Vagabond 10-Day Nov 5-15 ... A Fishing Story

nicodemus

Fish, he said softly, aloud. I’ll stay with you...
Apr 10, 2012
979
1,613
The 505
Name
Nick B
Boat
African Queen
This trip was as different as possible, it seemed, from last year’s same 10-day, but equally fun, exciting and just a wee bit sporty on a couple of days.



Last year, my 100 lb. setup caught almost all my fish. This year, it was the 30-40 lb. gear. I did manage to catch a fish on every one of my six LR setups except the 100 lb. this year. Following the year’s acquisitions, I now have six rods and six reels. Yup, I’m moving up in tackle whore status. Breaking in all the virgin setups included landing a whopping 6-lb. pargo that put up a tremendous fight. I whooped his ass using my brand new Talica 20 and UC Terminator while dropper looping. Meant that setup for Guadalupe, but, hey, it got broken in… sort of. Whooped that little snapper’s ass, I did.

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And then my first ever surface iron fish on my new spinning rod and reel. Yeah, yeah, it was just a bonito, but still, surface iron fish checked off the bucket list. Damn bonito’s bitch-ass brother did pay me back later, though, by sinking two points of a Salas 6x treble past the barb into my left hand. Funny, it pinned my middle finger to the ball of my thumb, sort of a reverse fuck you, in that my middle finger was pointed back at me – so, fuck me, I guess. Well-played, bonito, well-played. Fucker. Maybe bonito have bucket lists, too, and I made that one’s…

The JB was used for medicinal purposes only, honest…

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I tried to milk the fact with my fellow fishermen that I needed bolt cutters to extricate me from a freakish near-fatal fishing accident, but most of the gang just laughed at me. Top marks though, kudos really, to Mike and Fluffy for their expert and nonchalant plucking of the hooks from my flesh.

The Usual Suspects

Shaun came down again from AK, I flew west from Albuquerque, and we met the afternoon of the 3rd for a leisurely evening of food and drink. Got up in time to see the Vagabond offload the returning 10-days catch on the 4th and get ourselves further pumped up. Then spent a leisurely day spending way too much at the tackle stores. More food and drink.

Now, Shaun had this ridiculous idea of doing whatever it took to be first in line on departure day. (I’ll upvote any post soliciting boats that still board by first-come-first-serve to change to… well, anything else). So, yeah, his brilliant plan was to get up at 1:00 a.m. Yes, you read that right. Yes, he’s a nutcase. And, yes, his damn alarm went off at 1-freakin’-a.m.

I rolled over in my bed and pulled my pillow over my head. But soon after, I heard rattling and bumping outside, and he sticks his head in the door and says “We’re first in line! I got a cart, it’s inside the gate right here, get up!” Wait a minute… My vacation has to start at 1 a.m? The FUCK?!?. By the way, the Vagabond seems to have truly gone to the birds….

One egret if by day, two ducks if by night...

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Doomed, we think, were we (Yoda, I think, am I) by the telltale tones of the fish cart being pushed onto the hotel grounds, and by the time I got my fat ass out of bed and got ready, and we loaded the cart, some of the usual suspects on this trip had usurped us as leaders in line! The trio noted below. Fuckers! We think they heard our cart, as they were at the same hotel, and sneakily got out first while we were bumbling about. It’s a common thing to do at 1:00 in the morning. Bumble about, that is.

Anyway, thus began one long-ass wait, though it was enjoyably spent getting reacquainted with a bunch of guys from last year’s trip and a couple other rogue frequent long-range fishers that we’d fished with on different trips in the past – Bill/Billy/Point Loma Bill who fishes LR something like 100 days a year. Fucker. (Envious much, Nick?). And John G, another Vagabond regular. Other returnees included the trio of Tim, Rodney (Three Strikes You’re Out Rodney, more on that later) and Steve (the aforementioned usurpers/fuckers)… this particular Tim is not to be confused with Texas Tim.

Texas Tim, also present again on this trip, brings his own, shall we say, unique persona to this group. I don’t know if he entirely qualifies as “That Guy,” but I’ll say this: I believe he should be required to loudly declare “Going out!” every time he puts any bait, lure or line in the water. Just to provide the rest of us with a little spatial awareness of where precisely he is at the moment.

