Fishing Monster Ledge
by David Nolan
Photos by Gary Schetlick and David Nolan

We took my Tolman Alaska Skiff offshore, departing Sunday night 5pm. We were going to try Monster Ledge about 30 miles in the deep part of the Mud Hole, but the offshore bite has been great and after reading Bruce and Bob's reports, and a note along the lines of "No guts no Glory", we decided to go half way and make a decision. We loaded all the jerry cans on the boat, took two lbs. of eels in case we had to abort and go Striper fishing, and also some green crabs for Tog.

The Boat was loaded with three big coolers that took up about half the rear deck, a giant tote in the cabin along with the clothes, extra gps, batteries, and Bruce's favorite ... 11 five gallon cans of gas in the cabin, plus the extra six gallon tank, and had the 12 gallon and kicker tank topped off. We also had a gallon of two cycle oil in case we had to putter in with the kicker, 100 lbs of butterfish, bottom fishing rods, the stand up tuna rods, and a 9/0 rod in case there were giants. We had the coolers packed with 150 lbs. of chip ice from the marina that is shutting down for the season (free), five 5 gallon square cubes of ice that Gary makes, plus 5-6 gallon milk containers . About 300 lbs of ice! Lots of ice.

Cruised out to a rising moon and NO wind just maybe 3-4 kts. Westerly. There was enough light that we didn't even need running lights. Got to the tip of the canyon at about 1030 pm and we made 82 miles in 4 ½ hours and were just cruising along slowly at 17-18 kts.

We turned everything off once we set up and used a battery operated Coleman, and put three chemlights on the bow, antenna, and aft. About 15 boats fishing. We heard a lot of whooping and hollering from a boat about 400 yards away and then heard the deep thumping of a heavy tail on the deck and smiled.

Then nothing. The Yellowfin tuna were gone! Albacore... gone. Rod went off at 03:30, and it was a Mako about 5 feet long and maybe 100 lbs. Gary had it up on a tuna hook and yelled "small sword", so I put the gaff down and grabbed a light to see it, and damn it, it was a Mako. Grabbed the gaff and was trying to get in position, and he rolled and was gone....

About five mins later he took the big rod we had out with a skipjack for bait, and I let him take it and take it and take it and we hooked him. Came in like a big bluefish - very little fight.... Gary wanted me to piss him off and make it jump, and I was yelling for him to gaff it as he was a legal fish, and I wanted to try Rich's famous smoked Mako. We had to shine a light down in the depths and he came straight up and was lip hooked. I was mad at Gary for not sticking the fish the first time, and he was yelling we can't bring a green fish in the boat or else we'd break up the boat and get bitten. I took the 6 ft alum and had it near me and next pass stuck the fish and dropped the rod, Gary's bigger gaff missed and he was gone.............

After the adrenaline left, I was still mad that tuna was gone, and we lost the shark and could have easily harpooned him if we had been ready, and so I had two beverages and climbed in the cabin (gasoline fumes and all)

Moved to the draggers at daylight and set up next drift back in 400 feet of water near a commercial Rod and reel fisherman with big internationals... He had a rod go off about 7:30 am, and we watched and up came a big shark which he let go...

Moved at 10:30, and I wanted to go in and bottom fish and we came upon three more draggers plus a giant Coast Guard cutter going up and down the canyon... saw a guy with a fish on and figured it out, and we went right to the edge of a dragger towing and waited, and when he passed and the net wire cleared, we got into his wake and started putting baits down. Gary's TLD 30 with 60 went off in about 30 seconds as I was floating out a whole bunker.

Took us two hours with his rod with broken gimbal cup - kept popping out, and he towed the skiff all over the place. He made three circles around the boat where we had to pass the rod around, and mostly stayed deep. The last half hour the fish was in sight but we could not get leverage to get him up the last 30 feet or so, and the only way to do it, with Gary's too long leader which was NOT a wind on, was for me to get on top of the cabin, stick the rod under my crotch, and let Gary hit the fish. First two shots were two deep and he missed, and I wanted to kill him.

Third pass he sunk the big gaff, and although the fish stopped right there, I loosened up the drag and grabbed the harpoon on top of the cabin, and hit the fish. Gary yelled NOOOO but it's November and we had no tuna in the freezer and I wanted no risk. Do you know the homemade harpoon we made with the wire and bronze head went clear through the fish and worked perfectly...... although the cheap Home Depot steel rod we used to attach the dart bent cause the fish didn't pull the dart off the harpoon and was attached to the fish on the shaft sticking out of the fish as we brought it in... and guess what happened to the side of the inside of the skiff from the sharp dart sticking out the bottom of the 128 pound fish when he started thumping his tail.... Thank God > for epoxy.

Anyway I jumped down and grabbed another straight gaff and hit the tail and we boated our first Tolman Bluefin Tuna - 128 lbs on the bathroom scale. He would'nt fit in the biggest cooler we had, so we dumped the tote and put the fish in, then loaded all the ice on top. Tote was full of ice cubes, blocks, and tuna and the tail was still out.

This brings me to the question, what on earth do you do with a big Tuna on a skiff.....??? Also brings me to the conclusion that the deck is none too big as we need more deck space for fighting, for a third guy that we really need on a long trip... and gear. I also conclude that we need a bigger fuel tank. The arrangement worked well as we had it because the fuel forward with the bait and ice aft made the boat trim out real nice. I thought we were silly going out with that ice, but the combination of the fish, in an un-insulated tub, with saltwater and warm air hitting it on the way in melted 2/3 of the ice with only big chunks left...

B&B were right. No guts no glory. We got a Honda, kicker, and reliable boat. More important is common sense and picking your days carefully. We used about 52-53 gallons and went 183 miles on the trip all told. 26 hours on the skiff- our longest trip to date. I don't know where our earlier measured and recorded fuel economy of 4.5 mpg went? I guess maybe since we had the boat heavily loaded and were in the ocean the whole time, and also ran out faster it went down a bunch. Guys on the dragger were out of their pilot houses with bino's looking at us... like they don't see Tolman skiffs fishing for Tuna 80 miles off the beach everyday.....

Still pissed off at Gary cause we should have had a Mako in the boat, and we should have went earlier when the Yellowfins were still there. Water high was 66 and fish hit in 62 degree water...

Great trip, greater skiff! Make your fishing decks BIGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG

Dave NJ

Click HERE for more pictures (and a movie) of David's boat.