By MIKE PEETERS/VETERAN HUNT PROGRAM COORDINATOR
“Cast off those lines” came the captain’s order at 06:30 a.m. and, once again, a team of America’s Freedom Fighters, veterans all, joined CWA for a day of angling on the FREELANCE out of Newport Beach. As the boat settled in for the two-and-a-half-hour cruise to Catalina Island, breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches and hot coffee prepared the veterans for the day ahead … and based on the anticipation aboard, they were going to find out rather quickly it would be “all hands on deck”!
As we steamed up to the island it looked like once again we were preparing for a combat landing versus a fishing trip. Many of the Marines on board looked like this was right up their alley. At the last minute, the captain swung the boat, throttled back the engines and announced “drop them in” as rods, bait and hooks hit the water.
As the first lines went over, the captain began to sound more and more like a tactical operations center as he relayed the elements of a pending battle … a yellowtail battle.
“Marking Fish” was the first order relayed, “BOIL OFF THE PORT SIDE” immediately followed … “WHOA THEY ARE BOILING ON THE STARBOARD SIDE” came a minute later followed by what everyone in the fishing world knows as “CONTACT” …. or FISH ON!
The first yellowtail of the day had erupted from the depths, grabbed a sardine and was ripping line off the reel faster than ever. The veteran held on for what seemed like an eternity until the “Jack” began to tire. Finally, after a lot of pulling, winding and maneuvering up and down the boat, an epic 15-minute battle came to an end as the first fish of the day was gaffed, hauled aboard and sent to the fishing bag!
Once again the tactical operations center began barking orders, “change out that bait”, “marking more enemy, … I mean fish,” “prepare for battle, … I mean BOILING ON THE PORT SIDE AGAIN,” “WHOA, HERE THEY COME” ……and of course “FISH ON!” It was an epic battle of man against fish and for the next six hours we stayed on the same battleground as yellowtail after yellowtail was hauled aboard. After an epic and exhausting day, beers were opened, burgers were eaten, and 41 big, beautiful yellowtail were on board.
The captain stated it was their best day of the year for yellowtail and we had boated more fish than any other charters. The anchor was raised, the bow was pointed east and we all settled in for some fantastic fish cleaning fillet action and ice cold beers to wash away the salt and sea. Another great day of fishing, camaraderie and payback to those amongst us who willingly go into harm’s way when ordered!
See you on the next battle!