Fish Stories

Fishermen use the word “structure” a lot. They mean any feature underwater that attracts fish. In a lake it might be a submerged tree, or a deep hole or drop off. In a stream it might be a pile of rocks. Something different from its surroundings.

What could structure look like in the open ocean? One kind is floating stuff. A raft of kelp, or a log attracts some kinds of fish. As we were sailing toward the coast today, I saw on the chart structure. It’s 13,000 feet deep, so what was I looking at? An underwater mountain, actually a series of them, that towered 5000 feet above the surrounding flat plain. Of course that still leaves them 8000 feet below the surface. Not something a surface dwelling fish would ever notice but for the disturbance such a feature makes in the water flow. Nutrient rich water gets pushed up from down deep, and feeds a complex open ocean food chain. As we approach I set two lines and went back to other things.

About an hour later the scream of a fast running drag gets us jumping to action. Getting the boat stopped and getting the rod in hand takes a few minutes. By this time the fish is the better part of 150 yards away. I know because at that point he launched completely out of the water. Long, thin, light colored, about 4 feet long. My 50 pound test line hasn’t slowed him down yet, much less stopped him. On the third jump he threw the hook and was gone. I think it was a wahoo, but can’t be sure.

An hour later, a reel again starts peeling off line. Karen starts to slow the boat, while I go back to the rod. Before we can do either, the OTHER rod is hooked into a fish! A double! Of course one swims left when the other goes right, and then they reverse, twisting the lines. I get the first to the boat, and we have a 6 pound skipjack tuna in the cockpit. The second fish twists off the hook before we can get the lines sorted out.

By the time we get things sorted out, the thrashing fish has left a bloody mess in the cockpit. It looks like the scene of an axe murder. Blood is everywhere. A few minutes later, he is steaks in the freezer, many more minutes later we have things washed down and cleaned up.

So far we are doing pretty well on this ocean fishing stuff! Almost two weeks at sea, and the freezer has more in it than when we left.

It looks like we’ll be tying up Monday. Our planned first stop is Avalon Harbor on Santa Catalina Island. That first hot shower is sounding mighty appealing.

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