Fishing Stories

Guadalupe Story Midway Story Part 1 Midway Story Part 2

Midway Island (Atoll) Part 1


Coastline.jpg (19814 bytes)I keep trying to think of a word or phrase that best describes it, maybe “Primal”, or “God’s Little Acre”,  or even three squares a day.  Everyday was such an adventure! The air and water are both clean and clear and the environment is full of life just as Mother Nature intended it.  

The Black Current known as Kuroshio swings up from the Philippine Sea and bathes  Japan before sweeping into the nutrient rich waters of the North Pacific.  From there it wraps around Midway and on to Hawaii.  I visited the atoll last year with my family, this year I only took my youngest daughter Hunter age  9.  While fishing there last year she landed the girl’s IGFA World Record Small Fry division in the Trevally category, this year we were after bigger game. Arriving at Honolulu around 12 noon we made our way to Aloha Airlines for the afternoon’s flight out to Midway.  From Hawaii it’s another 3 1/2 hour flight which gave me time to finish my Louis L’Amour book. Looking down as we passed over the Pearl and Hermes Shoal with it’s white water and coral reef encircling the brilliant turquoise inside waters.  Dodging thunderheads we came down through the clouds to Midway Island actually it’s an Atoll with it’s ring of broken coral reef surrounding the island. Awash in the waters from the Japanese Kuroshio current which brings with it warm waters abundant with sealife. It must be abundant with sealife to support the  over 2 million seabirds which nest here annually.  

Upon climbing out of the airplane the salty sea air fresh off the ocean fills you lungs and heart as it envelops you into one of the most magical places on this earth. Shown to your quarters (which are converted officers quarters) the three story cement building becomes home for the week.  Comfortable and clean, the rooms feature A/C if needed and queen sized beds. TV, phone service and guest services are available at a moments notice.  An early evening stroll along a pure white beach of powder ground up coral takes you to the Captain Brooks Bar which overlooks this clean safe swimming beach.  You get to meet and become aquatinted with the others who have joined you here for the week.  Fishing is only one of many reasons the island has become so appealing, there’s scuba and skin divers, ecology and nature enthusiasts. Members of the armed forces return here for lost memories and many come just for just the relaxation that the island has to offer.  There are only a limited number of guests allowed on the island per week so reservations are generally requested.  The island has year round residents of some 50 people which help keep the inner structure of the island running, water, electricity, sanitation, housing,  etc. I think most of the residents have at least two or more jobs just to keep things in shape.

First Day

All new guests to the island are required to attend an orientation meeting in which the rules and regulations are discussed as well as what daily activities are available from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Phoenix guest services.  Bicycles or Golf Carts are assigned and Nature walks for those not familiar with the island are encouraged. Last year we had waited till the last day before going snorkeling, I dreamed and thought about that all year, this year I wanted to emerge myself quickly with the waters of Midway so we booked a snorkeling trip out to the reef after lunch.  The diving facilities at Midway are superior and we were joined by a group of 20 college students who were here on a extended two week field trip to study the flora and fauna ofthe atoll.  With excellent fitting gear, fins, divemasks and wet suits if you wanted them we joined the dive masters andMidway03.jpg (12494 bytes) other instructor for a memorable experience.  Slipping into the waters one becomes part of this world, the blue and pink corals and brilliantly colored tropical fish both small and large.  It seems all the fish here have been given their chance to grow to their full size, at least everything seemed big. The Wrasses were splashed with bands of turquoise and orange, Parrot fish were nibbling on sea algae and gaze up at you, slowly giving way and darting in and out of hidden caves.  We swam up to the actual reef itself and felt the surge of the Pacific as it washed through gaps in the reef, fresh with the essence of life this water seemed like the Fountain of Youth. Sparkling with sunlight lit Champaign bubbles seemingly swirl about in an underwater ballet.  The many tropical fishes darted in and out playing peek -a- boo always curious they seem awed by your presence and sea urchins their bright reddish orange spines 8 to 12 inches sticking out among the corals.  Some twisted strands of cargo or drift net clung to the reef, brought to these shores by the currents, they housed a multitude of marine life which had made their homes in these drifting masses of fiber. The college kids carefuly removed these nets from the fragile coral reefs and glass and plastic floatation balls were sought after prizes.  Hunter and I spent the afternoon enjoying ourselves, she hung on me like a barnacle while we explored the reefs.  On the return trip back over turquoise waters and sandy bottom flats we watched Manta Rays glide out of our path and rare banded brown booby birds taking refuge on a channel markers.  After a hearty meal at the Galley cafeteria, Hunter and I spent the balance of the day, beach combing, bicycling and swimming.  Floating and we watched the Ferry Terns hover 3 feet above our head like butterflies they bounce around then scurry off in matching pairs diving and wheeling in exact unison.  Laysan Albatross like dive bombers came in out of the sun swooping in noiseless flight they crisscrossed the beach. Ratt-ta-ta-ta-ta, Ratt-ta-ta-ta a dotted line of bullets came on spitting up sand as they strafed the beach.  Visions of the war can be seen and felt here but the only real fight you’ll have is with the real bad boys of Midway,  the Trevallys, a fish which defends itself admiralty.  In the late afternoon the beach’s sand felt cool to my hands as I pushed them through it, soft and white almost like powdered sugar. The waters were clear almost emerald green and sunlight danced on the oceans floor beneath making little patterns in the sand. The sun off on the horizon, it’s rays shining out through the clouds, pink and purple while another albatross whistles overhead, zooming back and forth across the beach. The clouds have a green tint to their bottoms reflecting the hues of the lagoons waters, very peaceful here.  Appropriately I’ve chosen William Bebe’s ‘Galapagos World’s End.’, 1912 as a book to read while I’m here.

