By Gabe Brown
It all started on the morning of Tuesday the 8th of May. I got a call from Darren around 8:30. He asked if I wanted to take my kayaks and paddle about a half a mile off Muir beach with our fishing poles and a case of anchovies. Well, having the liberal hours that I do, I worked on until 12:00 and packed up to head to the beach. Darren picked me up and we were off on the quick ride over the hill to the beach.
As we approached the beach on this 80 degree day we saw that the waves were about ankle to knee high, perfect for fishing. At waters edge we rigged our lines and pondered shortly how this was all going to work. Without any real plan we headed into the shore breakers and after a thorough drenching were on our way about a half mile out.
We figured the best spot to fish would be right where the tide seemed to be collecting all sorts of muck. We threw a couple of anchovies on the end of our lines stuck our paddles under our butts and started letting the line drop. As I was pulling the line out and letting the bate sink it struck me that after 20 seconds or so I was still trying to find the bottom. About ten seconds later and 65 feet down I felt the weight on my line come to rest. Interesting, I though, 65 feet is plenty of room for some big fish to be swimming around. As this notion began to set in so did the excitement and anticipation. This was soon cut short by the realization that there was also plenty of room for some big sharks to be swimming around underneath me. At this point I’m not feeling to good about my 11 foot long kayak. It didn’t take too long to feel a little bit better when I turned around and saw Darren in my 7 foot kayak.
When my mind finally calmed down after about five minutes of fishing a started to recognize small tugs on my line that felt a little bit more promising than my weight bouncing off the bottom. After three tugs I was convinced that something was nibbling on my bait. So–Snap-I pulled hard on the line and hooked a real heavy one. Let me explain something to everyone who might need a little brushing up on my past fishing experiences. Living in Colorado, I pretty much mastered the crude art of putting some powerbait on the end of some 8 pound fishing line attached to a fifteen dollar Walmart spinning reel/rod combo package and pulling out some mean 3 pound trout. I’ve witnessed people pulling sting ray out of the bay and I think when I was ten I went deep sea fishing in Florida. Needless to say I had no idea how big this fish was going to be and what kind of a fight he was going to put up.
Well, rusty as I might have been I slowly pulled him towards the surface. As the water was so deep it seemed like it was taking a long time. It also felt like the fish was swimming straight up and not out. He was moving towards the surface so fast, it almost felt as if he were getting lighter. Finally! I could see something. "Oh no…it’s a Ray" I yelled out to Darren. It was huge and prehistoric looking. When it saw the surface only a few feet above it dove and came straight back up into the bottom of my boat…OK now I want this thing off my line! "Darren get over here and cut my line" after about ten minutes of Darren laughing and me struggling to keep this Ray from taking my pole out of my hands Darren paddled over. As he drew near, the more experienced fisherman that he is, he yelled don’t move that’s a huge Halibut. Well, let me tell ya, the feeling changes a whole lot when you’ve gone the last ten minutes fighting a Stingray and all of a sudden you’re fighting a 20 pound Halibut on eight pound line. Darren had actually been wise enough to by a Gaff earlier in the day so I pulled the big fish up to the surface and Darren hooked him through the gills and very carefully heaved this giant into his lap. Then the matter of getting the hook out of this mouth that’s got 1/4 inch long razor teeth. Oh, no problem…he was just hooked by the skin of his lip. (Did you hear that. I brought that 20 pound sucker up just hooked by a little skin) so much for Captain Colorado…I think Bay Area Big Fish sounds a little better.
Now, there was a little matter of what to do with the fish. We were half a mile out to sea in deep water with no net, no bag and no storage compartments on the boats. We were definitely not going to string him up behind the boat…that would have been a fun ride once the shark got a hold of it. So in an amazingly little amount of time Darren came up with a great plan. He threw the fish head first in to my boat towards my feet. That’s cool, I didn’t mind having a fish half the size of me sitting on top of my legs. Well, at least until he clamped down on my ankle and nearly tore my booties off my foot. Let’s pause and think about this for a second. What do you do when a fish in your boat with no room to spare attacks you. Well, you could jump out and take your chances with the sharks and hope that the fish follows your lead. You could start to cry (I pondered this one for a second). Or you could grab the fish, take control and with your feet pin him to the bottom of the boat. I opted for the last, which worked out well for the moment.
Remember when I was paddling out and I got thoroughly drenched? Well, this left my boat filled with about 4 inches of water…just enough to keep this goddamn giant going strong for as long as he wanted. After catching this monster in only fifteen minutes of fishing, Darren was not leaving without one of his own. OK, I thought, I can keep this fish under control for another fifteen minutes, while Darren fishes. That wasn’t good enough. Apparently I had to throw my line back in and keep fishing, according to Darren who, claiming he would carry them all in, said we needed to catch two more. Allrighy then…kept fishing. About five minutes later, though, my the giant under my feet got a tenth wind and started banging around franticly. There was no way I could fight this fish and another so I pulled my line in and strapped the fishing pole to my boat.
Not thirty seconds later Darren screamed "Got one!" with surprisingly little effort Darren pulled up a good size Cod, gaffed it and threw it in my lap. This again was not funny. This fishes teeth were twice as long as the halibut and just as sharp. Well, already being the fish tamer that I had become I can see why naturally Darren’s first instinct was to throw the fish into my boat.
My reaction to this was first to smack the fish to let him no who was in charge and then in case he didn’t get the message I went ahead and told him that I was in charge. I then grabbed him and, not having much room left in my boat, the best thing to do with this fish was to put him under my leg and try to sit on him. I’ve already been doing this for fifteen minute so no problem right? WRONG.
Darren again wanted to keep fishing. I mean, he hadn’t caught his Halibut yet, it was understandable. About three minutes later when I had finally begun to forget that I had two large fish pinned under my legs THE COD TRIED TO MAKE A BREAK FOR IT! I told him who was in charge already and I was darn unhappy! As he leaped to try and jump to freedom I smacked him again right
back into my boat. Catastrophe averted right? Wrong. As the Cod was making a beak for it the Halibut giant saw his opportunity as I released the pressure from his back. Now it was on…one man, one small boat, two big fish…AND A HELL OF A FRICKIN CALF CRAMP out of nowhere, my calf pulled tight and burst into excruciating pain. This is where Captain Colorado might have called it quits but instead I slammed the cod underneath my leg rapped a net around his head, grabbed my foot to stretch the cramp and with the other foot met the Halibut head on about 15 inches from my crotch…thank god!
Now with the two fish still under me and a grapefruit for a calf muscle, I said to Darren, "That is it. I’m heading in." Realizing that we had enough food for fifteen people, Darren agreed and we were on our way. Like fools we surfed onto the beach in our boats and dragged our boats to the shore. Fish somehow still in my boat, we began to drag the boats the 500 yards to the car.
It’s amazing how much heavier the boat is with 2 big fish in it. As it turned out, Darren hadn’t really expected to catch anything, so he didn’t bring a cooler. That’s all right, "we’ll just leave them in the boat for the ride home" he said. Sounded good enough. We realized that during the rush hour commute in eighty-five degree weather, these fish could spoil on the way home. So we stopped at 7-11 and grabbed a couple bags of ice and filled the boat. Four hours later me, Darren, and about eight of our friends ate a great meal.
If you read this whole thing you deserve congratulations,
Gabe – May, 2001