A fishing trip gone right
|There are certain events in one’s life that you seemingly can never forget and on August 26th 1989 was one such day. On that day I had caught my first local marlin on my own boat approximately eight miles out of Newport Beach. That could be the end of this story but why write about unless it there was more, a lot more to this story that needs to be told.
That same year I had purchased my first “real” ocean boat, it was a Starcraft Bluewater 180 center console. It was a cheaper version of a Grady White but it had all the equipment on it to do some serious ocean fishing. I traded in my 17 foot aluminum Sea nymph due to the rivets popping loose and electrolysis eating the hull away after only two years of ownership. Some of my fishing buddies fondly referred to my old boat as the widowmaker, ballbuster or E ticket due to the way I drove through the ocean at speed.
My new boat was fiberglass and I had a new quest of higher order that challenged me. I was going to fish for marlin but sadly didn’t have a clue so being me, I had to research everything on marlin fishing that I could get my hands on. I got a subscription to Marlin magazine and read it from cover to cover every issue. Then I had to visit Bisbee’s down in Newport Beach where the big boys hung out to see what information they could give me. The cost of getting information back then usually amounted to purchasing a marlin trolling lure in the 45.00 to 50.00 range to pry their lips open to a newcomer. By early summer I had about five to seven nice marlin trolling lures but still no idea of where, when and the how of catching a local marlin. Fishing buddies were telling me stuff like they know guys who have fished locally for marlin for 25 years and never caught one. I was so persistent that I would catch one but it wasn’t going to take twenty five years to do it.
I decided in order for me to up my trolling game that I needed to purchase fiberglass outriggers. So, I checked out all the catalogs I could get my hands on and found a set of fifteen foot telescopic outriggers. Then I purchased outrigger holders for the rod holders in the gunnels and release clips for the fishing line. By the time I was finished I was cutting it close to missing a mortgage payment but I felt that I was now a serious marlin fisherman or at least appeared to be one if you saw my boat on the water. When I told my fishing buddies that I was planning on going fishing for marlin there didn’t seem to be any interested parties that wanted to go with a rookie marlin fisherman especially since it was a courtesy to share fuel costs between buddies. Then, add on to that, we needed maceral for live bait to drop back to any marlin stupid enough to bite a rookie marlin fisherman’s feeble offering. So, we usually needed to burn an hour’s fishing time at the mouth of the harbor amongst all the weekend warriors escaping at full throttle to parts unknown. Macreal fishing is not something you can easily sell to your fishing buddies as their weekend highlight.
As luck would have it I found a buddy that wanted to go marlin fishing with me. His name was Rob and he didn’t have a clue about marlin fishing but he did have faith in me that when I say I’m going to do something that I generally meant it. We launched the boat out of the Dunes launch facility in the back bay and headed to the bait dock but the line of boats lined up to get bait was really long so we opted to skip getting a scoop of anchovies and just headed out the harbor. Checking my fishfinder it looked bleak on finding some maceral as well and we just kept going north toward the Izor’s reef vicinity.
I decided that since Rob knew how to operate the boat that I would do all the tackle rigging. Setting up the outriggers was really trickly when the boat is moving through swells and handling fifteen foot poles with rigging attached is something I’ve never done before on the water. I finally got everything in place. Looking back at my lures the outriggers did exactly what they were suppose to do. My lures popped out of the swells the same way an escaping fish might do if a larger fish was chasing it. I was beaming with pride that my investment looked like it was worth the money as Rob turned around to view the action on my marlin lures and commented “looking good”.
The vibe that morning between Rob and myself was good. Two old friends enjoying a day on the water was about as good as it gets and we were hopeful that our trolling offerings might trick some marlin into biting but honestly…. I had my doubts. The water had a purplish hue that morning and the marine layer had lifted. There were ample clouds between the sun’s rays shining down on us and then out of the corner of my eye I spotted a flying fish leaping from the water across our bow. Rob noticed the flying fish as well. I turned to Rob and said “Today we are going to catch a marlin”. My demeaner was one of confidence and I think Rob shrugged it off as my making boastful comments with no meaningful way to back up my statement. I was known amongst my peers for making grand statements. Sometimes I could back them up, other times, well let’s just say, I was full of it. But not on this day. My clicker screamed on the left outrigger reel. The line clip did not release and the outrigger acted like a gigantic fifteen foot fishing rod. As I looked back to my lure I could see a large marlin leap from the water, with my lure hanging from the side of it’s jaw. Line was peeling off the reel quickly as the fish swam seemingly outward and racing along side of our boat!
