Ditchbag

How about the best fishing story of your life

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Best fishing story I have, probably the best thing I've ever written.

 

The game plan for the trip was to day trip to Veatch canyon for a shot at yellowfin, mahi and maybe a marlin.  My crew was GW and Sageflyguy.  We geared up for the 80-degree forecast and 2-3' seas.  All the safety gear was check and re-checked like always, we never thought we would be needing it.  We splashed the boat at 0300 in Falmouth and in no time, we were zipping along headed south. 

 

We made great time and 30 minutes ahead of schedule we were going lines in at the tip of Veatch.  The troll bite was a bit slow for us.  One of our buddy boats had the hot hand and was hammering YFT just a few miles from us.  We aimed their way and soon we got our first knockdowns.  It was a slow pick for the morning bite for most of the boats, although our buddy boat was hooking up everything under the sun including marlin and wahoo. 

 

The mid day lull came and went, and we looked forward to the evening bite.  Another canyon buddy of ours Ohana had struggled all day so when we started getting bit in the evening, we called them in.  Ohana arrived and soon they got a BIG bite and were in an hour plus tussle with a monster bigeye.  We worked around them and grabbed some more YFT and had several white marlin terrorize our spread without finding a hook. 

 

At 1800 hrs it was time to pull the pin and head for home.  We had a some nice YFT up to 65# in the box and a few gaffer mahi.  Not a banner day but a solid pick under ideal conditions.  I pointed the big Contender North and we were headed home at a nice smooth 40 mph.  The idea of a cold drink and a nice long nap was running through my mind as I crossed into the shipping lanes about 70 miles from Wasque Point when the VHF crackled on 16, "PAN PAN, Hello all stations, this is US Coast Guard South East New England BREAK"......"The Coast Guard has received a call of a vessel disabled in the shipping lanes approximately 70 miles SE of Martha's Vineyard, any vessels in the area that are able to assist, please contact USCG SENE"  Then they hailed "POCO LOCO, POCO LOCO this is USCG what is your condition OVER?"   

 

POCO LOCO, that's a guy I know from fishing, I've bumped into him a dozen times over the years in various places.  The owner Dave is a nice guy and his boat is the same size as mine.  I'm gonna be able to help him out.  I chimed in and Dave responded with a mix of anxiety and relief in his voice.  Dave gave me his numbers and he was about 8 miles northwest of me.  I advised the Coast Guard I was 10 minutes out from Poco Loco and I told my crew it's gonna be a long night.  In no time I slid up to Poco Loco and we discussed the game plan.  The closest place we could get them to safety was going to be towards Edgartown.  Nantucket was a bit closer, but we would have to run all the way around the island to get to the harbor so from where we were it was a wash.  Since Dave's from MV and we were going to Falmouth we ruled out ACK as an option.

 

Dave had plenty of heavy anchor rode that we used to make a bridle to clear my Verado's and we set up a slip rig, so the tow line would move freely and keep even pressure on the boats.  In about 15 minutes we were all set and under way headed for MV.  Seatow was to meet us at East Beach near Tom's Shoal.  The Coast Guard was advised, and they put us on a 1-hour Comm. schedule.  Every hour on the hour they would call and check our situation.

 

The tow was slow and steady, the big Verado's were churning along as an easy 1800 rpm using no fuel to speak of so running low on gas was not going to be an issue.  The seas were following, and the wind was light from the SW at 5-10 kts.  This is gonna be EASY......

 

About 3 hours into the tow, SNAP!  The bridle broke from the heaving of a larger wave.  I advised the CG we would be stopped to repair the tow.  We got things fixed up and were back underway.  The CG modified the Comm. schedule to every 30 minutes.

 

About 2330 the Coast Guard called out over the VHF.........."PAN PAN HELLO ALL STATIONS,,,,,THE CG HAS RECEIVED A CALL FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE THAT A STRONG LINE OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS IS LOCATED BETWEEN MV AND BLOCK ISLAND MOVING SE @ 35 KNOTS.  HEAVY RAIN, HAIL, AND SEVERE LIGHTNING ARE BEING ACCOMPANIED BY WINDS IN EXCESS OF 35 KNOTS.  BREAK!!!!!"   Then they hailed us......This is NOT going to be good I thought. They advised that the storms were headed right at us and we should be prepared for the worst. 

 

They advised us to secure all hatches, to avoid possible flooding from the torrential rains and to put on life vests, they went down a checklist of safety gear on both boats, rafts, flares, gumby suits, etc, etc.  They put us on a 15-minute Comm. schedule.  The next 30 minutes was calm but tense.  We knew what was coming.  I kicked the radar way out and then after a short time I saw the lead edge of the storm.  It was heading right at us and it was BIG!  I advised the crew and we all got ready for what was coming. 