Another long timer on this trip who missed last year was back, Steve, aka Warlord, though his brother wasn’t. Also returning was Arkansatuna, or Fred as most people know him, who shared a room with trip regular, Chris. Fred’s brother also didn’t make it. The hell’s up with brothers these days? Slackers. (You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?) Fred apparently can call some hogs at night (he is from Arkansas, after all), so rumor has it that Chris is looking into developing earplugs rated at >50 dB for next year’s trip. He probably listened to the soothing sounds of the “The Sound of Silence” on his drive home…

Let’s see… Mike and Fifty Cent were back (don’t ask about Fifty, I did, but have forgotten the twists and turns leading to that monetary nickname). A handful or so of other ragamuffins rounded out our 20 fishermen. Oh, one of which was Phil, aka Phishy Phil, or more recently Squishy Phil (poor little birdy), and anecdotally Philthy Phil. We’ll not go into the story about that last moniker as he’s on this forum and we’re on a trip together next year. Better safe than sorry.

Mike Lackey at the helm, Fluffy, Adam, Tommy and Seth holding down the floating fort, with Brandon and Ola in the galley feeding our famished fisherman’s faces.

The cast is set, the play is on, enough talk of people, bring on the fishies…

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Potential Destinations

Bluefin to the west were proving recently scarce. Their yellow cousins at the Loop seemed to be joining them lately, as well. Damn colluding tuna fish. But no worries! The Ridge and Rocks awaited us and the reports were promising. Off to the 13 Fathom Spot before noon, and hopes were high, stories were told and retold, well-embellished since their last telling, rods were rigged, line was spooled, hooks and lure ultimately tied on, and by Sunday noonish, we were on the troll…

The Fishing – Day 1

The troll proved unproductive, the wahoo proved MIA, but after a couple circlings of the proverbial wagon, Mike had us on some yellowfin. The afternoon and evening, into dark and later in the dark, proved to be some very good tuna fishing. Yes, weeding through the skippies and bones was at times necessary. But by day’s end, most of us had close to a daily limit on 20-40 lb. tuna. The dodos were few and far between, but I don’t think that disappointed anybody on day one of a 10-day trip. Lackey commented, "It says something when guys are shaking off 20 lb. yellowfin at the Ridge. Amen to that.

This was my 5th LR trip, five years running. These were by far the best schoolie Ridge tuna I’ve had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of. We started out with 25-30 lb. fluoro leader. I went straight 40 mono by two hours into the bite and it made no difference. 1/0 or 2/0 hooks worked just fine.

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The Fishing Catching – Day 2

Some guys stayed up late or got up early and experienced some good Zero-Dark-Thirty fishing. I got up around 4 a.m. and hit the rail. This day was maybe the best single day of LR fishing I’ve experienced in my short LR career, maybe not for size, but definitely for catching. If you so desired, you could probably have been on a fish – yellowfin, skippy, bonito, dodo, whatever – for some 75% or more of your time at the rail. And for the record (just so some future skippy doesn’t put me on HIS bucket list for a future treble hook in the hand) those skipjack fight like a mofo! I released all of my skipjack healthy and unharmed (don’t want to get on their bad side). 😎

Again, straight 40lb mono got bit well, and 1/0 or 2/0 J hooks did the trick. I think Lackey got a popper fish and some also came in on the irons – yo yo style and surface.

I experimented with three setups on these nicer grade tuna. My light outfit is a Torium 20 on a little 6.5ft Calstar rated 20-50. Next up, an Avet JX 6.0 single speed on a Phenix Axis 720xh. Then, and really only to break in the rod and reel, a Fathom 40n on a Calstar 875xh.

The latter two setups needed their cherry popped, and popped it was. Hell, they were pretty much gang-raped. In a good way. But for me, with limited experience, it was really neat to notice the differences. My lighter setup was fine, did the trick, caught a bunch of fish. The >30lb tuna took a little longer, but that was probably due to starting with a 30lb topshot on that reel. The Avet/Phenix was primo for these fish. And when I broke out the Fathom/Calstar, the fight was noticeably shorter and easier.

I ask a lot of questions on BD about stuff I’ve never used, done, experienced, etc. Great place to get info. But there is no substitute for actually using gear/techniques/tackle, and catching fish with it.

The highlight of my day came mid-afternoon. I’d caught a couple or three of the nicer tuna on the Fathom setup and noticed how easy it was to do what Mike is always preaching: Slow, steady, smooth fighting technique subdues fish quicker. So, the tuna is hooked, makes a decent run, maybe two, usually out and/or down. Fish gets closer to boat and just slowly, steadily work it up through its circles.

