garnish). But the form of the cake was simply impossible to either believe or describe. I don't think I can put it into words myself...I'll have to let the photo speak for itself.

ASIDE: Those who can't wait, go ahead and scroll to the bottom. We'll wait a minute for you to see, laugh, and come back... Suffice it to say, it is one of the very best laughs I've ever had on a fishing boat

. A Long Journey to an Uncertain Destination... We were in travel mode even before dinner, of course. Kevin has asked us all to stay inside after the trolling ended, so that they could put the boat back in order. They must have washed enough yellowtail blood off the deck to make every shark on the Ridge have a conniption. It was at this point that I discovered one of the great values of having JWFogg along. That afternoon before dinner, We were treated to a concert DVD: Carlos Santana. But that was only the beginning of JW's little bag of tricks... Most of the rest of the trip included a lot of traveling, and JW had music to keep us sane all the way through. We saw a couple of different Clapton videos, an Eagles reunion concert, and even a Crosby, Stills, and Nash reunion. Some seriously good vibes. JW really impressed me when, after he and I had had a discussion about Clapton's time with Blind Faith (Slowhand playing Rock and Roll rather than the Blues, plus Stevie Winwood and his ego), JW reached into the music wallet, and came out with what really must be one of the rarest videos I can imagine: a live concert recording of Blind Faith! I'm telling you, the best roommate I could have asked for. In any case, there was nothing more to report for that day.

We traveled North on the way to Bluefin country, which was a long, long ways away...

We Arrive at Our Destination, Wave at it, and Keep Right on Going! You all may remember that one of my goals for the trip was to catch a bluefin. We took a damned good shot at some on the way South, too! I can't complain that the fish didn't want to bite. Well, now we were headed towards an area we'd scouted before, Kevin had a really good idea where to find the fish...if we could just get on them, maybe things would be different. The bad news was that when we awoke on Friday morning, we weren't nearly as far North as we'd hoped we'd be when we'd gone to sleep the night before. We were fighting a nasty downhill current, plus a bit of wind. We knew it wasn't peachy even the night before...the crew asked us to stay off the fishing deck, and I was pretty careful going upstairs for a smoke. Well, when breakfast was called, we were still hours South of where we wanted to be, and no easy way to make up the distance except pound our way North... Next: Part IX (Continued): The Pacific is BIG Ocean When You're Bucking the Current...


Part IX: (Continued) A Big Ocean, An Uphill Current...And A Fish?

Thursday was done, Friday was beginning...and we weren't where we really wanted to be. Coming North from the Ridge into the wind and current meant slow going, even for Intrepid. We had traveled as quickly as we could all night long, but we were still hours away from the Bluefin zone...

No Breakfast For Me, But Lots of Learning

I know now what I did not know when I started this report back in July: the illness I was fighting was a pretty pernicious case of E.Coli, a damned nasty bug...one that used to be fatal often enough here in this part of the world. I was lucky in a couple of ways, though...while I was sick and suffering almost the entire time I was on the boat, my symptoms were never bad. It wasn't until I got back to Mexico that things got truly ugly. For better or worse, though, Friday morning was no better for me than the previous few days...no appetite, and a feeling of weakness that was really beginning to frustrate me.

The boat was in no-fish land and making tracks. According to our best estimate, we had left the yellowfin behind us, while the bluefin (if they were going to bite this time around!) were still a long way ahead. Still, we were dragging lines, if quickly.

Some folks were already breaking down some rods by that time. People were definitely starting the end-of-the-trip housekeeping. At the same time, we weren't due back in San Diego until Sunday morning...we still had two full days to fish, and we all were looking forward to the next opportunity. I went ahead and cut the wired Raider off my borrowed long rod, and the wired bait hook off my 30lb setup. I tied my white and pink feather onto my trolling rig, and that was as much re-rigging as I could do. I left my 50lb setup ready to go in case we managed to find some bigger bluefin (a hopeful thought!), I tied a megabait to my 40lb star drag, and I was done.

And nothing was happening.

So, just as I did on the Southward leg, I headed up to the bridge, there to pass some time and see what I could see. That was a common thing to do that day. Probably half the anglers came up to visit at some point. Wahoodad was there glassing, and Ken the Bushman was there too for a while. Jesus was running the boat and having a learned discussion with Kevin. We were looking for signs of fish, even though we knew we weren't in the best spot to find any. I was listening to what people were saying, and asking a question every 15 minutes or so. Mostly I was just taking in the scene.

