Hope everyone had an amazing weekend! Highs in the 70s here which is a rare treat for early March in Nebraska. Selling Girl Scout cookies, playing in the park and trying to get caught back up on this thing we call life.
We make the push back to the buffer zone in about 18 hours. I sleep... 13 of them! We don't arrive back in the zone until around 3:30pm but at least it is a more respectable time to eat a chocolate chip cookie. We start trolling for Wahoo. The boat ended up landing 13 Wahoo this afternoon and I eve have multiple chances including 1 on the trolling rotation. Another rod got bit and I dropped my reel in to free spool for a few seconds to let my bait sink back in to the zone. Throw it in gear and reel like a madman. I get bit! It takes a big run and then out of nowhere comes unpinned. I don't know if I am not reeling smooth enough but I know it is fishing. Wahoo are tough, I keep hearing about their mouth being solid bone blah blah but I HATE loosing fish! I know I am lucky to get my first bite on day 1 but gosh I don't normally lose too many fish and this one stings. I want a 2nd Wahoo. Most bites come from casting within just a few seconds of when the first bite comes so the angler's lure is back in the pod of fish. I keep learning...
Once we set up, only 1 fish was caught today. Soda Pop caught a nice 120ish pound YFT.
I catch another shark tonight but this one is like 9 foot long. Unlike the first one that came in like a dog, this one fights like a pissed off Moose! Might be the hardest fight I have had yet on the whole trip. This fish is mad. Multiple big runs, even when the Shark is close to the boat it takes off and makes a monster run. Most of the deck hands remark it is one of the largest sharks they have seen in years. I know it isn't what I came for, and once I finally get it in close it is released back to the sea but boy what a treat of a fight.
We get tired of the sharks and stop fishing for the night and head in for dinner. I fill my belly with divine hot food and a cold drink and we try making bait.
We have yet to catch a single darn bait but tonight is a treat! Baby sea turtles are swimming by the boat. One at a time, we see perhaps 6 or 7 in a 30 minute period. They are no bigger than a 3" diameter chocolate chip cookie but my god they are adorable. I don't know if they were drawn to the light or not but the current carries them on their way. I get a 10 second video of one to show my daughter when I get home.
I know it was a short afternoon but I wanted to try and punch another tag today but I don't pull it off in the end. A great fight, a chance on the troll, a lot of needed sleep and now it's time to push as hard as I can for the last few days.
The learning curve is steep, very steep but I can't stop smiling.
I head downstairs and get some rest. I wake up at 4 in the morning to the sound of the boat getting ready to fish for the day. I dawn my battle gear, down more Advil and check my gear. I need a whole new topshot because of my big Shark last night and I get everything lined up for the day. Today is day 6 of fishing and I have today and tomorrow left before we head home.
Once fishing, Soda pop gets hooked up and hands it off to me. I chase a beautiful 70ish pounder around the boat for about 30 minutes before Jack helps me bring him aboard. I don't have 5 minutes to recover and I find out that the person in the kite rotation before me is now hooked up on a kite fish and I am up. I head upstairs and Captain Bill is already working a double trouble out in to the zone. I ask a half dozen rookie type questions including what I should do if we get a bite etc. and he is kind enough to field them all in his cool as a cucumber manner. Next thing I know... yep SPLASH! I get to watch the fish boil and take my bait. The Captain reels down on the fish and sends it down to the deck as I descend the steps as fast as I safely can. Ethan already has the rod at the rail waiting for me and I start fighting my 2nd tuna of the morning. This kite rig is is big boy gear and I'm able to put big time leverage on this fish. I get the fish about 20 yards from the boat when I accidentally get sawed off by another angler. Sad but it's fishing.
