We were a few miles out of Jones Inlet with the sun behind us and the open sea ahead. The hour was closing in on sunset and the horizon took on the shades of orange and purple. There were slight traces of pastel color outlining the clouds and bordering color between Heaven and Earth.
As I recall, we were on our way to a place called the Oregon Wreck, about 30 nautical miles southeast of the J.I. Buoy. Everything was prepped. The rods were in their holders, lines all tied, the bait was ready, the boat was on the go, and the buckets of chum were stored away.
This was out first real shark trip aboard our own boat. We weren’t going far, but still, we were far away from land or anything manmade. We were far enough at sea that land was nowhere to be seen.
The throttles were forward at about 2300rpms, cruising somewhere around 24 or 25 knots. The winds were calm and the seas were moving gently with rolling swells that ranged between two or three feet.
I could see the gulls flying behind some of the other boats that we returning home from their day of fishing and moving fast to be at their slips before the sun went down.
I can tell you this much; the color of sunset is truly amazing . . .
We were a small crew on a somewhat small vessel, which was 31 feet to be exact. We were pushed by twin Yanmars at 220 horsepower each. The diesels hummed and the bow knifed through the water to keep us on plane. All was perfect.
No one said anything during the ride out. No one spoke because there was nothing to say. We just took in the scene
Overhead, the sky said everything that needed to be said. Overhead, the heavens were in the midst of a change. The sun was sinking down into the palm of Mother Earth and sunlight was about to give way—We were losing daylight but not before the sky took on a celebration of color.
The winds were warm and the day was hot. But as daylight was making an exit, evening came along to blow with a cooler wind.
There were reports of big fish caught out of the Oregon. I had never fished here before. To be honest, the catch almost doesn’t matter on trips like this. It’s the experience that means everything.
Our goal was to set up and drift before sunset was finished. We knew which way to go. We knew what to do. All else depended upon the fish below the surface.
The drift is simple.
First, we place the chum bag overboard. This creates a slick in the water of fish guts and blood and oil to attract the sharks. Then the rods go in. The first rod is the furthest away from the boat. This is the deepest rod with the bait reaching somewhere close to 50 feet. The second rod was closer to the boat and sent down to half the depth of the first.
The third was even closer and half the depth of the second. This way, the baits are staggered at different depths. The fourth rod is the closest rod with the bait near the surface.
We rigged up full mackerel on the hooks with floats to show us the location of the lines. The rest was a waiting game but with the schools of bluefish attacking the bait, the night was still very busy.
Someone pulled up a bluefish of a decent size. We pulled in the deep line and rigged a few hooks up to the live fish to see what we could catch.
It wasn’t long after that the reels began to scream. Once the shark hits, the lines peels out in a loud cry to signify the fish is on the hook.
I set the drag up and faced the reel straight out. I reeled in until the line felt as tight as it could be and then I quickly pulled the rod upwards to set the hook.
And that was it. Fish on!
Just like that, everything goes temporarily crazy. Everyone is screaming while I position us to keep the lines clear of my props under the boat.
The fight wasn’t too long and the fish was only a dusky shark. They are inedible but still, the fish weighed somewhere close to at least 200lbs.
The night was beautiful. It was slow and long. Almost everyone was asleep, except for me. I was awake the entire time.
There was nothing to bring home and nothing too crazy to brag about. But when that sun came up and sunrise announced itself to the sky, I swear, I have never seen anything as glorious as this.
Sometimes life happens and sometimes we swing for our dreams and we miss. The way I saw it is that trip was the result of my pain and my effort. Every failure and every fall went in to making that night exactly what it was to me.
No true victory is ever an accident.
We paid for it.
For now, this victory is only a memory of mine
But don’t worry.
I know I’ll be out there again
Someday . . .