It has been far too long, but that is because your reporter has failed to do anything worth mentioning, unless you count work, and who does that?
On Friday, I was summoned by Secret Skipper to travel once again to a location that I am not allowed to disclose, to yank on knife jigs all night long for the bluefin that I rarely catch.
We tried to get David or Connor to go, but they already knew that our plan was to make them stay awake all night and ceaselessly drop these jigs down on heavy gear and then reel them back up in the dark until dawn, when we surrender like vampires slinking back to our coffins before the sun scorches us. How is that not fun?
So once again, it was just the two old men of the sea.
We met at Cabrillo right at high tide, so the ramp was almost level and easy. The forecast was for a bunch of crappy washing-machine chop that would await us at our ultra-secret location. That weatherman was correct.
On the way out at 7:30 pm, we stopped at Mike's bait barge to get the best sardines and mackerel that either of us have ever seen in nearly 60 years of fishing live bait. It was slimey, quick and big. It was also unnecessary.
We punched out to sea and cleared the end of an unnamed island where the buffalo roam.
Once we did that, we noticed the glow of the fleet, like a city from space, with all of the big sport boats at the secret spot.
We pounded along until we were among them. Most of the major sport boats were either on station, or arriving. The fleet was spread out over a very wide area, with little solar systems of boats orbiting one another and chasing meter marks in a vaster universe of distant, hopeful lights.
Skipper was using his 50 international and I had my sleeker Calstar rail rod with a Talica 25 spooled with 100# spectra to a hundred yards of 100# mono. I selected a 400 gram Rip Roller, which was the largest jig I had. I had swapped out the factory hooks for the much bigger stinger hooks that Breck at Hogan's Tackle had counseled me to install, so I was confident in that department. We knew we were going to get blown around and would have a hard time getting down, so bigger seemed better.
We drove around listening to Jack FM and all of the personal injury lawyer ads. I know those jingles by heart. When we encountered marks, which were anywhere from 150 to 400 feet down, we would stop and drop.
Our little boat would invariably swing bow downwind and our lures would flag behind like we were trolling. The wind was pushing us around more than the bigger boats and we had so much scope that it was hard to know if we made the depth where we metered fish that were probably miles away by the time we put our jigs in the zone
We were in touch with one of our code friends (Cody Friendman), who has been very successful on prior outings when we were fishing the same water for nothing. He kept encouraging us by occasionally checking in to let us know that it sucked for him, too.
Your narrator was getting cranky around 4 am, when we finally observed someone in a turquoise hoodie taking a knee at the rail. They eventually dragged what looked like a 50 pound plus tuna over the rail.
It gave us a bit of hope that after 7 hours we might get to be like them.
When it was close to the end of the night, we commiserated that this night-time arm wrestling does not seem to pay off for us. We were about to just quit while we were behind when we noticed that we had also hopelessly tangled our lines.
It came up in a big wad and I just cut the spectra above the mono on my rig to be done with it, even though it would cost me the professional splice connection from Hogans.
I was going to just heave it into the trash amidst my self-loathing, but my cheapness overcame other emotions and I ended up trying to put the mono back on with a series of really shitty Albrights that did not make me proud . Finally, I got one to hold up and figured I could get by, but I was done with this crap. I washed off the jig in fresh water and put it away. Skipper did the same thing and our rods were in the rocket launchers when Cody called to let us know he had just dumped a fish and asked if we had hung one. We told him that this whole thing was stupid and we were cold, old and done.
He asked us if we were grown men and suggested, in harsh terms, that we should drop back down for the last of the gray light and die like fisherman.
"Tie it back on and drop it down. There is still 15 minutes of usable darkness."
"Hey man, you are not the boss of me. You can't make me do this by shaming me", was what I was thinking as I got the jig out, made the connection and let it fall because he was calling me a pussy.
At about 200 feet, my spool stopped revolving. I started to get excited and looked over at Skipper to make sure he hadn't picked me up, but he was till dropping.
"I think I just got stopped."
I started winding down into a solid hookset as the rod went bendo. Skipper reeled in and the fight was on. The fish gave a lot of head shakes and worried me. I backed off just bit on the drag because I started thinking about that knot. The fish kind of milled around and I was able to sneak back a lot of line. I wound through the connection and put my drag back where I wanted it. I decided to take a knee and rail him up. It came up pretty steadily. We were hoping that it was over 50 pounds. It was at color in about 10-12 minutes and then took a hard turn for the props. I had to banjo twang the mono over the cowling covers on the outboards to chase it. That was scary, but then it settled into some really big pinwheels as it gradually came more into view as the darkness gave way to daylight.
When it came into full view about 30 minutes into the fight, we were alarmed, because it was six feet long and smoking that jig like a cigar. That meant it was not sawing the line, which was a good thing.
Skipper got a gaff shot into its throat as I backed off the drag, put the rod into a holder and fumbled around for the other gaff, which I planted in its head right as it shook Skipper's gaff-shot free. Skipper sunk the gaff right back into its eye socket and then we heaved it up. It was not a mighty enough heave and the fish slid back. We tried again and got it part way onto the rail, but failed to get it past the midpoint. We finally choked up on the gaffs right to the shank of the hook and were able to just barely get it flop onto the deck with a giant thud as we fell backward with it and tried to get out of the way. If it had weighed ten more pounds I do not think that we could have prevailed.
Skipper and I hugged each other like it was Pride Month and hooted like the raging old chimps we know ourselves to be.
The fish was bigger than your reporter, who had to cut the jig out of its mouth because it was so solidly hooked with both stingers.
We could not move it and got it into the kill bag condom style.
Even after we cut off the head, it still would not fit and we needed the tail to move it around with a rope.We iced it down and drove over to San Clemente to let it cool off while we tried for yellowtail (seals would not let us). We caught and released a bunch of bass and big bonito. We trolled back toward home with Nomads and stopped on many beautiful paddies that were not holding fish.We stopped to cut it up in the lee at Catalina on the way back.
The ramp was again pleasantly level as we got back to Pedro almost 24 hours after departure.
We were able to scramble a pile of our friends and family over for unlimited toro and other treats.Connor held court at the eatery after once again not joining us for the fishing part of the tripDavid and Wendy set up a great Poke' bar for our guests, who all brought tons of sides and fun beverages.
Your reporter got to clean up and hang out with sister Mary Lou at the cutting board.We had planned on searing some too, but the Poke' bar did everyone in and we had to leave room for alcohol.
David showed everyone the way with his leadership in buffet (Hey that rhymes.)This tuna was by far and away your reporter's personal best. It was 66 inches long at the fork and 50 inches in girth. It taped out at 206, but that involves formulaic theory. No matter what, it qualified as the pig on a jig I have yearned for all these years.
I owe Cody a debt of gratitude for shaming me off my plan of bitterly giving up and instead getting to once again remember how lucky I am. It is yet another reminder that