After a couple of hours of this, I told Kevin I was going to take one for the team. Of course he asked me what I meant, and I told him the truth: whenever I light a cigar during fishing time (as opposed to night travel when no one is wetting a line), we always get a bite, at the least a jig strike. Then, of course, I have to choose between finishing my cigar or dropping it over the side and grabbing a rod. Kevin's response: "Go light a cigar, damnit!"

So I did.

I swear, with God as my witness, it happened again! Five minutes into a 90 minute cigar, we get a blind jig strike. I don't know who grabbed the rod and caught the fish, but it was a nice little yellowfin about 30lbs. What he was doing there, I have no idea, but he hit a feather and ended up on someone's dinner table. The excitement that brought to the boat was palpable, and lasted fully another hour. Eventually, though, the electricity waned, and the patient anticipation resumed. We were on our way to fishy waters...no telling when exactly we'd get there...but we weren't there yet. How much of long range fishing is like that, I wonder? More than we remember afterwards, I'm sure!

It must have been 11:30 by the time I finished that cigar and headed back to the bridge. Kevin accosted me as soon as I came in... "Why aren't you out there smoking?!" But it was all in good fun.

I got into a conversation then with Wahoodad. God, I learned a lot from that man this trip! This time, though, I wanted to understand how better to plan for trips I hope to take in the future...longer trips for really big fish. Specifically, I wanted to understand better how to use and work with hollow spectra.

BACKGROUND: No, I am not an expert. If I am counting correctly, this trip on Intrepid was only my 6th tuna trip, and probably only my 3rd that could be considered "long range." And to be honest, even that is being charitable. Is a 4-day trip on Vagabond considered "long range?" I can make it simpler than that, even: I have a grand total of 25 days on the water. Pretty pathetic, I know!

Even so, I have learned a fair amount, and from some pretty good anglers. I have had some successes and failures, and learned from both. My gear has slowly evolved from what I could borrow to what I could afford, to (now) what I feel like I simply cannot do without. I have always fished on a budget, and always done all I could to make my time on the water worth every minute and every penny...both in fish count and (especially!) in friend count. And in the process, I have come to be pretty good at some things...and that includes knots.

Knots are what I know, because living in a high desert plateau city, knots are really all I can do. I am frigging obsessive about them, because 350 days a year, they are the closest I can get to fishing. I even bore myself! But I know what works for me, and I can say with conviction that for any connection up to (and in some cases including) 80lb spectra, I prefer solid spectra and a Tony Pena knot. Since I have never had a need to fish anything heavier than 50lbs on a West Coast trip, I have never had any reason to exceed my 80lb "rule," never had any reason to make the jump to using hollow spectra. Hopefully, though, that will change in the next year or so...hopefully I will get a chance to go on a trip where I'll be fishing bait using 100lb line and heavier. That means that the time has come (or soon will) for me to learn how to use hollow...

...and who better to ask than Wahoodad? I mean really?

So we talked a bit about lines and rigging. We started really with the fingertrap topshot. Turns out there's more to doing that right than you might think, but at the same time, there's no black magic about it either...it's just a case of acquiring some new tools, learning and mastering new techniques. Wahoodad is definitely a patient and good teacher too. His explanations made sense, plain and simple. Just from that one discussion, I now have a good idea of how I will go about making my own topshots when the time comes.

We segued then to talking about splices and end-loops. I commented that at some point I hoped he would show me how to do those. We talked about using 80lb hollow to mostly fill a big reel (800+ yards of scope), then stepping up to 100, then 130, then finally 200 for the topshot, making it possible to catch even supercows on size 30 reels. It was a real education, from a guy who literally has been there and done that. I learned more in a half hour discussion than I could have learned in any three previous trips.

It was about then that Javier called lunch, and down we went...but that wasn't quite the end of the story. Again, I had no appetite to speak of, but managed to chew on a piece of bread or something, and drink several glasses of water (if I hadn't kept myself well-hydrated, I could have been in serious trouble by the time we got back to San Diego). As lunch was ending, though, here comes Wahoodad, completely unasked. He has in his hands pieces of hollow spectra and a piece of bent wire. He sits down next to me, and gives me a practical lesson on making a splice, just like that. It's really unreal how gracious he was.

When you read this, David, thank you again!

The Curtain Comes Down On Bluefin Hopes

The afternoon was uneventful. Oh, we saw some signs of life, but never the breezing bluefin we saw on the way down. We were just still too far South, and the sun was going to set long before we got where we wanted/needed to be. In fact, a lot of the life we were seeing wasn't really bluefin-related: we saw several pods of porpoises. I had always thought that it was bluefin that followed the porpoises, but no, I learned this trip that it is typically yellowfin that you find beneath the "ponies."

