For the most part our boat will sell as much of the day’s catch as we can in order to offset the fuel bill and other expenses. This allows us to keep some money coming back into the boat while eliminating wastefulness when making the best use of the fish we catch. Would we rather see 600lbs of yellowfin go to a fish buyer where it’s sold within a week? Or do we take the time to individually filet, bag, store, freeze, a giveaway to friends or fridge only to see 60% get destroyed by freezer burn or waste away in the fridge? Both are very viable options however if you choose to keep it all yourself there are some important things to consider. With the crazy rage surrounding the desire for fresh fish, it’s worth the time to take care of it. Which sparked the reason for the thoughts below…
After almost 15 years of being the “filet guy,” there are some great tips to prepping your catch and help prolong the life-span of it all while keeping it tasting the way it should.
To start to be accurate with harpooning or gaffing your fish. Aim for the head or right behind it to ensure not damaging the meat. You’ll be surprised as to how much meat is waster due to a misplaced gaff.
When the fish is boated make sure to hit their vitals with a knife so the fish can bleed properly. Lots of people will let their fish slap around the deck spraying blood all while bruising the meat. Always keep several small tail ropes available so you can let the fish bleed overboard or secure the rope tightly so the fish can’t thrash around.
After bleeding and flushing the fish of their insides store the fish either in a brined cooler (mixture of saltwater and ice), an iced down cooler, or in a lot of cases when the weather and water temps are cooler just let the fish soak in saltwater that’s pumping in your live well.
So you’re back at the dock, everyone is a little tired and the crew begins sharing empty looks as to what’s next. It’s now time to filet, and here is where a lot of people will proceed with the “hack job.” This is the result of rushing, dull knives, room temperature fish, mosquitoes, lack of ice, lack of bags to store them. All of these factors are critical to prolonging the life of your fillets.
This past week our crew was very fortunate to walk home with some swordfish after a multi-day trip to the canyons. After 3 days I noticed this beautiful 5lb loin of sword sitting in the fridge, in a Ziploc with an inch of standing water inside of it!
To start bring up two knives to the filet table along with a stone to sharpen (depending on the fish use serrated or not). In most cases, a few 12-gallon zip locks will work. Close that all in cooler along with your catch and head to the filet station or cutting board.
At this point ideally, you’ve brought an adult beverage of your choice. Be sure to take a few moments to relax rather than rushing the whole process. Try to take some time and pride in the process. After all you could be stuck cleaning the boat.
OK so now you’ve filleted everything and there’s 20lbs of fresh steaks staring at you. First, rinse with salt water washing away all the scales and blood etc.. After rinsed put right back into a bucket of saltwater with ice bringing all the fillets to a nice cold temperature. Cold fillets will prevent bruising in the packaging or trimming process.
This step is the most essential and typically where people will just slap the fish in a bag and call it a day. Let’s avoid that.
Here are a few tips to follow here:
- Don’t over pack the ziplock bags. Leave space and keep it to 2lbs per bag
- Keep moisture out of the bag. You DO NOT want standing water in the bag sealed with your fish.
- Dry off your fish. Yes, this seems weird but wrapping your fish in newspaper or paper towel will greatly increase it’s shelf life. If you do not dry your fish it will expire 3x to 4x quicker. A fish caught on Tuesday could last until next week in the fridge or spoil within a day depending on how it’s been packaged.
Taking the time will pay off in the end when you’re enjoying fresh sushi in the middle of January.
Always remember that fresh fish is a form of currency all on its own. (I’ve successfully bartered trash pickups at my house for 4 months all from a 20 lb loin of bluefin that I gave to the owner). Take care of it in all aspects and the benefits will be visible.
So like most of you we blinked and the seasons changed.
Summer’s transition to Fall is already upon us… it’s all good though!
As someone whose grown up in the the North East I’ve never associated the changing of seasons as a bad thing. In fact I associate it with some of the best fishing the region has to offer throughout the entire year. All species from menhaden, bass, false albacore and tautog begin the annual process of tightening into groups and fattening before their migrations. Typically this results in epic surface blitzes and really productive and consolidated feeds that often last throughout the daylight hours.
