September 12, 2002 - Close Encounter


Short form:
The good news, we didn't have any fish to clean,;

Bad news - the line broke after 9 hours. As the rod kept twisting the line slipped off the tip roller and became wedged between the roller and the guide just as we gave a lift and pull. There had been a wave of nausea as we missed the gaff, a sigh of relief as it snapped (8:30 pm).


Long form:
Tired of running South - and plenty of albacore in the freezer, Kenneth and I decided to make some bait at Scripps pier so that we would have plenty of ammunition for the current wide open Marlin fishing. So it was up at 3:15 am so that we could get to the pier in the dark. Earlier in the day Kenneth heard from an old friend from college, Joey Adler, who came along for the ride and the two of them showed up earlier in the evening. I made the turn at La Jolla a little short and managed to end up in the kelp, but got out without a problem and got to the pier at 05:15am. It took one can of cat food, a half a dozen cut up anchovies and 15 minutes to almost plug the boat.

Headed out, put the lines in (one bird, 1 rapala (reported Bigeye in the area) and 3 marlin jigs). I headed out into the deep water through the compass rose and into the warm area between Oceanside and the 209 as shown on the Terrafin SST chart. Temp was 69.9. In the waters in that general area, lots of birds - all kinds, meat balls, etc, Really looked good. Trolled around the area for naught and then headed towards Oceanside to work down the coast towards the 178 and top of the 9.

About 8 miles off Carlsbad and around 11:15, I mentioned to Kenneth that one of the mackeral was a little larger than the others - just in case he needed it for - you know what.

Joey flies a little, and he mentioned that the the day before he was over Dana looking down at the swordfish fleet (both on the water and in the air), so I started telling him all about that. And he had never seen a swordfish. Considering the time that I told him that this was usually the time that they start to show, so help me, the words were still echoing in our ear canals when Kenneth, eyes to the binoculars, let out that famous cry - no, not "Eureka!" - but "Oh shit, it's a swordfish!" It took a few minutes to eyeball it then, in came the bird, the rapala, in came the marlin lures and out went that "slightly larger than the others, just in case, mackeral.

For two years, Ken has had his Accurate 30, 2-speed and its companion rod I got for him hanging in the racks waiting for this day. He had it spooled with 50 pound line and 150 pound leader, but no hook, waiting to see what size hook would eventually be required. After waiting 20 years for this day, it didn't take long to tie on a hook and get set up. Forgive me if the following sounds like something out of Zane Grey or Kip Farrington, but - read on.

I got us parallel to the fish, starting to inch ahead, when it turned towards us and looked like it was headed behind us where the bait was. It sank out and then - nothing. After a couple of minutes Ken felt those two fateful taps on the line and then nothing. We sat there about 5 minutes and finally the line started to go out - faster and faster - and then - he threw the reel in gear, I punch the boat and HOOK UP! That was 11:38am. (or 0, 11, 38 as I used to say in my military days)

At about 7 minutes, it came up waving it's bill and thrashing about not too far from the boat. Forget it, I told him. When I first saw the spread it looked wider than normal. 250? But after an hour, it jumped out of the water barely 50 feet from the boat. As Ken said; "It was worth the price of admission.", my comment was that equally famous utterance: "Oh shit! That's at least 350, maybe 400!"

For the next 6 hours it was time to simply watch the line come and go. We had the knot out of the water several times, but "leadering 350 pounds on 150 pound line just wasn't in the card". We simply couldn't get the fish to swim off near the surface so that we could reach him. It was straight up and down most of the time.

Ken was set up with a comfortable kidney harness and a butt belt. We have a portable chair with a gimbal, but using a short butt rod in the chair gimbal doesn't work unless you don't mind being neutered. So we have a butt extender, which slips over the end of the rod and makes the process much more comfortable. But while it easily sliped on - the hours of pressure almost welded it to the rod and when it cames time to stand up, we simply couldn't get it off the rod. Ken found that he had to put the butt between his legs in order to crank, thus, no fulcrum and no leverage.

Also, one of the gears on the (very) expensive Accurate reel seized (I can't tell the difference between high and low). And the chair kept slipping on the wet decking requiring us to constantly slide it forward (without lifting it because the seat comes off the base)

Quite often we had the fish in sight and slowly he seemed to be browning up and lying on his side with the stomach out. At 7 hours, we managed to get him closer to the surface, and closer to the boat, then got the knot on the reel and finally a shot at him off the corner with the gaff. This is a large hook on the Pompanette stick where the hook twists and locks on the stick. I raced over from the cockpit controls, looked down and although I thought it was a bit too deep, reached down as far as I could, pulled up - with nothing. But the fish cooperated and rolled virtually to the surface against the boat and we could have hand gaffed it. So I reached out again with the hook around him and pulled - the hook had unlocked itself from the stick and as I pulled they came apart. Not realizing this wasn't pulling on the rope and so the hook was left virtually lying there on the fish when he took exception to this whole thing, got a second wind, and ran off at least 200 yards of line. If he could do that, I shudder to think what might have occurred if the gaff had stuck.

Do we get credit for a "caught" and released fish? Sorry!

Ken was pissed, I was pissed and the fish certainly acted like he didn't care for the whole experience. So Ken cranked away for another hour getting nowhere except having the fish straight up and down and not budging. Finally, after the disappointment, he let me take some time on the rod. I cranked away and actually got the knot as far as my thumbs, but not on the reel. I also felt that as the rod was bending and twisting, it felt like the line was slipping off the roller at the tip. There would be that occasional snap as it did so, but we didn't realize the importance at the time. After 1 hour I felt like the fish was coming easier when, as I lifted with the full bend of the rod - CRACK! - not at the knot, or in a frayed spot, but right at the tip of the rod. The line looks like about 1/4 inch was squeezed flat at the point of breakage.

This was about 2030 (0-20-30?) 8:30 pm, etc. Very dark. And 30 miles from the Point. We got back to the slip about 11:30 pm (2330). Very tired, very disappointed, but a little more experienced. I hope Ken doesn't have to wait another 20 years.