Second Day

Up early to the strange sound of pigs squealing, cows mooing, wood peckers pecking, it
sounded like  a regular zoo was outside.  Pairs of adult albatross stretching their necks and wagging backing forth, rattling their bills and crooning like the farm animals with their inherited mating rituals deeply imbedded.  We again breakfasted at the French restaurant and causally biked through the small residential community dogging albatross chicks the size of full grown seagulls which dotted the entire landscape, roads, lawns, fields,Seagul.jpg (15923 bytes) everywhere you look these chicks were half covered with fuzzy charcoal gray down feathers. Through wooded lanes covered with Australian Iron wood trees and spotted with nesting snowy white terns or sooty gray petrels we rode to the marina which harbors two Bertram 38ft. sportfishers and a pair of Glacier Bay 26ft. sportfisher catamaran. Capt. Chris Sheeder was the captain this morning as we took the smaller Glacier Bay 26ft. out to fish the reef. Our goal was to get Hunter a World Record Amberjack for the IGFA Small Fry division (under 10 years of age), second choice was either the Giant Trevally or Wahoo or any other number of fish that were available in her class category.  Just outside the entrance in the reef we set up on one of the war’s sunken airplane wrecks, a Corsair in about 80ft. of water resting on a sandy bottom which would give us a little better chance before the fish dove for protection and rocked or reefed us. Chumming with generous inch sized chunks of skipjack we only raised a few smaller sized chubs (like a big perch/ black in color) which crowded in behind the boat.  There wasn’t much current at that time and not much developed so we moved further down the line and found another spot with greater current though closer to the reef itself. We weren’t there 5 minutes when Tony the Tiger paid us a visit but kept on going, a quick VHF call to the dive boat in the area alerted them to the sharks presence and they pulled out and moved to another location.  The chubs arrived shortly thereafter and with them the sharks.  One, then two, then a few more Galapagos Sharks showed in the chum line, not aggressive they just swam back and forth waiting for a few tid bits of chum, though they did race after anything that sat in the water very long.  Casting Chum Flys with either spinning rods or fly rods was the method, you’d let the flys drift with the other pieces of chum thrown, the chubs would take the flys then spit them out and if you left it drifting too long the sharks ate them. The trick was to get the flys deeper to where the Amberjacks and trevallies were cruising about.  When the Amberjack became a little more aggressive in the chumline or when there were several of them you had to be quick to get the fly in front of them before the other critters got em’. We lost quite a few flys and fish to the sharks. Chris suggested I put on one of the leadhead casting plastic lures which I had brought, Hey, I brought over 35 heads and tails it was time to use them.  Well we used them, just about all of them. Almost every cast was an Amberjack, BluefinTrevally or some other unseen beast who would drag them down into the depths only to either break off or the sharks got to the fish before Hunter could wrestle it up out of the deep.

