Fifteen years ago, my buddy Butch and myself could cast 2-3oz plugs with 10-foot surfcasting outfits…….. All day!! We had arms like logs and the perseverance to use them cast after cast after cast. We never fished any other way. Being more of boat anglers in those days we had some luck with stray bluefish hitting our plugs and deemed that the only way to go. When you insist on one approach…. especially from the beach…you may end up with hundreds of casts and retrieves, and nothing more than a pumped up bicep.
In those days, Butch and I would split the rent on a beach house and go to any extent to fish. wherever the possibility of action called. We would drive here and there and chase the vague reports from the local tackle shops ….like every other novice did.
Bluefish are suckers for fast moving plugs, and so instead of the striper being our focus in those days….. we gravitated towards ol Mr. bluefish and his unbridled lust for our retrieved atoms. Having the strength to cast endlessly made our hopes a little more feasible than most surfcasters that get rubber armed after a dozen casts. We assumed that even if they were not biting …that the surface commotion of a fast retrieve, would CALL them to the beach, from who knows where??? …. On this summer day in 1986………it did!!
Because we only had the ocean at our disposal for one week, we would make the most of every day. Coffees at sunrise. Then a grueling session with the weights and we were ready for the casting marathon that took place every day. So with a fistful of plugs and our gear we assaulted Humarock Beach with the typical marine ferocity that we did every day…cept on this day……. the Bluefish were everywhere!!!!!!!!
These were huge ,I mean, Huge bluefish!! These tackle-busting choppers were responsive on every cast. Each cast locked us up with an 18-19 lb bluefish and 20 min tug of war that would challenge any 35 lb striper. It was a sight to behold……two muscle heads wading in the water with hundreds of huge bluefish all around us. This continued for 2 to 3 straight hours….! All my plugs were shattered the line was pig tailed and worn out. The drag system had nearly melted and still we kept casting.
When bluefish go nuts like that…it is challenging to see just how long you and your equipment can hang in there. Many anglers took their try that day……but we were the first to hook up and after everyone had left from exhaustion…..we were still catching them. If an estimation would help put this in perspective. I would say. That we hooked and landed 20-25 monsters apiece. As the fury began to finally taper off due to tide changes, Butch and I stood side by side again……..still catching them. Because the bite had slowed down, Butch actually had a few casts without a hook up. We were totally spent so it wasn’t a second to soon. Picture this………….try hard now………Butch retrieved a cast with no strike….As he approached me with his back to the water and talking about this or that……..a massive bluefish raced through the foam and hammered the plug he had been dragging in the 2 inch water, before he prepared to recast. It completely caught him off guard. He was not tensed up at all for the yank ..And yank it did….nearly ripping the rod and reel out of his hand and wrenching his neck and shoulder so severely he yelped in pain…………let me assure you…. Butch DOESN’T YELP!
The big blue was hooked up and Butch reeled him in while favoring the left side that had been wrenched. “I’m all done .... that dam thing gave me a very painful stinger in my neck……Lets call it a day” I agreed.
This taken the day of his bluefish bashing! His neck look sore to you?
As the week continued…it was obvious that the unexpected strike from the huge blue had affected Butch more than either of us thought it would. He was hurt…..really hurt!
He gutted it out all week, but from him I would not expect any less……Butch will die being a bull….He was no different then.
The bluefish frenzy stayed in my mind for most of that year……..but the memories stayed on more than simply Butch’s mind……His neck was a mess for nearly a year after that. It actually affected other activities that Butch enjoyed….running ..Weights etc. A dam bluefish actually disabled this thick Lithuanian. It faded from humorous to hurtful, and every day he winched from the intrusion of that fish. He tried doctors and pain pills and loosening up and stretches etc…. Some offered minimal relief……but it seemed assured that the ache from the bluefish ambush to his neck greeted him each day as predictably as the sun rising.
During the upcoming winter, I decided to look into the possibility of going Giant Blue Fin Tuna fishing, especially because Stellwagon Bank is so close to where we vacationed and Green Harbor was an old and world renowned tuna club. Some research convinced me to try and find a charter next August when we all returned to Humarock for our week vacation.
Why does waiting take so long??????……51 weeks of waiting until our week on the ocean came around again. Eventually August 10th …..and we were all ecstatic about smelling the sea breeze and the taste of salt in the air. God I love the ocean!!!
The first and second day had us casting endlessly into a surf that sure seemed fishless!…Not even a strike. As the afternoon sun softened on the second day…I gulped a few beers and determined now to be the time to set up THE TUNA TRIP……for the greatest fighting fish on earth……Giant. Blue fin tuna.
