It is amazing how fast you notice a state cop cars lights flashing when they are right in back of you. Obviously he had noticed something I was doing that he was disgruntled over. As I pulled over I realized I didn't have to wait much longer as to find out what it was! While leaning through the passenger window, I asked him what was wrong. You were going 75 mph in a 50 mile zone....and your seat belt isn't on!..License and registration please. I honestly didn't know I was going that fast officer. I am all juiced up and almost home. JUICED UP!!!!.have you been drinking???? No sir I mean I am all excited and heading home to tell my home town why. Officer?...yes?....do you like to fish?...I love it, but I need to fill this ticket out. Before you do, look at these pictures and you will see why I am so excited. He pulled his sunglasses to the tip of his nose and curiously glanced at the pictures of this magnificent fish I had just caught and the exhausted angler displaying it.....WOW, that's a tuna....Yes sir..i caught it from the surf....Your Kidden ME....I love to surf cast and I have never heard of that. Well, sir I have heard of rumors every year or so.,but here is the real thing. Hold on. I wanna call my buddy and tell him about this. He rambled toward the cruiser......lights still flashing away. Dam.....this will be a couple hundred dollars and an insurance rate increase...I hate it when I do silly things like that. Upon return he handed me a warning...for going 65 in a 55 zone...and crossed out the seat belt. I had to write something up. I am sure you are all excited...you cant have a ticket after luck like that...drive safety!!!!!!. He walked away and I was happily stunned. I did drive slower. His approach worked.
Surfcasting is not that difficult most of the time. Getting there to do it can be the hard part. This was one of those days when 4 hrs sleep and the alarm at 230 am were causing me to pull the covers back over my head. Its the fall run Mike. you have to get up...you live for this stuff. By 245 I was on the beach. Living so close is a blessing.
It smelled raucous. There was an east wind...and sizable surf. To add to it all the new moon, made life on the beach at 245 am.... ebony. The crabs were the only bites and one lousy taster choice half warm coffee didn't make it......my eyes were drooping. It wasn't even 400 yet and I was weakening. I must be getting old. I rebaited with a hefty piece of Belsans special mackerel...hurled it out past the three sets of breakers and it found the calmer water beyond the foam. I put the rod in the holder...set up the chair right next to it...plopped down, with my hood up and finger on the wide-open drag and line ....I settled in. That's called taking a nap!!
I normally am not long winded about the actual fight with a fish...those are the private memories for me to keep. But in this case...you are going to get the blow by blow description.
The strike was explosive.........and so was my reaction to it. I was out of the chair..rod in hand..lowered the tip and buried the hook...within 2 seconds. In a natural motion that I am so familiar with in the dark, I cranked the drag clockwise to a familiar position. I would guess around 10-15 lbs of drag. The fish never even flinched. Never even turned...Never even faltered... It just went out at breath taking speed. If it had been light I think that watching the line disperse so quickly would have caused me to over react. It was better that this chaos be given to me in the dark...And so...what I dreamed of seemed to be occurring. A fifty pound striper at long last. I prayed it would not spool me. I held the van staal up to the flicker of brightness from a distant street light check how much line was left. I swear I was starting to see the white Dacron backing at the end of the spool. And on a van staal reel, that is 350 yds of 20 LB test. I was tempted to play with the drag.....or palm the spool a tad in order to weather this first run....but I had discipline. I held my 11footer high and arched and made this huge striper battle the rod and reel as it fled.
It slowed down....I still had line....I had survived it to this point. When I leaned alittle into the rod, the huge fish turned and sauntered down from me for about 50 yds as I followed along from the terra firma. It must have headed in a bit too, because I gathered up some line that it gave back, while never letting any pressure off it. The whole time I repeated the mantra in my head..Pay attention..stay calm.....pay attention...stay calm...
Just when I felt like the fight would be a give and take, it roared toward England again....with the same vigor that I felt would spool me off the first. So this is what its like I thought..My god this is some enormous quarry. My confidence wavered as the spool of line melted away again. But as before. I survived it! It spun to the right and simply tugged and darted about like an enormous schoolie. I have no idea the time span that this went on for...gain a small amount of line .....she would peel it off and more, every time. I didn't need a watch to tell me my right arm was nearly asleep from no blood flow as I refused to take the arch of the rod. She would have to get off on her own...IM not going to give it to her.
After a number of nearly being spooled by this fish and the fact that it seemed to dart more than a striper.....it didn't have that traditional throbbing that a big cow will give you during the standoff. It seemed to frisky ! Could it be a huge bluefish or a shark that just isn't going through my 50 LB leader????..I stopped that kind of thinking. Pay Attention and stay calm...I went back to that mantra.