 

Thirty minutes later the storm hit.  The winds instantly went to 35kts and the seas jumped to 4-5' making the already difficult tow infinitely harder.  The rain came down like I've never seen before.  My scuppers could barely keep up with the water flowing down the deck of the Riptide.  We all huddled under the T top for some level of shelter from the storm.  The crew of Poco Loco was dry in the pilot house, but the un-natural motion of the tow, the heavy seas and the confined space of the pilot house gave them issues of their own. 

 

We pitched and heaved in the growing seas and I tried to work the throttles as gently as I could to keep the strain even as the boats tossed and turned independently of each other.  In the big following seas Poco Loco would slide down a wave face and the heel over hard left or right when it got into the next wave.  There was not enough keel to keep it straight under tow.  Even my boat which tracks like it's on rails would heel over with the added strain of the tow.  When they went in different directions, SNAP!  Right in the middle of the storm we break the tow line!  With near zero visibility we try to maneuver back to the Poco Loco.  They hauled in the line to keep it out of our props which would have been a nightmare.  Dave made a great toss with the line and GW managed to catch the tow line in the near zero visibility and stinging rain.   We got the boat back in tow and advised the CG we were back under way.  They put us on a 10-minute Comm. schedule.

 

That's when things went from bad to worse!  LIGHTING!!!! BIG, BRIGHT AND REALLY REALLY CLOSE!!!!  We had all the riggers and rods down with nothing up the VHF antenna, so we could talk to the CG.  The lightning had been in the distance, but that part of the storm was on us now and the lightning was everywhere.  As the lightning bolts hit closer and closer to us, I had to make a tough call.  Antenna up for communications or down to avoid a lightning strike!  I made the call to drop the antenna.  Suddenly a few hundred yards away a blinding FLASH and an INSTANT CRACK!  The lightning hit the water only a few hundred feet away from us!!!!!  I like to think that I'm calm and cool under pressure, but when a zillion watts of electricity hits that close and your holding onto a metal steering wheel even the coolest hands get nervous.  You just can't hide from lightning in the open ocean.  Normally, I can outrun storms or run hard to avoid or dodge them.  But not tonight, not this time.  The only way to run was to cut Poco Loco loose and set them adrift alone in the storm and that wasn't happening.  All we could do was pray that the gods had bad aim tonight. 

 

The CG tried to HAIL us for the Comm. check.  With the storm all around us and the heavy electrical show they were light and barely readable.  With the antenna down, I didn't think they would be able to hear us at all.  In the broken chatter I heard the CG ask for my location as they had done each time before.  I waited a few seconds and gave my numbers out to what I expected to be dead air.  There was a pause and a crackle, then a scratchy......."Good Copy”.  A HUGE thank you to all the good folks at ICOM VHF and Digital Antenna, even in the worst of conditions with the antenna down my call with my position went through!

 

After several waves of rain and a few more distant lightning strikes things calmed down a bit.  The seas settled into a 3-4' pattern and we continued to make way for MV.  Having been dressed for 80 degrees and no rain we were all soaked to the skin and in the middle of the night it was starting to get cold.  I dug out spare dry gear I keep on the boat and got the guys as warm and dry as they could be.  We had another few hours to go and we might as well be as comfortable as possible. 

 

Finally, after 3 broken lines and 9 hours of towing we made it to Muskeget Channel.  Dave called over the radio to give me the first good new of the night.  SLACK TIDE!  We made it through the normally nasty piece of water without issue.   The thought of the tow breaking and Poco Loco going aground on Wasque was one I had for the entire trip. 

 

After clearing the channel, we got Poco Loco into the shelter near East Beach and helped them set the anchor.  Seatow was going to be delayed until sunrise so they requested he anchor up to await their arrival.  Then they would tow him the rest of the way to his home port of Menemsha.  Once we were sure Poco Loco was anchored firmly we set out to get my cold wet crew home.  The CG set up a new Comm. schedule with Poco Loco and 20 minutes later I gave the CG my last Comm. check of the night.  "COASTGUARD GROUP SOUTHEAST NEW ENGLAND, THIS IS THE VESSEL RIPTIDE.......WE ARE SAFE AND SOUND IN FALMOUTH HARBOR......THANK YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE............"

 

During the 10-hour ordeal I had a lot of time to think about all the trips I've made to the edge, the what if's, what if that were me disabled 70 miles offshore.  I thought about the times I've been towed in from various places over the years.  One time in particular came to mind.  About 10 years ago I was fishing in my bay boat off Newport RI.  The motor blew, and we were stranded 20 miles from the Westport river where we had launched.  A guy in a big green custom center console came along and offered to help.  I didn't know the guy, but he towed us for over 2 hours all the way back to the ramp at Westport.  When we got to the ramp, I told the guy I didn't have much money on me, but I would send him whatever he wanted to cover the tow when I got home.  The guy smiled and said "Don't worry about it, maybe someday I'll be in a jam and you can tow me home”.  I told him I would if I ever got the chance.  As the big green custom center console turned and headed out of the Westport River, I looked at the transom and said to myself "What a cool name for a boat......POCO LOCO".

