I just got back from a special trip aboard the Sushi Wagon out of Port Canaveral. My long-time great friend Charlie Tudor invited me again, but this time the planets aligned and I was able to say yes.
We loaded up his new 37′ Freeman and eased out of the slip at 2 am. With confidence from the Flir infrared camera and the radar, we ran 120 nautical miles in the dark to arrive at a distant weather buoy at first light.
The buoy is anchored in several thousand feet of the bluest water and becomes an amazing food station for passing gamefish. It is placed and maintained by NOAA as a weather station. It is a popular destination and the buoy gets much more traffic thanks to the increased range and speed of modern center console boats.
It is still something special to pull up and anticipate what might me lurking.
We shared the buoy with two other boats on this occasion, but there was plenty of room for all. The number of boats can certainly effect the bite as the tuna get skittish with the pressure.
We set out our spread and very quickly hooked up to a pair of nice dolphin. Big boils erupted and the first tuna were seen launching into the air as they crashed baits leaving huge frothy boils in the water.
Rigger clips popped and rods would go down hard as a mix of 50 to 60-pound yellowfin and nice dolphin pounded our baits as we made passes through the bite zone.
During one pass, the shotgun began to dump enough line to get everyone’s undivided attention. Luckily the fish stopped blazing off in time and we slowly began to gain line. We landed the other fish that had hooked up in the flurry and now we focused on the last one. Josh did a great job and gained line a little at a time. After a short while, the AFTCO harness came out and was a welcomed relief.
We were using stand up 50’s and an 80-Pound fluorocarbon leader, so we only dared so much pressure. The fish stayed deep but with many short pumps we tipped its head upward to gain back precious lengths of line. The progress would stall at times, but the moments of upward motion were encouraging. The fish planed out to the surface three times, but as we closed the gap with the boat, the tuna would make another dive. We did get a great look at the fish and though no one wanted to say it, we knew it would break 100-pound mark, which for our area is a rare event.
We lied to Josh, telling him we could see his fish on the sounder at 150-feet and occasionally it was, but much of the time it was more like 300-feet, but who is counting.
It kept his spirit up and he continued to battle it out an inch at a time. After an hour and a half of give and take, the tuna came up swimming away from the stern. I backed the boat towards the fish while Josh used short pumps to keep the pressure up while we closed the gap. The boys were ready with two gaffs and the moment of truth came. A huge sigh of relief expelled from everyone as the fish cleared the gunnel and slapped on the deck. It was a fat one and we were all hooting and celebrating.
A long fight like that on relatively light leader is nerve racking so it is a sense of relief as much as joy.
We took our time to savor the moment and get some good shots while it still had color.
We made “Bloodydecks” proud as everyone was covered with blood from trying to hold it up for pictures. We finally nestled it into an ice bath and set back out to try and get another.
We continued to pick at a tuna here and there with dolphin attacks in between. It was beautiful weather, nice seas, cooler air temps and great fishing.
The bite faded out around noon and we wanted to save some time in case we found fish on the ride home. We cleaned up for the run, with baits still at the ready. A couple more dolphin under a few sparse birds was all we encountered on the ride and the Gulf Stream was pretty bumpy thanks to a north wind, but the Freeman slices through it all and we arrived home in the daylight which is also a rare treat for this trip.
Thanks to Charlie and crew and when can we go back? I’ll be ready!