Short Version: I got lucky and shot my biggest fish ever. Jim landed him. Steve cleaned him.
Long Version: Ocean conditions were suboptimal with cold (54-59 degree) water and marginal visibility due to an untimely upwelling. However, conditions on the boat were great with good friends (Jim and Steve) and plenty of dill pickle flavored sunflower seeds and a fountain of Powell stories.
Arriving at the kelp, thriving in 80-90 feet of water, it appeared to raining due to enormous schools of baitfish foraging at the surface. Cool and overcast, no one was eager to jump into the murk so we were content to assist Steve make bait. Steve expertly covered most of the four hooks on his Lucky Joe jigs with a mixture of jack pacific mackerel on every drop. With no action on live bait and bouncing jigs, we decided it was time to take the plunge.
Life under the surface was astonishingly diverse and abundant. The kelp fringes were stacked with life. At the surface were schools of smelt and grunion competing with huge and undulating masses of sardines, feasting on the planktonic bloom. Below 25 feet were dense clouds of jack mackerel with the pacific mackerel coursing still deeper. Within the kelp forest were schooling orange senorita fish. It felt very fishy, despite the visibility that seemed to max-out at 10-12 feet.
After about an hour of stealth hunting in the beautiful 3-dimensional forest, I saw the tail. I had seen lots of fantasy tails and heads but they always morphed into kelp leaves undulating in the current. But this was different on account of being attached to a log. Cruising at the margins of the visibility, the tail was disappearing to my left, around the fat column of kelp, which obscured his head from view. At a depth of 30’ with plenty of air, I closed the distance to the kelp column and wrapped my gun around and pointed to where I calculated his head would be. To my good fortune he apparently had turned my direction to investigate my presence, presenting a perfect broadside opportunity. The slip tip and shaft blasted home hitting the vicinity of the left pectoral fin.
The fish’s run propelled the tag line past my head into the murk. I grabbed the line to slow it, gingerly, so as not to cause a pull-out. Holding my 125’ tag line at the 100’ point, the line remained taught, but static. With the fish on or off, the shaft was in the deep. After clipping the gun to the terminal end, I began the laborious task of cutting the tangle of kelp feeling like Charlie Brown with his kite in the tree. I finally progressed to where the line was free of surface tangles and directly vertical. Unfortunately, diving to my max at 75+ feet, I was unable to see the fish and was unable to dislodge the fish with force. Fat and out of shape I could not dive deeper A large sea lion surfaced. Euphoria was evaporating.
Cahill to the rescue. Jim arrived and made several remarkable dives to an estimated 85’ surfacing and humbly stating: “he’s free, pull him up.” So I shot him, Jim landed him, Steve filleted him. A memorable collaborative effort. Time to get into shape!
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Thursday, December 12, 2019