Second trip of the season - September 1, 2004

This could also be titled: "So it didn't weigh 180 - tough!"
Currently enrolled in a cardiac rehab program one is taught that aerobic exercise is one of the keys to success. Treadmill, bike, walking, etc are all important aspects of the program. But what could be better exercise  than to get out into fresh (sea) air and go up and down the fly-bridge ladder on a vessel bouncing around on the high seas? Not being a golfer (i.e., doctors' day off on Wednesday) I elected to play hooky and take the day off from the "program."
Last week's epic albacore trip was good for an entire season and, more fuel economically, local marlin fishing seemed to be the best action. Unfortunately, Ken had a board meeting and our other regular, Geoff (Halpern), had an over-flowing septic tank. And so it was left for Harry Okuda and myself to pick a spot. The recent "hot" fishing off La Jolla had apparently dried up and the "Gadget III" out of Southwestern Y.C. had cleaned out the waters off North Island (as in the Coronado's). Earlier reports from the Banda Bank off Ensenada sounded encouraging, but that turned out to be one of those "you should have been here last week" stories. The best news was that sport boats fishing Yellowtail at the "rock pile" and around the islands had been getting daily Marlin bites. Also, if the fish at the Banda Bank and "lower finger" had moved on it seemed logical that they would be heading north towards the "upper finger" (i.e. an extension of raised bottom contours extending south from the Coronado Islands).
Therefore, we (Harry and I) decided to head for the "rock pile" and work the "upper finger" bank. It is of interest to note that San Diego entrance (and exit) was completely fog "socked in." We wanted to visit the small bait receiver located just inside Point Loma outside of Ballast Point in order to "make" more bait. Groping around in the fog and chasing various radar targets we were unable to find the barge and moved on. Down the line we never saw the islands and the fog started to clear with the morning light as we neared the "rock pile." Lines in (including two EAL electronic beeping lures with Harry having replaced his $200 scrap of plastic after last week's "near miss."), tolled around and nothing much happening there.
So down the "finger" we went with high hopes (not the Bing Crosby kind). Half way down the bank we found huge "meatballs" of bait with mackerel crashing the smaller stuff, many bait marks on the depth finder, and baits crashing the balls of bait along with the mackerel. This area looked good, but trolling around failed to produce. We marked the numbers and proceeded down the bank.
At about 8:30 we were at the lower third of the bank in the area of Kenneth's "promised land" of 9 up and 7 out. (That means 32 degrees, 9 minutes of latitude and 117 degrees, 7 minutes of longitude.) Actually, he directed us toward 9/6, but close is just as good as in horse-shoes. After Harry staring through his gyro binoculars and me staring at the jigs we paused to talk about this and that, Republican convention not included. Suddenly, Harry jerked his head around stating "what was that?" He had heard a short "zip" as if one of the lines had been hit. I, of course, heard nothing, especially in my bad right ear. So we both looked back and initially saw nothing. But seconds later up came a dorsal fin on the Black and Purple Collector running from the starboard outrigger and "zzzzzzz" off went the line.
Harry ran down, put out a drop-back bait, and I followed him and, being the only one left, picked up the rod, opened the cockpit controls and watched the line strip from the reel. Thus, with all the lines still out I put us into reverse while watching the marlin jump way off in the distance. Fortunately, I had not set the drag for the 20 pd line too tight. As we backed up all the other lines managed to veer off to the right and we were now dragging them from the bow. Harry worked diligently and managed to get all the lines in without losing a single lure including two of the $200 variety.
So here I was, 3 months and 20 days out of triple by-pass surgery, cranking away on the rig. "NO pulling of heavy weights for 3 months" I had been told so here I was free of limitations and also getting in my prescribed aerobic exercise. Slowly we retrieved the line and brought the boat to the fish (not the other way around as people like to say). The fish was a little tough and tended to drop down to 30 feet or so as we got nearer. The game is to let the fish run off a way, come to the surface and then sneak up on him. After 44 minutes the swivel emerged from the depths, but hung about 3 feet from the boat just outside of Harry's 2 1/2 foot long arms. Backing up as far as I could in the cock-pit, raising up and one last pull brought the leader close enough for Harry to grab it.
The fish was spent and rather docile as Harry slid it to the boat and grabbed the bill. At that point we decided that this was a rather good sized fish and, noting that the chain-gang hooks were deeply imbedded in the fish's lower lip, (as well as having numerous requests for smoked marlin), I made the decision to "take" the fish as opposed to releasing it. What the hell, it looked a nice sized fish (unfortunately I hadn't been this close to one for over 5 years) and my "guesstimate" was rather optimistic). So I reached down, grabbed an albacore gaff, "nailed" the poor creature, Harry gaffed the tail and we slid it onto the swim step. We re-rigged the lines and off we went.
We continued south, but with high tide at 11:30 we decided to turn around and head back to where all the bait had been seen. Arriving in the area we found some bird life, but not a sign of bait - either on the surface or on the meter. It was interesting to note that the marlin was disgorging some very fresh looking mackerel which, obviously, he had been dining upon. But nothing further was seen and we continued north. As we crossed the "rock pile" Harry's $200 electronic lure was bit and we got all excited. As he worked the line back onto the reel I rapidly retrieved the other lines and just as a finished looked up to see the culprit - a smallish Mako shark. We were forced to take the thing because Harry's jig and hooks were deeply involved with those very sharp, horrible looking teeth. Besides, one of his fishing clubs gives points for these creatures towards a club championship - if weighing over 60 pounds.
So on and on the day went with nothing further to report. We alerted the Marlin Club that we were on the way and would arrive about 5:30. At the Club Harry's shark went 57 pounds, just a tad under the minimum. He was going to steak it out, but some of the observers at the weigh-in made him an offer he couldn't refuse and paid $10 for the creature. Meanwhile, with Rich Thomas (Alpine Glass) shooting many pictures, we hoisted our catch of the day and brought it to the scales. As it was lifted I commented that this was no 170-180 pd fish and looked more like 140. To our chagrin, on the scale, it hit only 125, and, by all rights, should still be out there chasing those mackerels. But, as the saying goes: "T.S.!" (and I don't mean Elliot). So more pictures and off it went to the smoker (the line forms to the right - so get your requests in early). What the hell - we normally release all of our fish and taking one every 5 years or so is not going to hurt the population. And, besides, how many 74 (75 in two months) year olds, 3 months and 20 days out of the O.R. can show evidence of not skipping a day of  aerobic rehabilitation? Certainly, 44 minutes of this effort is at least the equivalent of 20 minutes on a treadmill and 15 minutes of stationary biking. Pictures not ready so you will have to wait for them.

And now it is time to get serious and prepare for the Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge tournament coming up in 2 1/2 weeks. Pray for BigEye (tuna, that is). "See" you then.

Martin L.