If you’re chasing bigger offshore species the same thing occurs except on a much larger scale. As water temps drop eddies become sharper and more defined resulting tightly balled schools of bait that are honing beacons for pelagics. Similar to the inshore feeds that occur among striped bass and false albacore the tuna bite can be equally as voracious as they switch from hitting trolled to chunked baits. So with that said what are the top few things you like to fish for this fall? Here are a few of ours
#1. False Albacore
Bays and estuaries are dumping feed back out into the ocean making inlets and jetties highways for these speedsters.
Whether its by fly, spin or even chunking for this pint sized tuna they pack a serious punch. You’ll find them hammering bay anchovies and peanut bunker with their signature bullet like smashing of the bait balls.
Also keep an eye out for small white terns that are the only birds swift enough to keep up with them. If you’re chasing them with the fly rod stick with any fly that replicates small bait in the two inch range.
For casting use deadly dicks and hogy epoxy jigs. For an easier release of the fish be sure to swap out all treble hooks for heavier single hooks. Stick with 10-15lb flouro-carbon leader and you’re in business.
Check out video of us tackling these guys on a fly rod and on a stand up paddle board!
Outside of offshore fishing black fish are what I look forward to most during the season.
Starting in mid October the water temps drop signifying a migration towards deeper waters- for most fish anyway. Tautog hang around shallow rock piles early in the season and are the last occupants to leave.
Anchoring up on rock piles in that 35-40 ft realm with a bucket of green, white or fiddler crabs will yield some incredible light tackle action. Don’t be caught unaware as 10lb Tog can take drag like a 30lb bass! 40-60lb leader attached single or even double 4/0 J hooks will get the job done.
Here is a great video that walks through the ins and outs of Black-fishing.
Just like false albacore and how they corral bait inshore, their older much bigger cousins do it on a grander scale.
Blue-fin in the 50-100″ range hammer droves of herring and mackerel throughout the cape, east of Chatham, around p-town into stellwagen bank and all the way into the gulf of Maine.
Often times they stay well into December and January with some experts believing they actually can and do reside here all year long. This provides us with a GREAT late season opportunity to bend those big rods and hear some screaming reels.
Whether you’re jigging for them, trolling or bait fishing on the ball they’re an experience unlike anything else.
Watch the video below, jigging the cape.
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Tight lines and calm seas
With spring fever in the air and anticipation of the season there’s ZERO shortage of people willing to come on fishing trips with you for the upcoming year.
With all these willing souls eager to participate on your fishing trips, the next natural step for the captain is to begin envisioning who, realistically, will actually come.
But here’s the catch.
With only 5 spots available after the captain. Who gets the invite?
Below are some tips questions to ask yourself when picking your crew and assessing the value they bring to the trip.
Does the person do what they say they’re going to do?
Seems reasonable enough but this is tricky. Are they flaky? Indecisive on being able to go or not go? Not able to make the push-off time?
If they make it in anyway, shape, or form MORE difficult of a process to get off the dock than it already is then the answer is plain writing.
I don’t care how much of your catch you sell or keep for yourselves after you’ve finished a trip but it costs money to front the operation.
Every offshore trip we go on starts with about $2,000 of overhead.
If the people coming aren’t helping to pay then they better be a stud when it comes to rigging, running the cockpit and helping the captain run the boat. That’s the only condition of bringing someone who just walks on.
Can they offset the cost of their trip with the value of their skill set?
3). Skill Set
What can each person bring to the table?
If you have two very talented individuals that know each other working the pit and you have the captain running the boat you should be in GREAT shape and it won’t matter who else you bring.
However, this is a labor of ego’s, make sure the guys calling decisions in the cockpit don’t clash on philosophies and can work well together
4). Mechanically Inclined
It’s almost worth bringing a guy a long who knows absolutely nothing about fishing just so he can help in the engine room.
It’s not a matter of if something goes wrong it’s a matter of when.
The captain needs to have a plan in place for who will be shouldering the responsibility (if not himself). Unless you want to be the guy getting towed back in 85 miles it is critical to have this area covered..
Who is capable of sharing wheel watch and running the boat should something happen to the captain?
On our boat at all times we have two capable captains at minimum while we consistently share wheel time with newer crew.
It’s a great way to show trust for the newer guys in a very low risk environment (ie. running the boat while trolling)
6). Is There One Guy In Charge Of Food/Drink?
Another simple enough concept.
Divide the supplies to buy list in these three categories one person does DRINKS, one person does FOOD, one person does BAIT.