Either way, though, it didn't matter. The only fish we saw all day was that one blind jig strike. The temps weren't right for yellowfin (too cold), nor were they right for bluefin (too warm), and the water was a little dirtier than we expected too, so there would be no bluefin on Friday.

It was only after dinner that my hopes were totally dashed. Kevin came in to give us the game plan, and it was the one time during the trip that I admit that I was disappointed, even though I am sure that his plan was the right one. The issue was the time we had left, and how we hoped to use it.

As I said before, we had left the yellowfin behind us, and we hadn't managed to find good bluefin water before dark. We were going to keep heading North, of course...all night long...and in the process we were going to leave the bluefin behind too. We were going to pass right through that zone during the night, and find ourselves in albacore waters early on Saturday. Obviously, albacore and bluefin sometimes mix, but that hadn't been true much this year, so it was a case of pick your poison. And what made things more difficult is that, while bluefin are notorious for not biting sometimes, the albacore had been the same this year too. Either way we might find tons of fish and still not get any biters.

I think Kevin made his decision logically. Fishing farther North meant having more time to try to find a willing school before having to pull the plug. In addition, we'd taken our shot at finicky bluefin on the way South, and struck out. Granted, we didn't stay and box the area the way we might have, but we took a good swing at them on our way to the Rocks...it wasn't anyone's fault that the fish wouldn't cooperate. If things had worked out differently, maybe we might have had another 4-5 hours to try for bluefin, but they hadn't worked out, and that was just the way things were. There were plenty of people on the boat who wanted a shot at some albies, so that's what we would do.

I can't argue with any of that, not a bit. I think in Kevin's shoes I would have made the same decision. It meant more time fishing, maybe more fish for the passengers...it was the smart call.

It's just that I am not a big albacore fan.

I know that this is considered blasphemy in some quarters, but it's true. I like albacore smoked, and I like it in the can. If it's really fresh, it's great cooked too...especially on the grill with a teriyaki sauce. But in general, I like albacore the least of all the tunas, for sashimi and cooked. And while I have had an entertaining fight or two on light line, my experience is that albacore are wimps in comparison to yellowfin. They are just not as much fun to catch.

Most of all, though, I have never caught a bluefin.

And so, given my preference, I would have gotten the boat into the bluefin zone, then hung out and drifted, hoping for a grey bite. I wouldn't have chosen to blow right by the chance at catching some bluefin, even if the albacore were very obviously the better call. That's just me, though. The decision Kevin made was the right one, even if I didn't like it. Every fishing trip is different, and you have to make each call as you see it. As far as I can see, Kevin made every call correctly. Maybe next time around, the bluefin will want to bite when they have a chance...

Intrepid cruised through the night, headed for the offshore grounds off of Baja, for albacore, and home.
Next: Part X: There Are Albacore Around Here...Really, I Swear There Are!
Last edited:
Upvote 0


I Should Upgrade My Account
Aug 20, 2010
San Diego
Boat Name
Any Boat that I can go on
Part X: Saturday, The Last Gasp

Saturday came early, and that was how it should be. The last day of the trip, the last day of fishing for me in 2010, should be a "give me every minute I can get!" kind of a day. For the first time since Thursday afternoon we found ourselves where we wanted to be, when we wanted to be there...or at least almost so.

We were still working our way North, but we were already within the Southern reaches of the albacore zone. Kevin had told us the night before that we would fish maybe half a day, maybe a little longer, and then head for the barn. The water looked good where we were, the sign was positive, but the bite was still very scratchy. An awful lot of boats had been driving over an awful lot of fish, and it wasn't often that the fish decided to come out and play. Everything looked to be in our favor, but there was no telling if that was going to mean anything...

A Light Breakfast And a WONDERFUL Lunch...

Breakfast was relatively light. I am not sure exactly because all I really remember is that I still couldn't eat any of it. Coffee, juice, and away from the table. I have never gone so long eating so little...and still I just wasn't hungry. My family would have been worried sick, but that's just how it was. Still, we were told that there would be no mid-morning snack, and we were all supposed to stay out of the dining area starting around 11:00. People who have fished Intrepid before knew what was coming. I didn't, but at that moment I didn't care.

We were trolling now, and the rotation had resumed. People were standing trolling watch and the boat was really looking for fish. Up on the bridge there were three people glassing, everyone looking at the radar and the sonar, a pretty high sense of anticipation. We were all in the hunting spirit.

That morning, more than anything else we were hunting kelps. People had been finding fish on the paddies the past few days, and sometimes they were biters. Any good sign would be encouraging, of course, and we had eyes looking for breezers and jumpers all around too...but what we saw were kelps, and the boat would make passes at them whenever we saw them.

But no love.