Edited by Riptide

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Wow some good stories, its not always the biggest fish or filling the boat that makes a good fishing story.Rather the company your with and situations you get into. KEEP EM COMING ITS ALOT BETTER THAN READING THE WEED FILES.

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13 hours ago, Ditchbag said:

Wow some good stories, its not always the biggest fish or filling the boat that makes a good fishing story.Rather the company your with and situations you get into. KEEP EM COMING ITS ALOT BETTER THAN READING THE WEED FILES.

The day of the weed rack line of Race Point. Back in another time we often would be fishing the beach searching for big momma and at times we could see the dorcil fin protruding through the surface of the water .It was  a matter of just making a cast a little beyond , work the plug and you would be on. Well as usually occurs after a storm we had a huge build up weed out of the beach as far as one could cast. No matter what we did once the plug hit the water it became foul and unworkable. We could see some nice fins protruding through the weed line and just sit and watch as the huge fish would slowly make a circle on what ever they were chasing. Now during those time we had become very good casting plugs to locations in order to attract a fish to strike, so it was decided to try some something to see if we could at least make some fish strike our plugs. We put on the largest floating wood plug we had and cast it out into the rack  and heavy weed line and slowly began to catch all of the weeds on the plug, leaving a v behind the plug . I would have my son make a cast right behind the v area that was clear of weeds and work the plug as he kept up with the open area my plug was making in the weeds. Much to our surprise a fish decided to hit his plug and after a short fight the fish was on the beach, covered with weeds, but active. We alternated the routine for the remaining part of the morning and would successfully catch  fish of size by experimenting with this unorthodox method of fishing.  Once we got a hook up the line would fill up with weed and it was  a matter of one reeling the fish, while the other one pulled off the weed from the rod tip. Then we had to reel up the plug that made the clearance in the weed and start all over again . How many times over the years did this work , is unknown, but it is a practice my sons and i often would incorporate even when we did not have weed in the water and it became a very effective way to fish. We called it follow the leader and the first one casting was not a problem it was the second one, who had to make sure it was a pin point cast.  Try doing that with conventional rods , it was great competition for sure . One thing that helped was that distance was never really a problem , as we could often find one place where the weed line had some clearance behind it . It was important to be able to cast beyond the weed line into clear water so that who ever was following had a clear and clean shot of working the plug they were using. So when the plug being used to follow the V plug it was nice and clean

Edited by Angler #1

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16 hours ago, Ditchbag said:

Wow some good stories, its not always the biggest fish or filling the boat that makes a good fishing story.Rather the company your with and situations you get into. KEEP EM COMING ITS ALOT BETTER THAN READING THE WEED FILES.

I think he meant the other weed.

 

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I caught a 43 lb. striper, in the late '90s, at Pip's Rip, on a white bucktail jig, K-Mart reel on a 9' Ted Williams rod, 15 lb mono line...………..

 

1:00 in the afternoon, sober, walked from parking lot, filleted and ate...………...

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1 hour ago, b-ware said:

I caught a 43 lb. striper, in the late '90s, at Pip's Rip, on a white bucktail jig, K-Mart reel on a 9' Ted Williams rod, 15 lb mono line...………..

 

1:00 in the afternoon, sober, walked from parking lot, filleted and ate...………...

 

I was told only Jimmy Powers caught big fish at Pip's.   ;)

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Showed up the morning after a notorious drinking holiday.  My best friend showed up that morning to fish with me (had a broken foot at the time and had just had surgery).  He forget his waterproof boot, and didn't want to step into the salt water or risk it, since it could lead to a serious infection.  He also realized he forgot his rain jacket, so at about 4 am, before sunrise, he opted to just drive 30 minutes home.  I lived around the corner and decided I'll give it an hour by myself and see whats doing.

 

The second the sun came up - the water lit up with 30+ pound fish.  A couple of which were 40+ pounds.  There was not a single other person in sight for at least 2 hours of fishing.  I caught fish on every single cast for those first 2 hours.  At the very second I thought my arms were completely shot, I sent out my furthest cast of a day.  The second it hit the water, a 44# fish slammed my popper and I reeled the fish in after a great fight.  At that very second, I realized, my phone is soaked, my hands are to wet to work it, and my arms are too tired to hold the fish up for any kind of photo that would show off the size of the fish - A guy on a bike, not fishing, happened to ride by past the beach just at the edge of my sight through the fog. 

 

I yelled to him to see if I could get him to stop.  He somehow heard me and walked on down to where I was holding the fish within maybe 30 seconds.  I asked if he had a camera and he wiped out an old digital camera, took a couple pictures and told me he'd email me the pictures later.

 

I went home, told my friend what had happened and how he missed the most epic day ever.  Of course he didn't believe me and my 44# fish story.  About a week later, sitting at work, I checked my email and bam - pictures were there.  So I got to parade around my 3 photos of the 44# fish I'd caught that morning - which he left before even casting a line - and give him some semblance of proof that it was an unreal morning.

 

Of course - I still talk about it to this day (maybe 6 years ago?)

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