If you have 4 guys bringing their own stuff based on their idea of what the crew wants to eat you’ll end up with three extra bags of chips, not enough drinks and 4 lbs of sandwich meats that don’t get eaten.
7). The ‘Cooler’ Or Morale Guy
Normally this is never the issue as we are lucky to fish with guys who get it and generally have positive attitudes and are funny as hell.
There is always a place on our boat for a guy the captain loves to have around.
Whether it’s keeping him laughing, cooking the right food etc.. -this guy always has a good attitude and brings good karma.
8). Eager To Leave
When you come on a trip with us and you’re not a regular crew member an you have a deadline of “need to be home by 3pm,” and it wasn’t clarified before the trip then you won’t be invited again.
Plan on staying out until the crew plans on coming home.
Simply put, you’re a guest and you should have had this figured out well before you decided to go on the trip.
9). Cleaning The Boat
Can the guy clean the hell out of your boat? Does he stay and do extra? Is the shammy his friend?
Another invite will be coming his way!
It’s always nice to be a good guy to your friends but at the end of the day there is no shortage of financial and mental strain when trying to find fish and then successfully catch them all while keeping things running properly.
Do yourself a favor and apply some of these screening tips when allotting the limited space you have on the boat.
Need gear for your fishing trips this season? Be sure to check out all of our new gear over at, www.shopdeep.com.
As we inch closer and closer to DEEP Apparel’s fifth year as a company we can’t help but be excited about the development of our line and our direction going forward.
As you can imagine providing something unique to the outdoors clothing market is a challenge but…we’re up to it and we accomplish it daily.
So.. In this phase of growth we get hit with a battering of questions about who we are?
Why are we different?
Why do we think we’ll be the ones standing as brands come and go?
Never have we been more confident in answering those questions.. See below
1.) Who are we?
A company who’s ownership is composed of serious hunters and fisherman who love the chase but appreciate the socializing, friendships, and travels that our passions come with.
Our goal with Deep Apparel was to make functional and comfortable clothing to wear in the elements while maintaining a clean and “cool” look you would also want to wear out at night.
2.) Why are we different?
Because somewhere along the lines this VERY fundamentally cool and fun industry has gotten out of touch with the rest of the world’s trends.
I’m not entirely sure but I think the industry as whole has been dominated by a limited amount of companies, therefore stymying competition and squashing innovation.
We are a contemporary brand that’s in touch with young and new while respecting the conservative bedrock this industry is built off. Which is why we see 60 and 16 year olds enjoying our products.
Key word “enjoying”.. Not forced to wear because of a lack of options.
3) Why do you think you’ll be standing in the end?
We’re at the tip of the ice berg as far as product.
Going forward you’ll be seeing more and more performance items coming your way that you can wear out at the football tailgate or neck deep in the woods.
We call it our Boat TO Bar concept– because why can’t we have something that we can wear for both?
We look forward to explaining the answer to this question in the upcoming years.
Keep your head on a swivel! We’re coming for ya. Thank you for reading and your support.
In honor of Mexican Independence use code: ‘Cinco’ for 15% OFF your next Deep Apparel purchase. Code is good until 5/8 Start shopping!
Below are several photos of our 103″ Bluefin. Please enjoy the video!
Fishing Panama Tuna, with Capt Jack Sprengel’s
Recently, I spent over a week fishing aboard a mothership operation down in Panama.
Anyone who has fished the region or anywhere that close to the equator understands that one week of exposure to the extreme humidity, concentrated salinity and searing sun down there is equal to the equivalent of leaving your gear in a pot filled with saltwater in the oven for a month strait.
Seriously, it’s that intense.
Now add that type of environment to extreme physical activity and imagine the type of effect that can have on your physical being, both your skin and the clothing your attempting to shield it with.
After one day in the elements down there, most new hats and cotton tees, look like you’ve fished them for a whole season.
I think you get the picture, so this is why when trying to determine what to pack when visiting a local like this, one has to consider not only the preferred looking sharp on the water as many of us strive to do, but how well will this gear perform, how much use can I get out of it and will it hold up?
Having been in the game for a long time I’ve watched a ton of fishing and outdoor themed apparel companies come and go.
Over the last few decades I’ve been able to develop a keen eye for the real deal brands that are clearly being driven by individuals that actually live the lifestyle and understand the true needs of active outdoorsmen and woman, especially those of us whom spend most of our time at sea, exposed to deteriorating extremes more often than others.
