Watching the weather forecast like a hawk doesn't change a thing. Wind is wind and waves are caused by wind. Period. But a smart captain can make the best of it and come away with a winning trip and happy customers. On a three day Tortugas trip, if the bite is slow in shallow water, you need a long enough break in the weather to allow the captain to dart out deeper and then fish hard. And that's what happened, end of story.
Hoping for the best, with an empty freezer at the camper and three hungry grand sons back in Nova Scotia, I had motivation to catch fish. Hunger led me to the Hogfish Restaurant where I was greeted and seated by two shivering, pretty girls. It was quite cool out, cold by local standards, they liked my Yankee Capts shirt, I sent them to Greg, he made sure they had a warm hoodie to wear. That explains that picture.
I actually slept five hours on the run out, probably one of the first times ever! Once again, I was fishing the bow with my Jolly Roger buddies and Alfonso, a familiar face from other trips and now, new best friend for a couple days.
First stop, sunrise, waves, about 100 feet of water, Alfonso caught a keeper and I nailed a mid sized mutton. Off to a good start! On a three day trip, you might see twenty five different spots. Do the math.... So the bite died and while waiting for the move I threw a king mackerel rig out, with a ballyhoo that was improperly hooked. Second cast, it still didn't look right, like it would look if it were swimming, so I re-hooked it and tossed my third cast off the port side this time.
It sank slowly about thirty feet, then suddenly my 40 pound braid was SCREAMING off my cheapo, $50 Penn reel and economically priced, ugly stick rod. The drag was set light and I had thirty feet of mono, to lessen the sudden impact of a good bite, but as this speedster ran, I increased the drag trying to slow him down.
The fish would not stop! I know kings run hard, but this was getting ridiculous. I was only a few wraps from my backer and getting concerned. Then he stopped and I reeled. Time for action. I headed for the stern and open water to fight this opponent, around gaffs, over and under the lines from the other guys fishing the port side, mate leading the way, moving gear, bodies and successfully clearing the back corner for me. Ok, my new home...for about ten seconds, this beeotch wanted to swim on the starboard side. So off we went. The stern guys were very cooperative as I tripped and stumbled through them, but I wound up trapped and passed the rod to the mate, across the big fish box, in an attempt to try to portage around the very big man fishing at the corner. Thank goodness for the mate. It would have been a scary picture, maybe X rated, to see me, rod held high, squeezing around him, back against the fish box, apologizing and trying not to be improper.
OK, open water. Recover more line, jacket now unnecessary, Captain going to move, engine starts. CRRRRRAAAPPPP, too much pressure! I will never forget the sight of this fish as it turned about twenty feet out. I had a monster on and everything took on a new level of urgency. A double take confirmed it was a king, not a wahoo, but it was now pointed toward trouble, and Mr Big and seven other anglers were between me and the open water, where he wanted to go. Geeze I hauled hard! He went down and under the corner of the boat and idling engines and came up along side in a puff of diesel smoke and I yelled for the gaff. Still not at the surface, too soon. A lot of pulling and couple small turns later, a missed first stab with the gaff, a brief, near cardiac event and pants wetting and BOOM!, the hook was in and this beast was on the deck. It wasn't the prettiest stab, but effective and the right result was achieved. This may be an every day event for some, but my biggest king to date was about 20 pounds and I've never even seen a 50 pounder, so at 63 years old, I think I did a good job.
Two more big kings came in at that spot, one won the pool at 35.2 pounds. Mine was much bigger, but I made the decision not to enter the pool this time. Been there, done that and besides, we all know who's was bigger....
The fish ran 400 feet, I measured my line this AM. Start to finish, the fight may have lasted three or four minutes, but every moment is now ingrained in my being and I hope that some day in the future, if I live a long life, I can sit where ever I am, eyes closed and re run this experience, over and over with a great big smile on my face.
Thanks to Capt Greg and the crew, without you this would not be happening for me and many others.
OK, so I'm going to post more about the trip, but a little later and will add it in the later comments to this post. Keep an eye out, there were lots of fun times on the trip.