by David Nolan

click to enlargeGary and I left in the Tolman Skiff Thursday Night about 11pm. Filled up with gas (47 gallons in the 24 g saddle, 12 g aft, and two portables) and got four buckets of frozen chum. Launched and were out the inlet about midnight. Stopped at the Tolten Lump 18 miles out and tried for fresh bluefish. No good except for some dogfish. Motored on in alternating rain until about 4:30 am until 60 miles from inlet. Got scary at dawn in a squall with confused seas and not being able to see the waves. Stopped to fish. I went inside and plunked down on my foam pad and pulled the sleeping bag over me. Thought I'd puke, and I haven't done that in ten years plus. Woke up to rain in my face from that silly port hole we have up there in the front above the anchor well.

Gary had a bluefish in the boat, and he put it back out and all our baits were devoured. Just heads left from dogfish that came up in the chum. They ate everything like piranhas.

Moved a few miles inshore hoping for warmer water but the best we got all day was 62.3 F on the Garmin. I think it needs to be calibrated as the water FELT a lot warmer. Set up, and in about 2 hours proceeded to catch four blue sharks from about 100 to 150 lbs. Fun, but on third fish I tried to cut close to the leader and lost my pliers. click to enlargeGary couldn't find his heavy fish cutting pliers since the last night we were out stripering. Tried to wrap the leader with Gary's small meat hook thing he bought at restaurant supply, and it worked well, but the fish twisted and came so close to my hand I let go and it went down. Gary was not happy. Cut the last fish off altogether as we had no pliers. Moved inshore to the 25 fathon lump. Started fishing, and we were talking and BS-ing and making sandwiches in a break in the weather, and the rod went off screaming. It took the wimpy leader we put on after having no cutting tools - about 4-5 foot of 100 lb test leader and ran on the TLD 30 loaded with 60. Pulled drift sock and chum bucket in, and Gary screaming, and motor wouldn’t start. Think the saddle tank was about out. Got the kicker started and the boat turned around, and Gary was about out of line. Really close. Then he saw the fish way out on top and said look, and I looked up, and the thing came totally out of the water. Big sickle like fin. I didn't know Threshers did that. Fish was all over the place, and I alternated running to steer with main and back to turn the motor throttle up and down, and we ended up breaking off the fish. Line was all frayed up. Threshers have a big ass tail, so he probably wrapped. I’d say a 250 lb class fish seeing it one time clear out of the water. It was awesome.

click to enlargeGary was totally psyched, and I was mad. Honda fired right up as Gary lost the fish. We put the lines out with best stuff we could, hoping for another Thresher, and I went in to lay down. Gary did also after about an hour. It was about 3pm, I was totally out and woke to Gary screaming. The Senator 6/0 High speed Wide spool was screaming and the chum bucket was gone???? Cleared lines, and this fish screamed. It didn't jump so I thought big Thresher.

I fought it for about an hour (no gimbal or any of that crap), and just followed it with the boat. Unlike the tuna, which like to try to pull the boat to the bottom, this fish fought mostly right on top. He didn't jump, but stayed right up, and we could see the fish fin way out. Fish hit a half filleted bluefish 60 feet down and floated back on a water-bottle float. We had a bimini twist (double line) for about 10 feet and about 8 foot of leader so we felt good. Near the end I was beat, and Gary took the fish. We got downwind of him, and he kept turning to the right as we approached. I ended up idling slow ahead as Gary reeled, and the fish came close to the boat about 5-6 times, but no shot with the harpoon. Finally got it all right and put to idle- grabbed the harpoon and slammed it. Fish took off, and the harpoon was floating. The aluminum tube bent, and the harpoon tip was off. I was insane. Gary stayed with it holding pressure and the fish took off maybe 100 yards real fast. He was MAD. I got an older wooden gaff out, snapped the gaff off and duck taped it to the aluminum bent shaft in record time. We got set up again and same thing. This time I got the dart in the fish, and the fish was off, and the line tight at the aft end of the boat, and I was a bit worried about picking the aft cleat to tie off to. The dart pulled out of the fish, and the harpoon shaft dart shaft was hopelessly bent. I was so mad because I have a new SS shaft I bought when I got the Garmin, but never made a stouter harpoon.

click to enlargeI took the blue line rope off the fish harpoon to make a flying gaff from the big gold AFtco gaff. Slipped the gaff point through the eye clip and tied off rope to the shaft, and we were a go. Next time the fish came up with blood coming from its side in two places from harpoon attempts, and I sunk the big gaff and Gary got the smaller stout double-walled epoxied alum gaff I made. I hit the fish in mid section, and Gary hit him forward. He was thrashing and trying to roll, and all we could do was hang on. When he finally got quiet, I gave Gary my gaff and made record time grabbing a stout half inch line and got it around the tail. Fish was on the starboard side with his head at the transom and his tail by the helm, and I had no cleat except the one I used screws to put in temp for outrigger lines. (I have WAY too much temp stuff on the boat now). I wrapped the line around the wood I put in for the helm way back when I didn't know how it would be mounted. Got another line on the tail and across boat to the port aft cleat. We had him. Got a line cinched around the front of the body and tied off to the starboard cleat, and he was still trying to swim, but I had Josh's 20 gauge with me. Gary wanted to tow the fish till dead. I wanted to shoot him. Put one low brass birdshot between the eyes and lights out.

Getting the fish in was a MF-er. We tried pulling the tail, the head, the middle. No good. Ended up using boat tie down straps. Got the tail up as high as both of us could pull it and tied off to the cooler tie down point. Same with head. Fish would not come over the side strake, so we had to both pull hard and then take up slack. We finally got the other meat hook in the side and a second gaff and pulled straight up and rolled the fish right over side, and he plunked down on the deck.

click to enlargeFish had a lot of blue paint on him. Ended up looking at the rod and realized the hook FELL OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Must have been in its teeth or something??

Drove home 53 miles at top speed and ended up dumping the 2 cycle fuel into saddle tank as we were real low. Not sure what the final fuel mileage was until I check the GPS log, but we had maybe 4-5 gallons total fuel left over. Way too close.

Called Tanya at 10 miles from the inlet (about 3-4 off the beach as we were way south). Ended up coming into Hoffmans and stopped traffic in the river as boats were staring at us. It was the first fish weighed this year in Manasquan and a whopper. 336lbs. live weight on the certified scale at Hoffmans. Lots of people I never met shaking hands and whatnot. Tanya showed up with babies, neighbors Mr Schnieder, neighbor Charlie, Neighbor Dee, two of other four kids. One kid wanted to gut it right there and somebody said something about "that Kitner boy spilling all over the dock" (Scene from Jaws).

click to enlargeGot the fish back home and back up went the deer hanging 2x4, and then the Vietnamese neighbor and his friends and neighbor Keith came, and we gutted the fish, then put him on the picnic table and beheaded him. Cut up huge chunks of fish and have two coolers of fish to steak out and vacuum seal. Wish Uncle Rich was here to make smoked Mako.

Learned a lot from this. Harpooning Tuna is easy. Not so shark. Need a strong shaft, razor sharp, and stout. Perfect shaft and dart alignment helps too. Just a great day.

Told wife about South Jersey Tourney where the top fish will be worth about $60 K and watch, it'll be ours not entered. Decided to not paint deck. It'd be way too slippery. Got about 30 lbs of shark liver I forgot to put away last night, and it is fly city out there. Head and fins went to my Chinese guy who's in heaven. I love a big working deck. I can't see this on some of the "sportfishing" boats... We were definitely shorthanded on this trip.

David Nolan
Brick NJ
Tolman skiff builder