I bring the rod up to the Captain so it can get retied and he explains it isn't my fault that I got sawed off and I can have another turn at trying to get a fish in. He needs to step away for a moment and asks if I will watch the balloon. You bet! It doesn't take a single minute and the kite gets bit again. I reel like a mad man trying to get the slack out of the line and it works... I come tight and the reel starts singing! The Captain is already by my side and tells me to head down the steps again as he passes the rod down to a deck hand. This fish is almost a twin. Dandy fish. Fights hard. Makes a great run. Settles down and does circles for me while I follow it around the boat with Ethan again. This time I get lucky and we stick yet another 70ish pound fish in about 30 minutes. 2 fish landed in under an hour and 3 fish fought. My arms are just a wee bit tired
I get my 100 pound gear out but the bite settles down and there aren't any more fish hooked up for the morning. I go inside and eat a bite when we go on the troll. Back outside in 5 minutes and I get my spinning combo out and find a spot along the rail.
This morning I actually end up getting bit on the slide. I'm learning to get out a little faster once the initial troll fish is hooked. I watch the veterans and once they cast, I cast. I get a bite but it hits so hard that it breaks my line at the knot between spectra and wire. Fishy feels out my drag and thinks it has gotten tighter so he adjusts it a little in hopes I don't snap off the next fish. Tied up, I get ready for the next round. Next bite I cast out, count to 30 and start reeling like a madman again. This time I get bit but after about 15 seconds it comes unpinned. Deep breath, relax, you didn't forget how to fish... it just happens. They keep talking about how hard these Wahoo are... . They aren't wrong.
As we are trolling all of a sudden someone yells NEBRASKA and I turn to see Tyler Tubbs pointing off the port side of the boat. 3 seconds later a whale comes full breach out of the water and a split second later her calf does the same right behind her. Just 5 seconds later they do it a second time and then disappear. I have never seen anything make such a splash. My heart is filled with joy. I wanted to catch a tuna, I wanted to go on this grand adventure, I wanted to see a whale. My eyes become wet with joy and I take a moment to absorb it all in. It was like the Prudential commercial...except I was there.
Troll gets bit again, we go on the slide, I cast out, get hooked up and this time I am on!!!! Across the stern in 5 seconds and this time I actually follow the fish well enough not to lose it myself or mess anyone else up. Now heading towards the bow it keeps fighting but it's up on the surface now but 25 yards out. I am gaining ground and keeping pressure on the fish and out of nowhere it comes unpinned. My heart sinks. I reel in and this time I bring my Wahoo bomb in but the fish literally broke the hook off the eye it was attached to. It didn't break at the shank, it broke it at the eye of the hook. Gone. God these fish are tough.
My only Wahoo is frozen and I really want to get one in the RSW. I will keep trying.
I almost miss lunch because I keep fishing, although I probably would survive to miss a meal, especially at this stage. Lucky for me, they have a few plates and I inhale a beautiful salad with lump crab meat on top.
I head back out as we are setting up for tuna again. I get fishing. Pick a bait, get him fishing, feed him line, and I get bit. It doesn't run too fast though and I wonder if I have a Porpoise picking me off. I put it in gear and it's a needlefish. I bring it in as it dances atop the water trying to tangle any fellow angler's line in it's path. They are actually a beautiful creature. Silver and the most beautiful blue color. The first foot of the fish is all business with a mouth full of teeth like a freshwater gar but almost hypodermic in diameter. I get it in and a deckhand helps remove the hook and send it on its way. It messes up my line so I have to cut a number of inches and tie on again. The deck hands do it for me and have it all done in under 30 seconds. I go out again. And, as someone stated we must be in the annual migration of Needlefish or something. These Sardine stealing bastards are everywhere. I catch literally 10 needlefish in a row.
Many anglers stop fishing one by one. If you were going to take a nap, this is a hell of a time to do it but I don't intend to stop fishing for anything. I need every chance I can get and I send out another Sardine. I get bit and this time line disappears from my reel at an alarming rate. This is the real deal. If I learned anything from that day, it was like WahooDad said about fishing the chunk. You might catch 20 sharks in a row but then you might catch a tuna. Today it was needlefish and I caught a dozen of the bastards but for sticking through it, I am now hooked to the best tuna so far of my trip.