Men are men all over the world…especially around marinas. Big game anglers will often take kindly to a free beer and some good ol fishing chat……I was more than chatty at that point and the 12 pack I picked up would be the beer lure…….so down to the famous green harbor tuna dock in hopes of finding someone who knew how to deal with these massive rafts of metal. “Hey, you guys need a beer?…” The first group of charter men said sure and unfortunately they were cod men and didn’t dare tangle with these brutes. In almost a whisper……. one of the cod men said….”see that boat down there??”….that is Greg Beechers Boat…….he is one of the most famous giant captains on earth. They did not have to say another word….I was headed in that direction. I did hear them fade away with the statement…….”but he is a miserable bastard .so good luck!”
My first mistake was to call his name when he specifically had the door closed in the boat and was dining with his wife …who I later found out was a terrific first mate. “Excuse me…(in my typical loud voice)…can I talk to you about going giant blue fin fishing?”
When the door cracked open .a bearded, gnarly, sea dog, with a shark tooth I his ear peered out. ‘Cant you see im inside????……Don’t bother me…..and by looking at you…you DON’T want to go giant blue fin tuna fishing.” I spoke up defensively….”I have caught a lot of yellow fin and big sharks on stand up gear.”….He replied..”Listen to me, you beer guzzler”………”These are not yellow fin or blue sharks……and you are likely to get shut out because the bite is slow……your wasting my time and your money” He then peered down….. and in the midst of the conversation I mistakenly placed my foot on the side of his boat. He walked out of the door…walked right up to me…..and six inches from my face …..He said…”Get your god dam foot off of my boat and be here tomorrow at 6am with 500$ for me and 100$ for my wife who is the first mate. If you are 1 sec late…..you don’t go. On the boat you will sit there and not move or get in y way until I tell you to do so. Do you understand me?” I have never liked confrontation…..it brings the worst out in me…but I knew he was the best……. so I agreed.
At 5:45.we were standing outside his boat……yes I had talked Butch into going with me. When Capt. Beecher open his cabin door he commented….”Who is that guy?”…That’s my fishing buddy bill….”well, here is how it goes…only one guy fights the fish if we hook up ..you draw straws on who takes the first and possibly the only strike.” Since you insisted on bringing your friend. one or both of you may be wasting your money……. any questions?” No Sir. We left the slip in total silence and stayed that way until we hit Stellwagon. This guy was a rude. boring, obnoxious captain…but his tally of over 875 giants landed by rod and reel was the most in the world at that time. I knew hookups with blue fin were rare. and landing them even more rare.! I would put up with his garbage for a chance to share in his expertise.
I will be the first to admit that it was very exciting watching such a skilled angler at work. He methodically prepared each bait with trimmed herring and some foam peanuts for maintaining a “righted” bait during presentation. He sewed everything..Had special tuna knots that he invented and set the baits out on only two rigs, as compared to the typical yellow fin trip where many baits are put out. The Giants were there….the amount of boats in the same exact spot told me we were in the zone. The familiar banana shaped markings on the fish finder are much different than the markings for other ocean denizens…….the massive banana ..right under our boat….were GIANTS.
When a lot of people are fishing for the same thing …in the same areas…. expertise will make the cream rise to the top. For some reason, call it luck if you choose, but I knew we were gonna get a strike. Not more than 1hr after arriving to the hot spot……we were hooked up!!!!. The line dispersal was so explosive, there could only be one living thing attached to the other end of the 200 lb test mono, the greatest rod and reel fish on earth. Once the Capt. had assured the hook up. I realized that Butch was the lucky angler because of our drawing straws.
“Get in the god dam chair and do what Diane says!!!!”…Butch complied. The fighting chair on this famous tuna boat hangs off the back transom. and over the ocean. He had invented this to with stand the sounding that occurs from giants during the fight. This method has allowed him far more catches than break offs. His advertisement was “Fish the chair if you dare”….and to this day his famous tuna book……..has that title. As with all tuna, the first run was mind-boggling…. Butch was reeling and Greg had the boat in motion in a flash. If he hadn’t reacted like that. the fish would have spooled us.
Bill had done most of his power fishing from a stand up position and so when he tried to lean into the racing tuna with his arms and shoulders..Diane whispered in his ear….”if you use your arms. you will not gain any line back and you will be beaten in 10 min….you have to dip with your legs and gather line that way.” Bill followed her lead and the fight was on!!!!!