When I hooked another seemingly nice tuna, and it did exactly as described above, I was calm and collected, breathing through my nose, had the fish in the corner circling, and Fluffy comes over with a gaff and says, “It’s a wahoo!” Well, I just keep winding and The Fluff sinks a gaff in and the only wahoo of the day is landed. On straight mono. Am I bad-ass, or what? Okay, I’ll take lucky. A picture was ostensibly taken on my new camera by someone, but when I opened my gallery, it just wasn’t there. So, here’s Shaun with a nice grade tuna.

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The Catching Fishing – Day 3

Again, some stayed up late or got up in the wee hours to add to their bounty. Again, I opted to sleep in to around 4 a.m. We fished the morning for everyone to get what they wanted on tuna fish, then, with weather due to come in, we put out the troll gear and started the Hoo-Hunt. But again, those skinny bastards played hide-and-seek with us… and won.

Now, here is where it gets sort of interesting, at least for me. I know Mike is not big on fishing for grouper. It’s a conservation thing with him, and I get that. Me, I just want to catch a grouper, just one, doesn’t have to be huge, but I’d love a grouper. So, Mike, he says we’re going to a shallower spot to actually target grouper and maybe some yellowtail, though the yellows around had been on the small side. Right on!

Once anchored, the procedure was this: you catch your own little skipjack, deckhand puts it on your heaviest setup, and you flyline that little fucker out there. Easy-peasy.

So, one or two people get bit, reel in a mangled skippie. One of those people was Rodney. Then, I come to understand the concept of “Pinned to the Rail.” Not quite personally, it wasn’t me, but Shaun is on! And on in a big way. It looked like he had his own small entourage of people around, coaching, helping, shouting shit in his ear I’m sure he never heard. One guy had him by the belt to keep him on the boat. A deckhand had to help him lift the rod to let someone go under. And then… Wah-wahhhh… yep, that ol’ grouper sang the grouper theme song by Queen – We will, we will rock you! Suffering succotash.

Now, Shaun suffers from something called essential tremors. Mostly affects his hands and arms. It’s actually painful at times watching him try to tie a knot, or worse still, make a wire leader. So, I step in often and help. But when the coffee comes sloshing out before he can get a sip, well, I just laugh. I mean, you have to, right? But after the adrenaline rush of fighting that behemoth grouper, the most unusual thing happened – Shaun’s hands were steady as a rock (no pun intended). I think that damn grouper rocked the tremor right out of him! Didn’t last, but wow, how trippy is that?

Then Rodney is on! And off. Strike two. One or two more bites and misses, nada y pues nada for me. But then… Rodney is on again! And off. Strike three, you’re out. Ergo, Three Strikes You’re Out Rodney.

We tooled about a bit, dropped for some yellows for next to nothing (well, I got that giant pargo), and finally Mike makes the call: We’re headed to the rocks, chill out, read, eat, sleep, and… baton down you’re your tackle boxes, etc., upper deck is closed, gonna get a tad bumpy. Baton down the hatches! Predicted arrival at the Rocks was mid-morning.

It was tough to get much sleep that night, and only worsened the following day.




Day 4 – The Rocks were Rocking

The skinny on the skinnies was that almost all fish were coming on bait. A ½ to 1 oz sliding sinker had been key. Virtually no troll fish and nothing on hardware. Given conditions, whitecaps and a constant 25+ knot wind, some of use went up as heavy as 2 oz on the sinkers. Fishing had mostly been only mediocre, at best, or so word had it.

Well, trolling rods went out and one got bit in short order. Wahoo! Then a bomb fish from the bow! And a bait fish at the stern! Then a shark off the port side – oops! It was actually a decent drift with 8-10 fish boated and the assorted normal losses. Tough fishing when you have to battle the weather bounce as well as your fish.

I got a nice one on bait.

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It actually turned into a real good day, with around 40 wahoo landed despite conditions that did not let up. Surprisingly, a number of troll fish were caught, with the pink Nomad 220 out-catching by a large margin. And one or two others, I think, on the bomb or jig. Several of us took tumbles at times, nothing serious, but definitely made most of us feel upright-challenged.



I landed 3 fish, all on bait…I think. Maybe that day I got one trolling. The days sort of blur when one waits till after the trip to write it up. I did catch one of my 5 total wahoo on the troll, so I’ll say I caught it today. Funny thing, our first year fishing wahoo, Shaun and I went halvsies on a MagTracker (cheap bastards). First fish came on it back then, with me on the troll. I had to pee, told Shaun to watch my rod, heard “Hook Up!!” as I’m just exiting the bathroom, and ran out, grabbed the rod from Shaun, and landed a 50 lb. hoo. Hey, what are friends for?

