Jun 25, 2010

Water Wolf

     From mid March to the end of June 2010 I was VERY busy sampling steelhead kelts. Most weeks I was working at least 6 days a week. By the end of June I was READY for a break. So off to the Oregon coast we went! We had a little family reunion with my family, my brother's family, my parents, Cal and Marlene, and Jared and Christie.
     The reunion was great but since this is a fishing story, I'll get straight to the point. My brother, his daughter, and I set out early Friday morning on a bottom fishing charter boat out of Depoe Bay. It didn't take long before we were pulling in fish. We were catching rockfish pretty steady right from the get go. My niece pulled in the first ling cod of the trip which I was excited to see. Then Robert hooked up on a big fish. It took quite a while to get it up to the surface. But it was exciting to see it when it finally came in the boat.
Robert's big cabezon
     It ended up being a monster Cabezon! I'm still totally jealous about that one. I've still never caught a big one.
     Our captain this time was pretty cool. He liked to fish with bigger gear and target bigger fish (me too!!). Whenever we would catch little fish (like under a foot long), he would just have us leave it on the hook and send it back down.
Brave little yellowtail rockfish (a new species for me by the way...)
      So I sent this little guy back to the bottom to see what would happen. Lo and behold not too long after, I feel the little guy start to freak out for a few seconds, then my pole doubled over! So I started cranking on what felt like a monster fish. We played tug of war for a few minutes but I slowly gained on it. I couldn't wait to see what was on the end of my line. When I finally saw it, it was a HUGE lingcod (at least twice as big as my previous best of 8 lbs). I hollered for the net, but I think the fish heard me because right then he let go of my bait! Evidently he wasn't hooked at all, he just really didn't want to let go of the bait and fought me almost all of the way to the surface for it!
     I'll admit I cried a little when he let go, but I pushed through and sent the bait back down. Soon I was playing another game of tug of war with another fish that felt equally as big as the first one. I cried a little more when this one let go before I even got to look at it. So it was back down to Davie Jones' locker with my tired little bait fish. Sure enough shortly thereafter, I felt the tic-tic-tic of a nervous bait followed by a truck grabbing it and running. There was no question that this was much bigger than the first two, so I mentally prepared for it to let go so as not to completely melt into a sobbing puddle. It took forever to just get it off of the bottom, it kept making runs and diving back down. Twice it just stopped dead and I thought I had tangled in the rocks, but it was just big enough that when it didn't want to move - it didn't. I think as I was fighting my fish, two other people on the boat, including Robert, boated big lings as well. After what seemed like forever I started gaining line and bringing it up, trying to be ginger about it so it wouldn't let go. I finally saw it after what seemed like forever and it was twice as big as that other "monster" I had on! But the first thing I noticed was that my hook was lodged squarely through the upper lip of this beautiful creature! I did a tiny back flip in my mind, realizing that I might actually land it! The captain was right next to me this whole time waiting with the net - a sure sign that he knew something interesting was going on. When it came time, he slipped the net (which suddenly looked dangerously small) under her and I let out an excited (but manly) "YEA!!" (which my wife thinks was a funny thing to do in a boat filled with grown men, but she wasn't there was she...). But it wasn't until he pulled her over the rail into the boat that I really realized just how big it was; this moment was made infinitely more memorable for me when I heard the exclamations and amazement from the other people in the boat as they finally saw the fish for the first time. It was at least four feet long with a mouth that I could have put my head inside! The captain guessed that she was around 35 lbs, which made her my biggest fish ever at the time!
35 lbs of angry teeth and muscle
     Apparently, according to the captain most of the fish that size are female and capable of producing TONS of baby lingcod, so he likes to release them. I was happy to hear that, (I would have released all of my fish that day but he wouldn't let me). So after a couple quick pictures I got to watch her swim back down to where she came from, which was pretty dang cool in its own right.
     Robert went out salmon fishing the next day and while talking with the captain of that boat he told him about my big fish. The captain didn't believe him at first until one of the deck hands said that he saw a picture of my fish the night before. So apparently my fish was big enough to sound like an exaggeration, and big enough that the deckhands were passing the picture around after work! To top it off they put my picture up right in the middle of the trophy board at the front desk of the charter office!
My picture on the trophy wall at Dockside Charters in Depoe Bay
     All said, I think this was my favorite catch of 2010 (I can say that now because as I'm writing this it's now January 2011), and that's saying something, cause there were some doosies in 2010!

     Here's a few of the other fish I caught that day...
Smaller Lingcod
Quilback Rockfish
Blue Rockfish

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