Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Big One

Onboard Wandering Dolphin we try to do some fishing on every offshore passage.  I have never been much of a fisherman, but  even back in my backpacking days in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana I would carry in a little tackle box and pole because every now and then I would chance upon a spot where the fish didn’t care that I had no skill.  These streams and lakes were few and far between but once I found one I had a ball.  It seemed like in these places the fish had just lost their minds and were committing suicide in my frying pan.  I remember one lake where we caught quite a few fish with just a bare hook!  Needless to say, one day of fishing like that would keep me packing in gear for a couple of years.
It has been very much the same since we moved on our boat.  We have trailed a line for thousands of miles and only caught a few fish but the fun we had pulling in those Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Barracuda, and yes, even once a Blue Marlin, have kept me throwing a line over the side offshore.
Like I said, we use a hand line so our gear cost us very little but every saltwater, offshore lure is worth any where from ten to twelve bucks and lately it seemed like we were pulling in a lot of empty lines.  Before our trip to Grenada I had the bright idea to switch out the 50 pound test line for 200...  The thought was that perhaps it wouldn’t constantly be snapped off when a big fish decided to bite.  Well it worked.

We had been offshore for two days before any of us felt like doing some fishing.  I set up the new handline with a bungee cord on the bitter end and hooked it all up, let all 100 feet out with our brand new Pink tuna lure on the end.  We quickly forgot about it.  No one on our boat has a lot of faith in the fishing prowess of the captain so other things quickly grab our interest.  
The line hadn’t been in the water for more than 20 minutes though before Rebecca said,
“Hey I think we caught something!  Look at the bungee all stretched out.”

Sure enough when I put on the leather gloves and started to pull it was obvious we had a big one.  I noticed that our speed had actually dropped a full two knots as  well!  I rounded us up into the wind so we were pinching and it slowed us down  to around three knots.  I positioned myself by the starboard rail and tried to pull in on the line.  It didn’t budge!  I sat there, perplexed and said,
“Honey I think I am going to have to cut it off, I can’t do anything with it.”

“Oh no you don’t we just bought all that new line, steel leader and lure!  That’s like $35 bucks, we gotta catch this fish!”  Beck looked at me as she said this with that look she has, the one that says, without saying, “Don’t be a wuss Tofer!”  The kids were all in the cockpit now and it was pretty obvious that they were all on the same page too.  I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I can take a hint, also I didn’t want my kids to think I was a wuss.  I shrugged my shoulders, sat back down and started to pull on the line.  I had to lean way forward (aft though since I was facing the back of the boat) and use all of my 210 pounds and negligible 44 year old unused muscle power to pull the line in a foot at a time.  With every pull Beck, who had positioned herself right behind me on deck with the hand reel, would take a wrap on the plastic hand reel.  She had to hold the weight for a second every time I leaned forward.  We began the long hard fight with a monster!  As I pulled I instructed the kids on getting the 6 foot gaff out and we began to talk through the process of winching this huge fish in once it was alongside.  The kids were debating what it might be,


It’s a shark.”  Kaleb said with certainty.  “We can’t catch a huge shark, it would eat us so we should just cut the line now.”  

We decided if Kaleb was right we would go ahead and cut the line but we still wanted to see it.  One of the boys, I was to tired at the time to note which one, said it had to be a whale.  EmilyAnne kept looking back giving us a running commentary about the relative nearness of the monster. 


At one point she said she saw a huge fin break the surface.  

This whole time Beck and I could feel it suddenly pull extra hard like it could see the boat and knew it was going to be a meal. Then it would go slack for a second and we could pull it in another couple of feet.  We had been fighting for almost two hours when Benny said he thought it was just seaweed.  We all yelled at him and scolded him.
“Sea weed wouldn’t fight like this Ben!  You think Mom and I would work this hard to pull in a little seaweed!”  He looked chagrined as his brothers laughed at him and scoffed.

Soon we had the monster right up alongside the boat...


Sorry we scolded you Benny!