Diane tried to keep the chair facing the fish as bill held on and grinded miniscule turns on the reel. The fish was berserk. I heard Greg mumble under his breath after the first hour of this war……”This is a Bad Fish” When I saw Bill begin to lower his head and apparently unable to crank the reel at all, I thought the fish had pounded him into submission. I encouraged my rugged buddy. Butch!!!!……Get over on him……fight the dam thing!!!! As I approached him with some water blood ran down the inside of his legs from the constant twisting of the big 130 and persistent rubbing had worn away the skin from inside both knees. This is no cake walk……”This was a bad fish!”
At this point, 90 min into the fight, we were over three miles from the point of hook up……my god what a creature. Incredibly enough. after sounding for the last 15 min the fish actually seemed to be giving back line and Bill reeled with all his might. I knew the fish was coming to the surface for the first time……the excitement was nauseating. “I can see color. the fish is gonna break water”. Suddenly this 9 and a half foot metallic monster rolled over on the surface and with only a gamagatsu holding it in the corner of its mouth I would have bet 1000$ right then and there that we would ever land such a behemoth. Little by little this ocean rhino began the traditional tuna circles. It actually appeared tired. Capt Beecher positioned himself for the harpoon toss and directed me to get the gaff and tail rope. The moment of all moments was close. If the fish is stuck in the right fashion….he is ours. If Greg misses him……the war could go on forever …or be over that second.. The tension mounted as the fish drew closer. I want everyone out of my way. He stared at the fish and with all his might, thrust home the harpoon like only a man of his skill could…..right in the perfect spot.
The fish reacted unlike most tunas……..instead of collapsing from the metal buried in it…it turned away from the boat and bolted with more energy than it had shown in the last hr. The run was remarkable and Butch was finally relaxing with the assumption that the harpoon would bring closure to this ordeal. When the tuna, which eventually scaled out at 728 lbs, roared back out to the open sea with the harpoon and its rope still attached....it also has Bill still ATTACHED and as a result, the first catapulted Butch up into the seat as far as the straps tolerance would allow before sending him over the side into the abyss that was under him. He held on with all his might and the run had stretched his back and shoulders so far I could see the pain on his face as he screamed….”Hey wait a minute…..im gonna go over”.
The metal rod that Greg had buried to the hilt in the giant had finally taken its toll….the fish collapsed to the point where I was able to pull it back to the boat by using the harpoon line. We unfastened Bill. After I tail roped it and held it to gaff until Greg had the fish secured, I went to help my battered comrade from the chair that had just given him the fight of his life. He was all cramped up and bloodied, but in typical Butch fashion he declared…..”Im ok”.
If you have never seen a giant tuna up close…….then any words I use to describe it will not be sufficient. If there is a greater. more majestic creature on earth. I would like to se it. I could not take my eyes off this mammoth…in fact I noticed a scar on the fish. Greg, what's this mark? That is where he was harpooned before and was such a valiant fish that he broke the harpoon line and survived! You rarely ever see that”… Like I said……That’s a bad fish!!!!
The dock was lit up with fanfare and Japanese buyers and on looker’s etc…..
This was the following year....728 lbs!!
Greg made out well from selling the giant and we had the privilege to be part of it all. Especially Butch. I didn’t have the chance to fight it from the chair, but I felt my contributions were still crucial to landing it……..It was anglings tempest….. Giant Blue Fin from rod and reel.
Back at the beach house we talked about it long into the night with anyone that would listen and if no one was there to do so....we told ourselves over and over again! That night we would sleep well. especially ol bill and hopefully we will count tuna instead of sheep.
I heard Butch mulling around in the early Am so I decided to join him for the hot coffee that we both enjoyed and of course another 5 hours of tuna talk. When I hit the first floor, Butch was standing there with a hugeeeeeee smile on his face. Whets that goofy grin for Mr. Tuna. I asked. You’re not going to believe this, but the ongoing agony in my neck. Is GONE. Don’t be silly Butch…. the doctors could not fix it. I swear mike…my neck is perfect and I have full range of motion……LOOK. Sure enough, he did. He told me that when the fish bolted after the harpooning and stretched him out like a jockey on a though bred, he felt all sorts of cracks and pulls in his neck…. like everything was realigned, and you know what Mike……….I think it was. And believe it or not…..IT WAS.
He never complained about the bluefish shoulder yank again….we ran like ol time and lifted weights like ol time and cast our plugs from dawn to dusk …..The bluefish had harmed him and the giant tuna had healed him. Who would have ever thought that what has been deemed the hardest and most agonizing fish to land would be so CHIROPRACTIC for Butch.
Go beyond your imagination….. Share your day with a Giant Blue Fin Tuna