Da’ Big Fish

The fat little neon-yellow bucktail with a red spot and some green feathers caught my eye. My experience in the Caribbean said “This is the lure you want,” so I bought three. I should have bought more.

I first wet this magic lure while sailing Famous Potatoes, our Admiral 38 catamaran, from Grenada to Los Testigos, Venezuela, and kicked ass. I caught a yahoo, two fat black-fin tuna, and two cow dolphin (mahi). A decent day of fishing for some professional charter boats trailing six baits at a time. Since my special lure still had most of its feathers and the wire leader was only slightly bent I thought the rig had at least another day of fishing in it, so I set it soon after weighing anchor in Los Testigos on our way to Margarita, a nice 45-mile daysail.

It was a quiet morning of motorsailing: no bites. The winds were light and the seas flat, so by noon we were motoring at 7.5 knots, too fast for many fish but a fine speed for catching a lightning fast wahoo.

Soon after, I was doing what most great wahoo fishermen are doing when the big one hits; I was in the galley mixing up a batch of oatmeal cookies. Suddenly my reel screeched like I had hooked a nuclear submarine in full attack mode. I flew out of the kitchen in a flash with Lady Pitkeathly, my Jack Russell terrier, under my feet yelping with glee. She knows and loves that beautiful sound and all that it implies. I quickly had the engines in neutral and the boat headed up into the wind to slow our momentum. Even then, the line kept burning off the reel. I had the drag set fairly lightly so I began to carefully increase the pressure. The fish didn’t notice. By now two-thirds of my line had flown into the sea as this unknown beast churned across the slightly dusty blue ocean.

I know better than to tighten the drag too much, I still had 75 yards of line left, too soon to panic. The boat had stopped its forward momentum and the fish was beginning to slow just a bit. He ripped off another 25 yards and then the momentous run stopped, just in time, my reel was about to smoke.

I began to reel him in slowly, and retrieved three precious yards of line at a time. My wife, Desir, had Lady P. harnessed in the cockpit and she was howling and yipping with glee. “Go Dad go” she seemed to be encouraging as she bounced up and down on the end of her bright red tether.

Fifteen minutes later I had retrieved half of the line and the great fish broke again. He was only able to strip off 25 yards. The pumping began all over again, smooth and easy, hoping the hook would not pull loose after all this work. My arms were tired and every once in a while I had to rest and shake each one to ease my tired muscles.

The sun was burning down on me, but I hardly noticed. I was focused on the fish. Finally it broke the surface briefly about 50 yards away. Lady P. saw it too and tried to lunge over the cockpit to join me down on the sugar scoop but the tether jerked her harshly back in place. I have learned the hard way that this crazy little fishing dog will launch right into the water on top of a fish I’m trying to land. In her precious little heart I know she thinks she’s helping. She continued dancing, yelping, and growling as the fish came closer. Finally I could see the stripes flaring across its wide blue back and by its shape I knew it was indeed a whopper of a wahoo, the biggest I’ve ever seen. What could he have been thinking when he hit my tiny little lure?

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