As is always the case in the late season, weather is almost always your biggest enemy.  However after enduring another week long weather watch and hoping get that perfect weekend weather forecast it appeared as if the crew of the Gusto lucked out as NOAA was nice enough to claim a 2’-3’ wave height forecast for the trip.  The crew of consisted of Fred, Freddie, Bill, Scott, Steve, Brandon, Rich, Matt, Shane, Andrea, and of course Captain Karl.  With the weather looking favorable throughout the week leading up to the trip the fishing reports within range of Cape May inlet were nonexistent.  After reviewing countless sea surface temperature shots and gathering intel the crew came up with a tentative game plan to try to find what looked like good water situated in the 500 fathom area of Lindenkohl canyon which just so happened to be about the maximum range the boat could travel from Cape May inlet and back.  An awful long haul (approx. 90 miles) without any positive reports, however, some intel came in Friday evening that some boats did indeed catch tuna in that region the prior night on the chunk.   Morale skyrocketed and the crew rigged and loaded as quickly as possible to try to steam out Friday night and get a few hours of chunking in before word got out of the hot bite and the Lindy looked like Walmart’s parking lot on a black Friday.

The Maximum Gusto reached the fishing grounds around 4am greeted by less that favorable but fishable weather conditions.  The chunks started flying and baits set out.  Not a touch on any bait for the next few hours as the sun began to rise.  The reports were that the trolling bite was completely dead but seeing as trolling has always yielded our best production we decided to give it a go.  After a few hours of trolling along the long line gear a clicker finally starts to scream and we came tight on a nice gaffer dolphin who was nice enough to call his friends over to the party.  With the school rallied around the boat the light tackle was brought out and mahi chaos ensued with the fish taking every bait tossed in.  After crossing up lines and Steve catching the long line gear a few times we ended with 8 nice dolphin in the box before the school got cranky and dispersed.  Back on the troll until dark without another knock down but at least there was meat in the box.

The plan for the night chunk was to start inside the 100 fathom line and drift out into the deep hopefully riling up some action somewhere in the middle.  Confidence was not very high after zero bites the previous night.To preface this a bit more the last bunch of trips chunking have been expensive and unproductive for the Gusto so the level of optimism wasn’t exactly through the roof.  In fact we haven’t seen a real hot chunk bite since probably the Hot dog in 2002 using broom stick rods and penn senators with Dacron (We’ve come a long way)!  Anyway, not long into the drift the sword rod starts twitching but nothing comes tight.  This would happen a few times through the night as juvenile swords slash the crap out of the bait that is too big for them to eat whole.  Never the less a good sign we are in the right place.  The action began to pick up and after missing/breaking off a couple runoffs and releasing a nice tiger shark, Steve comes tight on a good one.  The only problem is the rod that went off just happened to be the one with 40lb leader. Typical!  Fine for an average sized yellowfin however, after watching the spool on the reel peel off line we realized this was a little more serious.  Captain Karl fired up the big ole Detroit’s and it was time to huff diesel and get wet backing down!  Steve just so happened to be the only one not wearing slicks so it made it much more entertaining watching him get pummeled by water and exhaust with jeans and hoody on.  Judging by the fight we speculated the fish to be a nice sized Bigeye.  After a long back and forth battle and the fish about 100 feet from the boat it decided to give one last ditch effort to get away as it began furiously twitching.  This was just enough tension for the 40lb leader to part and we never even got a look at the fish after almost three hours.  But that is canyon fishing and what makes spending all the money and long sleepless nights worth it.  The element of the unknown which the northeast canyons present is like no other place.

So the fishing must go on and the spread is once again deployed.  The sword line starts seeing some action not long after it’s set to the desired depth.  Another slashed up squid is all that is on the other end.  Finally the clicker starts screaming on the other sword line this time coming tight.  Shane settles in and finally our first sword fish is boat side!  It turned out to be a few inches short of a keeper but a great feeling to finally land one after they have terrorized for the past two seasons!

The crew noticed that lines being hit seemed to only be tail section of the sardine so most of the dead sticks were switch over.  The action continued to be steady with a few runoffs.  After another released tiger shark, Rich finally comes tight on what definitely feels like a tuna.  As he is fighting another rod goes off and it turns into a double header.  Both end up being solid 70lb class tuna and both hit!  Great feeling to catch some tuna on the chunk!  These tuna came in a little hot causing a massacre like scene on the back deck.  The crew re-rigged and set out the spread again.  In a matter of ten minutes the clickers start screaming and another double header is tight.  Two more very nice yellowfin hit the deck and are flopping around like crazy waking up the rest of the crew trying to catch some sleep.  At this point tuna are darting around the back of the boat and are taking sardines free lined out the back.The fish seemed to get bigger with each one hooked up.  Everyone was getting in on the action at this point and some of the smaller tackle was deployed making for some pretty chaotic battles.  It’s not every day you see someone running around a 46’ boat fighting a fish.  We had people up on the bow a few times!  After an hour or so the chaos began to wind down and we had 6 big yellowfin in the box essentially maxing out our coolers.  We broke of a 7th big fat one right next to boat after Matt and Fred battled it for a while, on what judging by the whining, must have been a 12 foot rod.

With the coolers fish holds at capacity, the crew was exhausted, and the conditions beginning to deteriorate, we pointed the bow toward Cape May.  The Gusto exploded waves for the next 60 or so miles until the seas finally flattened out.  All in all one of the best chunking trips we’ve put together and also one of the most rewarding.  The Captain and crew really had to work hard.  There isn’t a much cooler experience than free lining baits to hungry school 80lb tuna!