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Fish Tales


Bad Day Gone Good


Join William Tyler as he turns a bad day into a good one with the help of a big North Carolina blue marlin ...

We had been having a slow day, but at least we had variety. We had one 35-lb yellowfin in the box, a king mackerel, and a 20-lb dolphin. We had a triple header of which two had pulled off immediately and we released the dink (undersized) yellowfin that we landed. We were trolling about 10 miles North of the Point. I had us going in a zig zag pattern across the continental shelf drop off. We drove NE off the edge into 2,000 feet, and then turn NW and would run back up the slope till 200 ft.

I had my right hand on the wheel with the drivers chair sideways so I could look back. As I glanced back I saw a huge bill come out of the water and act like it was grabbing a bait. Then I saw the huge sickle-shaped tail half out the water showing 2 feet of the top of the fin. Then the hook must have set and the blue marlin charged to the right and did a perfect greyhound leap with his back arched and fin straight up. He looked just like a marlin stuck up on a wall with his arched back, and it showed his perfectly silhouetted pointed dorsal fin. This is the identification feature that separates blue marlin from white marlin, which a have a rounded dorsal fin. With his great size fully in the air, it left no doubt in my mind what we had on.

"Blue Marlin on the left longrigger," I screamed. At this point the sleepy bodies poured from the cabin. Benji handed the belt to Bobby, who started to put it on, and then he grabbed the rod. Buck, Roger and Elizabeth reeled in the other lines. At this point line was screaming from the reel and the fish put on a 200-yard greyhounding sprint spraying water like a car sliding in a parking lot on a rainy day. After seeing the fish put on the show, Benji had a change of mind. "Give me the #@&#^%!@ belt!," he barked at Bobby while he was holding the rod with the line screaming off of it . Bobby grudgingly strapped it onto Benji. The contestants had been chosen.

Everyone else had been reeling in lines, but they were still in the water. At this point, there was only a quarter spool left and the line was disappearing fast. I was in a new boat, a Grady White 30. I had always fished smaller boats like my previous Grady 24. In this same situation, a big boat will immediately back down (drive in reverse) on a fish to gain line. They also use a chair, and it is tough to follow a fish when the angler can't move to the edge of the boat. But most small boats fight standup which means there is no chair and you can stand on the edge of the boat and follow the fish. A small outboard will sink if you floor it in reverse because water can enter where the outboards sit. Although in this new boat, the outboard engines are on a platform, I chose to use my old, ingrained small boat method of chasing the fish. I made a sharp turn to the right, put the fish at a 45 degree and forward, and put the boat up on a plane. The chase was on.

We chased the fish on the surface for about 5 minutes and gained most of the line back. I kept him out to the side of the boat and I would run at him to gain line, and turn away from him when he rushed us. We had a few good looks at him and I estimated he was 400 - 500 lbs. He was settling down.

Then the fish pulled his first "Crazy Ivan". As he rushed the boat, I turn away and gagged the throttle, and we got up on plane. But Benji was still reeling, which meant the fish was gaining, I kept it on plane for about two minutes on half throttle. Finally he turned and line started spooling off the reel again. For a second time things settle down.

At this point a small boat almost trolled between us and the fish. Buck and Bobby started waving shirts, I got on the hailer and told them to turn, and at the same time, the fish jumped well on the other side of them. They got the point and did a U-turn on top of their own lines, probably getting a big tangle for such a sharp turn.

Then the fish was pulling steady and down about 100 ft. He had 3/4 spool out, so I changed tactics. I started to back down on him. We backed right down the line towards the fish and Benji put almost all the line back on the reel before the fish realized we were closing in on him. Then he threw his second "Crazy Ivan" run at us.

He ran hard, straight away from us making the reel scream like it was changing gears. Then he did a U-turn and screamed past us. As I saw him jump in front of the boat, I looked backwards and saw line still streaming out in the direct opposite direction and I knew he had put a huge arc on us and that we were in trouble. I was still in reverse, and I yelled that he had arced in front of us and to hang on. I slammed the boat in full throttle and Bobby and Roger grabbed Benji by the back of his harness and steadied him. The boat lurched forward and we got on plane. As we picked up speed, the marlin continued to jump and he pulled the line to the surface. With me flooring the boat, I had lifted Benji another four feet into the air, so now the arc of line popped out of the water. I could see 300 yards of line pop free in a huge arc and, with suddenly no resistance on the line, Benji fell flat on his back - but he kept reeling. He was laying on his back, reeling like the devil, and that combined with the boat which had gotten up to 33 mph made the line never go slack, even though 300 yards of the arc in the line had free jumped 100 yards forward.