At first Kevin would turn the boat in the direction of a kelp and call for a chumline, but much of the time he'd stop the chumline almost right away, other times he never called for chum at all. A whole bunch of those paddies were dry holes. We did circle one twice, run a chumline, and make a drift...but that was a disappointment. According to what Kevin said when I asked him, there were a lot of fish on that paddy as we pulled up, but as soon as we got near, they sank out. The chum never brought them back up either, and we never got a jig strike. The fish were just flat out spooked.

And that was the name of that game. Mid-morning came and we finally found some biters, but they were yellowtail. I was fishing my 30lb rig then for the first time on the trip. As we made a drift on the kelp, someone got picked up. I dropped in a sardine and got hit too. It actually turned out to be a nice fish, bigger than any of the yellows I'd caught on Thursday...probably 22-24lbs. It was a nice fight too, on a Saltist 30T and the GUSA rod I'd bought from JL. It only lasted a few minutes, but the yellow pulled like he meant it, and I enjoyed the fight for what it was.

I could have stayed there a little while catching yellows, but as soon as it became clear that the fish weren't any kind of tuna, Kevin pulled away from the kelp. We were already pushing our limit of yellows for the trip; it made no sense to waste time staying and catching more of them.

Not too long after that, we were called in for a slightly early lunch that turned out to be an Intrepid tradition: last day brunch. It was a nice spread! There were crab claws and shrimp, king crab legs and sashimi galore. Javier really did us right...and wonder of wonders, for the first time in days I had a LITTLE appetite. It still didn't amount to that much...when it came time to serve myself I didn't put very much on my plate. The part that surprised me was, after I had finished what I had served myself (unexpected in and of itself), I found I was hungry for more. I went and took a second helping...and barely managed to finish that too.

Then it was time to do a bit more fishing...

The Pacific Ocean Is SUCH A Tease...

There was news while we were eating too. One of the other boats (I forget now which one, but I think it might have been the Q) had gotten on a single kelp loaded with albies, and pulled maybe 70 off of it in just over an hour. They were in an area that was just swarming with albacore too, and were looking for the next big hit...along with most of the other boats that were on the water. And that was the area we had just entered. One more chance? One last shot at a hot bite...?

Alas, it was not to be. We stayed there and fished until we really HAD to go, we crossed and crisscrossed the area, found and boxed one school, then another. All around us were other boats of the San Diego fleet, maybe eight of them, all fishing the same 10 square miles of ocean. Maybe some of those other boats were catching fish...at least some fish, anyway...maybe they weren't. In general it was just one of the many, many days this past season where the boats found fish that wouldn't feed. Sometimes someone gets lucky...most of the time this year no one did.

In the end, we pulled the plug around 3:30 I guess. It was a good day's fishing, if not catching, and like it or not it was time to go home. That one last yellowtail turned out to be my last fish of the trip, and I was one of three or four people who caught anything at all on Saturday.

We all started to break down the last of our gear then. Kevin had tried as hard as he could, and stayed out an extra couple of hours hoping against hope that we would hit a late inning home run, but the clock ran out on us. He asked to hurry up and take care of the housekeeping so that the deckhands could get a start on the end of the trip clean up job, and that's what we did. Rigs were taken down, reels were washed and bagged, rods wiped down and put away up top, tackle bags sorted, put in order, and in some cases stowed in staterooms. It was really an amazing display of concerted organization. No one managed to get in anyone's way, everything got done quickly and (for the most part) easily, and that was the end of the fishing...

Next: Part XI: A Dinner To Remember, A Bittersweet Sunrise, And Journey's End

Part XI: There Is So MUCH More To A Long Range Trip Than Just Fishing...

That's really true, too. My family (and many of my friends), most of whom fish too, just don't seem to get this kind of a trip. They have all been on what we know of on the East Coast as "party boats," which are essentially the cattle boats. Those that ply the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys tend to be more comfortable, more service-oriented than the ones I've seen out of Santa Monica Bay, or even some of the trips out of Oxnard, but it's a similar experience. A lot of anglers, not that many fish, and neither the chance nor the desire to get to know the strangers on either side of you. The people I try to convince about this kind of fishing just can't seem to get past the image of fishing a cattle boat for 5 or 8 days. Who the heck would ever want to do that?

But this trip was so different...I think all the real long range ones must be. I can honestly say that every single person on board was absolutely worth knowing. I would cheerfully share the rail with every single one of them again. Better still, I can honestly say that some people I met on this trip have become friends...people I can respect, and in whom I could place my faith in a pinch.