When packing for this trip I had a lot of confidence when selecting from Deep’s line up as I had already seen it in play amongst many of my crew and peers over the last few seasons.
Here’s a list of some of the items I purchased for this punishing trip and my personal experiences with each item.
When these first arrived in the mail I put them on and instantly had to smile, aside from looking cosmetically sharp they actually fit…..and I mean fit….they weren’t too baggy, had just the right amount of room in them and the length was perfect, slightly below the knee, right were offshore shorts should fit.
Regardless of your age, whether your 25 or 55 you’ll be impressed with this cut.
Now take the vanity out of the equation, I fought 3 Yellowfin stand up back to back on one of the days down there with my black pair, with no harness, putting extreme wear and tear on the material with the exposed rod butt against the material.
With many other brands this is were my button snaps, the crotch rips or the zipper goes, not one of these happened with my BTB shorts.
Then after landing the fish and sinking the gaff shot, up on to the lap it goes in all of its bloody glory for some photos. After the shots I stood up and let the mate spray me down like I was being de-liced at a third world prison. I looked down and to my delight they were perfectly clean. 10 mins of deck clean up and were back on plane chasing down another school of fast moving, picky moon tide yellowfin, I reached back down to grab my gloves out of my pocket and was happy to find that the shorts where already dry.
I’d have to give Deep’s Boat to Bar shorts an easy 5 star rating as they are hands down going to be one of my top choices going forward for both aggressive offshore sportfishing as they are for hitting the bar at the captain’s meetings and even every day use.
Deep hit it out of the park with these!
Following the same perfect theme that deep has put in place with the Boat to Bar Shorts.
The new Deep Performance Plaid shirts are the answer to the modern day angler looking for a shirt that you can travel in, rock at the bar after a captains meeting or better still hit the water, getting a perfect mix of sun coverage, cool breathe-ability, and fast drying performance, only you’ll look as lot sharper than rocking one of those standard issue fishing button downs with lapels and loops galore in some of those obnoxious pastel colors.
This is another one of those products from deep that you find yourself wearing out to dinner or the bar as much as you will when you hit the water.
The perfect product for anglers that find themselves living out of a duffle bag for weeks out of the year and likely to get me into more of those last minute dinners that I might have otherwise had to sit out on in a tee shirt.
This product was one I have had my eye on for some time now, as many of my crew have been wearing it for the last few seasons.
Day two of my trip to Panama I put it on and instantly realized what I had been missing out on.
Yes, it’s a tech shirt and like all of the best tech shirts it has that critical hood that covers up that one spot on the back of your neck that most neck gaiters wont cover!
Then it hits all of those requirements one would expect out of at tech shirt, it blocked the sun, it wicked sweat away from the body, it dried fast and like all of the better products in its class, it was easy to clean by rinsing blood splatter and slime off with the wash down hose without staining. But beyond my expectations that material blend of combed ring spun cotton and polyester functioned like a smart shirt.
First light while on plane in the boat it kept me warmer than most of the more silky feeling tech shirts I owned, but as soon as that sun came up and with it 100+ degree temps and humidity I found it to be remarkably cool, especially for a tech shirt that presents its self at a darker less conventional color than the more commonly seen pastels and tropical patterns (That I would never wear!).
The shirt was cool and hides the grime well!
Outside of the outstanding performance, this shirt fits the way a man wants it to. Its fits flush around the chest shoulders and arms but leaves some breathing room around your abdomen and lower back, makes for much better fish fighting photos than most other shirts on the market.
They might as well call these the Deep Everything Gloves, because you can do much more that just leader with them.
Wear these gloves stood out above many others in the industry was that they dried remarkably fast, it didn’t take half of the trip to get them back on after a good fish, then the palms and edges of the glove held up to the extreme line abuse of the jig and pop style fishing that my team and I utilized with heavy braided line wear and tear.
Above all we were still able to operate our touch screen electronics like phones, cameras and the boats GPS/Sonar with out having to remove our gloves.
A perfect balance of performance and protection.
Check out the rest of the lineup over at www.shopdeep.com. All orders over $100 are free shipping!
We’ve been getting so many quality customer stories we had to keep it rolling. This is one was submitted kindly enough by Christain Ostrowski. Once in a lifetime catch!
