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Friday, February 05, 2010

Big Blue

Wednesday dawned a little breezy and with Ziggy getting me (John) up at 0130 to sit on deck to look at crabs I was still in bed when the charter showed up at 0630 for Lepika, the charter fishing boat moored next to NAKIA. Russ, the owner/skipper, is a super guy which was confirmed again by his offering to cancel the charter for the day and reschedule (it would have been no fun for people on vacation to go out and bash around trying to catch a fish).

Russ had a problem though, he was trying to catch a fish for a Luau to celebrate the first birthday of his cousin's daughter. They take these things seriously and I guess he was feeling the pressure because at about 0730 a friend of his showed up and announced they were going to go out to try to catch a marlin for the Luau. I'd met Keith the day before. He lives in New Mexico and has a boat in Hawaii which he puts in the water one month a year.

While Keith and Russ prepared to go out, Keith looked over at me and ask if I'd like to go fishing. I stayed put for a second until I heard Russ ask too, I wanted to make sure he was ok with my coming along, but as soon as the words were out of his month I was out of my seat to get a hat, jacket and sunglasses and in two minutes was aboard Lepika.

Once we left the harbor it was clear that canceling the charter was the right thing to do. It wasn't rough by sailing standards but it was rough enough to make fishing uncomfortable. Keith set the lines while Russ drove and at some point Keith told me "ok, when we hook a fish you get in the chair." "Oh great", I thought. "I'm going to be the one that looses this fish." I can remember being very excited the first time I went sport fishing, but I wasn't so excited this time. This had more of an air of a boat ride with friends who just happened to be fishing at the same time. For me, the fun part was watching Russ at work, here is a guy who truly loves his job and I really did not want to let him down.

So we set about the task of fishing, which for those of you who have never been sport fishing before I'll tell you it is a pretty boring activity. Mostly you just motor around the surface of the ocean looking for anything that might indicate a fish. This trip had the added entertainment of windblown spray and a pitching deck due to the wind, but really it was just a chance for Russ and Keith to talk over old times and for me to make a joke when I could. For 4 hours we went back and forth off the coast with nothing to show for our efforts. Finally Russ called it in and we motored back to the harbor to wash the boat.

After the boat was clean, extra clean in fact because Keith and I took special care to dry everything thoroughly, we went to the harbor restaurant for lunch. We talked over burgers and beers but the whole time Russ watched the ocean. He was clearly stressed about this Luau and he started joking about all the places we didn't try to fish. Then he started saying that he thought it was getting calm and maybe we should go out again. The idea that it was calming down was pure fantasy, but I'm game for anything on a boat so I supported the idea of heading out a second time. We finished lunch and drove to a spot overlooking the ocean. If anything there was more wind, the only improvement was that it had shifted offshore a little so the waves weren't so big. "Looks good to me," I said. Keith mumbled something under his breath and Russ said; "Lets Go."

So out we went again and as soon as we cleared the harbor I heard Russ say "This is insane." Well, obviously these fisherman didn't know what it looked like when the sea was really crappy but Russ did have a point. Off again to motor around looking for a Luau fish.

After about 2 hours, nearing the last of the days runs Keith went down on deck to clear a snag in one of the lines. Then Russ started yelling about a fish near one of the lures. I couldn't see anything but moved down on deck as well. "He's taking it, He's taking it," yelled Russ, and then "BANG" one of the reels started peeling out line. Of course I saw none of it, but got in the chair I did. Keith set the pole in the chair and I clipped my belt to the pole. Now the only thing keeping the fish from pulling me over the side was a 1/4" nylon tag line attached to the reel. Russ and Keith were like mad men behind me, clearing the other poles and readying for the arrival of the Luau's main course.

About that time two things happened; First I looked down at the reel and noted that about half the line was gone. "Crap," I thought to myself, "I have to pull all that back in." Second I looked out to sea where I got my first glimpse of the fish. I'm not going to go all Ernest Hemingway here, in fact I'm trying not to use the word 'fish' too much in this description, but this animal was definitely bigger than anything I'd seen on the other end of a fishing line. It was really something to see as it broke the surface, thrashing wildly for 20 yards or so.

Then, Russ yelled "Reel John, Reel," and I started the work of pulling back all the line the fish had taken. I'm not sure how long it took, maybe 20 minutes, but after the first five the muscles in my shoulder were flaming. Thank god Russ and Keith were there to coach me. Every once in a while Russ would say something like "Sorry to be yelling at you John, but I really want to get that fish on board!" As if I didn't know it already. I told him not to worry and to make sure I didn't do anything to loose this fish.

Finally the line filled the reel and I got to sit back and watch while Russ and Keith gaffed and subdued the fish so they could bring it on board. Russ opened the door in the transom and they tried pulling it onboard. I say 'tried' because the first attempt failed, it got stuck in door and had to be turned a little so it would fit. A second more forceful pull brought it in and for the first time I got to see all of it. A blue marlin, it had to be about seven or eight feet long. Keith estimated 210 lbs, while Russ guessed 250. Back at the dock it weighed out at 306 lbs.

I guess I always thought I wanted to catch a big fish, and I can say doing it was fun. But the best part, by far, was being there to watch the relief on Russ's face when that fish was finally on board and knowing that I'd taken part in getting the main course for a little girl's first year birthday party.


For more information on the Lepika, see http://lepikasportfishing.com/