Everyone has their fish story of the big one that got away. I am no different and I really only have one in my whole fishing history that really still haunts me. This is my story…
I grew up fishing the lakes of MN and the Midwest. I always had a blast fishing with my family up there. We caught fish, we lost fish, but I can’t really recall ever losing the “Big One”. My true passion for fishing really didn’t develop until I moved to the west coast back in the summer of 2000. I knew I wanted to try deep sea fishing so not long after moving to San Diego I had my brother out for a visit and we decided to try it. With little to no knowledge of ocean fishing we booked a ¾ day trip and headed to the Coronado Islands for some yellowtail fishing. We also learned about an hour into the trip that I was very susceptible to motion sickness and spent a majority of the trip chumming the waters and feeling miserable. I was able to rally and managed to catch one small whitefish while we were doing some bottom fishing. Probably not my finest decision but it planted the seed of wanting to get back out on the water and figure this ocean fishing thing out!
Fast forward a few years. I’ve spent a lot of time on the half day boats, learning the techniques, overcoming the seasickness (thank you Bonine) and really observing everything going on around me to make my fishing experience the best it can be. During that time I caught a bunch of fish, lost a bunch of fish too but it was usually due to my lack of skills, a bad knot or faulty equipment. I would get upset but I would understand why. We’d usually catch rockfish, bonito, sculpin, whitefish, and the occasional yellowtail. Yes, the occasional yellowtail was the start of the story.
I was able to catch my first yellowtail on the half day boat. A definite achievement but nothing record breaking. Maybe a 10 pound fish but it gave me the taste of what these fish felt like on the end of your line. It was definitely yellowtail fever and I spent that summer chasing yellows and caught a couple throughout the season, but again nothing for the record books, just fun fishing.
It was nearing the end of the summer season and the pelagic yellowtail season was winding down. I jumped on the half day boat on a Saturday and was figuring for a rockfish trip. We got underway and the captain got on the PA and said we were going north to Del Mar because he had got a report of some yellowtail caught close to the beach. Score! I was ready. I had good equipment, good tackle, knew how to tie a knot and some fish caught under my belt. We pulled up to the spot and started fishing. No sign of the fish yet but according to the captain we were in the right area and were going to see if they came through. About 10 minutes later the boat had their first hookups. 3 fisherman hooked up and landed decent size yellowtail. After that not much action for 15-20 minutes. We’re all fishing and the captain fires up the engine to move spots. As soon as he did this a deckhand yells “BOIL!!” Everyone scrambles. The guy next to me hooks up and starts his fight and about 5 seconds later I have line screaming out of reel and I set the hook. This thing hit like a ton of bricks and I was off to the races. Line is screaming my drags and I’m just letting it run. I finally get a chance to gain some line back and this thing is the heaviest fish I have ever felt. We go back and forth for what was probably 5 minutes but it felt like forever. Back and forth, give and take. I am able to see just a flash of color coming up through the water column, it’s BIG! I tell myself to take it easy and ease him in. I reel down and go for a pull and “tink”, the line goes slack. The deckhand looks at me and says “what happened?”. I couldn’t even answer him. The fish was gone.
I reeled up my line and everything was there. I did nothing wrong, the hook just pulled out. I put my rod in the rack and sat back and watched the guy who had hooked up next to me land a 30 pound yellowtail. I was shook. That WAS “the one that got away” and it has fueled my passion for fishing to this day. I have gone on to have excellent yellowtail and tuna trips and have landed some big fish, but nothing like the monster I had on the end of line that day. That fish will haunt me but also drive me to be a better fisherman and enjoy the chase for the next time we hook up and go to battle.
We’d love to hear your “one that got away” stories or any other fun fishing stories. Share them with us and attach a photo of your catch or your best missed catch face. We’d love to hear them. Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tight lines friends! - Scott @ Fin & Ink