We had been watching the weather and the temp charts since our last journey to Veatch's. The forcast for today started at 10-15 & 1-3's early in the week, went as high as 15-25 & 3-4's and finally settled on 10-15 changing direction mid morning with waves 2-3'. While none of these forecasts is horrible, we really didn't want to run that far in rough water. It's tough on fuel, tough on gear and most of all tough on us. The 2-3's looked decent and the decision was made to make the run and abort if things looked too bad on the way out.
With that Mike C, Nelson (from Red Top) and I launched out of Falmouth at 0330 and steamed towards Muskeget. WE were headed towards Veatch's but hoped to pull up short at the warm water break about 25 miles north. I had temp chart and #'s in hand as we cleared the jetties. The ride out was excellent. We made decent time inside with calm seas and clear skies. Once we got outside of the islands and started to get some daylight on the horizon I kicked up the speed to 37 mph and we began to really cover some ground.
We had just hit the intermeadiate zone in the lanes when Mike C. yells out, Look out debris ahead! About 100'ahead I saw the 20 foot long 6x6 awash in the chop. I killed the motor and trimed up like hell to save the lower unit and prop and wheeled hard over to try avoid it. AS we slowed we clipped the timber with the bow, and just nicked the skeg as I got the motor high enough in time. Fortunately the timber was old and soft and the HS is new and hard. We split the timber in half with the bow as we pushed it under. A quick check of everything showed we were fine and we got right back on course.
We cleared the lanes and started the countdown to the temp break. The temps in the lanes were 67-68 as we cleared the lanes we saw 70. Then the temps started to drop again. I began to wonder if the break had moved. With only 2 miles left to my numbers I was getting nervous.
Then it happened! .15 miles from the numbers the temp guage spiked! It went from 68 to 75 in 1/8 mile. A nice weed line was set up right on the break. A few high fliers gave us a perfect reference point as well.
With that we powered back, deployed the riggers and began to set the spread. Nelson ran the boat while Mike and I set the rods out. We had just set out the last rod when the left rigger snaps free and the Avet 4/0 starts paying out line. Mike C grabs the rod as the 20# Mahi goes airborn. A few quick jumps and the fish is off. Now thats how you get the blood pumping at 0700.
We re-rig the rod with a fresh Hoo' and Nelson heads for the flier and the weed line. AS we hit the break and the temps drop to 72 the rods start to go off. Mike goes for the rod and I remember in my head Capt. Vin saying "let them go, try for the wolf pack bite" I tell Mike to let the rod run. Just then a second clip pops, another fish on. We give it a bit more time and Nelson manuvers the boat to draw another strike. No third bite and the first fish has dropped off.
We grab the bent rod and fight the fish. Mike can't get it in gaff range it's just hanging down 10' under the boat. It' didn't look that big, so I tell him lift hard, I'll leader the fish and I'll pull it in. MY BAD! The fish is bigger that I first though and when I get two wraps on the leader the fish takes off. Being new to the game I lean back and try to muscle the fish rather than let it run. (A REAL man doesn't let go of a leader, so I was told) Well thats what I landed, a leader! No fish. As we set the lines back out, Nelson said he guessed the fish at closer to 50# than the 20ish I first thought. So goes the learning curve.
With a lesson fresh in mind the next few hits become fish in the box. The gaffing is clean and the fish are bled and iced with speed and precision. We keep getting double knock downs but can't seem to score both fish, pulled hooks are the rule. Another lesson to be learned perhaps?
We've been at it for about 2.5 hours. We had once real cluster when we got greedy and chose not to clear some lines on a 50# longfin. The fish was landed, but the mess we created was almost not worth it. Seven lines shouldn't make that big of a mess. So a half hour was spent getting things cleared after the fact, re-rigged and re-set.
Now it's nearing 1100. The seas are building and the water is gettting ALLOT more white on top. We had been in contact with Skipjack and Fortunate 1 both of whom were in our area. Skipjack was headed in and was having trouble making any real speed in the slop with a 28' Express. I figured we wouldn't fair as he was so I decided it was going to be an early day.
