Venice , La. 3/25/2015 AKA Tuna town
Made it to forum member Fish Mike's house at 5:30 am for the long ride to Louisiana. We left Ocala about 6:20 due to the fact FishMike always has several other things to do before he actually does what is planned..
He and I and his girlfriend (I did not know the other crew member was a female) left finally. The ride is LONG and takes about 10 hours. 12-13 if you go with FM as he also had his Ranger Ghost skiff in tow. I was not told this also.
Seems he had a buyer we had to meet in Slidell , La. to wet test,blah,blah .. :rolleyes
After all of that there seemed to be a problem with a money transfer and he'll meet us the next day.. Blah , blah , etc.. We ended up bring the boat back.
We get through New Orleans (finally) and actually make it to Venice ! After getting situated in the condo that although didn't look like much on the outside , was actually pretty decent on the inside. Had 6 rooms and everything you could need including a giant icemaker.
I needed a beer and walked to the restaurant to see the catch.
What normal tuna look like....
OK , I'm getting pumped. They were cutting up some really nice fish from the day. Some tuna were in the 120lb range with most about 40-60. Several nice wahoo and good blackfins rounded out the catch. One guy had some of the biggest barracuda and whopper AJ's I've seen in quite some time. :hairraiser
It was a cold ride out in the river next day. The Mississippi water is super cold and it is 27 miles to the mouth.
Bean bags made the ride not so bad.
This is a lodge at the mouth of the river you can stay at. Only accessible by boat. The fishing boats can pick you up or you can bring your own I guess. I think it's about 150 per person a night. Pretty cool.
We made the run (65 miles) to the first rig in the 36 contender with twin 300's . The rigs are something to see and sit in 3000' of water.
We were using Penn international's with Carnage rods loaded with 80# brais with a topshot of 80# mono and 60# flouro leader. I was amazed at the size of the hooks. They were only like #5's ? Really small .
The reason is they have to hide them inside the chunks of bait. The cubes of skipjack were only about 1 1/2" square and they cut a slit in it and stuff the hook inside completely hiding the hook. The bait isn't impaled on the hook . It just sits inside and you pull line off the reel keeping the bait sinking slowly along with a couple of chunks of chum. Sort of like yellowtail snapper fishing. The bait has to have a normal sink rate to fool the tuna.
I had the first bite at the first drift but got cut off instantly ? FishMike got a hit but it came unbuttoned after a brief drag screaming run. We jigged a small yellowfin that got cut in half before moving to another rig about 6 miles away. There we jigged up a couple of blackfin tuna but didn't mark any large fish so moved again.
The drill ship wasn't holding and the capt. decided to go back where we started. We marked something at 180' and set up a drift. I kept letting my bait drift down and was into the braid pretty good when I seen the line start running out. I knew the routine now. Throw the reel all the way to strike and reel like crazy (like the Wicked tuna guys) until your tight. I did and was ! The line started ripping off and it took two of us to get it out of the holder.
That was at 1:20pm .
It didn't take long (and I got ribbed about it) before I asked for the fighting harness. The fish ran past the rig and headed South , down current. It took about 10 minutes to catch up with it and I regained some line and settled into the fight. I just didn't realize what that was going to mean.
I stayed on the rod and all aboard were happy so after about 45 minutes I asked Mike if he wanted to get on the rod to feel the fight. He , of course, was super ready and since he had stated he would not need a belt he got the rod butt sponge. :cool: That didn't last very long :grin And the belt was strapped on him.
Another 40 minutes later and still we can't get the fish up ? As soon as we could get maybe 5 yards of the topshot on the reel it would sound into the braid and you could not budge it. We are at an hour and a half now on this tuna and haven't even seen it. The Captain started checking the drag and muttering stuff and was kind of getting concerned . He finally asked if he could give it a try. I think he didn't believe we couldn't move the fish because they usually come to the boat way quicker.
He got on the rod.
30 minutes later I'm back on the rod. :hairraiser Then Mike is on the rod, then the captain is on the rod then the mate is on the rod...
We could not budge the fish more than 30 to 40' up at the strike drag setting. I know the longer a fight at this pressure lasts the more that can go wrong. It's getting late and all the other boats have long since headed to the dock. We are 100 miles from the dock. What the captain didn't say is at one point ( when he was first on the rod) he got a look at it. It had made a run that angled toward the surface and he caught a glimpse . His personal best was 200lbs and he landed it in 25 minutes. He knew this one was a lot bigger .
At the 3 hour mark we made the decision to lock the drag. There was nothing else we could do. I agreed with the skipper and said do it. We finally broke the fish into it's death circle and started gaining line. The mono appeared and started filling the spool. We broke out two gaffs in preparation. The mate and I were going to stick the tuna where ever we could at the first chance. I REALLY wanted to put a gaff in this thing. More so than the fight and I was really getting the adrenalin rush now.
We have color !! Holy crap this thing is a PIG. Over 6' and I could see the big yellow sickles 60' down. Mike is trying to video it on the GoPro and we are powering the fish all we can. The state record is 250 and this fish is in that range.
On a 60# leader. . . . . . That broke at the 3 hour and 40 minute mark. :banghead :banghead :banghead :banghead
The muttered cursewords fell off into a clumsy silence broken only by the captain slamming gear into the locker.
The big fish had won. We got whooped . There is a lot of hindsight and mixed emotions on a boatride that is 100 miles long. Trust me.
But , like Arnie said. "I'll be back" !