Tuna tourney-the journey Day 3 of 3

2012 October 9, 11, and 13 Fish Tales Trilogy Part 3 — Tournament Day!

The weather forecast beginning a week ago has been calling for 20-knot winds and up to 8-foot seas. The total day has been “yellow flagged” for small craft warning. It looks like the weather men are right. I have been checking in with the tournament and they will not cancel. Biggest fish wins!

It’s 6 am and dark. The dock has been put in the water at Buena Vista Beach Resort and I am hanging on the beach with the boat captains waiting for more daylight to see to get to the anchored boats. We watch as the 3- to 4-foot waves crash onshore and once in awhile flood over the dock.

I am standing by a party of four young people staying at the hotel who are also going to fish the tournament. Daylight arrives and the panga is launched to take the captains to their boats. The captains are on the dock, the panga comes from the sea-side, makes a U-turn to comes along side the dock with its bow pointed towards the oncoming waves. And then, the waves come! The waves roll down the dock and lift the panga 2 feet above the dock with its bow pointed straight up at the moon. It looks like the boat will flip over backwards and land on the dock. I can’t figure out how the driver is staying aboard. There are a few seconds of calm between the waves and the boat captains literally roll into the panga and are speeding towards the anchored boats.

Meanwhile, the hotel owner is advising the clients who still want to go fishing that a shuttle is standing by to take them about 5 miles north to a more protected beach where they can get aboard their boats. He asks if I want to join them and of course I say “No, I’ll get on from the dock”. What am I thinking? In addition, they decide it’s a good time to pull all the anchors and move all the boats to a more calm anchorage for the winter season. Do you think?

It’s about 6:30 am and so far it’s been a bit exciting, I am still on the beach waiting for my boat to pull anchor and come get me at the dock and we haven’t even started the tournament let alone start fishing. I don’t know if all this is a good or bad omen!

Now it’s 7:15am and I made it aboard no problem. We have just set the anchor in the more protected part of the bay and missed the start of the tournament by 15 minutes. The good news is most boats are still trying to catch the giant squid for tuna bait and are not being very successful. We have two 5-gallon buckets of chunked squid already aboard that Alex and Carlos got two days ago for the tournament and we will be heading south with the waves and wind so the going will not be rough to start. And we are off!

We have reverted back to the “not so good Plan A” as it actually seems to be the best. It would not be fun heading north straight into the waves looking for the tuna we found two days ago and yesterday they were catching 70-plus-pound tuna way south and around the corner where the water should be a bit calmer. Now 1 1/2 hours later we join about 20 other boats at Los Frailes and start chunking for tuna. This method is for the larger tuna. We start tossing 1-inch cubed squid overboard as we slow troll with hooks rigged with 6-inch long squid strips. No lures. We continue for about 1 1/2 hours waving to others who are bouncing around in the backs of their boats catching nothing! That is all of us tournament boats, catching nothing!

Well, we are committed, so we decide to reel in and head for Santa Luisa about another 1/2 hour south. We get there among the same waves we just left, but about 2 minutes before the wind catches up with us. Wow, it’s almost calm! No fish here either, so it’s to the Gordo Banks which are another 6 miles or 15 minutes south. Normally a 2 1/2 hour boat ride back, give us an extra 1/2 hour, that leaves us enough time for 2 passes over the Banks to catch the winning tuna. Not!

We did catch a small dorado which I think is the backup fish for the tournament. So, what are the odds? If none of the 42 boats catch a tuna and we are the only boat to weigh in a dorado? Yup, very slim, but not unheard of in fishing tournament circles. Let’s roll the dice, head for the scales and see what happens!

Boy, did I blow the trip home (or now known as the boat ride thru hell) calculation. Some waves are now 5 to 6 feet and at times the captain has to idle the boat over them. A 45-minute ride from The Banks to the lighthouse takes us over 2 hours with another 2 to go. At the lighthouse, we turn north and really get pounded. We might as well be in a washing machine; the waves are hitting us from all directions. Twice, the rear of the boat rolls one way only to immediately slide in the opposite direction and the deck is awash as the next wave rolls over the back of the boat filling it with water. If there is “Bad” day fishing, this is it!

We make anchor at 5pm, one hour too late to weigh in. Only one tuna was weighed in along with a couple of dorado at the tournament. I am home by 6pm, shower, 3 triple-shots of Tequila and its Lights Out for me! Life is Good!

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