Certain Days - by Lee Irvin
We were fishing the Berry Islands in the last week of July 2000, on the vessel "Sea Horse", my 1969, rehabbed in 1999, Bertram 31.
This was the first extended trip in the Bahamas for this crew of friends taken on "Sea Horse", but the boat herself moved with a sense of returning home gliding around on the tongue of the ocean. Upon our arrival even Jared, the dock master, had rushed over to inspect and discuss the relative traits of the quiet little giant slipping in his harbor. Judging by his comments, he may have seen a few of these vessels come and go during his tenure and possibly he may have even seen this one.
The fishing had been relatively slow at the start, however, the crew was happy just to be 120 miles away from anything that resembled an office. That alone was cause for celebration.
The next morning, we idled out of the harbor turning toward the east and easing the riggers out over the water. The light was diffused and the July heat had already begun to steam the air. The seas had not been comfortable all week. This morning was no different.
We trolled east in the area where we had seen action on tuna and kings the night before, and moving out into the blue, we soon had our first bill fish on the baits. It was a Sail or a White, we couldn't tell, but it was not at all happy with the lure in the middle of the spread. It was difficult to sink a hook into the little guy even though he was trying to take the lure as hard as the mate in the cockpit was trying to give it to him.
We were dismayed when finally it appeared that the confrontation between plastic metal lure and the bill had ended. Just as our excitement receded, down went the long right with a crunch. Our little friend burst through the surface high in the air causing the reel to scream as it spooled out line. The fight ensued successfully. It was a near perfect release with fish, boat, and crew all performing flawlessly.
At boat side, we determined the fish's identity. It was a healthy Sail not at all frazzled by a brief encounter with the wild-eyed crew, and he swam away with out a scratch.
That little guy was our first Bahama Billfish on the "Sea Horse" and he was special to us whether he liked it or not. We had come a long way to release a Bahama Billfish on the Seahorse, and though in any given year, we may release 20 off of Miami, this one was memorable.
After swinging into town for provisions, having a quick dive, and lunching during the typical midday thunder-boomer, it was time for Yellowtailing.
On this day, Yellowtailing was made easy. Just add chum. Within minutes, the flags were flopping all over the deck. They were not huge, maybe 2 to 5 pounds, but their enthusiasm to become a main course was remarkable.
We were in sixty feet of water over nice terrain, marking lots of critters and fishing on top. Within an hour, we had enough to keep us busy cleaning for several hours. It was then decided to look again for the bill fish.
As the "Sea Horse" set out, we had a good 14 miles to run in order to get to the barn as we wanted to stay in pretty deep waters. The spread was very similar to our morning menu, two Softheads short and in the middle and two naturals on the long riggers. At about half past five in the evening everyone stood at attention.
"Blue Marlin!" screamed the man in the tower.
Sure enough, there he was either trying to eat or make love to the same Softhead lure that had been hit earlier. He was stocky and short, strong and mad. And, like his smaller cousin this morning, this fish had attacked in similar fashion. Either the two talked about it or this one received the same memo. He pounded the middle lure again and again, twice doubling over the old rod in the middle launcher only to send the lure flailing and our spirits into the bilge. He just couldn't grab the sharp end. As he faded off after finally becoming bored with the exercise we could only hope that he read the whole memo and not just the first few lines.
He had! Down went the right long with the unmistakable sound of a heavy crashing animal. An unhappy animal attached to 8000 pounds of fiberglass going the wrong way without his consent.
He made a line screaming run on the surface only to turn and head towards the boat, take to the air and then lay down into depths where he had a much better chance than we did.
"Speaking in Tongues" took on a whole new meaning now, but once again, boat, crew and fish worked together to ensure a picture perfect release with in a half hour. This was the First Blue Marlin for the new little Bertram and her team. We estimated his weight at nearly 200 pounds taken on 50 pound test. He was a first for the angler as well.
It was time to head for the hilltop. The crew reset everything and then began to pick up the pieces. We couldn't rest for long though because only 2 miles in front of us, acres of birds pounding frothing water seemed to indicate that there might be some tuna in the area.
We tried to stay on their outside and, looking to the west, we watched with anticipation as the Yellowfin soared into the air towards us, one after another creating one of the more spectacular pictures of the day in front of a sunset back drop.
Four lines were set. Four lines went down, and when all was said and done, two pretty tuna laid on the deck of the Sea Horse. . Get the Wasabi!
Now, back on the mainland, I feel a little sentimental about the Baby Bertram 31. Something tells me that the "Sea Horse" might have done that before. After all, she is only 5 months younger than I am.
Anyway, there was something special about that day.
"Oh, yeah... It is a her."
Lee Irvin - Coconut Grove, FL
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