It was the middle of July 2015. Warm water had pushed into the mid shore grounds off the coast of the Delmarva. Bigeye tuna were being caught almost every night in the Washington Canyon and the dolphin and wahoo had made their way inshore of the 20 fathom line. There were also scattered reports of bluefin and yellowfin tuna feeding on the inshore lumps off of the coast of Ocean City.
We left the inlet at 4am in hopes of hooking into one of the scattered tuna that had been reported on the inshore lumps. We made our way out to the 20 fathom line and set out the spread with the intent of catching an early morning bluefin. We sent the planer down and within ten minutes we had our first bite. The line ran off the reel, but within about five seconds we realized that the fish was not pulling hard enough to be a tuna. We reeled it in and it turned out to be a seven pound dolphin.
We reset the spread and continued to troll until the sun was high in the sky. There was little chatter on the radio; apparently the tuna were far more scattered than anyone had thought. The boats around us began to take off in search of more fruitful fishing grounds. Pretty soon, we were one of three boats left in five mile radius.
It was already relatively late in the day and flying out to the canyons was not an option. Besides, we were in warm, clear water that we had caught fish in and we were not about to leave. We did, however, decide to change our tactics. Most of the boats had not switched over to chunking yet, but we decided that it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.
We set up a chunk slick and hoped for the best. Thirty minutes later, one of the baits got a nibble. A nibble is a strange thing to get when you are offshore fishing, so we were ever so slightly confused. We looked into the water and saw that a herd of dolphin had descended upon our baits. Two rods went off and we were scrambling to rig spinning rods to make the most of the opportunity. We managed to get the two dolphin to the boat, but the rest of the school has disappeared. It was late in the day and we were starting to think about the trip home. We threw the last of the chunks and started to clean up and take the rods out of the water. After about ten minutes we were ready to head for home. The engines were about to start when I saw something strange in the water. It looked like a hole in the water. It was dark blue with fluorescent tones and it was carefully moving in a circle around the boat.
I had seen makos before, but none had come close to the size of the fish that was then swimming before me. I called out to grab an 80 and to find a shark rig. I looked for anything that could have been used to keep the shark’s interest as the rest of the crew hurriedly prepared the rod and the rig. I found a bunker chunk that I tossed in the water in hopes of keeping its interest. The rod and reel were ready to go, but we had nothing to put on the hook. We rifled through the freezer looking for the shark fisherman’s secret weapon, the 12 inch trolling squid. We found it, but it was frozen and there was no way to get the hook through it. We tried to thaw it quickly, constantly looking over our shoulders to see if the large shark had lost interest. At one point it disappeared for almost two minutes before resurfacing again. We were finally able to push the hook through the mantle of the squid and we tossed it over the side. We watched intently as the shark circled around, surveying our offering. It circled it twice and then began to swim down away from the squid. We all held our breaths as the shark suddenly turned around and charged the bait with an incredible pace.
The rod bent over and line screamed off the reel as the shark crashed towards the bottom. We started the engines and prepared to chase the shark down. As we were starting to chase it down, it leaped out of the water two times, each time splashing down and spraying water everywhere. We chased the shark down and as we approached we saw the shark meandering on the surface as if it did not even though it was hooked. It was doing this while pulling 22 pounds of drag and with a boat chasing it. When we got close, the shark would dive down to the bottom and only return to the surface until after it had taken half of the spool. This went on for about forty five minutes until I just felt dead weight on the line. The shark had somehow tail wrapped itself and was not able to swim. We pulled it up the surface, but by the time we got it to the surface it had already drowned.
We tried to bring it into the boat, but even with four people pulling, we were not able to pull it into the boat. We decided that the best thing to do was to lash it to the transom and slowly make our way back to port.
We arrived back as the sun was setting and brought our catch to the weight station. A crowd gathered as a crane was used to hoist up the shark. None of us truly appreciated the scale of the shark when it was in the water. Now that it was on a crane, we saw that the shark was ten feet long and nearly 670 pounds.
What started as a slow day turned into one that I will never forget. We ended up catching a fish of a lifetime on the day that I had least expected it. It just goes to show that the ocean is full of surprises and you never know what is lurking in the deep.
Thanks Christain for sharing your story with us! And thanks to everyone who has submitted a story. If you would like to submit a story please contact us to be featured, here.
