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Yankee Captains, Pulley Ridge Feb 2016.

My oh my, I thought this day would never come. Engine repairs, wind, cancelled trips, all led to the nightmare of having LOYCS. (lack of Yankee Capts syndrome) The only cure is a mid winter, weather window of opportunity to allow a trip to Pulley Ridge. My bags were packed for a month, sitting under the dining table, fridge stocked with goodies anticipating loading hour. Heck, I haven't been on a YC trip since last April and even though I'm fishing lots in my own boat, there is nothing that can match the freedom and companionship on a Yankee Capts trip.
Even with the weather gurus promising great conditions, Capt Greg was concerned that the weather well over 100 miles west, where we would be fishing, was not letting up. This trip might not go! I'm sure there is not another person more eager to go than Greg, what with all of the recent expensive upgrades and repairs on the boat. Oh, the crew might be a little eager as well, after slaving over 37 days, scrubbing, grinding, ripping out, torching and rebuilding, no drinking, no clubs, no parties and worst of all, no fishing and NO MONEY.... Even Matt, the quiet mate had a hunted and haunted look in his eyes, a look I've only seen near the end of last year's painting /renovation marathon on the YC.
Gear successfully placed under and on the continuous seat along the cabin wall, rods in holders at the bow and sleeping gear on my favorite bunk, I slipped across the parking lot to the Hogfish Restaurant and tried unsuccessfully to consume a giant burger, onion rings and enough beer to wash it down all the way to the boiler room. Back on board, Brian, mate extraordinaire, sweet talked me out of 20 bucks to buy into the biggest fish lottery, with his charming New England accent. After a brief and convincing debate, I relented and squeezed my wallet till a twenty popped out and kissed it goodbye. As I turned to exit the cabin, two vehicles rolled up carrying Jarvis, Eduardo and Caesar, three of the best and most persistent fishermen anywhere. A glance back at Brian, smiling as he slipped my folded $20 bill into the money chest, caused a disruption in the boiler room and a beer battered, hamburger burp involuntarily escaped, blocking my request for my money back.
I greeted my friends, last minute checked my gear for the fourth time and cat napped my way through the next ten hours of travel to the fishing grounds. A trip to the outside world left me concerned. A bright pattern of lightning and very dark storm clouds was directly ahead and the waves were big, not good! But we arrived and after a bouncy start, it calmed and three pound leads sped to bottom. Fish appeared at the surface and the long awaited game was on! The bite was not on fire, but steady enough to satisfy. Snowy groupers, blue line tile fish and yellow edge groupers ate the bait and met the gaff shortly afterward.
The sequence of events is blurred right now, but shortly before or after I landed three beautiful groupers in the 10-20 pound range, something big inhaled my bait, in about 800 feet of water, in a no nonsense way and it was tug of war time. I finally got it well off the bottom, that unseen land of hiding places and snags, that a big fish will go to when hooked, cleverly flaring his gills between two rocks until the line breaks. Still taking drag, pulling line off the insistently whining, electric reel every few seconds, I watched as the counter on the reel display showed the fish to be only a hundred feet from the surface. It was obvious that my line was going to touch at least two other fishing lines on it's journey and even with mate Brian standing there with the gaff, I was as nervous as a teen aged boy waiting to hear if his girlfriend was pregnant.
A big bright object appeared below the surface about 40 feet out from the boat and it seemed like all motion and sound stopped. My fish slid into the first threat, then up to and tangled the second line in the way, but close enough for Brian to gaff it. My hearing reappeared as a few people cheered and when I heard it actually hit the deck, I started breathing once again. I was overjoyed!!! A 28 pound golden tilefish was flopping on the deck, still trying to figure out what happened. Brian just smiled that "I told you so" look when somebody knows they were right and you know they were too.
More deep water beauties came up to see us and Greg put us on several schools of queen snappers. Actually, I think we were on a queen bite when I hooked my golden tile. I hadn't caught one and thought from the way it was fighting that I had a big queen or maybe two. It was much later in the trip before my luck recharged and I caught a queen snapper, but I was glad to add it to my cooler.
The night bite was a slow drift in 200- 250 feet, no tuna, no flying fish, but lots of squid in the water. Jarvis, Eduardo and Caesar were catching muttons and with a reassuring comment from Jarvis, "You gotta have faith in the bait" I threaded a mackerel chunk on and caught a mutton, then another and one more for good measure. Surviving only on a few cat naps and with very few fishermen on deck, I made my way to my bunk, passing Caesar at the stern, curled up in a blanket, fishing rod between his knees, sleeping, while fishing. No law against that!
I begged a friend to wake me up if the tuna bite turned on. A few hours passed with me completely dead to the world and as I was lying there in ga ga land, trying to restore enough sensation in my body to see if my bladder was on emergency overload, something touched my foot and said "They're biting." A glance at the clock, 5:30, bladder relief and assume the fishin position, still half asleep. Thanks Matt!
Tunas were attacking jigs, glow in the dark speed jigs, ( pink works good) stripping line from reels, fighting with incredibly strong bursts of quick wiggling and persistently avoiding the gaff at the surface. My first shook the hook, my second and third weren't so lucky. At the end of the waves of hungry tuna attacks, the score was even. Three escaped, three in the box, but I was the winner. Many others landed the prized sushi footballs, mostly in the 10-20 pound range. Don, an ex Navy football player and a legend in his own mind, much like me, hooked a tuna and quickly broke his rod in the middle. As he continued the battle double trouble happened and it got loud behind me, but I was trying to beat my own battle against a strong fish trying to wear a hole in my defenses. Wrist and fingers weren't used to this prolonged pressure. I turned to see what the commotion was and saw that he had landed two tunas, at the same time, on a broken rod. One was hooked in the mouth and the other had wrapped it's tail in his fishing line during the battle! Good job Don! That legend is true.
So the day bite was slow but steady, and toward the end of the last day, Capt Greg headed to the last stop and eased the throttles forward. Those new engines purr like kittens, shoving the Yankee Capts effortlessly through the water. Greg was either breaking in the new gear or simply enjoying the newly invested fortune, but continued well past the normal cruising speed. I got a bit of an amusement ride thrill in my stomach as I watched the wake and felt the loose feel of freedom of the YC riding high on the water. We guessed we were doing about 17 knots. Well done Capt and crew!
The last drift was a better bite, lots of scamp groupers and big tiles, but no contenders to match my golden tile. I won the pool, first time ever and made sure a good portion went into the tip jar where it belongs.
Back at home at the Jolly Roger travel park, my usual group of friends helped clean and portion the catch for Monday's fish fry, laughing every time I had to tell a new onlooker "It's a golden tilefish," My buddies all got a small piece of the prize, fresh blackfin tuna and we are ready to feed the hungry campers.
After searing lightly marinated tuna for ten friends, on a very hot pan and a couple healthy drinks of tequila, I was exhausted. As I went for the door of our RV, my neighbor and good friend George came over and said, "Cameron, thank you very much for making this a good day." It made my day complete.
I truly hope you all book a trip on the Yankee Capts soon, enjoy it fully and tip the mates, Brian, Matt and Scott well. (And the new cook Kevin)
One last thing, Greg, Thank you Capt Greg for making this a good day!


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