I called Fortunate 1 (a 25'CC) and asked what his intentions were. They came up from down south and were not inclined to run all the way back in the slop, they were going to ride it out and wait on the winds to die off before steaming home. While the idea made sense, especially with the bite on and trolling being reasonabley comfortable in the 4-6' seas. The speed in which things were building made me uncomfortable. If they continued at this rate and we waited another couple hours we could be sitting in 6-8's or worse. It was a chance I jsut didn't want to take.
I gave Fortunate 1 my numbers and told him about the bite. He was nearby, but wasn't having the luck we were. He headed over to continue where we were leaving off. (Last I heard he had several nice albies in the box on those #'s
I wished him luck as we stowed the gear and headed North.
The ride in was MUCH wetter than the ride out. With the wind and the steepness of the waves even the big flare on the Hydra Sport couldn't keep us dry. we were making good time, averaging 18-22 kts with a minimun of pounding. About an hour into the trip I began to have trouble with my trim switch form my motor. THe motor kept triming down all the way. We stopped and shut down, and could still hear the trim motor running. I had this issue on my old boat and knew the switch on the throttle was the likely cause. I went into the console and found the plug that connected the switch to the harness. When I unplugged it the motor stopped. Problem solved, but now I had to adjust the trim via the side of the engine cowl. We had to set it and forget it. Not really the ideal situation in sloppy water, but I picked a conservative setting and we resumed the trip home.
Every 10 miles we would talk to Skipjack. He was about 5 miles away from us. The were making almost the same speed we were now so it was good to have another boat in the area with us. After 3.5 long hours we finally hit Muskeget Channel. In the distance we could see Skipjack steaming in. We held up and waited on them to catch up for the final leg home. As they ran along side I was able to get a couple good photos of their boat as it sliced along in the chop. The rest of the run home was smooth and dry.
Final tally for the day a half dozen yellowfin and longfin from 20-50#. About two dozen knockdowns, several fish lost near the boat, and a bunch of pulled hooks and short strikes. Lure or choice were rigged ballyhoo, with Ilander Hoo heads and Ilander Jet heads in Blue/Chart, Blue/Wh and Pink/Wh. Every rod in the spread got bit. Every postition in the spread got bit. It was awesome to see a 25# yellowfin explode on a hoo' that was sitting 10' off the transom in the clear water between the chine wake and the prop wash. We saw almost every hit we got. The fish were aggressive and hit the hoo's with a vengence.
I want to once again thank Capt. Eric Stewart & Chrissy from the Hook-Up. I ran down there yesterday to gear up for this trip. Eric took over an hour of his busy day to go over every aspect of rigging, running and skirting these hoo's. The hoo's he sold me were excellent! The Hoo' hoods and jets were perfect. This is the second time this year that The Hook-Up has been a MAJOR factor in us getting tuna. They know their stuff and are willing to go the extra mile to help an offshore newbie like me catch fish. Also thanks to Seaker for once again, sharing his knowledge and gear. Someday my rods will be ready and I can stop stealing half of Vin's spread.
Overall, a great day OTW. None of us had ever caught yellowfin or longfin before. So it was a first time for all of us. We (I in particular) learned allot today. I've included my Riptide's (Letterman) Top 10 things I learned offshore today:
#10 There is a time to muscle fish, and a time to use finess. Don't confuse them.
#9 FULL drag on a 50W can be helpfull, but it may also land you in the water if your not carefull.
#8 Sub lesson from above, rain pants make a great safety handles.
#7 NEVER wrap wire without a glove no matter how small the fish is (this lesson learned the easy way, not the hard way)
#6 FISH LOVE HOO'S
#5 See #6
#4 Lighter strike drags might be worth looking into.
#3 2-3's means 4-6's
#2 If it is going to break it will break as far from shore as possible
... and the number 1 thing I learned today is... I WANT A BIGGER BOAT!