But beyond these simple things, my family and friends also don't get how things are on the boat. They don't understand the quality of the meals, or the jokes. They can't imagine the camaraderie, the unity within the diversity. Frankly, they just barely understand the allure of the fishing, and never seem to be able to understand how much FUN we have together when we're not fishing.

If anyone here can tell me how to explain that part, I'd appreciate it. I have three brothers, all of whom love to fish, and several friends and more distant family members who are the same. If I could just convince ONE of them to give a long range trip a try, I know that they would become converts...

Fishing Is Over, But The Fun Never Stops

After this long period of time, I may have a couple of things wrong, but the sequence of events that Saturday afternoon remain pretty clear. We didn't quit fishing until a couple of hours after brunch, but the breakdown didn't take hardly any time at all. I credit that to the experience of the anglers, honestly. But in any case, the sun was still well up in the sky as we motored North, and the crew started doing a superior cleanup job.

At that time, most of the anglers were packing up, but a few people---mostly those who got an early jump on their packing---began to congregate in the salon. At first there was a movie on, but when it finished people seemed to be more interested in talking amongst themselves than watching or listening to canned entertainment. It made sense too...many of these people were old friends (some new friends too!), and we were all in the process of finishing a journey together. For the first time we started telling fish stories not of trips and fish past, but of this trip, of fish that were still in the holds below us. There were laughs and serious conversations both, talk of trips to come.

"Are you going to be with us on the...?"
"We have a 7-day coming up...?"
"Yeah, that's the trip for wahoo...Fishy caught like 17 of them!"

But also:

"Do you remember how many times DirtyGirl was hooked up on toads? I would have liked to see her get one..."
"I can't believe Mark lost that first big fish at color...he really deserved to catch the 100lber he got..."
"Did you see Cong Vu?...Did you see Luan catch that seabass? Redbeard got one too..."
"Half Day was showing Garret how to fish the popper...Boltar was having a blast on those yellowtail...man he had a snakebit trip!"
"Do you remember?...did you see?...I think that's the hottest yellowtail bite I've ever...bummer that the albies didn't want to feed..."

In a sense, in addition to making plans and cementing friendships, we began constructing the "legend" of the trip, embedding in our memories the images and sounds that we would take with us.

And then Hector asked us to get out of the way so they could set for dinner. One sitting this time...

Javier Outdoes Himself...AGAIN...And We Have A Contest Too

By now many of you know that dinner was surf and turf. It has become yet another tradition of the boat, the last night of most trips. I can see why!

I am not going to describe it in excruciating detail; there are two things to note about it:

1. The meal was exquisitely prepared, every aspect was nothing short of delicious.
2. My appetite was almost nonexistent again, but I made myself try every bit.

The potato was heaven (we can't get baking potatoes in Mexico...Period), the steak was perfectly medium rare. The lobster tail (the only part of the meal I came close to finishing) was delicious. I even managed to take two bites of the cake for dessert. Frankly, that was just to much, too rich after a meal like that. Javier pulled out all the stops, and the result was nothing short of spectacular.

And then came the contest...

Yes, there is a reason why the cake Javier served is such a total chocolate bombshell: a part of the surf and turf tradition is a cake eating contest afterward. And believe me, just finishing a piece of that cake was an accomplishment.

Who was in the contest? For the passengers we had Garret and Mark, of course, and also Half Day. Plus, we had Colin and Kona Mike representing the boat. Wagers were placed, cheerful insults made an appearance, and...

OK, I can't describe the carnage. It was no hands, no cutlery, put your face on the plate and slurp cake eating. And the cake must have weighed two pounds per square inch, too...the richest cake I have seen in a while. It was funny and fascinating, and then it was virtually a train wreck. By the second swallow, everyone was fighting it, by the fourth, it wasn't clear if anyone would finish. Of course they all did...

You know what? After this amount of time, I am no longer sure who won. I think it was Colin (as if we all didn't see that one coming!), but I can't swear to it. I also think it doesn't really matter. Anyone who was willing to put their face down in the plate and try to eat 12 ounces of uber chocolate cake like that deserves a medal. It was great fun, though, and the cheers were resounding.

From there, though, things really settled down. The salon emptied out, with half of the people leaving pretty much right after the cake eating contest, and the rest slowly trickling out one by one. There were still conversations going on, still people talking about the trip, still laughs and jokes, but the clock was against us. We were all tired. Some wanted to rest and some still needed to pack. Pretty soon the only people on the galley deck were the four of us who were sleeping on deck level.

I had packed early...sort of. I had everything in my bag...but I was missing the charger for my cell phone. I went out and smoked a cigar (the last of the trip) and waited for JWFogg to pack and settle in, because I was afraid I was going to have to unpack and go through everything once more, just to see if I could find that charger.

