Sometimes one extra coffee before that ride to the tuna grounds can be just enough to make you queasy . A little extra saliva flowed in my mouth this morn....the fight to ward off sea sickness was familiar and I actively participated in the prep work to take my mind off of my churning tummy. We Could see through the dawns light that the sea was rockin and rollin……….With my stomach doing the same….I sat down to ride out the run to the tuna grounds. This trip was a result of a last minute call , hoping that I could fill in for a buddy that cancelled on the trip at the last minute.
I love yellowfin fishing
So I bagged work and set out in the wee hours of the night for Old Saybrook marina where the charter boat was docked. Upon arrival I realized that I only knew 2 of the five guys. Many times , for economic reasons, guys try to fill the charter and hence reducing the fare. Tuna trips are usually at least $1,000 . That works out ok when cod fishing………but assuming we would be trolling makes you take turns as the rods go off. With me being the last signup…I got the last rod….five knockdowns before I got a chance. I knew this could be a long and uneventful day…but being on the sea is in my blood and even if it was an expensive boat ride…I was in the mood to enjoy it anyway. The Capt. said we were heading for ‘The Aquarium"…this tuna haunt was not as far as most and I had previous success there.. The trip was looking better………and my stomach started to settle in , as my near sea sickness subsided..
I always try to be social and inquisitive with Captains of charter boats. I can smooze with them due to my experiences with renowned Charter Men. This Capt was different. He insisted I stay in the back and converse with the other fisherman. I complied. I was suspicious of his statements…."The bite has been alittle off lately"…"They are not taking to the trolling very well as of late"…."Don’t worry you guys. I will give it my best try" (said with tongue in cheek). The hungover odor from his morning breath told me that he was not into this rough day…or the guys that were paying the good money to tolerate the conditions in hopes of wrestling a tuna. His final statement that made me assured that he did not want to waste fuel and energy trolling. I knew that was the method at this time. He knew it too…none the less , He said…"There have been a lot of small tuna out there and they are great fighters on light tackle. To a fisherman like me, that simply means…we are going to find the bonito or false Albacore…MUSHIES as they are known by frequent tuna fisherman. They are a tiny. poor tasting tuna…that will hit a stationary chunk bite and save him a lot on gas…and energy….These types of capts try to convince the novice charter members, that MUSHIES are good and that they had a GREAT day if they get into them. They also get the full price for the charter….and the boys go home with Mushy , strong tasting tunas…….and no yellow fins….which are the real reason for investing in a tuna charter.
We trolled on three rigs……….didn’t even use the outriggers. These guys were going to get a poor effort from him. They never even realized it. As expected the bonito were crashing tiny baits and causing a surface commotion. "Look guys, we are in luck…the small tuna are here for us"….Striper mike knew it was a con job. None the less the small bonito screamed off line from the little spinning rigs and the guys seemed content…especially when the Capt. said……yum ..I prefer them over yellow fin any day…………Yea RIGHT!!!!!…
I knew that they were MUSHIES…the meat turns to mush even if iced well……..I like fish…and I do not like mushies!!!!
The mate chummed up the area with butterfish tidbits and the boys began getting mushies one after another. I guess they enjoyed it without even knowing they were being had……I knew his routine…….I did not enjoy it.
As mentioned the seas were rockin and as usual the landlubbers were starting to feel the oceans swells. Three of the five began chumming the ocean with their stomach contents. The Capt. stated that he would accommodate anyone that was uncomfortable by taking them back to land. There was no mention of returning some of the charter fee though. This guy was not into his job at all. I felt bad for the other anglers, but I was an outside guest and was not about to get into a tuna argument with the Capt.….so unlike Striper Mikes nature…..I remained silent.
I am a frequent viewer of fish finders…..they are my eyes down below. I was heading toward his in the cabin to check the depth and possible presence of other fish. "Stay out of the Capt. cabin please"…His tone was emphatic…I was hoping to see the fish finder…..He replied….the TUNA are right on top. you don’t need that…..grab a rod and have some fun"
So I did. I grabbed my own Penn 30 sw and tuna rod. I hand sewed a big butterfish on the rig and with a nice slip weight attached I hoped to send the bait THROUGH the frenzied Mushies to a fish or many fish that could be more paranoid of the frantic bonito behavior and choose to sample the scrapes that slowly are sinking to the bottom. Darn I wish I could have seen that fish finder. I would go with gut instinct instead of graphics. Gut feelings are good things.
I counted off sixty feet of line and stopped. The Capt. intervened. "What are you doing?…….I gave him my explanation…His follow up reply……."well don’t tangle their lines. they are into the Tuna!!!…….Yea right.
I stood with rod in hand and the other guys piled over those tiny bonitos so that they flopped around in the hot sun. What a farce. None the less I appeared the fool cause my rod was silent.
The TAKE was as furious as any I had experienced in many years of tuna fishing. The first run threatened the spool but the massive fish finally slowed and turned back toward the boat. I yelled for the gimball belt and harness….this was no mushie. The speed of its departure assured me it was a tuna and if it were a yellow fin…it was a beauty. I could feel the bruises forming on my thighs after the first half hour of the war. The constant smashing into the gunnels was taking its toll. There was absolutely no giving up in the fishes mind. I began to suffer from his fury. Forty Five minutes and still I was not in control…WHAT A FISH. Mean while I insisted that the other guys take their lines out because I was not about to get cut off by a guy with a mushie on the line. The Capt. actually seemed mad that this battle was taking so much time……"Lets Go ..put the pressure on him "he said. Its only a 50 lb yellow fin. I have caught many 50 lb yellow fins…………this was not one.
Soon after a guy told me we were at the hour mark in the fight and finally I could feel him below me and starting to do the tuna circle of death. He was tired. I kept the pressure on as much as I could but it must be said that this was the most agonizing stand up fight in my life.…Remember, I held the state record with a blue shark over 400 lb , on stand up gear. I am no sissy.
As the fish came in to view I could judge its weight………..A LOT. Out came the harpoon, until I notice some tell tale markings….A Blue Fin Tuna, that was being an opportunistic feeder from the bonitos. "Don’t Stick It". I yelled it’s a blue fin…and the season had closed. The fish was massive 175-200 lb…Finally after nearly 1 hour and fifteen minutes….the brute was close enough to cut the leader. The Capt. never commented on how I battled that huge tuna. That irritated me….and as the Mushie fisherman looked at me with glazed eyes, I said….that is what you go on tuna charters for….Not for catching MUSHIES. The group knew they were duped and insisted that he set them up with similar rigs. He brought out two similar setups but the fight had dissipated the chum line and the feeders 60 feet below………no one got a bite.
I hope those guys really did find a way to prepare and enjoy the bonito that they took home. I didn't take any....but I did take the fatigue that comes from a grueling blue fin on stand up gear.
Remember...don't hesitate to ask permission or suggest another way on your paid charters. Captains are not the only men with fishing expertise and clever approaches. Pursue the fish of your dreams, through the skills of a cooperative charter captain....ask questions before you go......about his willingness to let you attempt alternative approaches to your fish. If it had not been for my insistence on trying my method....I would not have had the opportunity to land my largest tuna on stand up. Go get adventure.......don't wait for someone to guide you.