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Fish Tales


Solo Marlin


Steve Kaiser of the Pensacola Big Game Fishing Club experiences the challenge of his fishing career - taking on marlin single-handedly (Thanks to Johnnie Turner for forwarding this tale)...

On Monday 11 August 1997, my 23' SeaCraft VENTURE returned to Pensacola on one engine after experiencing starboard engine failure enroute to the 100 fathom curve in search of White Marlin. Needless to say, my crew of long time Navy friend and close fishing buddy, Wally Coupe, along with my oldest grandson - 15 year old Travis Black - were not too excited about our "no fishing" day.

I did lots of trouble shooting that afternoon, and found the problem was a broken set of points. Upon replacing points and successful turn-up in the yard (on the trailer), I called Travis to reschedule trip next day. He gave me a tentative yes, and, as Wally was not available Tuesday, I told him he could bring a friend. So it looked like a go for 12 August. At 2230 Travis called to announce his friend could not make it and asked if they could both go Thursday instead and besides he had some other things to take care of. So I told him OK and said I would probably not go Tuesday as it was a little late to call someone then. Well, this was the event that set things up for me to go billfishing alone......that's like by myself.

I didn't set the alarm for Tuesday AM, but tossed and turned, just thinking about should I go alone. I had a lifelong dream of catching a billfish solo, so when I awoke early that morning and observed the weather to be ideal, I decided to do it alone. It was probably not the best of headwork items, but having celebrated my 66th birthday just two days before, I thought if I am ever to pull this off, I had better get on with it. Besides, I had been a Navy Pilot all those years.......so what's the big deal. So I launched at first light and was on my way to the Nipple (the point on the 100-fathom curve closest to Pensacola). I observed a magnificent sunrise on the run out. The autopilot was working great - I would never have even thought about going solo without that autopilot.

I had five lines in the water by 0725, and was extra cautious in getting the gear set up. I wore the rod belt (belly band), had two gaffs uncovered on each side in easy reach, a pair of gloves on the engine box, and just played it a little bit safer. Abeam the Nipple at 0805, I had a strike on the starboard flatline. I was trolling four plastics and one ballyhoo behind a small blue/white Island Girl lure. As I went for the flat line rod the starboard outrigger went off.....that was the ballyhoo. No hookup and had not yet identified the kind of fish. I started working the lure to tease the fish back on and it appeared as though the ballyhoo was no longer there. Well about that time the port outrigger went off. This time I could see a White Marlin dorsal fin. Still no hookup I took the rod in my hands and tried to tease him back. Mr.Whitey hit a few more times but I just couldn't get 'em hooked-up. Finally I put the rod back in the gunnel holder, thinking the attack was all over with and nothing to show for it.

About that time that same port outrigger rod with Knucklehead bowed up, and I had #1 White Marlin hooked-up, taking line and jumping. Talk about adrenaline flowing! I put the rod in the belly band and kept it clear of the other four lines. After a pretty long run, I managed to pull the throttles back to slow ahead idle, and finally got the fish stopped. Then all of a sudden the starboard outrigger (the Island Girl with probably no ballyhoo) bowed up and line started singing off. That clicker was magic to my ears. I just watched in shear amazement at what was happening. I never touched that second rod, concentrating on #1 White, and just enjoyed watching #2 White jumping and taking line. When I got #1 under control, I put one engine in neutral and worked the fish closer to the boat. Sometime during this period I placed the rod in the gunnel holder always making sure I had tight line, and I reeled in the two flat lines quickly. I decided not to fool with the center way-back line. Back to #1 and worked him closer to the boat. #2 White remained bowed up and appeared to have a good hookup As the double line broke the surface, I decided this was the time to put the gloves on. I returned the rod to gunnel, went slow ahead idle on both engines and continued keeping tight line as I got the gloves on. Bringing the rod back to the belly band, I finally got Whitey #1 up to the swivel. I slowly brought the rod butt to the deck and hand-over-hand worked my way up the rod to the leader. Once I had the leader in hand it was a "piece of cake". I billed that baby as I had done so many times before. Playing things extra cautious, boating the fish seemed the safest bet. As he lay on deck thrashing about I removed the knucklehead hooks, tagged him,and even had presence of mind to get a picture. Adrenaline flow was at a max. The fish was on deck for about 10-12 seconds. In the meantime Marlin #2 is still bowed up and things are lookin' good. Talk about being excited. Wanting to get to #2 ASAP, I picked up the fish on deck by the bill and tail section and tossed him overboard. He started swimming smartly when he hit the water.

I then proceeded to reel in #2. I was pretty tired at this time but kept on reeling. I could hardly believe what was happening. The rod stayed bowed up and I carried out the same procedures as with the first fish. When I got the leader, fish got a little frisky but finally got the bill in my hands. I brought him onboard, and did about the same as with the first fish. He remained lit-up and quite active, and the on deck time did not appear to hurt him. He, too, swam away smartly on contact with the water.

It was hard to believe what I had just accomplished. I was about as excited and as happy as any human being could be. As I glanced around the boat there were rods everywhere and four Remoras lying on deck. I called on the VHF just to tell someone what I had just pulled off. GEM DANDY, another Pensacola Big Game Fishing Club boat answered up. By the tone of my voice they knew there had been some real excitement aboard the VENTURE. Adrenaline was still flowing strong, but I was one happy guy to put it mildly.

A double hookup of White Marlin successfully completed while fishing by yourself is the highlight of my fishing days. Is this a great time........or what!

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