I passed the last know location of the fish and Roger and Bobby lifted Benji to his feet. I pulled back on the throttle. "Go, go, go!", they all yelled, "we are still taking in line." "Could this be, the fish is still running" I thought. The engines were floored. We were going 35 MPH and picking up speed. I waited another 30 second as we topped out a dead full speed at 38 MPH and pulled back on the throttle. "No, no, no, go, go, go" they yelled. I floored it, and looked and saw 33 mph again. I waited another 30 seconds, and he is still reeling. Again I pull back on the throttle, thinking this was impossible. They yell, "go, go, go!" a third time. I comply and floor the boat again. Then I get my answer. The marlin starts jumping just outside the wake of the boat, and gaining on us! He looked just like a water skiier. There was the wake, straight as an arrow going off infinitely into the distance, and there was the fish greyhounding, just outside the wake. Then the fish turn hard left away from the boat and the line, thankfully, began to peel line off the reel again. I stopped the boat and the fish sounds. We all start talking at once. None of us can believe what we just saw.

The fish sounds again a second time and is tired. I have an hour and nine minutes on my watch since the fish first struck. I begin to back down on him again. He swings by the back of the boat, and Buck takes command of the boat . I put my gloves on, the swivel pops out and I touch the leader as it passes. Officially, the fish was landed. But he was still in the upright position. When a marlin gets real tired, he turns sideways, so I knew he was still too green to wire at this point. He makes another half hearted run. Ten minutes later, he is back at the boat again. I grab the leader, but I don't wrap. He swings back towards the engine. Now I had always disliked engine platforms for just this reason. If you get a fish who swims towards them, you can't stop it. In my old boats, you could simply take the rod and walk the fish around the engines. I leaned over the side of the boats and pulled with all my strength. I turned him and swam untouched out from under the boat. Then I realized something new. The engine are 5 feet farther away, and there is less of a chance of getting tangled in them because of the distance you are from them. All those times I had tried to walk fish around the engines were time that I had just led the fish closer to the props and danger. Wow ... I was wrong for all those years.

The fish floats on its side and I grab its bill. Hmm, he didn't like that and he swung three time very sharply. Now this really hurt. It was like grabbing a two by four and having someone slap it with a sledge hammer. I mean the slaps were instant high impacts that were so quick, they felt electrical. The fish slammed my chest down on the transom like a rag doll and by the third slap, my head was being whiplashed and was flipping up from my chest and arcing backwards, with my hair standing up wildly.. Wisely, I let go (wisely, hell, I was getting pummeled!). The fish makes a final run and as I turn to Benji, I see the line wrapped around the rod tip. I point to the rod and Benji quickly flips the line off the guide as the line goes tight and the clicker start to pick up speed. He said he was so dumbfounded by the whipping the fish was giving me that he forgot to watch the line.

This time the fish stopped about 50 yards away. We winched him in and he was seemed whipped. He flipped on his side and I grabbed his bill. He sat there like a huge baby. We kept the boat in gear and he slid along side the boat. Roger tagged him in the shoulder and he made no attempt to react. The fish was lit up with bright angry blue stripes. His girth was big as a fat man and he seemed about 10 ft long. His tail was at least three feet wide in a scythe shape. I was also amazed at the width of the body where the tail met the body. It was wider than my leg. Much thicker than the 300-lb marlin I had caught before, I would guess he was between 450 to 500 lbs.

The hook was shallowly imbedded in the roof of his mouth where I couldn't reach it. So I used pliers and cut the line as it entered his mouth. He would be able to shake it free once the was no pressure on the line. Elizabeth was snapping pictures with Bobby the whole time. As I let go of the bill, the fish immediately gave a series of sharp kicks to his tail and he disappeared straight down into the depths.

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