 

Midway02.jpg (25043 bytes)She’s only 9 years old and those heavy fish just required strong heavy pressure to keep them out of the reef/ rocks/ sharks, it just didn’t happen, her little arms just hadn’t the strength.  We did have several chances though so I felt we had our shots at it.  One fish an estimated 40lb Amberjack took the leadhead plastic tailed lure she had cast, letting it sink out and she was on.  She stopped the fish from getting into the rocks and it headed offshore so we released the tie-off buoy and followed.   With the plastic tail hanging out of the corner of the fish’s mouth it bore out to sea but a giant Giant Trevally came in on the poor jack and tore it right off the side of it’s mouth snapping the line in the process.  And we all know that when the line breaks the parties over,  it was a good battle though! Returning back to the harbor we took a short break and enjoyed bicycling back to the cafeteria for lunch, the Galley is a great place for gathering and it’s where practically everyone on the island eats lunch and it’s only open for a couple of hours so everyone shows up there.  Back to the marina after lunch we discuss the afternoons strategy, still after records we opted to work off a cargo pier where a number of bigger Amberjacks have been seen.  A short run around the island brought us up to the pier where we tied off, the wind and current bouncing off one side kept us at bay Midway01.jpg (18466 bytes)from hitting the pier but it was a little rocky though. Shoals of smaller fish came up on the first tossed chum and it didn’t take long for the smaller jacks to butt their way into the action.  Hunter hooked and landed several of these 5 to 12lb trevallies (Bluefin and Butaguchi or big lipped trevallies) then the big boys showed up.  Like bullies at a party they pushed their way into this melee of feeding fish and dominated the scene.  60 to 100 pound fish at a rods length they came.  As fast as I could tie up new double lines to albright knots and 60lb flourocarbon leaders Hunter broke them off as fish after fish dove into the protection of the pilings.  I had ahard time keeping up with her, I was rigging either 12lb or 16lb spinning rods and she just kept breaking them off.  Hunter looking for another rod picked up my pre-rigged 12wt. fly rod w/ 16lb tippet & chum fly, she makes a short flip into the water and up comes one of these beast that scares you, sucks it down, she yells “whoa” as it nearly rips the rod out of her hands. If that fish would have turned the other way we might have had a chance in the open water, who knows what would have happen but it would have been a tough fish for anyone to beat on the fly rod.  After a couple of hours of this fun and games we headed back to the slip and called it a day.  We didn’t set any records that day but we did have fun and that’s what counts.  After a quick shower and clean up Hunter and I came down to the beach for a few minutes of relaxation and reflection . The warmth of the sun felt good and sparkling water allways makes me daydream. An albatross’ five foot shadows criss crossing on the sand. The horizon line with it’s black reef and plums of white water which every so often shoot up are silhouetted against the darkened sea behind it, inside the reef dark turquoise green water fades into a brighter emerald green as it nears the shore, the sand turning tan in the afternoon’s sun.  It’s nice just being here. Moisture laden clouds hanging in the air, held suspended by temperature layers thet lay flat bottomed and reflect the green lagoon below.   Sunset brought us to the French Clipper restaurant again for a perfect ending to a perfect day.  Up again after a peaceful rest the birds awaken you with their ceaseless clamor, we’re off to do damage to the blue water crowd.  Joining us this morning on the Yorktown was a Hawaiian named Lincoln acted as deck, he usually runs the Enterprise, the other 38 ft, Bertram.  Our goal was to see if we could catch Hunter a blue marlin, Wahoo, Dorado or tuna.  An additional brace was put on the foot rest for her size, the bucket harness straps were adjusted and drags were reset light for her strength, using 50lb tackle.  We opted to fish the hookless lures as teasers and drop back a rigged skipjack tuna as bait. For her to struggle trying to get the rods out of the holder after the strike would only be difficult so we agreed she’d sit in the chair, watch the lures and when a fish came up in the spread we’d drop back the bait and off we’d go. You can fish/troll entirely around the island’s reef with two main shelves running off to the East or West but it’s not really necessary to travel much.  Out of the harbor 15 minutes or so and your over the drop-off. Five minutes after we had the lines in the water we had a respectable fish up on one of Sevenstrands new “Big Daddy Teasers” Black and purple with an aurora flash. The fish came up and tried to munch it and Lincoln who had noticed a flash earlier on it tossed the pre- rigged bait back,  the bait sides back and the marlin woofs it down, it’s head half out of the water we can see it take the bait down. And just like that we were hooked up.  We dump out another hundred yards of line and Hunter straightens her legs and braces herself as she engages the drag, the rods bows and the hooks come fast.  