It goes deep, it runs harder than I have seen yet. I fight the fish from one corner to the other of the stern and back. I eventually end up pinned in the port stern corner but the fish isn't even straight up and down yet. It's out at about a 45 degree angle. Out of nowhere it goes and takes another run and then... it happens. My rod bounces up and the fish is gone. I reel in a bunch of line to find a curly que at the end. My knot has failed. My heart sinks but all I can do is smile. I learned. I fought that fish so awesome too! I stayed calm, I followed my fish, I kept the pressure on it but I lost it in the end. That fish I had on for 90 seconds at Hurricane, it was bigger but this fish was special because it was big and I had it on for so long before losing it.
I take a deep breath and tie on a new hook. I go inside and grab a cold beer and pound the delicious elixir of the gods while I stand in the shade leaning against the tackle boxes.
I go right back to fishing
A few hours of late afternoon sun pass and Dustin ends up landing a dandy of a fish after about an hour long fight. He reappears at the rail a little while later and gets hooked up again. He tells me he is tired from the last one but I think he is just being kind as he hands me his rod and away I go again. There are multiple fish already hanging when I get the hand off but my fish is acting weird. Fishy has his biggest fish of the trip hanging in one corner and there are 2 other fish somewhere around the boat plus my fish at the time. Deckhand Sam is with me and my fish doesn't stop acting weird. It only swims down and out, it doesn't make a great run but it's constantly got an odd tail beat. Sam guesses that my fish is tail wrapped. Sam helps me essentially force this fish in at record pace and I land my third tuna for the day. This fish a beautiful 60ish pounds. It is pissed when it comes on board as it never had a fair shot at a fight being tail wrapped but tag #23 is going on this fish just the same.
Dusk comes and the evening shark parade returns and we head in for supper. I inhale my meal quickly so I can head downstairs and shower before the crowd. I head back upstairs to try and make bait but with no success. We get to see a few baby Sea Turtles again. This place is so magical. I head downstairs and take 3 more Advil and my sea sick med, write in my journal and set an alarm. It's 8:45pm and my head hits the pillow. Tomorrow is my last day of fishing...and I will push as hard as I can.
Wow, Nebraska's positive attitude is awesome. I can remember getting bummed on a bite where I could do no right, and then lamenting on what I missed. Not our man...he just keeps it up savoring all that is great about LR fishing...even when it does not go his way! Amazing "visual" report!!!!
Another great chapter, thanks for taking the time away from your family to continue your story. You have a way with words that make us feel we are there with you.
Clarion and the buffer zone is amazing. I know the turtles lay eggs on the island and when checking in with the camp we have seen Mamma and Papa in the bay.
Wahoo fishing is tough. The hook to land ratio is something like 10:1. I once saw a wahoo pick up my bomb and within a seconds open it's mouth and let it go. It's all part of the game. I have also seen a few wahoo fly into the boat, chasing a jig. And yes win or lose this is just fishing.
We are all waiting for the next chapter, but do take care of your family and work first.
Day 7 of fishing arrives and my body wants to fall apart. I never took a break yesterday other than to eat and my body can tell. I wore my rubber boots yesterday too as my feet have been starting to show wear from being wet daily...well wearing rubber boots didn't do them any favors either and now I have blisters on both feet. But, I can't put my Keens back on either as the water logged skin has had it so I manage to take a deep breath and pull my rubber boots back on my sore feet. 3 Advil, all my gear and up the stairs I go. A cup of coffee and a fig newton from the snack pile and out I go. It's still dark and I start working baits hard but no success. I get picked by a few dolphins and if nothing else, that 3 seconds your bait does 40 miles an hour is always a treat... like a tiny treat for a junkie that just wants a decent fix. I fish all morning without a bite.
We go on the troll.
There are less fishermen on the rail today between the cold going around, the heat, and sheer time we have been fishing. I get a short bite on the first troll stop and reel as fast as I can in hopes it comes back...but no luck. A few Wahoo come over the rail.
