OK. You’ve set the date, made the game plan, checked and re-checked all your equipment. You meet your buddy on-time, get the boats ready and launch before dawn. You’ve got good bait, good intel, know just where to look for the fish of the day. And, if you’re lucky, all this prep results in that good solid hookup for which you’ve been waiting months.
The fish is hooked, the fish is fought, the fish is at the side of the boat, but it ain’t over yet. How many times have you had the prize slip away at the last moment? A hook spit, a death roll, a missed net or gaff job and then *** gone!
Recently I was out with my best fishing bud Allen Sansano, in our own backyard of Santa Cruz California, looking for an early season halibut. All systems were go, and I hooked up on “the right kind.” Not a giant fish, but a good heavy flatty, energetic and stubborn, on a relatively light rod and reel setup. Sansano paddled over with the quip-“I wanna see the End Game.”
Yeah, OK, I was all set. While bringing the fish up, I made sure my gaff was ready, and the diver stringer unclipped and at hand. I have learned for the halibut end game, always have everything ready to go and within reach. I’ve watched a number of nice flatties disappear due to my negligence and sometimes simply bad luck. But, as I always say. “First, you do everything right, then you get lucky.”
Holding the middle of my rod in the left hand, careful not to pinch the line, I pulled the halibut as close as possible to the boat, then struck! Oops missed on that one. The fish went ballistic and headed straight down, ripping line off my light drag. The instant she bolted, I pointed the rod straight down with the tip in the water and let her run with as little pressure as possible. After five minutes she was back on the surface, and the second gaff attempt went true.
She was quiet on the gaff, and I secured her on the diver’s stringer before I bopped her, at which point she went whacko. Halibut are four big flat slabs of muscle. When they flip and flop any sort of mayhem might occur. In this case, the stringer popped open, scraping my knuckles. I grabbed the open end and hoisted the fish to my lap, ready to employ the bear hug if necessary. Once I got that clip re-fastened, I laid on the wood shampoo posed proudly, and went back to fishing for number two.
Read more kayak stories in the Kayak Fishing Magazine.