Another two hundred yards races out under pressure. What a thrill, she hangs on watching the line disappear into the depths. I had warned her to expect the fish to bust out and tail walk, but the fish only comes out once and windshield wipes once then dives for another 50 yards. Hunter begins the long battle of learning to fight fish.  JDandGirl.jpg (31991 bytes)The reel in high speed we slowly back down to pick up some of the lost line, she works with the lessened pressure and understands the winding and flexing of her legs in the bucket to make the system work efficiently. The first half hour she’s tireless and her enthusiasm bounding with joy, the second half hour she weakens and it becomes a struggle, line is lost during periodic runs and her smooth fluid pumping is lost.  Using both hands now, the left hand coming over the reel she tries to reel with both hands but we warn her against it and try to compose the situation.  The fish sinks out and it becomes a stubborn battle.  We pause for a brief minute to regain composure, a cool drink and a few splashes of water over her head and she’s refreshed again.  Dropping into the lower gear she begins the repetitive nature of slowly pumping fish up from the depths, an inch at a time we gain line slowly only to lose it again in the rising swells, a half hour of this battle and she’s gained back half of the line only to loose most of it again as the fish makes another stubborn  run. Hunter balances herself in the chair under the drag pressure her legs begin to shake and the winding takes it’s toll on her small muscles, but she’s game and hangs in there.   Sometimes I think she’s going to get pulled overboard but the light drags on the reel allows the line to play out before anything bad can happen, a safety line is attached to her and the bucket.  This see-saw back and forth doesn’t gain us anything but time and wear, the fish seems to have settled down for the moment so under advice from Chris she bumps the drag knob up and over the strike button, the added tension allows her to gain line in the drop of the swell and to hold it from being lost in the next rising swell, a foot of line is gained then another and another, some line lost but overall we’re now gaining line.  A hundred times this is repeated, Hunter’s in rhythm now and she gains line like a pro.  The fish nears but it doesn’t like the boat and it struggles to get away and more line is lost but it’s regained, another pump another inch, now a foot, she gets a good wind and now two feet is gained, now one and another, the double comes up but the fish surges off again. Everyone gives her encouragement, “Come on Hunter your doing great another pump”, “one more   time, he’s close” ,  “keep going, another pump” She asks can you see him? “, “I can see him“, Chris oversees from the bridge while at the controls, “Come on Hunter one more time,  Keep it up” The double reappears again and Lincoln reaches out, he needs longer arms,  not yet,  a little more, a little more.  There, Lincoln’s got a wrap then another on the heavy leader, like a flash Chris is down in the cockpit with the gaff ready, it makes a few kicks but Hunters relentless pressure has tired it and the gaff does it’s job.  The fishes hue is a bright silver and cobalt blue with bars of neon lit azure, Hunter has scampered out of the chair and is amazed at it’s size, “It’s bigger than me!  It’s twice as big as me , it’s Huge!! “That was fun let’s do it again” she’s excited.  She snaps a few photos and watches as a ramora swims off into the depths leaving it’s host. Bright blue and silver it shines in the mid-morning sun.  Two hours even on 50lb tackle, 249lbs.  It’s a very, very pretty fish she says. If approved, (at least to our knowledge at that time) it would be a pending world record for IGFA’s Smallfry Division for girls under 10 years of age. I’m Proud. Hunter eager to weigh the fish joins the crew up on the bridge for the return trip, the fish still bright blue below.  Students, workers and alike join the crowd as we back into the slip. Congrats, from those waiting there,  the word has gotten back to the island and several students come peddling up. Many questions asked and she’s interviewed by a few reporters doing assignments for various magazines on Midway,  The fish was hung and weighed in at 249lbs. Again more photos and Congrats from many.  The fish was donated to be smoked. “You slide back and forth when you push off with your feet, and then reel down”.Trophy.jpg (42727 bytes) she’s heard being quoted. Mike Gaautreaux, the island’s manager from Phoenix Corporation is there to offer his congratulations.  Even one of the locals residents wants to make a Japanese fish print of it with acrylic paints and art again was created, nature’s brilliancy was lit again. The laundry crew noticed a shortage of bed sheets that afternoon. The bike rides were pleasant in the afternoons, down canopied lanes of green Australian Iron Wood dotted with the nesting terns,  their snowy white feathers and black ruby eyes obvious. Bike trails take you off the main road and reveal other nesting birds hidden among the long stemmed grasses or downed wood shelters.  A pair of Red Tailed Tropicalbirds care for one of their kind, the chick glaring out, wondering what’s out there.  We finish off the afternoon with another wonderful swim.  Dinner of Roast Duck, wine and Shirley temples that night, a treat for all, then a long needed sleep.   

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