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Not unlike other fishing endeavors, there are typically four distinct stages to the proverbial “tuna trip.”
The initial stage: The Buzz. The crew is electric in the predawn darkness. You feel the voodoo come over you as you leave the harbor into the Bay. The crew talks over each other as you search out bait and quadruple check knots and crimps. There’s a perceptible hum to the air over the cries of manic seabirds and intense chatter on channel 72. If you’re putting odds on tail roping a toon that day, you just flopped an 11 and you’ve already got your chips on the table to double down. The house doesn’t stand a chance.
The second stage. The Wait. Potential energy hangs on the edge. The 130 sits in the rod holder and every minute you picture it arching over, hear the screaming drag, see the chaos erupting over the boat. You wait. Spirits are still high, everyone is telling stories you’ve heard a hundred times before. You look again at the reel and the balloons and the fishfinder. Nothing moves. You wait some more.
The Third Stage: The Comedown. Unercertaintly. You put the feelers out for a location move. There’s flickers of hope that eventually something will find your bait and this seemingly unending period of inactivity will be punctuated by something frenetic. You second guess the mackerel you chose. You second guess your crimp and leader. You second guess your spot. Should we be deeper? Follow the fleet? Head to the backside? Mostly, you second guess why you even decided you’d go tuna fishing.
The Fourth Stage: Despair. Did I ever tell you that I hate tuna fishing? What a crock of shit this whole thing is. It’s like ice fishing, only worse. You feel like a kid throwing a tantrum because you didn’t catch any sunfish under your bobber. You don’t even care about moving spots anymore, you just want the whole endeavor to end. You want to go fish for stripers. At least they appreciate you. You want to eat a sandwich and have another White Claw. Really, you want to do anything but fish for tuna. Abandon hope all ye who enter this boat. Did I ever tell you I hate tuna fishing?
And if you’ve ever fished for tuna, this is where the story typically ends. You cruise home in mostly silence and maybe the beers at the mooring put you in a better mood and you start telling those stories again. Maybe you make plans to head back out for tuna but secretly you wish you could throw the 130s to the bottom of the ocean.
But on this day in late August, as we were deciding which line we would pull in first, at the absolute last possible second and in the deepest depths of stage four, a tuna decided to eat one of our mackerel. I watched the rod bend and heard the drag start to scream, and felt like I was just staring, simply an observer to the forces of nature. But as if by some miracle of machine learning, we were all in position instantly and fighting a tuna, our plan humming to life.
Our first tuna on the Mal de Mer pulled a dangerous amount of line from the reel in the initial run. We chased the fish fish for a while but eventually put the nails to it and got it off the bow. We got lucky during this fight in a few ways. Most of the fleet had already gone home for the day, so we were pretty much the last ones left, giving us plenty of time to meander about following the fish.
The fight was relatively uneventful, very logical and give give, take take take. It happened in black and white. Eventually, the big fish–the biggest I’d ever seen in person–came boat side. It was not an easy task to get it on the deck.
Back at the mooring, we drank beers and ate sashimi with our buds over at Fire Escape and Steak and Jake Charters. We overestimated the length of the fight and underestimated the amount of line we had left on the spool before we started working some back. We ate Tollhouse crackers for some reason. It was dark by the time we had the fish processed.
This brings us to our last stage. Elation. Did I ever tell you that I love tuna fishing?