Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Day 3 of the overnighter

Actually, I left the last report as we were in the middle of Day 2.  We had started the day with sailfish before sunrise, caught several, then left the bite looking for a marlin.  After no marlin bites on the sea mount and the radar indicating birds in the area where we left the sailfish biting that morning, we were now headed back to the meat.....125 miles offshore of Los Suenos.  

It had been an hour since we had a bite when we got what we were looking for, a nice blue marlin about 250-300 pounds exploded on the right short teaser.  Of course the first pitchbait, line wrapped around the rod tip, but the back up bonito quickly hit the water......a second too late, the marlin had faded off.   I wasn't in the middle of the pitch bait dance, I was up on the bridge with my pillow behind my head. I hopped down and side swiped the pitch bait dance and grabbed the 50 that was chugging a Laceration Lures prototype on the left long.   It was a beautiful sight.....and feeling........ to see that marlin crash the lure attached to the rod I was holding with a ferocious "going away" bite.  I crossed her eyes.  

The rod was going to the customer and the customer to the chair and that blue marlin was going absolutely ape-shit.  She took to the air laid out on her side, touching the water only for a nanosecond before bouncing back into the air again and again and again in a spiraling path.   When she completed the circle, returning to the hole in the water where a lure once swam, she finally caught enough water to right herself and launch herself straight up, broadside, in clear view of all us......and we all saw her come unglued.

With the track she took, it would have been almost impossible to return all that slack line fast enough to keep the hook lodged in her mouth.....just too much air time.

Three hundred pounds of flesh skipping across the surface in a circle is an amazing sight and there was no one disappointed with the show she gave us.

We saw another marlin cruising the surface and another quick bite on the teaser, but that was our shot and we would have to settle for sailfish for the rest of the day.  The slow fishing that we've had over the past two weeks really pust into perspective the bite that we were on.....and that is still out there.

Through the afternoon we picked and picked at sails, then started trolling towards the west.   With an easterly drift, James headed into the current, hoping to drift through the night, ending up in the middle of the bite at dawn.

Although we were again trolling away from the best of the bait marks, the bite didn't slow down and we ended the day just as it started, catching sailfish with the sun below the horizon.  After sunset, we caught a double and a triple header.  For the day, we totaled close to 50 sailfish bites.

I barely made it through dinner, relieved of my watch until moon-set...about two hours before first light.

The Migration:
Each day at sunset,  in oceans around the world, a migration occurs that few have ever seen.   In waters so deep they are never touched by tropical rays of sunlight, there is a world that waits in the darkness....for the darkness.

Under the lens of a microscope, the warm, clear, sunlit waters of the ocean blue come alive.  Hundreds of spheres, disks and filaments of diatoms, dinoflagellates and algae crowd a drop of water. Many of these tiny plants and animals drift at the mercy of the currents, but they are actually the anchor of a chain of life reaching to the deep.

As the sun sets, with aid of fins or wings, moving hairs or long whipping tails,  slightly larger animals, just barely visible to the naked eye, propel themselves to the surface feast.  The chain pulls to the surface  large-eyed, dark colored fish and small sharks who have never seen the light of day.  But the most numerous......and effective nighttime predator are the squid......thousands and thousands of squid of all sizes. And with the squid, follow other predators.

On moonless nights, a lantern placed over the water will draw no moths, but other animals are attracted to the light, especially the squid.....and hopefully the animals that feed on squid....like swordfish.

When I woke for my watch,  the moon was still up and there was very little life around the boat.  But when the moon set,  occasional shapes, tricks of the eye, started to flash several feet below the surface in the edges of the light.  Without any trace of moon light,  the Dragin Fly was now getting some attention.

What had not gotten any attention were the weighted baits, lit with green glow sticks, drifting at different depths in search of a sword.  The darker it got, the more life appeared.  With a dip net and "squid jig" on a spinning rod, Wade and I were like kids at an aquarium touch tank, handling live animals that we had only previously seen in books......or had thawed out for bait.

