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MONSTER MAKO CRASHES SEA BASS PARTY

While social media cynics were quick to deny, anglers aboard the Voyager out of Point Pleasant tell a different tale of the 300-pound mako that crashed their final black sea bass trip of the 2016 season. Photo by Sergio Ortiz.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  December 30, 2016

Typically a photo from the deck of a party boat showing a 300-plus-pound mako stretched nose to tail nearly rail-to-rail will cause someone to do a double take.

When you hear the trip was an offshore bottomfish excursion for sea bass and porgies however, it tends to pin the ‘BS’ meter towards the extreme right-hand side of the red zone for most online cynics!

Except of course for those who regularly fish the offshore grounds aboard their favorite headboat, where just like any type of long range trip, there’s no telling what can happen when you put a baited hook down in the deep.

On Wednesday, December 28, captains Jeff Gutman and John Schaible had the Voyager offshore for one of their final black sea bass trips of the 2016 season. As patrons were dropping clam baits and jigs for giant offshore sea bass, problems began to arise as some of the catches were being decimated on the way back up.

Fishing portside with his dad, Sergio Ortiz was one of the first to notice something wasn’t right below the surface. “My dad thought he had a sea bass on but it wasn’t fighting,” Sergio said. “The line was moving though, and I said ‘no you’ve got a fish dad,’ and then it went slack.”

Seconds later and about 10 yards off of the stern, Sergio saw a big mako explode from the surface, what turned out to be a 9-footer with a 6-foot girth. “I’ve seen a few big fish offshore, but I’ve never seen anything that big breach like that,” he said.

Ortiz said one of the Voyager mates - now perhaps forever known as “Mako Mike” Figueroa - quickly ran upstairs for a bigger outfit, a Shimano Talica 50 with a Terez XXH rail rod. In addition to black sea bass, there was a mixed bag of fishing going on which included bluefish; so when Mike got back on deck with a shark rig on the heavier tackle, a fresh bluefish filet was quickly deployed. “They tossed out the set up and a few moments later we were tight,” Ortiz said. “Mikey hooks up to him and it’s game on.”

Ortiz said another angler named Maria was also buttoned up to the shark for nearly 20 minutes before it broke off, and said as Mike worked the big mako around the boat the first time, it appeared as if the fish was still hungry. “Someone else hooked up to the same fish, a guy with a cod rod, and then Mike suddenly got caught up in the prop,” Ortiz said. The crew worked to splice line back on to Mako Mike’s Shimano setup and just in time as the other angler also broke off.

“He reeled it in in no time,” said Capt. Gutman, crediting Figueroa with putting the boots to the fish. “It was more the gaffing and tailroping that took so much of the time.”

“It was unbelievable,” said Rick Pereira of the thrice-hooked mako. “I was actually inside the cabin when the shark came up and took someone’s sea bass, but they ended up getting the shark on a much bigger outfit, a shark rig.”

Pereira said the battle around the boat to the final landing was an epic one lasting close to an hour with most customers reeling up to avoid getting tangles. “Customers were clearing rods out of the way, everyone was working together,” Pereira said, adding “I had never seen anything that big aboard a party boat, I was amazed.”

At one point, Ortiz said the mako was brought close enough to the bow to get a flying gaff into him, and eventually a second, until the fish was cleated off and carefully worked towards the stern. “After three times around the boat, we got it to the stern,” Ortiz said of the fight. “Two flying gaffs, six or seven bamboo gaffs, and four slugs with the bang stick and it was done.”

“Two days later and I'm still sore from getting in the mix,” Ortiz said of the effort to haul the fish aboard which required the work of a half-dozen crew members and patrons, and cost five or six of the bamboo gaffs in the process.

Capt. Gutman went on to say it was the biggest mako ever landed aboard the Voyager. “On most of the offshore tuna trips the makos are in the 150- to 200-pound range,” he said adding “it was relatively cooperative as far as makos go, but Mike got it to the boat quickly.

“Fortunately we left some tuna gaffs, flying gaffs and a bangstick on the boat from our fall tuna trips,” the skipper said with a laugh.

Once the shark was successfully dragged through the transom door, everyone onboard the Voyager went home with fresh mako. “It was pretty impressive how they gave fish to everyone,” Pereira said, calling the effort to catch, subdue and eventually land the monster fish “total teamwork.”

“I’m 33, and my dad’s been taking me fishing since I was 5,” Ortiz added. “Yeah, this was definitely one of the coolest things we’ve ever experienced.”

Gutman said they had seen a fish of that size during a trip a few days earlier, and also said other party boats fishing nearby also spotted makos in the area. “The water is still relatively warm though, and there are lot of blues around too,” he noted.

So yes, while some folks may have a hyper-sensitive ‘BS’ meter in this social media obsessed world, sometimes - especially on the offshore grounds - truth can be stranger than fiction!

Check out video of the mako being brought aboard the Voyager care of angler Rick Pereira posted at The Fisherman's Facebook page.

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