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High seas and rugged fishing make for the most memorable party boat voyages to the edge during the fall run.
By Chris Lido
Tags: offshore

We made it to the dock just in time to get our bunk assignments at 5 p.m. as the boat was schedule to shove off at 6 p.m. There was some question as to the weather, but the Captain decided it was a “go” after getting some favorable reports from the Spencer Canyon to the south. At a neighboring dock we saw the crew of another party boat that had returned from the canyon unloading a wahoo that looked every bit of 80 pounds. That did it! We were off despite seas building to ten feet that night with tuna on the brain and time on our hands.

While the quad turbo diesels pounded into a southwest swell no one got much sleep as the boat plodded in the dark at under 20 knots despite a top cruising speed of 32 knots-uncomfortable to say the least. Several had succumbed to mal-de-mer and it was the closest I have ever come to being pinned to the rail without a fish attached to my rod. Six hours later the anchor chain clanked out on the pulpit plummeting to the 600-foot depths. We had chosen a spot to drift out hook baits at the bow, but that was out of the question in seas so rough we couldn’t even stand. Our crew was forced to fish amidships and around the stern. Darkness swallowed the surrounding water as I watched chunks ladled by the mates sink in the moving warm gulf current. This wasn’t for the faint of heart, but hey, we were doing it.

Lights came on illuminating the cobalt canyon water as a few squid flittered past the white hull, but out past the glow there seemed to be nothing more than angry Atlantic. Sardines and butterfish fished on 6/0 2x strong circle hooks and 80-pound fluorocarbon leaders were fed into the mix with steady pulls of the free spooled reel, aided by 8-ounce egg sinkers-the current was ripping too. Strikes did not come quickly, but in time I was first to shout out those two magic words.

The fight was solid and determined as 60-pound line came off the reel at a steady clip. Runs weren’t blistering, but they were dogged and determined. The drag took its toll on the fish and stopped its momentum, but the rough seas had the boat swinging wildly on the hook and I had to follow the fish from port to starboard stern several times. Luckily this was the first fish on and other anglers gave plenty of room. Eventually the 70-pound yellowfin came to gaff, but I admit to having to use the rail as a fulcrum in rough seas to get the tuna the last few yards to pay dirt. Blood hit the deck and I wore it as war paint as the fish went down below into the slushy hold. This was to start a flurry of scombroidal action on the yellow-finned kind. Several other anglers hooked up on 50-pound tackle and a few were broken off before those same anglers opted to up the ante arming themselves with 80-pound gear. More yellowfin hit the deck. It wasn’t a slam fest, but the bite was decent and about a dozen were chunked as the boat slammed down hard with each roller.

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