By 5 am there was a whisper from Capt Don to the deck hands to set the hand lines out. That’s all it took and everyone started waking up and putting on their rubber boots and rain pants in hopes of getting the first tuna. The deck hands put four hand lines out the back and 2 poles with weighted jigs on the sides. The plan was if the hand lines hooked a fish we would just drag the tuna up and in by hand and keep trolling, but if the jigging poles hooked a fish we would circle around and drift with live bait.
Almost instantly the hand lines hook up and we take turns dragging them in. Then shortly afterwards someone yells,” portside pole fish on”. The Captain turns the boat and positions it so we drift in the direction of the hook up. He then yells, “bait stop” and that is when the fun begins. Everyone grabs a pole and a bucket of live minnows. The plan is to keep your bail open on the reel and hook your minnow so it can swim freely. When the tuna grabs it and takes off, you are to wait for at least 5 seconds before you close the bail and it was recommended that you do not set the hook, oh and one more thing, you better be holding on good.
Before you know it everyone one is yelling fish on and the Chinese fire drill has begun. Imagine 11 people lined up with in 50’ of each other and 8 of them have a tuna just a pealing line off as fast as it will go. People running from one end of the boat just to have the tuna drag them back to the other end, people yelling I’ll go high you go low, people yelling I see color get the net, just to hear them say a few seconds later, never mind its going deep again. WOW, what a rush. The first bait stop put in a dozen or so fish all with in a brief crazy moment. The Captain looks around and asks if anyone has a fish on. We all yell back no new fish, he says reel up and drop the hand lines. We start trolling for the next school.
This goes on all day and into the evening; sometimes you would catch 2 or 3 in a row and sometimes you would lose a few in a row. Nothing is worse then fighting one for 20 minutes just to lose it right at the boat. Your arms would be burning and you are breaking out in a sweat, but that don’t stop you from putting new bait on and dropping your line back out knowing you probably don’t have the energy to get the next one back up.
It was starting to get dark and you could tell some of us were ready for bed. Over 16 hours of nonstop hard fishing and we still have one more day to go. Everyone passes out after a few cold beers and some fresh grilled tuna in our bellies. Then before you know it, its 5 am and the boat fires up its engine and everyone wakes up to start trolling again looking for that school of tuna that beat us up so badly the day before. The water was a little rougher that night making it hard to get a good sleep. No one got seasick the entire trip, but it was hard to sleep at times with some of the steep rocking.
We fish for about 5 or 6 hours and hit many more schools of tuna. The Captain and crew are stacking and packing tuna in all the holds that they have. I hear the crew talking that they have 40+ up front, 60+ down below, 20 here and 20 there, then there was the 4 small 150 quart coolers that were stuffed. Were full and it’s time to go home and everyone now has the look of relief that they survived a crazy tuna trip. 5 hours later we hit the dock and people start to pack their gear to their cars just to return with big coolers for their prize fish. Most of the group opted to have their fish cleaned at sea by the deck hands, so nothing but cleaned bagged chilled fillets in the coolers, ready for vacuum packing or canning when we get home.
The final numbers were 160+ tuna for our group of 11, some very sore muscles and some very good eats for the rest of the year. Of course here’s a few pic’s of me and some fish.