We were sixty miles from dry land with cobalt blue water stretching as far as the eye could see. The boat had just eased up to a bait spot, with our end destination another seventy miles further. The crew shook off the morning run while catching Hardtails – the choice bait for big Tunas – and messing around with a handful of chicken dolphin (small Mahi-Mahi) who’s curiosity about the boat got the best of them. About a hundred yards from the boat, we watched as something went berserk in the water like a dog chasing a moving ball that he could not quite grab. Inside of this water mosh pit, small Tuna were fleeing for their lives hoping not to end up in the belly of the beast that was chasing them.
We pointed our boat toward the mayhem and trolled a small bucktail jig out behind the boat in hopes to entice one of those small Tunas to bite it. Meanwhile, I pulled out a fresh 30 foot Blue Marlin leader, with a thick 12/0 hook tied to the end of it. Just as I closed the snap swivel securing the leader to the rod, a perfect bait-sized Tuna ate the bucktail. I stood ready in the back of the boat with the leader and hook in hand, waiting for the hooked Tuna to make its way into the boat and then back out into the water with my hook attached.
The beast that was causing the commotion had other plans though as it stalked the struggling bait from the deep. Right as we were about to pull the bait onto the boat, our suspicions of the commotion were confirmed as a lit-up Blue Marlin emerged from the depths. With one solid *thwack* it disconnected our bait from the hook and then inhaled it. P A N D E M O N I U M.
I stood there in disbelief of what just happened – feeling like I was just caught red handed holding a hook in my hand. We were left without a fresh live bait to deploy and there was a pissed off, hungry Blue Marlin swimming around the boat. In a moment of genius, I remembered the small chicken dolphin that we had thrown into our fish box while catching bait. I grabbed the first one I could get my hands on, jammed the hook through its mouth like a bad surgeon and threw it out behind the boat. What was going to be our fish tacos had now become a Blue Marlin burrito and it still had a few kicks left in it after being caught only minutes before.
The bait did not last long behind the boat as the Blue Marlin came back out from the depths of the deep blue Gulf of Mexico and with another solid *thwack* it had disconnected our bait like a fifth grader whacking a tether ball off of the rope. I mumbled a few words under my breath because I knew I could have put the hook into a better spot that would have stayed glued better. I reeled the line back to the boat and reached back into the fish box to grab another chicken dolphin - this time one that was already cold and limp from spending a half hour on the ice. I jammed the hook through a deeper spot of the bait and sent it out off the back of the boat, praying that the fish had not grown disinterested in what we were serving.
The saying of “third time's a charm” rang truer than a Stevie Wonder song as the Blue Marlin came roaring back into action after the third bait had hit the water. This time it made no whacks, but completely picked up the bait in its mouth and carried the bait twenty yards as the reel’s clicker alerted the rest of the boat that we were still in the game. The tricks did not end yet - as the Blue Marlin decided to let go of the bait after the twenty yard carry. My stomach dropped quicker than the tower of terror roller coaster at Disney World. I kept my hand on the reel in hopes that we did not completely lose our bait during the first pick up and stayed ready in case the Blue Marlin decided to come back for its third mid-day snack.
Thirty feet behind the boat a blue dorsal fin appeared while pushing a wake that looked like the top of a submarine running just a few feet under the water. It was done playing games and completely inhaled the bait - this time with our hook attached. We gave the fish a second to feel good about its decision to eat our bait before I moved the drag lever from freespool to strike and reeled up the slack in the line. The rod bent over like a palm tree in the wind and the fish started peeling the fishing line off the reel at a slow pace before it truly realized it was hooked. Then in a moment of realization of being hooked, it went absolutely wild - jumping and bucking like the best of bulls in the rodeo. The crew started letting out hoots and hollers as I shot back a smile to them before settling into an easy fight with the beast of the sea.