On a hunch

29 Jun

I’m still working on wedding and the philippine blog, this will have to do.  From my log on October 2010

On a Hunch

It doesn’t take a genius to tell you that the last few days have been absolutely miserable.  110 plus degrees with no wind, I’d return from work and sit home listlessly while watching my dogs pant helplessly while they searched for a cooler spot in the yard and it was then I made my decision.  Screw this crap, I’m taking the day off tomorrow and heading out to the islands.

A few phone calls later and two of my coworkers  anxiously agreed to head out with me armed with their rod and reels.  As for me, I prepped out two of my new guns, the 59” so cal tracker and the 63”wong ono as well as my old favorite, the rabitech 120 stealth carbon.  I predicted fish were going to have to die the next morning, at least I  sure hoped that was going to ring true.  I was on a hunch, the high outdoor temperature and low wind conditions should have warmed up the water, if the bait held out I figured I might have a shot at some late season yellowtail or at the least a lot of tasty calico bass.

Several hours later and we were gliding across a flat channel with a 3’ swell bump.  There was hardly any wind and I could’ve pinned the throttle on the Honda 130, but instead kept it at a nice 24 mph cruise to save gas.  We were hoping to see some of the blue whales that have been around lately but had to settle for a superpod of common dolphins. It’s always a pleasure to see them racing in front of the boat as they greet us before tearing off into the wide open ocean.  I always view it as a good omen and hoped for at least a fun dive.

From the looks of the first spot near twin rocks it wasn’t going to ring true.  Visibility was poor, maybe 10 feet and green, probably the worst visibility I’ve had at Catalina in a long time and much worse than the 25 foot that I had a week or so ago.  There was bait scattered and my buddies caught a lot of small calicos and some bonita but I didn’t even squeeze off a shot.  After a while I disgustedly gave up and hauled back on the boat, fired up my boat and headed towards the east end where I figured the water might be warm and clear.  At any rate the 66 degree water was a welcome blessing from the intense heat on the mainland!

I was wrong on both counts.  East end quarry had 15 foot vis, and church rock was probably worse, the water was also about two degrees cooler.  I spotted a few skittish bonita and a mega school of barracuda that split when I dipped down on them.  Tired of the shitty visibility and the lack of bait, I once again hauled my ass out of the water and fired up my whaler and headed west.

As we skimmed across the water I noticed a blue band cutting thru the green water somewhere mid island.  Maybe it was that giant rock that looks like a ship from the distance, or perhaps it was that rock covered with an acre of millions of years of bird shit. Or maybe it was someplace entirely different, the shock of blue warm water cleared my memory like a shot of heroin to the veins, I can’t be sure :).  All I know is I was suddenly in fish paradise.

I spent a little bit of time on the outside with the wood guns but there was little current and the bait seemed bored.  Ah maybe it’s too late in the season, I told myself.  I decided to hunt on the reef so I loaded up the single 20 mm band of my mighty rabitech and dropped over the side.  There was bait swarming around me of every type, I saw greenback mackerel, spanish mackerel, smelt and even sardines flittering about.  In ten minutes I was making some drops around 40 feet.  Here the sheephead wound thru the kelp with a watchful eye while making circles around me, garibaldi boldly thumped their throats while nervous kelp bass drifted into deeper water.  I cleared my snorkel and silently made a drop behind a thick batch of kelp and drifted towards a group of them, as one of the bigger one’s turned I noticed one of the biggest barracuda I’ve seen in a while flitter in and then turn quickly away.  I extended the railgun and quickly pulled the trigger, the flopper shaft rang true and I saw the fish spiraling around as I kept tension on the line and pulled it to the surface.  My parents love broiled and smoked barracuda and I knew this was going to be a treat as I put the fish on my stringer.  I kicked over a bit and made another drop behind some kelp and saw a nice kelp bass that I figured to be about two pounds.  Zip, thunk.  That was it, the bass rolled over stoned.  Wow that was easy!  And it was a bonus, the fish ended up going 5 pounds, the shot was farther than I though.  In short time I strung up four bass averaging about 4 pounds or so each, plenty of fish for the fish tacos that I planned for later.  At any rate my stringer was getting heavy so I kicked back to the boat, and I gutted them before throwing them over the stern.

