I Was At A Sport Fishing Museum
My first sports fishing trip on the ocean came in mid-summer 1967 on a mission to enlight people about care concerning breast cancer; my father told me and my brother Steven that he was taking us the following Saturday night. This being a Tuesday, we couldn’t sleep at night for the rest of the week. Our heads were full of wonder about the possibilities, and ideas about what it would be like.
We had been on small boats many times, but never a boat as large as the sport fishing boats dad had been going out on with his friends at a sport fishing museum. He always brought back large fish: Albacore, Yellowtail, Rock Cod, Calico Bass, Barracuda, Ling Cod, you name it. We were very excited, and could hardly wait for Saturday to come, we just knew that big hookups were coming our way too.
Saturday came none too soon for us. We were to leave that night at 11:00 PM, for an all-day trip to the Coronado Islands off the coast of Southern California. We were headed for the outer bank fishing area; there was an El Nino current, and big schools of Tuna were coming in relatively close to the islands. Dad was all smiles; you could see he was proud to bring us on this particular trip. Two friends of his were coming too, and they teased my brother and me to no end about these fish whipping our butts and so forth. That just made us more eager to get on with it. The idea of a fish fighting so hard excited us even more. Visions were plentiful on this day.
The boat set out at 11:00 as scheduled. I and my brother were in seventh heaven. There was not a place onboard we didn’t find our way into. The skipper let us in the pilot house, and we were awed by the controls, radar, sonar fish finders, and the compass and radio system. Skip talked to us about everything, and I remember it all like it was yesterday. We finally went to the bunkroom and fell asleep restlessly.
The sound of thumping on deck woke us up the next morning…
People were shouting loudly and from the sound of it, big fish were slapping the deck with their strong tails. It was like nothing we had ever heard before, but Steven and I knew it was jackpot time. We excitedly headed for the upper deck and our fishing poles.
When we got on deck, it was 8:30 AM and a high fish were thrashing the deck right in front of our eyes. The deckhand, ‘Whitey’ had just removed the gaff after pulling the fish from the water for the angler who had caught it. It was a 12-16 Lb Yellowtail, and along the decks, it seemed like everyone was hooked up. Poles were bent everywhere, and smiles were on everyone faces, including ours.
We moved as quickly as we could to retrieve our poles, which had been rigged with 8″ Blue and White Apollo Jigs the night before. Jocko, a friend of my dads, saw us and called us over to see him. He was laughing at us and teasing that we were not good fishermen if we didn’t get our line wet in one minute.
I had pretty good experience at a sport fishing museum casting a conventional rig and was real good at it. My brother Steve was no slouch either; we cast out for quite a distance. Fish were boiling in the water. You could see them breaking the surface, and just under it feeding on the chum the deckhands had thrown them. I started retrieving my Jig right after it had hit the water. I wanted to keep it on the surface, or just under it, because the fish were right there.
About my third cast, I got a hookup that doubled my rod over
The line was pealing off my reel, so I adjusted my drag a little tighter. Still, the line kept going and I didn’t know what to do. My father showed up right about that time and told me to tighten the drag a little more and let the fish have his head. Meaning lets him run for a minute. I did as instructed, awed at the power I felt pulling on my rod. I had caught big fish before, but nothing like this.
As the fish ran, it changed direction several times. Once toward the boat, causing my line to go slack, and once towards the bow. I had been at this for about ten minutes, pulling in slack line as fast as I could, and alternately walking along the side of the gunnel rail as the fish took me for a walk. Dad was right there encouraging me, Jocko and his friend Claude were egging me on and predicting the fish would wipe my butt, all in fun.
I was pretty tired, my arms were locked-up from holding weight and tension for about 20 minutes already, but I could tell the fish was getting weaker all the time. I’d get him where I could see him struggle, and he’d run full steam again, twice right under the boat. Finally, I got him to the side of the boat where Whitey could gaff him.
This was a “Bigeye Tuna” he said, and it’s going to go about eighty pounds. I could not believe how big he was when pulled onto the deck. It took Jocko and Whitey both to get him aboard using two gaffs. As the fish hit the deck, he slapped it hard with his tail for about one minute. Whitey smacked him on the top of the head with a ‘Louisville Slugger,’ just to quite him down. I was grinning from ear-to-ear, and dad was congratulating me to no end.
Steven, my brother, had caught two Yellowtail, averaging about 14-20 Lbs each, and had his Jig back in the water. We caught allot of fish that day, but none as large as my Bigeye was. I didn’t get the Jackpot money because I never got in the Jackpot the night before. My Bigeye weighted in at 86 pounds 14 ounces; the biggest fish boarded that day. It filled the bathtub from end-to-end when we got home. His tail stuck out of the end of the bathtub about eight inches; he sure was big.
We fished all that morning and early afternoon. I caught a bag full of Yellowtail and Albacore, and a few Barracuda to boot. It seems they run in packs together. That was a great first trip. My dad knew we were going to catch fish we all lived on the military diet during the vacation; that’s why he took us. He explained later that he hadn’t taken us before because he didn’t think we could land big fish yet. Well, of course, I said I was ready for this trip. He just laughed at me and rubbed my swollen head.