The rain was coming down in sheets this morning. When I was called out of my rack early, they said “bring rain gear”. The problem with rain gear in this climate is that wearing rain gear is like cooking in a little greenhouse and you’ll get wet. If you don’t wear rain gear, you’ll get wet. Wet now or wet later. I went with a Grundens rain coat, shorts and Xtra-Tuffs. My Grundens coat is the heavy duty kind that is comfortable in colder climates. Many onboard have the thin type that are much more comfortable in this hot weather. Thinking the rain would blow through quickly no one was too worried. The end result was my boots filled up twice in the three hours we worked on deck today. We deployed a science mooring.
Once we trip the release and send the anchor toward the bottom the ship is repositioned and prepares to do a survey once the anchor lands on the bottom. The water is so deep here, it takes the anchor forty minutes to reach the seafloor. Once on the bottom, the ship will run a pattern around the area and can pinpoint the anchor’s position which they will use to help in their modeling. Once the survey is complete, we steam to a new location to work on something else.
At 1100 the call came down from the bridge that we would be steaming 5-6 knots for 1.5 hours and to deploy the fishing gear. I spent a couple hours last night organizing and rigging the gear so when these short windows are available we can have lines out in a matter of minutes. Today we put out seven handlines across the transom. I was helped by Alofa, one of our observers and another AB named Paul. We got the lines in and most everyone went back inside since it was still raining.
“Tiki Tahi, Tiki Tahi, Tiki Tahi”……Alofa was doing a traditional chant from his home island in Tokelau which is a small island chain a couple hundred miles from Samoa. I asked him what it meant and he said it means “one for each”, meaning one fish for each line. Not long after it was lunch time and I was the only one left watching all the lines. I decided to skip lunch to watch the lines. I wondered what a circus it would be if all my lines caught a little skipjack tuna and I was the only one here to pull fish.
About then my longest line went tight. I tried to pull it in a little bit, but it was to taught. I ran to the far side of the deck and called the bridge on the squak box and told them I had a good fish on and to slow down. I ran back go the other 6 lines and pulled them in as fast as I could. About half way through, Nick, our new intern marine tech appeared and asked if he could be of assistance. I put him to work clearing the port side while I tried to get some line from the fish. The ship hadn’t slowed at all and I looked up to the bridge and saw the 3rd mate and gave him some hand signals to slow down. He finally did and I was able to start getting some line in steadily. Then India, our second cook arrived, and helped me pull on the line. I yelled for Nick to run to the staging bay and get the gaff. He runs across the deck into the staging bay then stops and yells back “what’s a gaff”. He finally figured it out and got the gaff and he helped pull on the fish with us. We were nearing the leader when we saw the first deep color. The fish never jumped or broke the surface so I was sure it was a good tuna or possibly a really nice wahoo. A little more line and we could tell it was a blue marlin. I decided to release it and let him grow. AB Paul came back to help and we tried to use the gaff to catch the hook for the release. Our stern is 8-12′ off the water depending on the size of the swells and the fish was getting active on the leader. We ended up taping a knife to the gaff and cutting the leader. Word had spread quickly and the galley must have cleared because all of the scientists and a few crew arrived to see it and ask if we were going to eat it. We finally were able to cut the leader and the Marlin swam away. We were able to cut the leader close to the fish and the hook was in the bill. As he turned, I saw my lure slip off the end of the leader and sink away.
I had purchased just the head of the lure in Hawaii in 2004 on a trip with my good buddy Marlin Mike and my cousin Sam. The lure head is called a “jet” head. I was stopped at the Kona airport and my bag searched because the lure head looked like a bullet on the xray machine. The TSA security guy wasn’t going to let me keep my lure heads, but there was one big brudda Hawaiian security guy who looked at it and told the dick security guy it was fishing gear and “let em keep it”. In 2007 I took the same lure on a boat trip up the Pacific Coast of Baja and we caught an 80 and 60 pound wahoo on the same lure. Today we caught a blue marlin and the lure has been lost to the deep. I’m gonna miss it. I’m going to build another one when I get home.
In the heat of the action only one picture turned out. The total fight was just over a half an hour.