In the meantime make sure to check out our latest gear over on our website, www.shopdeep.com
It’s no secret that the earliest pelagics to arrive in the mid atlantic and North Atlantic waters are the long finned, air taking Thresher Sharks. Below is a first hand interaction of a loyal customer, Brett, who had an early season run in!
First Thresher Shark in Delaware
The first thresher shark of 2016 in the state of DE was landed by the Just Got Reel crew out of Indian River Marina last year on June 5th. We started out the day fishing for Sea Bass on an artificial reef and were catching fish as fast as we could get our baits down. We had a first-time saltwater fisherman with us who was really excited to see a shark so I took some gear along for that too. After a couple hours I said to the crew,
“we can stay here and do this all day or we can make a move to another spot I’ve been wanting to check out and see if we can hook into a shark for Mike.”
So we pulled up our lines, put everything away and headed West for a wreck in 80 feet of water about 8 miles away.
When we were about a mile from the wreck I saw another boat coming down from the North. There was no one else in site that day, but as luck would have it we were both looking to setup for a Thresher on the exact same wreck at the exact time – sometimes it seems like a small ocean, doesn’t it?
We both came off plane right on the numbers at the same time. After a quick exchange on the VHF I offered to move, no sense in us walling each other off when there’s plenty more wrecks out there. The other captain was nice enough to tell us to take that wreck and he moved on down the road.
No threshers had been caught yet in the state of Delaware and the water temps were still on the cold side so I didn’t expect much, but we anchored up current, I put out the chum, and started rigging baits. I got the long bait out and was working on the middle when the drag start screaming. I grabbed the rod, handed it to my buddy Mike and told him to have fun. Well Mike had a broken finger and it only took a minute to realize he wasn’t going to be able to fight the fish. I still wasn’t sure what we had hooked into, and wasn’t really thinking “Thresher” but what I did realize is that I had clipped that rig and bait on to a 30 instead of a 50. Always seems like the big fish climbs on the wrong one (but in this case that was entirely my fault).
I also noticed that we were well into our backing and the fish wasn’t slowing down. I took the rod over and told the crew to start the engines, bring in the anchor. They were all scrambling to get that accomplished and didn’t see what I saw. The line started scoping up and the big thresher launched into the air. At that point I told the crew to get us off the anchor NOW because we had a REAL one on the line.
We fought the fish for 3.5 hours on 50# main line attached to the swivel on my homemade shark rig with a clinch knot. The line was “pinging” like a guitar string the entire time and all I could think about was that little knot holding us on to the shark. After we finally hit him with the flyer and got the tail rope on, I didn’t even hesitate to look at the crew and say,
“Now we have a whole other set of problems.”
With the seas getting heavy, a light crew, and one guy down a hand, it took us about 45 minutes to squeeze the fish through the door and drag it on to our center console.
He weighed in at 297# at the Indian River Marina and was the first shark caught in the state of Delaware last year.
Pictured from left to right: Mike Salah, Capt. Brett Glatfelter, Amber Kelly, and Scott Binsfeld.
I wish I knew who that other boat was, I’d buy that Captain beer. Hopefully they at least got some good karma out of it.
By, Brett Glatfelter
Thanks for reading Brett’s awesome story. If you have an awesome that you’d like to feature, send it our way!
Make sure to checkout our gear over at www.shopdeep.com
A story about Canyon Fishing and all the smiles it comes with!
As good as it gets – fishing with Bradley – By Captain Larry Backman
2015 was a great year offshore. We made a dozen trips to the Northeast Canyons, had more than our share of successes, especially with daytime swordfish. One trip stands out among many however – why? Because we had a 12 year old on board who to quote his father was “crazy about fishing”. Bradley jumped on board at 5 AM departure day, ready to work as hard as needed and fished as hard as the other 5 adults on board for the duration of the entire 30 hour trip.
We left the dock mid-day for the 5 hour ride out. The plan was to be on the edge, the 100 fathom line, just before sunset, troll for tuna into the dark, then drift for tuna and swordfish all night long. The morning we planned to troll for a couple hours around the dawn, then put in an entire day deep dropping for swordfish, before heading back late afternoon to be back at the dock by dark.
Canyon trips are marathons, multiday trips which require pacing and stamina. With 5 adults and Bradley on board we would have plenty of downtime for everyone to both rest and grab a couple hours sleep. I used to dread the tedium of the seemingly endless ride out, now I love the relaxing nature of the slow but comfortable pace, combined with the building anticipation of what could happen when we start fishing.
