11 Jun

From two summers ago…

It was four pm and we still hadn’t seen any of the bigger fish dammit. My buddy Mike had shot his first yellow ever and it sat in the cooler. I’d say it was alone but at least I had nailed a small bonita (I love bonita sashimi when it is bled correctly), a barracuda for my parents, and two kelp bass for my coworkers. But I had failed to get any yellowtail, even though I had seen a couple in the morning.

The scene had been haunting me all freaking morning and afternoon. I kept telling myself that I blew it. We had pulled up onto one of my favorite spots on catalina island, it was a fantastic crossing with flat conditions and no chop, in less than a hour we checking out some spots. Within five minutes of making my first drops I saw a nice yellowtail in the fifteen pound class. Or maybe I should say it saw me first because it was moving quickly away. I tried every single trick I knew but that damn fish wouldn’t turn and it was too far away to get a solid shot and I didn’t want to chance tearing it off. Poof, it took off with a flick of it’s tail and I would replay that scene all day long. I argued with myself whether or not I should have taken that shot. Because I had no yellowtail in the cooler of course I thought I should have.Conditions were stellar, 40 foot visibility made the kelp beds look just like a gigantic aquarium. Blue water, garabaldi, opaleye, halfmoon and lots of calico bass peered out from the canopy. But the best part was this location was LOADED with bait. All kinds of bait, you name it. Sardines, spanish mackerel, greenback mackerel, smelt all schooled together nervously. It looked absolutely perfect but the fish were spotty, we saw a few but they didn’t want anything to do with us. I had a feeling it was going to go wide open in a few hours though so we decided to stick it out.I followed some gigantic black seabass around, checked out the kelp beds and heard some loud croaking in the channel but couldn’t find any wsb. My back was killing me after spending eight solid hours in the water. I climbed onto the deck of the boat and took the weightbelt off and laid down. A half an hour and I’m back in the game, mainly because Mike tells me he saw a school of yellows breeze by him.

As I glanced at my watch and noted it was about four pm. It’s now pretty choppy out and the visibility has dropped a bit. The bait gets even more nervous and suddenly all of the bait quickly schooled up so I dipped my fins and made a drop down to fifteen feet. It took five seconds to change my day. Out of no where a wall of yellowtail appeared, their greenish/blue backs and yellow stripes gleamed dimly in the light. If I had to guess I’d bet my gun that there was fifty to a hundred fish in that school. I gave a quick kick to close the gap and it was only a matter of choosing what fish I wanted as I swung the gun towards them and picked a fat one out of the bunch, all the while wishing I had fired up my digital camera.

Pfffft, the spear lept forward and a small spot of blood appeared in the water, the fish quivered slightly and began to sink. STONED! Holy shit that’s what I always hope for but somehow rarely achieve, I kick forward and grab the fish by the gills. It’s a decent one and I’m glad that I stoned it because it would’ve been a bitch otherwise. I gill and gut him and mike pokes his head over the rail of the boat. Nice Fish! I tell him to get back in the water and he slides in after cramming the fish into the cooler. I restring the gun and start making drops again. Another yellowtail, this time a single, comes in and begins checking out the bait. I give a couple of quick kicks and try to stay above the bait so he’s less likely to see me. It works and as he chases some fish I cut thru the school and click off a shot. Solid! Right thru the gills, this one runs and starts stripping the reel but he’s hurt so I take my time and work him in, all the time remembering the conversation I had with Mori a couple of weeks ago about letting the slack line go in the current so you don’t tangle up. I dispatch the fish and dump it into the cooler. I can’t even feel the pain in my back anymore because I just had that feeling, it just felt right. A few minutes later I’m back making drops and I see a bigger yellowtail coming thru. Once again I hide above the bait until he get’s close enough and then drop thru them, this one is smarter and tries to turn I close the gap and take a longer shot and it sticks. Dammit it’s not as clean a shot, went thru the shoulders and out the side and the fish is going ballistic. I put a little pressure on the reel because the fish is heading deep and it starts towing me all around. It finally ties up down deep and I breathe up for a bit and make a few drops before beginning to cut the fish out. I can’t grab the fish because the shooting line keeps pulling me back down as it is tangled in the kelp. He looks dead but I stick a knife into him anyways and then he wakes up and makes another run. Dammit!

If there ever was a case for having my floatline as a backup it was now, the fish pulled the entire speargun underwater and I quickly grabbed the floatline and pulled it back up until I could get my hands on that gun. I start working him towards the surface and dammit if he doesn’t tie up in the kelp again. As I’m trying to get my breath Mike drops right on top of him and grabs him for me. I brain the bastard and then head back towards the boat. I’m pretty beat, it’s been ten hours in the water and my legs are tired, and three fish is plenty for me so I pack it in. Thank god yellowtail are showing up so I don’t have to look for white seabass anymore :)!

As I begin to drift off to sleep, visions of fresh sashimi tomorrow play in my head, thankfully replacing the ones of my failure in the morning…


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