new england sportsman's network new england sportsmen network new england sportsmen's network new england sportsmans network new england sportsmens network

   All Boards
   All Events
   Fishing Tournies
   Bow Shoots
   Cowboy Action
   Shows & Other
   Add an Event
   Books & Videos
   Classified Ads
   NES Apparel
   Sign Up
   Lake Maps
   Resource Links
   Organization Links
   Fish Species
   Freshwater Fishing
   Saltwater Fishing
   Ice Fishing
   Search Articles
   All Videos
   New Hampshire
   Rhode Island
   Submit an Article
curve.gif (492 bytes) sportsman's sportsmen sportsmen's sportsmans sportsmens network

A Nantucket Sleigh Ride

By Mike Christy

   According to the 3:00AM NOAA report, the marine forecast was perfect for mid summer; one to two foot seas, variable winds, high pressure sitting over us, until the weekend when it'll blow. It was Wednesday morning August 17th, 5am, it's still dark, I make the run to Shafmaster to buy a tote of herring. Arriving at the dock I lump the 125lb cooler out of the van and drag it down the gang plank - ugg my aching back. I then rush to get to work on time. I'll return after work to add more ice just to be sure the bait stays cold, fresh.

Now the hard part, to find a mate. I make the calls, "Tom, can you take a half day tomorrow?  The bait's on Shortfin and she's fueled up, ready to fish". No he cant, way too busy. I ask John at work, "Can you go?". No, he can't either, it's something about moving his son to Florida for school. I call Tim, he's buried at work too. I email Chris, naw, he's always to busy to get away mid week. Last resort, Darryl, my son, "no dad, I have to work at four". Damn.

So, it boils down to having a go at it alone. 

It seems there's only so many of us that have the passion for this type of fishing. Could it be an obsession? We anticipate the forecasts, the 3am updates, the 10am updates, the 3pm updates. We run all over Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts searching for bait, many times days before the scheduled trip. We blatantly call in sick or leave work at the half day mark, even when high profile projects are behind schedule. So here I go, heading offshore 15 miles, alone, in my 20" Mako center console Shortfin, not even considering what might happen, I mean, what are the chances?

I drop the hook and begin chumming by 1pm, which isn't bad for leaving work at eleven. Amazingly the boat swings on the anchor line to the perfect depth and position according to the GPS. I'm right over the edge that I want to be. The bottoms drops from 205 to 234 feet within about 15 yards it seems. My sounder displays 217 feet, perfect. This rarely ever happens.

Since I'm fishing alone I only brought two rods today, one being my lucky 130 which is mounted on a Penn Sabre bent butt. I say lucky because it has hooked up and landed 3 significant fish in recent times, including a 12 foot 450lb blue shark. As luck would have it there is no one on my spot today. Instead, everyone is over on the Flag, I count 16 or so boats anchored up, I'm sure highliners Garth, Dick and Ricco are all tucked in there somewhere. Earlier in the season I marked a herd of fish where I'm anchored today, I'm not sure how many of those guys know that, or if they have done the same. I'm in a little bit deeper water than some guys like to be, and what I have liked in the past, but this subtle change seems to be working for me, at least for marking fish. The only other boat I see is the Christian Soldier out of Portsmouth. She is aptly named  for what her crew calls a live herring being sent out on a tuna line. Captain Tim Margil and the Soldier are about 300 yards away, over relatively higher ground compared to me.

Surprisingly, time passes quickly when you tuna fish alone as there's lots to do. Chumming alone can keep you busy. Adjusting the baits, watching the sounder, checking out the other fishermen; is anyone on, are there any crooked boats anywhere? You scan the horizon, listen in the VHF, eat Cheezits, clean the gunnels of chum guts, jig a little bit for bait.

After a while things settle down and I get into a routine, the zone. Over the afternoon I have a tuna scratch here and there on the sounder about every 30 minutes or so. It seems to be one fish. I cant tell if he's actively feeding or just passing though. Since it's so intermittent I assume he's cruising the edge of the hump, and it takes him that long to make his rounds. I check the depths of the marks on the machine and adjust my lines accordingly. Hmm, he seems to be swimming near the 20 fathom mark.

The Christian Soldier starts her engine and they weigh anchor. It's 5:00 and he's calling it a day. At a full 10 knots she cruises past me and we give each other a wave, I secretly think "quitter", but only jokingly. Tim fishes like I do, for the love of it. But I can only assume he has had no marks on his fish finder like I have, otherwise he would not be heading for the barn this early.

As I watch the Christian Solder steam towards shore the time approaches 5:15. I am now the only one anchored on this ledge, the closest boat is maybe 5 miles away. The tide is starting to run from starboard to port across my stern now. The pieces of herring are drifting out to sea, away from the Isles of Shoals. Mount Agamenticus looms on the hazy horizon. The current seems a little faster now, it's the near the end of the tide I think, so I decide to make an adjustment. I reel the baits in fairly close to the stern. The white balloon is the closest and is about 10 yards away. It is the deepest of the two lines.  I throw a few pieces of chum up current and imagine them sinking down around where the baits have settled.

