The Waterman's Journal would like to thank our good friend Woody from Paradise Outfitters for once again contributing to the Waterman's Journal. This time Woody reports in on their hellacious Gulf of Mexico 'Hat Trick' for Monster Yellowfin Tuna...
Sometimes in life, you just get dealt a good hand. For the period stretching from February 11th through February 26th , the Gulf of Mexico dealt us some winners. The morning of February 26th started out like any other-wake up, weak breakfast, walk to boat, spray deck off of ice which had accumulated during the night, ice the boat up, wait on customers, moderate trash talk with other crews at the dock, meet and greet customers, cold ride down the Mississippi river. It is so cold here that although we love wintertime fishing due to the monster tuna we get, every one of us is praying for summertime conditions to return, just so we can start wishing it was cool again. Sometimes, you just can’t satisfy everyone!
During the wintertime, our tuna move in shallow in hot pursuit of the massive schools of pogies which set up shop in depths averaging 200 feet. Other predators such as wahoo, mako sharks, and even billfish, aren’t far behind the tunas. For us, that equals shorter runs and cheaper fuel bills, something everyone can appreciate, especially in light of the economy. Our crew today consisted of Steve and Rod, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. Steve was a tuna virgin, and Rod had caught a few tunas before, but none like he was going to get himself into today.
Now just the day before, Hunter had caught his second 200 pound yellowfin of the year, weighing in at 207 pounds. We decided to start out where we had left off the day before, and started our chum line. Within minutes, massive schools of bonitas showed up, which was a good thing, because we were burning through our seventy-five pounds of pogies pretty quickly. We threw a dozen or so into the box to be cut up for chunks later. Within the first fifteen minutes, we had our first fish on. Every one of our tunas fought kind of weird that day-at periods heading away from the boat, some running just under the surface like a wahoo or billfish would, and then other times heading deep. We even had a few fierce head shakes much more typical of a good wahoo. Steve was a pretty big guy, and after an hour on this fish, I told him I would not give him too much hell if he wanted to pass the rod off. Of course if that were to happen, we would not have let him heard the end of it, but he didn’t know that. We knew we had a good fish on, and were excited because this spot we were on that day is hit or miss, and had been a lot of miss lately. After the ninety minute mark, we saw color and struck the gaffs into the first good fish of the day, weighing in at 153 pounds. I smeared blood across his face in true tuna-virgin fashion, and we took a short break for pictures and lunch.
Hunter and I clocked back in after some sandwiches and sodas, and went back to work chumming up pogies and bonitas. I swear we spent several hours that day cutting bait; but it would turn out to be a good decision. After weeding through a few sharks and putting a few more bonitas in the box for bait, we had a double header on. Although both of our anglers were hooked up to good fish, I put out a third line in hopes for the triple. Now, this was not our first rodeo, and as soon as we hooked the third fish, Hunter picked up the rod and started fighting the fish. I know he was relieved to be back in the angler position, because when you work as hard as he does, you find very little time to spend on the rod, which is what brought us into this profession to begin with. Hunter had his fish to the boat within fifteen minutes, and as I readied the gaffs, a large blacktip ended up at the end of his line. Dangit!
An hour went by and it was clear that these fish had plenty of gas in their tanks, so we bailed on our anchor and began to give chase to these monsters. Tuna do not get that big by being dumb, and on more than one occasion, we did the tuna shuffle around the boat, with the fish determined to get tangled up in our anchor line, our motors, and each other. Sometimes brains beat brawn though, and Captain Hunter isn’t your average bear. Deep down, I was hoping one or both of our anglers would tire so I could get in the harness. One of the downsides of working on boats is how much time you get to personally fish, with the exception of making bait in the morning. These guys were serious fishermen though, and fought their fish as if they had been training for months for their first trip down to Venice. Steve’s fish came to the boat a little after an hour and a half, and another fat yellowfin, this one coming in at 163 pounds, hit the deck. I gave him a short break on the bean bags before I put him on camera duty! Rod was due a good fish-the only ones he had hooked that day were bonitas and sharks, and he missed a few bonitas at that! Around the two hour mark, we saw color on his fish, and his sickles rose several feet above the surface. This was a true monster, and after a few tense moments and a few more cranks on the reel, we sank the cold steel for the final time that day in another hoss of a yellowfin. As soon as we heard the tell-tale smack of a fat tuna hitting the deck, the crowd went wild. Although we were pretty confident on our guesses on the weights of the first two fish, we didn’t want to jinx the weight of our third fish by saying the number “200” too early. Just earlier that day on the ride out, I was telling Hunter how awesome that would be if we had three 200 pound yellowfin in one month. Sometimes the stars just align themselves and things work out; the good guys win. We packed up, cleaned up, and pointed the bow north. We pulled up to the commercial dock where all the shrimp boats park at, and threw the fish on the scales. Our final fish came in at 201 pounds even.
Fishing in Venice should definitely be on every angler’s list of things to do before death. Not only does it boast some of the best year-round tuna fishing in the world, but also has a diverse variety of bottom fish, wahoo, and spectacular billfishing.
-Mate Woody Woods
For more information on fishing with Captain Hunter Caballero of Paradise Outfitters, visit www.paradise-outfitters.com or call 504-610-1686.
Thanks to Woody and Paradise Outfitters for contributing another great adventure to the Waterman's Journal. Check back in for more killer Offshore and Tuna Reports.