The 100 mile journey crosses a number of distinct areas of water and there is often a lot to see and observe. Whales spouting and porpoise racing over to greet the speeding boat are usual sights along the way. If so inclined a pod of porpoise can easily keep pace with my 20 knot boat, gamboling and playing in the wake.
This was a mid August trip and most of the journey was in hot blue water that had rolled off the Gulf Stream earlier that summer and pushed way up on the shelf. The hot water on the shelf was tough to fish, while tuna and marlin were up on the flats, raising them had been difficult for the past few weeks.
Our bet was on the deep blue water “off the edge”, the edge being the 600’ contour line that marks the continental shelf. South of New England the bottom is a muddy plain, slowly dropping off only 500’ over 80 miles in a steady slope. At the edge, the angle changes and the bottom drops from 600’ to 6000’ in about 15 miles! The steepened contour, combined with cuts into the edge formed by ancient rivers and glacial runoff creates upwellings in the ocean which brings nutrient rich water and bait high in the water column. This in turn attracts pelagic predators – whales, porpoise, tuna, marlin, mahi-mahi which in turn hunt the bait. Temperature breaks, sudden changes in water temperature, 2-4 degrees over a few hundred yards – mark colliding areas and currents of water. These temperature breaks concentrate bait also.
The magic goal or dream in New England offshore fishing is to find a temperature break which holds visible life along a contour line near 100 fathoms!
We enjoyed an easy ride out and rolled into the tip of West Atlantis an hour before sunset. There was a crowd there, 10 or 15 boats all clustered up at the very tip of the canyon working both the edge as well as the line of lobster pots tracing its contour. Lobstermen congregate their pots along the 600’ in strings of 8-10 big steel cages. Each line of pots is marked by a big orange poly ball float and a 6’ stick like radar reflector, referred to as a high flyer. The ball and flyer, combined with the downline to the pots creates structure for offshore wanderers, jacks, trigger fish, file fish, baby mahi and other small warm water fish hang close to it. More often than not a pair of flyers will have a school of 3-5 pound peanut mahi near by, and just as often a field of a half dozen flyers has schools of skipjack and yellowfin tuna roaming 200’ down.
When in doubt fish the pot line at the tip of a canyon and see what happens!
I hate crowds and I had quality, not quantity on the brain. My thoughts were to start trolling 3-5 miles off the edge in roughly 1000-1500’ of depth and look for larger yellowfin or even a bigeye tuna. We had already promised Bradley the first fish and I was hoping to make it a 50 pounder, more than a match for his 80 pound frame.
I found what I wanted in 1200’, empty water, no boats , some porpoise rolling and possiboly feeding and bait marks on the fishfinder. Time to get to work!
If your connected to the natural world, be it fishing, hunting, bird watching or just enjoying your surroundings you no doubt aware the magic time is the hours around sunset and sunrise when the light changes. Animals become more active, fish hunt more aggressively, the winds often die and seas often lay down for a couple hours. It glassed out for us, seas barely rolling, every ripple or splash on the surface indicating bait moving below.
We found happy skipjack, a school of thousands of 3-5 pound skipjack tuna rolling and splashing on the surface eating krill. Happy skipjack usually have happy tuna somewhere nearby as a 5 pound skipjack is a bite sized meal for a 50 pound yellowfin or 150 pound bigeye. I did my best to circle and stay with the school, this was the place to be.
The radio was quiet, no one up at the tip was doing anything. Circles on the water, rounding in and out of the setting sun. Many years ago I was taught to troll into the sun as it better silhouettes your lures for a fish to see passing over. I was squinting into the sun when suddenly I heard yells and a screaming reel from the cockpit. I never stop the boat on a knockdown but keep going hoping for more.
20 seconds after the strike I pulled back the throttle and went to the cockpit controls to see what had just happened. We had one fish on, 80 pounds of Bradley belted up and hanging on to a screaming reel and the rest of the crew reeling in the rest of the spread.
“Big back, way high in the water – triple knockdown”. The reel was still screaming a minute on. For better or worse we had the fish on a Penn 30 , one of the light reels in the spread. This would be easier for Bradley to handle than a heavier 50.
Gopro video tells all in the first moments on a big fish, you can see mindset and technique. Video from this fish shows Bradley set low in the classic tripod, knees bent, back straight, rod angled up with a good bend as he pitted all 80 pounds against the fishes run and hung on.