By the time I came down it was almost 10:30, and I pulled everything out of the room (JW was already sleeping), set up in the now-empty salon, and started opening bags and searching.

I was right. I ended up going through every single piece of my luggage, combing through my tackle bag (no idea how the charger could have ended up there, but I had to look) and I still never found it. Wherever it went, it didn't want to be found. I ended up buying a replacement at Radio Shack the next day. It was nearly 1:00 before I zipped up and went back to the stateroom

And finally, for the last time on the trip, I climbed up into my top bunk, and let the movement of Intrepid rock me into a deep sleep...

A Sad Daybreak, And The Last Wait...

Wake up was at 6:00, but the boat was awake before that, and so were we. Showered, dressed, and ready to go by the time Kevin called us out, we were almost up to the harbor, passing Point Loma, and getting ready to officially end the trip. People were talking on their cell phones, making plans for parties and dinners and fish-cutting gatherings. Some were checking in on family...there was a moment there were the trip had---as it always does at that moment---fractured into individuals again. Life was intruding.

Then the boat stopped and waited. The dock wasn't ready for us to pull in, and in fact we waited the better part of an hour not moving. I went walking around the deck a bit, speaking to a few people here and there. What did I want to say? To whom? I'm not sure exactly. The spell of the trip wasn't completely broken, but it was suspended for a while. People were friendly, but quiet. And in any case, I could never have put into words what I was feeling at that moment. A little sadness that the trip had to end, sheer joy at my experiences. Real pleasure at having met and gotten to know so many new and wonderful people. Perhaps even some anticipation at trying to write this trip report. It didn't matter...the words stuck in my throat. The closest I could come was to murmur "Great fishing with you" a couple of times.

And then we were moving, and the boat was a hive of activity. Kevin and the deckies were all telling us what we needed to do and how, as soon as we got to the dock. How we would unload our gear, how we would get the fish up to the scale, how we would separate them, weight them, etc. Some were delegated to sort, some to guard, most to push carts. We were going to be a little late getting in, and we needed to do our best to get clear and moving.

And then there we were, coming finally up to the dock, about to set foot on solid ground and rejoin our real lives...

Last: Part XII: The Weigh-In, A Late Surprise, And The Voyage Home

1. Brunch on Intrepid, featuring Silent Jim, Half Day, and John Keeler
2. Boltar as "Thor Hammerhand," along with Half Day and Silent Jim
3. Willy and Fishy. 'Nuff said.
4. Dinner on Intrepid.
5. Ready...Get Set...Go!!!!






Part XII: Hail To The Victors Valiant...

When we pulled up to unload, things started happening fast. I think it must be the same for every trip...when it's time to unload, everyone needs to get it in gear and go. Move your belongings off the boat and get them in a safe place, either in your car or with someone watching, then get back down and help with the evolution of the fish.

For me, getting off included meeting Willy's son Cameron (now that is a big man...Colin is quite large, but Cameron has to be seen to be believed). I got most of my stuff up by the office building with someone watching it for me, then remembered that I had left one bag still on the boat. I climbed back on, found it exactly where I left it, and then debarked for the final time. The crew was already unloading fish...

For me, this is the hardest part of the trip in some ways. All that's left is a few handshakes, a few smiles, a couple of fish photos, and then you're done. And to be honest, I wasn't QUITE ready for the trip to be over.

I pushed a couple of carts up the dock, but they had enough pushers, so then I helped sort the fish. I noticed that my own pile was "interesting" looking. I only had three tuna, and one was all of about 12lbs. Then I had one that went right at 50lbs, so not embarrassing or anything. And then I had my one big fish. Plus I had nine yellowtail (all I had wanted to catch...I donated a few and released a bunch more). One was in the mid-20s, a nice fish. The rest were (I guess) between 14 and 20. Keepers, but not big fish. And finally there was a pig of a white seabass. You could tell I had been out on the water, but it wasn't obvious if I was a good angler, or just a very lucky one. I think I'd have to vote for lucky, actually...

Titan05 was at the docks, as he'd said he would be, and we loaded my gear into his truck. He has been kind enough to store my gear for me, since shipping it back and forth to Mexico is really not an option. I keep telling him how grateful I am for that, and for his friendship, both of which he offered for a smile. I hope someday I can return the favor.

Then harddrive came by to say hello as I'd known he would, and we talked a bit. I was also looking around for my wife, whom I had left back in Mexico City. She has surprised me at the docks a couple of times before, and I had good reason to believe that she was coming to San Diego to surprise me again...but she was nowhere to be seen. In that case, she really had me faked out, because she had accidentally dropped hints that she was going to be there, but so far, no wife...