Back on the troll we go and I continue to stand at the ready. One of the troll rods get bit and we go on the slide... I cast out again and start counting to 30. I close the bail, point my rod straight at my line and start reeling like a madman. It hurts...I'm wearing out and each cast is exhausting but the best color is fast so I reel hard... I get bit! But it's a short bite and nothing more than a big tug and I reel even harder... 3 seconds later and I AM ON! FREIGHT TRAIN! Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not a Wahoo. Houston, we have a problem. We have a 60-100 Yellowfin Tuna absolutely tearing line off my reel. Ethan comes over thinking I am snagged on something and takes my rod for a moment... Nope Nebraska, you got a fish on...good luck buddy. The bend in my rod is insane and the line is disappearing from my reel to the point I am now down to less than 25% of my spool. I have to stop this fish or I am going to lose my line. I start palming my spool in hopes of adding additional drag without actually adjusting the drag on the spinning reel. My reel is literally hot but it works. All of a sudden the reel stops losing line and I make my first pump and a turn on the handle. I can't rest the rod on the rail so I am supporting the full weight of this fish in my arms. I slowly gain about 10% of my line back in pumps and the fish runs again. All I can do is hold on with both hands to the foregrip trying to rest as best I can while the fish is taking line. I palm the reel again and slow and then stop the fish's progress. Back to work I go and I grind away at trying to gain some ground again. After the forth run, the fish wins its freedom. I am so wiped out I hand my rod to my mentor so he can reel it in for me as I am too F-ing tired to reel my own damn line in.
The rest of the troll goes uneventful and we eventually go back to targeting tuna for the evening.
The evening bite is slow but it brings the largest fish of the trip to date. 2 cows come over the rail among a few dandy fish but I never get a bite. I'm in the way sometimes. The bait is more tired now from being on board for 10 days and the warmer water. I struggle to get my bait out with much success. I do not have the experience that other anglers do and it is showing in a tough bite but I remind myself to keep trying as hard as I can and I spend the time learning and hoping.
Someone catches a little 30ish pounder and donates it to the galley. I ask if I clean it but only deck hands are to use the knives so I ask if I can stand over Sam's shoulder as he walks me step by step through the process. He obliges and even takes the extra time to show me the blood line behind the collar and the different angles to take. He even shows me how to remove the belly per my request and I take it to the cooks and request if I can have it as my supper tonight. You bet Nebraska... Very cool of Sam to take the time and walk me through it. It meant a lot.
Chef fixes up a to die for supper with a marinated belly as my main course. Amazing. The Captain announces we will fish the morning and must leave to head north at 9am win lose or draw. I am pumped to get one more chance in the morning. I am literally wiped and I take more Advil and head to bed. I can barely get my dirty clothes off and pour myself in to bed. I didn't even write in my journal that night. I put it all out on the rail.
It's just 7 hours later and we are positioning for the morning bite. Rinse Wash Repeat. I dawn my gear.
* Fresh boxers
* Shorts and shirt
* A belt so you never have to pull your pants up while you are hooked to a fish
* Sandals this morning as I simply can't get boots back on and I only have a few hours to go
* Glasses with strap and hat with strap ( I saw more than 1 hat get lost on the trip)
* Fishing gloves
* God bless Advil
* Put sunsreen on before the sun even comes up as you might not remember for a while
I just want 1 more fish.
My mentor recommends I try a sinker rig this morning in the gray light. I have never tried it before and he walks me through rubber banding the weight to my 130 gear. He teaches me to let the line down slow so it doesn't tangle the Sardines. I pin on a few to my hook and send it down slowly. There is no magic number or distance to how far I should let it down but I try it for a while. A few get bit down deep. I reel in and bait up one more time and let my line out again. It never gets bit.
I just wanted one more fish. Not because I am short on fillets... not because I haven't already caught a dozen fish, I just wanted 1 more fish for the joy, the fight, the experience.
It didn't happen
We pull anchor and head north
I head inside and I literally make it to the first seat inside the galley and take my sandals off. The air conditioning on the back of my neck and the dry air on my feet feel heavenly. I have goals of a glass of a shower and a nap but for now I just sit there with a grin on my face, exhausted.
I manage a cup of coffee.
All of a sudden, the boat turns, I see a deck hand flinging bait over the stern of the boat and my mentor goes flying by the open door. I take a deep breath and slip my sandals back on my feet and head out into the light...