One of the best things about running my charter fishing boat is the people that I get to meet. Hugh & Paula Pattinson have fished with me for 11 years & along with being good clients have become better friends. Over the years they have been open to fishing for “most anything that might be biting” rather than just trying to catch blue marlin; they are both accomplished anglers who choose to follow the IGFA rules.
The morning of April Fools was wearing a dark sky with some light rain falling as we left the harbor. We were fishing 2 80# short & 2 50# long. It was Paula’s turn (they alternate fish) as they settled-in to their morning routine of reading 2 papers, doing the crossword puzzles in ink, having a bite of late breakfast, followed by catching some zzzzz’s. We had been working Kauai in/out of the 1000 fathom when out of the corner of my eye I saw a large tail swimming behind the purple softhead. “Big fish – big fish on the long corner” got them both awake & watching the pattern. I’m sure their first thought was “April Fools Joke”. Impressive bite – the fish hard worked to get her head up & out of the water & ate the lure with one huge lurch forward. The first jump was at the boat (hey, that’s got some shoulders) followed by another jump toward the boat & turned upside down (wow, big belly too) all of this seemed to be playing in slow motion less than 30′ away.
Hugh cleared the long rigger as Paula took the rod to the chair backing-off the drag. The fish is headed away from the boat with on a slow steady run & after clearing the short bait it was time to turn & chase with one lure still in the water (it’s dramatic to back-down but not nearly effective). Nervous time – I haven’t seen the fish jump & can only hope that it’s down & still is where I think it is – the first of a lot of things to go right. With the throttles up we are probably going the same speed as the fish & I’m concerned about putting too much pressure on the belly of the line. My thinking is that if we can get in front of the fish Paula will have the opportunity to put some very easy line back on the reel. This part goes right, too. After 10 minutes we have less than 200 yards of line in the water – 15 minutes later we are back to the mark & the real fight begins.
I knew that Capt. Mike Holtz on the Jun Ken Po was in the same area & gave him a heads-up that Paula was “legal” & on a nice fish & I might be needing his deckie (Big Wave) Dave Bertuleit to give us a hand. Another thing goes right – Mikey is on a half day & says “no worries, the cavalry is coming”. I call him back 20 minutes later & tell him, “this is no April Fools joke”, just to make sure.
To this point everything has been perfect – the right fish for the right people on the right tackle at the right time. The fight settles-in to a battle of wills with the fish swimming in a slow figure 8 pattern behind the boat. Paula now has the drag at the button (26# or so) & inches it upward over the next hour to “full”. Everything I try to do with the boat is to break the pattern of the slow figure 8 fails. Double line on the rod & then gone again; boring, but I feel we are beating the fish bit by bit. I want to set-up the fish to be taken on the starboard side of the boat which is the first part of the figure 8 only to watch it switch back under the boat. Patience.
Been there, done that – I ask Paula if she can take some more pressure – “what ever it takes to catch this fish is fine with me.” Again things are going our way! Paula gives me a silly look when I ask her if she knows how to use a set of pliers – she then uses them to turn-up the pre-set on the drag. More juice is good but it’s putting a bunch of pressure on her back. Around we go double on/double off without ever getting a chance to get past that point. The overcast sky allows Paula a cool working environment – good things are happening but more patience is required.
Mike calls & says he’s coming. The north wind is blowing 15 kt plus with some texture on the ocean – if there’s anything I’m not concerned about is him landing Dave safely on the bow. The Pattinsons have sampled Dave seviche recipe (yum!) so his has reputation precedes his introduction. I tell Dave that after 2:45 we are still IGFA legal & that Paula would like to get this one straight up. “Let’s back down & get me the leader”, was his reply. More figure 8’s. 15 minutes pass – double on/double off & no leader. Time to make a decision. I ask Dave, “how long is this thing” not having had a good look myself – “plenty” was his answer. It’s Paula’s call & she says, “lets’ just catch it, my back is hurting now”.
I’ve been told that you can’t move a fish of this size by pulling on the leader – you have to push the boat into the fish. Paula abandoned the IGFA legal stuff by telling Dave “to grab the double line & give it a go”. More good things are happening as I watch Dave grab the double line on the port side of the boat (last part of the figure 8) & walk the fish past the transom & up the starboard side taking triple wraps & moving this toad toward the surface into gaffing position. A truly amazing thing to watch & something I would never have been able to accomplish alone. Lights out & the party is just beginning.