So this day, everyone is getting soaked by the spray coming off the bow. And I foolishly didn’t bring adequate rain gear. I’d also swapped out my trolling lure for heavy dropper looping, so when my turn to troll came up, I asked Shaun if I could borrow his setup, which was ready to troll. No problemo. So, thinks me, since Shaun is well dressed in actual rain gear, why doesn’t he just stand out there and watch “my” rod for me, while I hunker down at the door to the galley to stay dry? Sure, he says, why not?

Naturally, a few minutes later, “Hook Up!” Yep, “I” got bit on Shaun’s rod, with Shaun’s lure, with Shaun standing watch and pulling the rod from the clips. We make a good team that way. What a pal. Wahoo #4 onboard.

We made a move to try for bait, with hopes of hitting the bank for yellowtail at some point that night or next morning. Sharks ate first two rigs before they could get a single mack into the boat. Scratch the bait fishing. Well, at least scratch the fishing for bait. Someone decided the leftover pork chops from dinner might make a good bait for… well, who knows? I deny any knowledge of anything hooked on the chop.

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Day 5 – Back to Fishing

After another bouncy night, we woke to a slightly reduced chop (no pun intended), but still pretty sporty. I can’t recall if the American Angler was with us yesterday, I think it was, but this morning both the Intrepid and Angler were sharing space with us. And fishing had turned off. I managed to pick up another fish on bait.

With the fish under pressure and only a couple landed here and there, Mike made the run to the banks. It would prove mostly futile, I think one nice 30+ lb yellowtail was landed. We came back to the fleet at the rocks, but the bite was not to be. We settled in for the night hoping for better fishing in the morning.

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Day 6 – Back to Catching!

With the weather down a bit more, but the other two boats still at the rocks with us, it was a pleasant surprise to get on some willing wahoo again. Shaun had suffered a tough trip on the skinnies, but got on the board with a beauty around 50#. And with a couple more fish landed, everyone had at least one wahoo. I got lucky again, and landed 5 for the trip, tying me for second with a handful of others, with two people taking top honors with 6 fish. A few more fish were caught on bombs this morning.

By early afternoon, we needed to start the trek back uphill, with plans to get on some yellows on the beach the following day around noon.

Shaun hears a 'Hoo

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Day 7 – Restful and Yellow

It was refreshing to sail in calm seas and sleep in as late as you wanted. We would get to the Beach around noon. From there, it was hop here, hop there, throw bait, get some boils, pull on some yellows, pull on more bonito. Wash rinse and repeat for the afternoon until dark, with most of us getting around a daily limit on ‘tails. No size, probably a 10-12 lb. average, but some fun action and delicious Hamachi in the RSW tanks. I wanted to fill my tags with the yellows, but came up 3 short. No worries, reds, lings and rockfish were on the slate for the next day.

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Day 8 – Variety Wraps it Up and Tag #30

We motored overnight again, flat calm seas, woke up in the morning and continued the tackle breakdown and clean up.

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We started out late morning going for reds. First several stops were iterations on “Red hot red stop? Not.” But a few keeper lings started coming aboard, and that’s what I wanted. For whatever reason, as the time to head home was near, I was still blanked. Finally, I got a little keeper ling. And almost immediately, someone who didn’t want there’s offered it to me. Sure, why not. So that left me with one tag left and I figured I’d stop there, why get greedy? (Because 29 is so much less than 30, right? Right?!).

Anyway, twenty-nine tags used, and I call it a trip, a fantastic trip. I crank my dropper loop up at a rapid rate only to be stopped in short order by a thump and a bend in the rod. Then a bigger bend. Whoa, a head shake! Double Whoa, it’s pulling drag! King of the lings I’m thinking. But muscle memory takes over and tells me it’s a yellowtail. Fluffy wanders over…

Fluffy: Nice rod bend, whatcha got?

Me: Yellowtail.

Fluffy: No way.

Me: Way.

Fluffy: There are no yellowtail out here.

Me: Dude. Trust me, it’s a yellowtail.

Fluffy: I don’t think so.

Me: Yellowtail, yellowtail, yellowtail…

Fluffy: Not, not, not…

Me: Listen you little fucking whippersnapper, this is my fifth long range trip, count’em, five! I must have caught fifty, maybe even SIXTY damn yellowtails in my career, and I sure as shit know when I have one on my line after catching soooooo many!