While I was talking to harddrive, FishnRust came by and introduced himself. He's a nice guy, and I hope I get a chance to fish with him one of these trips. I told him not to go away...I had a yellow for him, as requested by Fishybuzz (Russ was going to a BBQ, apparently, and needed a couple small fish for it). When next I turned around, Kevin was already weighing fish. In fact, it was coming time for the jackpot weigh-in.

I dragged my fish over, even though I wasn't in the jackpot. I wanted to see how I stacked up against the others. I also wanted to get photos of Mark and Garret with their big fish. And then it became a bit of a blur.

I know that JustJan the Sea Squirrel won the jackpot with a 113# fish, SilentJim took second, and Chris Lee took third, all with fish over 100lbs. Then Kevin hung mine. Gutted, gilled, and RSW'd, it hung at 111.36. Add the 10%, and...


Wow! I'd had no idea. In fact, several people on the trip had made a point of advising me that the other anglers had caught bigger fish. I didn't care about that, but...wow! That is damned certain the biggest tuna I have ever caught, by a long, long margin.

Fishy, you were right. I did break my personal best, and I did get my shot at a tuna over 100lbs. Frankly, you were right about everything, not that I ever doubted you.

So then they were taking photos, and some guy with a pad and paper was taking notes for an article. It wasn't anyone I'd ever met, but a lot of people there seemed to know him well. The thought later hit me that it might actually have been Bill Roeker (spelling?). If so, I would have liked to have had a formal introduction. But he wanted to know where I was from, and expressed astonishment that I had come all the way from Mexico City to go on the trip. He wanted to know how to spell my name, all of that. For 120 seconds, I felt like a celebrity...

Sic Transit Gloria...

While my data was being collected, Kevin went on with the weighing of all the big fish. And so it came to pass that I missed seeing Mark's fish weighed, and by the time I turned back to the scale, Garret's was already up. I got a couple of photos of him, and a couple more of other anglers with their fish piles. Then it was time for my seabass...


Oh NO!!!!!

Actually, I didn't care. If I never catch a 50lb white seabass, I'll be OK. It was my first ever seabass, and it was more than big enough for me. So I dragged my croaker over to my pile, and realized that most people had already turned their fish over to the processors. Fishy was already gone on his way back to Arizona, Willy was busy with family, and I was about to be all alone.

I had arranged ahead of time that---if my wife really didn't show up---that harddrive would give me a ride over to Five Star. There I would have Sarah and the gang process my fish, and it was there that my brother-in-law would pick me up when he had a chance. But harddrive couldn't wait around...he had an urgent business meeting and he had to go, so he wouldn't be able to give me a ride to Five Star. And my wife hadn't shown up...

Suddenly I'm All Alone And Need A Ride...

First things first: I turned my pile of fish over to the experts, and worked out how they should handle it. Some smoked, some fresh, all to be picked up by my brother-in-law when it was ready. One last payment, and then...now what? No car, no ride, friends already on the road or about to be...

I still had one more bit of luck coming: there was Brad, getting ready to take off. So I went begging...

Brad's a really good guy. He was great company on the boat, he's bright, funny, and self-deprecating. And this time he saved my bacon. He and Mark were gracious enough to drop me off at Five Star on their way back to LA. I was and am grateful for the courtesy...

Guess Who's Coming To Breakfast...or Lunch

Well, I had a big bag of clothes, but that's all, so I heaved that into the back of Brad's SUV and we went, just like that. It still seemed like there should have been a way to savor the trip just a bit longer. I made a lot of new friends on the trip, and had a wonderful time. Stomach issues or not, this was far and away my best ever trip, and I think it will be hard to top it. I know a lot of people who were on board with us have been on a great many more trips than I have, and eight days is a long time to be away from your family. Most people were ready to commit the journey to the past, and relive it at their leisure, but I admit that the end came too quickly for me. All the rest was as wonderful as wonderful can be, but somehow, saying a quick goodbye and scooting off felt a bit unceremonious. Still, that's the way it always happens.

ASIDE: one reason why it felt so short and sudden, I think, is because on all of my previous trips there was always the ride back to LA with harddrive. We'd have a three hour cruise to rehash everything that happened, dissect all of the mistakes, cherish (and brag) about all of the successes, and then enjoy a leisurely evening at his house, putting gear away and savoring the glow a little while longer. Finally, I would go to sleep, emotionally ready for the trip home. That was one thing that was missing this time, though really only in retrospect.

We stopped for a cold drink on the way to Five Star, and then we were there. I said a fond goodbye to Brad and his human hurricane of a son, and watched them pull away. The people at Five Star already had my fish, and were about to process it already.

