MANTEO, North Carolina -At 5 a.m. we embarked from Pirates Cove Yacht Club in search of that huge fish trapped in our brooding dreams. You know the fish, the one that represents all our hopes and mirrors the symbolism of Ahabs quest for Moby Dick in Melvilles famous novel. This became manifest, was stamped with my personal pontifications, and rolled itself into one big-game fisherman longing for the action of his lifetime. Our boat, a 40-foot craft called Bounty Hunter, powered through the Oregon Inlet of the Outer Banks 30 miles out to the rough waters of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is home to tuna, wahoo, dolphin, and the fish leaping in our dreams--the famous blue marlin. The blue marlin is the king of the blue water and is the most highly prized of big-game fish because of its size and fighting capabilities. It inhabits the waters from Gulf of Maine to Uruguay in the Atlantic and from Mexico to Peru in the Pacific. This deep water fish likes temperate seas and is often seen cruising and feeding on the surface. The average blue marlin weighs 200-500 pounds with world record catches tipping the scales at 2,000 pounds.I caught a 350-pound blue marlin on this very boat, says my fishing mate Jeff Buchko. I was lucky. It just happened to be my turn in the chair when she hit. Took almost two hours to haul her in. He paused, and then said, Its quite a feeling. Took every bit of strength I had. As the waves hit our boat, our captain, Tom Harty, steered toward the Gulf Stream. I sat in the stern, in one of the big seats used for hauling in big fish, and stared at the early morning sun. Everyone has that one big fish to catch in their lives, my friend Jerry always said. Since it represents all your demons, if youre a real man or woman, at least you have to give it the old college try.Besides the strength to haul in the big one, one needs to be at the right place at the right time using the right presentation. And if youre like me, you have to be concerned with another aspect of going big-game fishing--seasickness. Especially on the Gulf Stream waters where boats rock back and forth fiercly and continuously. Modern medicine, however, has come to the rescue with the scopolamine patch, a pharmeceutical that helps prevent the symptoms associated with motion sickness. I had never tested the patch but all the fishermen I asked recommended it highly and I was out to overcome the nausea and the pain. So, this trip, and all those big fish here in this churning liquid of life (and death) we call the ocean, stood for (in my mind at least) my overcoming my dilemma. And like Jerry said, all my demons and dilemmas, all my battles to survive and to be the person I wanted, longed, to be. The marlin, like Ahabs white whale, was my metaphor. A good way to stop thinking about the broad picture is to get specific. Keeping this in mind, I wandered over to First Mate Chuck Seymour who was busy preparing our bait for the oncoming fish fight. What are we going to use to lure in the big ones? I asked.
Ballyhoo, they just love these little guys, Seymour said, as he sharpened our hooks and inserted the sharpened metal into the baitfish, poking it through the eyelid and wrapping it around the bill. Marlin are out there, and theyre usually caught in the same place at the same time as wahoo, dolphin, tuna and sailfish. If we dont get any big boys, were sure to get some tuna or dolphin. The other boat captains have been catching fish too. Just relax and do what I tell you and youll be all right.He warned us if we felt sick to go to the back of the boat so it would be easier to clean up. I tried to think of how beautiful the ocean looked and what was really hidden underneath the seas as I stared at the horizon. (Another trick to try and prevent seasickness.)
Suddenly, my mind was quickly forced into another thinking pattern--we were rigged up, our baits were in the water, and like a burst of energy colliding with a nuclear reaction the lightning and thunder of the war zone was upon us. There were fish on the lines!
Get in the chair quick! Seymour yelled to me. I moved to the best seat in the house and grabbed the rod. It was a nice size fish, not a marlin, but a tuna weighing close to 150 pounds. The tension on the line was the strongest Id ever experienced, and I was nervous, almost in shock. I did exactly what Seymour and the other fishermen told me to do, pulling up on the rod, reeling it in, pulling up on the rod, reeling it in. But luck wasnt with me on this one and I lost the tuna. Dont worry about it, Seymour said. Youll get another chance.
Dismayed, I watched the others pull in some nice-size tuna, but none as big as the one I had hooked, and lost. I thought about these fish we were hooking, the yellowfin tuna.
Found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters, yellowfin prosper off southern California and also range from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey. Yellowfins are thought to reach a maximum size of 500 pounds and anglers havent yet conquered the big yellowfins. The average rod and reel keeper weighs less than 100 pounds.
When it came to tuna, Buchko was indeed prepared.
He brought along a sushi kit complete with wasabi and chopsticks. Being a lover of Japanese cuisine, I longed to land a lunker tuna and feast with him on the raw fish (sashimi). An experienced angler with a mounted marlin on his wall, Jeff had already landed a nice fish, but like the rest of the crew, was congenial, non-competitive, and helpful to the less-experienced anglers. Within minutes my dismay evaporated into the same jolt of energy that rocked the boat the last time---fish were on again! I took my turn in the hot seat and this time, using the same techniques, I fought the fish with more determination. Tension mounted in my forearms. Thoughts of overcoming my fears fomented in my mind. The others watched. I did it! The fish was onboard! It was a 25-pound yellowfin tuna, gaffed by Seymour (always at the ready) and in the hole used to store the days catch. Exhilarated, I went into the ships lounge area, sat down and sipped a cola. We were in real rough waters now, the boat was rocking and heaving all over the place and I was feeling a bit weary. The experience was fulfilling and I was glad I was able to land a fish. To really be able to catch the big ones, its important to be able to take advice.
Although I did get a bit nauseated, the feeling was nothing like the times I went deep sea fishing without the new medicine. As we cruised back, I watched Seymour fillet the yellowfin tuna I caught. Back at my hotel room that night, I shared the fish with my family. Talk about bringing home the bacon
it was the most scrumptious fish feast Ive ever eaten. The smell of the brine reminded me of my adventure. I felt mo