“Oh boy” I thought – bigeye on a 30 with a 12 year old – “this is going to be interesting”. The entire crew was committed to getting this fish for him. I asked Mike his Dad, “has he ever been on a big tuna?”. “No just yellowfin and albacore”, came the answer.
With the rods cleared I could stop the boat, let it lie adrift and let Bradley fight the fish directly without also having to fight the boats motion. The fish eventually stopped its run and Bradley started the hard work of lift and crank, lift and crank, each rod stroke bringing the fish 3’ closer.
If you’re a good angler and have good technique size and strength is not important as you can use the leverage of your body weight against the rod to move the fish. Bradleys technique was picture perfect, his body balanced and centered, nice short strokes using his body core.
We had a long way to go however, easily still 200 yards of line out. Sunset was upon us, the skies turned orange and the calm seas slowly lost their blue, going purple then grey as the light started to go down. Suddenly there were one, two and now three boats circling our stopped boat.
I was gently bumping the boat forward every 30 seconds or so to keep the fish straight behind us and also to keep Bradley in the starboard corner of the cockpit where I could best see the line angle and help him with the boat.
He worked it back within 100 yards of the boat as he cranked in braid backing until all of it lay on the reel, only the mono topshot still out. I started turning the boat to starboard on each bump as the fish was swimming to port. This helped set the tuna into a circling pattern that would better allow us to close on it a few yards and give Bradley some much needed help.
He was still standing tough in the harness 20 minutes in as the fight moved to an almost vertical straight up and down battle. This is where bigeye tuna can break an anglers will; any slack or pause will give them their head and allow them to peel off dozens of yards of line in seconds.
Bradley hung tough in these mini runs as darkness descended. My bumps to starboard every 30 seconds brought the boat around in a circle every 2 or 3 minutes, by now the eastern sky was dark, while the western sky still held orange and purple in a third of its arc up the sky. The crew stood ready with gaffs, hoping for a shot to end the battle quickly.
Bigeye battles rarely end quickly, especially when outmatched with both tackle and body weight. The kid was doing what he could on each circle, trying to gain a few cranks each time. His agility in the corner of the cockpit following every circle of the fish helped me and allowed me to keep the boat stationary.
After 5 minutes of circles I heard the welcome call “color”, meaning one of the gaffmen had seen the fish. Canyon water is crystal clear, visibility can be over 100’. “Color” in this blue water meant the flash of the dying light on the silver side of the fish had been seen 75’ down in the water. 75’ – a long way to go.
Now it got even tougher for Bradley, gaining 2’, losing a foot and a half. I had to move the boat on each circle as I could see the fish swimming even with my control station 14’ up from the transom. If that fish got ahead of the boat and turned under it we stood a good chance of having the line catch, fray and break on either the keel or propeller. As much as I didn’t want to, each time I saw the fish swimming even with me, now 50’, 45’, 40’ down I had to bump and turn into it in order to spin it out away from the running gear under the boat.
Bradley did a great job on each bump and quarter turn of following the fish around its arc and keeping the line out from the stern corner of the boat. Agility and quickness sometimes is as important as brute strength.
25’ down – a shout “something going on down there”.
“Shark – it’s a Mako – get it up”.
I couldn’t see the action but I’d seen this act before, a big fish and a bigger shark trying to hit the fish below and from behind to clip its tail, take away its motor and make it easy dinner. No holding back now, everyone was all in.
Mike hung on to Bradley’s belt as we went all or nothing, Jackson grabbed the line and started lifting the fish 20’ down. Boat completely stopped, “ I’m neutral – you guys keep it out of the props”.
Fish forward and even with my station, circling in, crew leaning over the side to clear the line from the stern corner of the boat as it circled back and out. The next circle 10’ down, 2 gaffs waiting.
Same drill, handline 5’, tighten the circle, protect the line from the corner.
One more pass, 5’ down, wait, wait, work together, circle in, guard the corner, circle out, lift, pull – 2’ down, GAFF! GAFF!!!! Second GAFF!!!!
The sight of a 68” 175 pound bigeye tuna being lifted bleeding and thrashing over the rail to land, tail still hammering on the deck!
“WAY TO GO BRADLEY!”.
Thanks for reading and following along about our customer fish story with Canyon Fishing.
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