(Okay, maybe I just thought that would have been funny as hell to say, and only thought it. Maybe even only thought it well after the fact…)

Me (in actuality): It’s a yellowtail.

And it was. Take that, Fluffy! Actually, Fluffy is probably the best and most enjoyable deckhand/captain I’ve fished with.

And that, my friends, is a wrap. Until we meet again!
 

CMYSIX

Member
  • Aug 22, 2020
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    Opelika al
    Name
    Quinn L Chenelle
    Boat
    Independence
    with no pics of the food, this is all a little hard to believe. but the Capt. does say let the deck hands unhook fish so you don't get hurt.
     
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    Warlord

    Member
    Jul 7, 2005
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    Granada Hills, CA
    Name
    Steve
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    22' Supreme Wakeboard Boat
    Nice write up, Nick! To any that might possibly concerned, upon my return, I tested negative for Covid. The Urgent Care Dr. diagnosed bronchitis. That made for one of my toughest trips!

    On another note, despite Brandon’s skill in the galley, I lost 7 1/2 pounds. I was not trying to lose but I didn’t want to gain anything as on past trips!

    See you next year,
    Steve
     
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    Tom123

    Member
    Jan 31, 2020
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    Name
    Tom
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    None
    Excellent report! You got an amazing mixed bag of fish including a beautiful snapper.

    Too bad about that one bonie getting ya back. Glad to hear you were able to walk it off.

    Your boy Shaun sounds like a cool dude. Cool tidbits about some of the others. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.
     
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    nicodemus

    Fish, he said softly, aloud. I’ll stay with you...
    Apr 10, 2012
    979
    1,613
    The 505
    Name
    Nick B
    Boat
    African Queen
    Nice write up, Nick! To any that might possibly concerned, upon my return, I tested negative for Covid. The Urgent Care Dr. diagnosed bronchitis. That made for one of my toughest trips!

    On another note, despite Brandon’s skill in the galley, I lost 7 1/2 pounds. I was not trying to lose but I didn’t want to gain anything as on past trips!

    See you next year,
    Steve
    You. Lost. 7.5 pounds. On a long range trip? What was your strategy, sleeping through breakfast? :D
     
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    nicodemus

    Fish, he said softly, aloud. I’ll stay with you...
    Apr 10, 2012
    979
    1,613
    The 505
    Name
    Nick B
    Boat
    African Queen
    Excellent report! You got an amazing mixed bag of fish including a beautiful snapper.

    Too bad about that one bonie getting ya back. Glad to hear you were able to walk it off.

    Your boy Shaun sounds like a cool dude. Cool tidbits about some of the others. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.
    I'm going to tell him that he's "my boy." Thank you for noting that. LOL
     
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    arkansastuna

    Newbie
    Aug 3, 2009
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    heber springs ar. usa
    Name
    Fred Belli
    Boat
    any platform
    Great write up Nick. Lots of fun fishing with this group. Never a dull moment. Texas Tim what a character, wind , wind, Tim, what do you think I am doing? Playing parcheesee ? Will never forget that one. Yes, we start the trip early by getting in line early. Going to miss you on next year's trip. Still have a ways to go to get to the hills of Arkansas and back to reality. Oh, by the way, my cough has stopped. Hang in there Steve. Next year stay out of my stateroom and you won't get a cough.
     
    Warlord
    Warlord
    I’ll take exception to Tim being “that guy”! He was courteous and friendly. His skills might not be up to your standards but I’ll welcome him on any of my trips.
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    arkansastuna
    arkansastuna
    Steve, I like Tim and have had a great time fishing with him the last 2 years. His fishing skills are better than mine, he is always hooked up. He is a character that says a lot of funny things and we have become good friends. He even invited me to go down to Texas and fish with him there
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    nicodemus

    Fish, he said softly, aloud. I’ll stay with you...
    Apr 10, 2012
    979
    1,613
    The 505
    Name
    Nick B
    Boat
    African Queen
    Great write up Nick. Lots of fun fishing with this group. Never a dull moment. Texas Tim what a character, wind , wind, Tim, what do you think I am doing? Playing parcheesee ? Will never forget that one. Yes, we start the trip early by getting in line early. Going to miss you on next year's trip. Still have a ways to go to get to the hills of Arkansas and back to reality. Oh, by the way, my cough has stopped. Hang in there Steve. Next year stay out of my stateroom and you won't get a cough.
    I may still make it next year, Fred. Don't discount me yet. Too much fun to miss out on, work be damned.
     
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