I could not get to the release clip to free the line from the outrigger. In a desperate attempt to free my fishing line from the release clip I lifted the outrigger from the gunnel to get to the release clip. A sailboat was abeam from us and had stopped to view the battle going under way. I could hear hooting and hollering from the sailboat. It must have been quite a show with me fighting a large marlin holding a fifteen foot fishing pole. I managed to get to the release clip and freed my line and then picked up the fishing rod from its gunnel rodholder. At this point in time, the marlin had passed our boat and was about 75-100 yards in front of our bow. I moved to the bow of the boat and was fighting this beast stand up. My reel was a Penn 114 with a Tuburon frame and fifty lb. test line. At the end of my line was a 125 lb. leader tied to a Sevenstrand Green/Silver Macreal lure. The marlin looked big enough that I was very worried about whether my fifty lb.test line was strong enough for this battle let alone the 125 lb.test leader as well.
Rob kept the boat’s bow toward the fish and I fought my first hooked marlin. The fish leaped repeatedly out of the water in grand fashion as if I was filming the battle for a fishing show and 35 minutes later the exhausted fish was bought up to the side of my boat. The marlin was bleeding badly from deep inside its mouth and was almost lifeless. The fish was at least 9 feet long from bill to its large forked tail and had several Remora fish suck to its sides. We tried to revive the fish holding its bill down into the water and moving slowly to circulate water across its gills but the fish continued to bleed badly and was motionless. I believed the fish if released would not survive and we made the decision to bring the fish into the boat. This proved to be a great feat as the marlin was nearly impossible to lift into the boat due to its size and weight. We tied the tail to a back cleat then the bill to a bow rail. We wrapped two mooring lines around the middle girth of the fish and lifted the fish in and with a mighty thump the fish hit deck of my boat. The fish was indeed dead at this time so I felt a little more reassured that I made the right decision to bring it aboard.
At this time, we were both on cloud nine thinking we just did the impossible. We caught a large local marlin and may I add in under 25 years of fishing for one. Yeah…. I had to say it, remember that boasting thing I talked about earlier. The next question was what were we going to do with the fish now that its in our boat? Then I had another crazy idea. Let’s take it to Avalon at Catalina Island. Why would we spend all that gas money and time to go all the way to Catalina? I heard that if you weigh your catch at Catalina Island that they make some big deal of it and this fish in my opinion was large enough to make a big deal over. Afterall, it was my first marlin ever caught so off to Catalina we drove.
As we neared the harbor at Avalon I radioed the harbor master as to where we could weigh a large marlin caught? He instructed me to go to the green pier and they would take care of us. We slowly drove our boat to the green dock and moored the boat dockside. A man greeted us and looked inside my boat to view the marlin caught. “She’s a beauty all right” he gestered to us. “We’ll need to drop the hoist down to bring her up to be weighed” he said. He then told me to bring the rod and reel that I caught the marlin on to the top of the pier. I had no idea what was going on but did as the man instructed and walked up the ramp towards the top of the pier. As I reached the top of the pier there were about 100+ people standing behind yellow caution ribbon. A cheer rose up from the crowd as everyone seemingly knew I was the angler who had caught the fish but as I turned my head I could see my catch coming up over the wood railing of the pier and that was why they were cheering. A well aged woman sat in a chair behind a small table. Her name was Rosy and she was the official weighmaster for Avalon. She asked me if I was the boat’s captain or the angler? I answered the angler and she proceeded to have me fill out all the paperwork for the official weigh in. Apparently, the harbor master’s conversation with me was overheard by a cruise ship’s captain in port and he had announced to all onboard if they wanted to see a marlin being weighed in to go to the green dock which now made sense to me why so many people were present. The marlin was laid out on a flat board and was placed on an old Tuledo scale in which the dial indicator was tied up. Then the man at the scale untied the needle on the scale and it wildly raced around the scale then settling at 186 lbs. The man then bellowed “ Ladies and gentleman, the fish weighs 186 pounds and is the second largest marlin caught this year”. A huge cheer rose up from the crowd and then a cannon fired. A magnum bottle of Champagne was brought to us. Rob grabbed the bottle, shook it and sprayed us both with the contents. It was more than I could have ever dreamed would have occurred bringing the fish to Catalina Island. We posed for photos with our catch. When asked what we were going to do with our marlin I asked if the fish could be donated to feed the homeless to which a firm yes was given. The yellow ribbon was removed and many of the people present posed with our catch as they had caught the fish themselves. At this time Rob and myself had what amounted to a perfect day. We went to the local liquor store and purchased a case of wine coolers for the boat ride back home. Back at the boat leaving the harbor, Rob asks me, “ Well, now what?” to which I replied “ Let’s slow troll home, finish off the wine coolers, and who knows, we might catch another marlin today.”