Unidentified, finger sized gelatinous masses twisted and undulated as the boat drifted over them and they tried to escape the light.  Occasional jellyfish would pass by.  Tiny minnows and odd looking   flying fish that look more like winged insects than  fish skittered in and out of the light.  Darts and dashes of  torpedo shaped squid became more frequent.  Their movements are too fast to discern and detail, but as their numbers accumulate  they become more brazen, pausing in the light, inspecting their surroundings and becoming more comfortable under the foreign illumination.

Although a mollusk, the same as a clam or conch, squids are much more complex, they have a relatively large brain.  When they pause in the light, you can almost see them think.  They also have large eyes, well suited for hunting in the dark.  Like their mollusk cousins, they aren't stuck in the mud or a shell, squid are amazingly mobile, using jet propulsion to speed through the water.  Fins on their "head" give them the ability to quickly change directions, darting one direction, then the next,  only to reverse the jet and pounce on prey with a web of tentacles.

Many people know that squid have little suction cups on their tentacles, but did you know that on the tentacles of their two larger legs, the suction cups are ringed with tiny hooks to help grab slippery prey?  Once caught, the fish  is pulled towards the mouth where a razor sharp beak rips it apart piece by piece.

Most squids are a few inches to about a foot long, but in some parts of the world, they can be many feet long. The saucer sized suctions of giant squid, the favorite food of sperm whales,  are dangerous enough to leave round scars on the heads and bodies of the whales that feed on them.

Wade and I were catching some of the bait sized squid when James woke up, just in time to witness what happened next.   We were theorizing on the best way to catch a sword and if there were many around.  Commercial boats caught them, occasionally they would be seen finning on the surface and Capt. Rusty caught one a couple of years ago.   The three of us standing there in the middle of the Pacific ocean staring down at shoals of squid  when the swordfish appeared.

Out of nowhere, from under the boat, bill-first, a 8 foot swordfish attacked my squid jig......there were a couple problems......

Problem # 1:  A squid jig doesn't have hooks.  It's just a 2 inch  long hot dog shaped piece of glow-in-the dark plastic, like those toys that you hold under the light.....or supercharge with a camera flash....then they glow green for a few minutes.   Tie the line to the top, out of the bottom of the lure are a bunch of light wires that bend upwards to make a ring of tightly spaced inch long spikes.  Some jigs will have more wires coming out of the middle, angled in the same direction towards the eye of the lure.   The idea is not to impale the squid when he attacks it, but to entangle his tentacles between the wires. Anyway, point is, a squid jig ain't gonna hook a swordfish.....

Problem # 2:   I was able to take away the jig before the "fish" vanished into the shadows and Wade was on the 50, cranking up the closest bait that we had  deployed.   We were all convinced that it was a swordfish, then the "fish" turned and took a breath.   A family of bottle nose dolphins crashed the party and put on a show.  Squid showered and inked as the hunter became the hunted.   The dolphins would disappear for a few moments and the squid would start bunching up in the light, but they wouldn't eat our squid jigs or stay still long enough to get dipped up.  They were smart.  Clicks and whistles signaled coordinated attacks from the dolphins and the squid would shower, dolphins in hot pursuit, sometimes catching them in the air. The dolphins were smarter.

As dawn approached,  the migration reversed and the squid chased the dark out of range of the dolphins.

And we put 'em out.....catching a pair of sails before sunrise.  We couldn't stay long and had to cover as much ground as we could by trolling towards home.  We caught sailfish all the way to about 80 miles from Los Suenos, then the water got green and the fish got finicky and for sure, there were less of them.

Finally, the end.

We've got two guys on the boat for the next 3 days.  They also fished today and they each caught two sailfish.  Good day on the water. They were in Guatemala a few years ago, fished 4 days and caught 15.  They went to Panama and never caught one.   Yes, you can go to the best places in the world, at the best times to be there and still find tough fishing.  Glad that we're getting what we need.