ASIDE: I honestly cannot say enough about Five Star Fish Processing. I have used one other processor once...I tried them before I tried Five Star, and they did a fine job too. But Five Star is the best I've seen so far, and it really is very hard to imagine anyone else living up to their standards. The quality of their processing is just plain OUTSTANDING. But what really stands out is their service. They will do whatever it takes, overcome whatever obstacle, to make sure you get your fish in the best possible condition. Smoked or fresh or fresh-frozen, they are unbeatable. Granted, I have not tried any other processor, but Five Star has gone above and beyond the call to not only win my business, but also to keep it. 'Nuff said.

So there I was, relaxing in the customer lounge when who should appear? JWFogg, of course. He was also getting his fish processed, though I think he was planning to come back down from LA to pick it up a few days later. He had said on the boat (after I caught my ghost) that seabass was his very favorite fish, and there I was, staring at a whole tray full of seabass filets. Obviously I gave him a couple to take home, and thanked him again for being just about the best cabin mate a guy could wish for.

Back to the lounge again, and I decided to send a text message to my brother-in-law. One thing I had arranged was to give some fish to a friend of his, and I had told him quite forcefully that if the friend wanted fish, she could darned well meet me at Five Star by noon to pick it up. I texted him that I was already done with processing, that he could swing by as soon as it was convenient (I thought he would be getting out of his yoga class about then), and we could go. And if his friend wanted fish, she'd better get here soon.

Well, a few minutes later, I hear a distant call from a very familiar voice: "Gordi! Donde andas? (Fatty! Where are you?)" Yup, it was my wife, in San Diego after all. She really faked me out!

Turns out that my brother-in-law (who is a financial analyst) was doing some business-related things that morning, and chose not to bring my wife down to the landing. She comes all the way from Mexico City just to surprise me, is staying in La Jolla, but she can't get her brother to meet us at the docks. To make matters worse, they arrive hungry. My wife has told her brother that I am sure to already be at the fish processor, and waiting by myself. He may want to go get breakfast first, but they really need to come pick me up. So they arrive, I give him a hug, and then kiss my wife. He waits THREE SECONDS, and then says "you can kiss your wife later...lets go, I'm hungry!"

You all would have been proud of me. I did not say what I wanted to say. Instead I asked him about his friend, and wondered when she would arrive. "Oh, she's not coming. She said it was too much of a hassle to come to the processor, so she wants us to drive to Encinitas and deliver the fish."

I just about lost it then. I had set aside some 20lbs of the best, freshest tuna for someone who couldn't be bothered to come pick it up. I was steamed. But then, it turned out, so was my brother-in-law...because I was planning to put my fish in the trunk of his car. He was afraid that it would stink up his lovely new Audi...

Well, I was about done. All of what we were planning to do had been planned. I had asked him multiple times if I wouldn't be putting him out, and I made it clear what would be involved. He said yes to everything, and enthusiastically. Now this?

My entire trip buzz was gone. Period.

Well, we got all of the fresh fish into the car and back to his house, where we filled his fridge and his freezer too. I left him on the phone asking his various clients if they would like some fresh fish, while I finally got to catch up with my wife. Then we headed out for a belated lunch.

The rest of that day and evening, we took things easy and prepared for the journey home...

Returning To Mexico Is Far Too Easy...

By now I should be used to this. Every time I visit the US, I end up with a feeling that I am not ready to go back to Mexico. It isn't that I don't like Mexico City, but living there poses challenges and headaches that make life there tedious at times. When I am in San Diego, I always want to stay just a few more days.

Perversely, unlike entering the US from Mexico, crossing into Mexico is ridiculously easy. Christian my driver came across early that morning and picked us up, we drove to the Otay Mesa crossing in less than 45 minutes, and before I could say "No, wait!" we were already in Mexico and pulling up to the Tijuana Airport. From there it's all very simple. Check the bags, get on the plane, fly to Toluca, get a taxi, and go home. It takes about four hours from check in to arriving at our front door...

And so ends this tale. I apologize for the amount of time it has taken me to tell it! It was one of the most memorable few days of my life, filled with excitement and frustration both, new friends and new achievements, and a sense of wonder I won't easily forget.

I thank all of you for taking the time to read this "report," and I wish you all a very happy, prosperous 2011.

Next, the Aftermath: What I Learned

1. JWFogg, With Evidence of Victory
2. My Pile of Fish
3. Kevin does the Honors
4. Rodless and Ghost
5. Rodless and Tuna





  • Like
Reactions: Montaukmaniac
Upvote 0

Latest posts