I take another look for the Christian Soldier in the distance, she is difficult to pick up with the naked eye,  but that eye did now sense movement. At first it was an unconscious realization, of something out of the ordinary, as when, I suppose, you think you've seen a ghost. What had registered in my brain was a white streak on my right side. A white streak out of the corner of my eye, what is that? A white streak is not right, it did not make sense in this setting. It now all seems to be in slow motion as I play it back in my mind's eye. A white balloon does not normally race through the water, or underwater by itself, without... a TUNA FISH on the other of the line! 

I'm hooked up.

OK quick reel reel reel, get that line tight, ok good he's taking line, oh no it stopped, damn damn reel reel reel faster, no slack, there, now the line's hard, the rod's bent, the monofilament line crackles as comes off the reel, the roller guides on the rod rattle, I love that sound,  he's taking it right up the bow, perfect, now, Ok quick get the other line in, ok, quick release the anchor ball, my gloves, where are my gloves? Damn it! Ok now move the rod to the fighting post, out of the holder and into the fighting post, one smooth motion, 5 steps, don't screw up, point the rod at the fish, there, it's in the post, and the fish is taking line like a freight train. Ok, ok, ok, breath Michael, start the engine, START the ENGINE! Oh damn, the painter from the anchor ball  is wrapped in the skeg, pull, pull, and cut, cut, ok good. Now get on the rod, and take a breath...  whew, now I'm on and feeling good about it!

The next forty five minutes seemed to pass in an instant. That fish took me on a Nantucket Sleigh Ride for almost an entire nautical mile according to my GPS plotter. During the fight he'd stop and loop around every so often, which was fine after I learned how to deal with it - you have to be a fast learner out there, especially alone. Then things got interesting when he pulled a real nasty trick by circling the entire boat. I never anticipated this, and the line wrapped around the harpoon, my jigging rod, the VHF antenna, the other tuna rod still in the rod holder, the engine cowling and the console. That fish knew he did something on that circle, because he did it again and again, all while I was trying to untangle  the line from everything. The rod was in the fighting post with no one on it, the line was wrapped around everything, he had the upper hand swimming wherever he wanted and I had a terrible feeling about loosing him. But, by thinking clearly, I got the line cleared and free. The cockpit was in total shambles, but he was still hooked after all and that's what counted. He then tried to circle again but I had learned like he had learned and I kept it from catching on anything, after all, he may be the top predator in the ocean, but I am top predator on Shortfin. 

The final moments of sticking him with the harpoon were nothing less than pure adrenaline and brute force on my part. The rod stayed in the fighting post the entire time, I reeled the line up to the swivel and moved to the gunwale and began to hand line him in. Then, as on cue,  he'd take line again and Id have to wind up to the swivel again. Doing the absolute wrong thing, I took a chance and tweaked the reel drag up a smidgen. I had the harpoon ready and lying on the edge of the gunwale, he was doing the death circle, and like every tuna fish does, he was near the surface away from the boat, and deep near the boat. How do they know to do that? Amazing. The harpoon will never hit him eight feet under the boat. The only way to do this myself was to hand line him in as close was I could, hold the leader with one hand, and stick him with the harpoon like a Zimbabwe warrior.

It worked! Two lines in him but I was still nervous and thinking no one is ever going to believe me if I loose him now. That thought haunted me during the entire battle; if I loose this fish no one will believe me, and why even talk about it if I did loose him. I was not out there to make up stories. It was a mix of emotions during the entire ordeal, from total exhilaration and happiness to apprehension and foreboding doom... what a mix,. What else can invoke those emotions besides sport?

I grabbed a gaff, then reaching down under the water I hooked his tail. I pulled him up towards the surface and closer to the boat and somehow tail roped him. I got a saltwater shower in the process from his tail going crazy, actually I was soaked from the chest up, but it was ok, I forgave him.

It was dark by the time I had towed him back to the wharf. The August full moon was just rising over the sailboats in the mooring field. The tuna truck backed down the wharf, the red tail and backup lights illuminating the planks on the deck. We hoisted my 450 lb prize into the refrigerator truck and covered him with ice. Sadly and suddenly, just like that, the adventure was over.  The sense of dread of loosing that regal animal had evaporated and was now replaced with a sense of respect and achievement.  I had done it, without really knowing I was going to - I caught a giant, alone, on the lucky rod. What are the chances? 

Sportsmen's Forum
What's your experience with this subject?

Click here to view other sportsmen's posts

State Home Pages

Select a State to Visit
dot.gif (810 bytes)

dot.gif (810 bytes)

Buy Official
NES Gear

NES Search
(find articles)

Keyword (optional)

dot.gif (810 bytes)

dot.gif (810 bytes)


Can't see our
menus on
the left and
sides of
our homepage?
Click Here

dot.gif (403 bytes)

Copyright 1999 through 2004 New England Sportsman All Rights Reserved.