I was going to eat lunch and one of my buddies said that he had hooked something that burned out line and never stopped.  I figured that seemed unusual for a bonita, although it could’ve been a big bass.  Time to try out the new gun!  Gil Gacula from speardiver made me a custom 59″ so cal tracker gun.  I had him do a beautiful green camo paint job on it and I had been itching to put it to use.

I grabbed my tracker and loaded up the four bands just in case and headed out to the edge of kelp again.

By the way the kelp was bending I figured the current had increased.  Now bait was headed towards the front of the bed and I followed them out.  I kicked on the surface and saw the bait scatter about and made a quick drop, in a few seconds a gigantic school of bonita swam up from the depths and towards the surface, I lined up the shot and poof, sent the shaft thru the fishes gills.  Yum, fresh Hawaiian poke tomorrow night!  Once again the fish was bigger than I originally though and I slid my stringer thru the gills of a fat 5 pounder.  I saw a few bass and couldn’t resist making a drop and nailing a small one to add to my stringer as well.  The day was going so good that I could have gotten a limit but I had plenty of fish for dinner and then some.

It was one of those times where you totally forget about everything else in your life.  Your job, your troubles, the heat, everything melted with that blue water.  I saw with the bait, watched bonita tear thru the school and roll their eyes at me, watched bass dart quickly up and grab a quick meal before darting back down again.  Cormorants swam about and then a few fat sea lions started coming in and taunting me while eyeing my fish, they even barred their teeth and made fake rushes towards me but I held my ground and rushed them back.  I hoped whitey would visit them later, but hopefully after I was on my way back home!  As I began working the bait a bit deeper out of no where I saw a bigger fish slide into the school.  At first I was unsure if I was looking at a white seabass or yellowtail, when it first appeared it was just a hazy white shape.  As I slowly extended my gun and dropped closer I could see it was a nice yellowtail, maybe 12-15 pound rats that I’d see during the summer.  I braced the gun and lined up a shot on the stripe, click, thunk, 60 inches of stainless shaft and one of mori’s famous slip tips hurled its way thru the fish.  The shot was solid and I grabbed the floatline on my way back up.  As I was on the surface the fish just sat there, I was thinking, hell ya I stoned it!  I clipped my gun onto the floatline and began hauling in the fish.  That was a mistake.

The fish woke up and quickly and made a mad dash for the deep kelp.  With it my brand new shaft, tip, and GUN!  Holy shit, I figured the shot was solid so I pulled hard on the floatline but the fish pulled harder and I found myself being pulled unwillingly underwater.   Normally I’d let go and wait until the bastard tied up, but I thought the sea lions would grab that fish and head out to open water, if I lost that floatline then I’d lose all of my gear including the gun dammit.  I shot gunned the water out of my snorkel, took a raspy breath and kicked my carbon fins as hard as I could in a tug of war.  The fish kept pulling and just as I was going to have to give it some more line it started to tire, I gained enough line to get my gun back and unclipped it and threw the bands over my shoulder, now safe I could fight it leisurely.  After a while I saw the fish making circles and finally was able to dive down and grab it by the gills and dispatch it with my knife.  When I put my hands in it, I was astonished that it was way bigger than I thought, I brought it to the surface and my buddies yelled out that it was a nice one.  I brought it back to the boat and pushed it over the stern, we took some pictures and I got a weight of 30 pounds on the digital, double what I originally thought.  That blue water sure can be deceiving! I saw one more big yellowtail but this one proved to be smarter and with a flick of its tail told me to kiss its ass as it took off, it didn’t matter, I  had a nice fish already in the fish bag and had the time of my life today.

We made it back before dark on a fairly flat crossing, it would be 10 pm by the time the boat was washed down and I got it back into my backyard and I had prepped the fish and eaten some dinner.  It was a great day and I got to spend the day with some buddies, escape the heat and even shoot a few nice fish, what more can you ask for?  On the menu tonight, bonita poke, grilled kelp bass collars seasoned in italian dressing and Lawry’s salt and yellowtail sashimi!

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