Even though I could only put 10-15 LB of drag on the fish...nonetheless my back and stomach and arm were really feeling the effect of all this. I vacillated between numb and agony. The sweat poured down my face and into my eyes...and the burning came next. The waders were way to much to wear at this point and I could feel the sweat pooling up inside them, not to mention that they made me about 110 degrees. If I gave in I knew this fish would get off. Its to big and to old...it knows more than me or any of the anglers it has faced to date. If I made a mistake..she was gone. Let me tell you, after an hour or more, confidence wanes and pain can make a loser out of anyone. God I wanted to win. I kept it arched. I kept it tight.. I made the fish fight...If I was gonna hurt..it was going to also. So it went on.
Up until the fish came into the white water, about 3 waves worth, it was shear power. Frightening power. The power I had heard about from guys that landed 50 lbers from the beach. This was it...this was the striper of my life. We all know that when a striper gets into the surf ...it becomes recharged from the oxygen in the foamy water and that is where we all lose the big cows. Now there was a hint of light and I would need it to get this monster to give up now that it was in its real realm of fighting environment.....the surf! The stars must have been aligned. The fish struggled, not from the fight...but from the surf. It began to weave and roll...but without the force and determination of a skinny water cow. It was a mass of bobbing weight. When it hit the bottom I expected to get rubbed off...but it seemed to bounce on the bottom of the wave and give me varied moments of extreme weight and then a return to buoyancy. I refused to think about it..............Pay attention and stay calm......I kept repeating it.
When I could tell that the fish was close it had seemed to...........are you ready for this??????.............DIE.?!? When it was in approx. 18 inches of remaining surf I saw its pectoral fin stick in the air as it lay on its side..............A TUNA!!!!! I threw my van staal in to the sand and ran into the water. Literally diving on the fish. I grabbed it by the gill plate and dragged it to where it was mine....where there was no water.......to land! I looked at was before me and panted like the days of running in marathons. I had caught a tuna from the surf.!!!!! When I attempted to clear my throat, it was all my body needed to set me into a bout of dry heaves from the over dose of adrenaline. It was a tuna.!!!!......it was a CULMINATION of surf casting hope and fury.........it was a tuna.!!!!
I sat there for maybe 10 minutes....it was not fully light yet and I needed a picture etc. Having gotten tuna from boats before, I realized that I had to bleed it out ......so with no true light from the sun, I saw the ocean tint alter as this great fishes nectar of life oozed into the Atlantic......the cut below the pectoral is ceremonial..........and final.
Pec-cut on a 200lb BLUEFIN
The war had taken me about 300 yds from where I started and now I dragged this miracle catch up to safe beach height and covered it with sea weed. I would run home ...get my wife and my buddy Chris for pictures and help...So as the sun rose....I ran!
I tossed my rods and gear into the sand dune grass...my waders were stripped off at the door...bathing suit on and camera grabbed....woke up Susan and called Chris. I grabbed the dog to come to the beach. His franticness added to it all and he was promptly returned. I would tell him a bout it all later.
Upon returning to the fish, The normal array of beach walkers were striding and some of my friends strided toward myself and the fish. Realizing that a permit might be an issue being a blue fin tuna and all. I hemmed and hawed about the fish and this and that, while anxiously awaiting Chris and Susan. The gulls had picked its eye already and the meat is far to precious to let it get tainted or warm. None of the on lookers were surfcasters..in fact I believe none of them are even fisherman. A long winded expose on my exploits two hours ago would be something none of them could relate to.. .....So with everyone wondering why I was doing what and where., I dragged it off toward the house....God this heavy!!. Still no help and when I saw another local acquaintance strolling down the beach I took this opportunity to have a photo. Got a second????....Sure what's up?....Can you take a picture of this fish I got?..of course....HOLY COW!! ....was all he said....the shutter clicked.....and the drag home continued.
I called Pete Belsan .. a renowned tackle shop owner and friend, to tell him of my feat and my anxiousness about the possibility of a permit being an issue. It was the right move. Pete connected me right to the top of the legal chain. Brad McHale , He allowed a variance for that fish due to its very unusual nature. He was moved by the fact that my first action upon quartering the tuna , was to donate a quarter of it to a Group Home....give away another quarter to neighbors and friends, while putting an ear to ear smile on Susan's face as I put the steaks, from the remainder, in our freezer...and that night, on the grill!
All my years of new knots...new line...new hooks...the best rods and reels...fresh bait...top grade terminal equipment etc...all was worth it....I think releasing so many big bass in my life also built up, as an old hippy would say...good Karma...Only in terms of allowing me the chance to fight this remarkable fish. Being the winner of the fight was the CULMINATION of a surfcasting life. I have fought tuna off of boats and in my opinion, they are the ultimate rod and reel fish......and with deep water to sound in and open ocean to work with, they can turn any angler into a quitter..they fight that hard!!....But this time he was in my environment. the surf....He could not sound here .There was no deep water!..he could not stay righted in the water due to the pull of the surf....He struggled to maintain his normal purposeful swimming....He was in my world....and he lost!.
FISHING IS THE SPORT OF HOPE.........Pursue hope.