(Click on these photos for larger versions and check out my Buzznet and April's for more photos. Click here for a VIDEO! of Keith catching a tuna by hand.)
I'll try to keep it short but it was one hell of a day. Our friend Bob got his friend to take us out for a little whale watching. We didn't know what we were in for but it's Mexico...right. Anyway we were out in a 21' ponga watching whales play in the water. It's hard to say how big they were but you could make out the shape of the tail at about 2 miles. As we got closer they stopped coming out of the water so theatrically and just started to race along. It was pretty kick ass to drive a small fishing boat next to a whale at about 25 mph.
The whales went away and we continued south about 3-4 miles off the shore. Jose, the ponga owner, started steering towards thousands of different species of gulls and other sea birds who were feeding on a school of sardines. It was spectacular. Thousands of sardines had been herded, by several different species of tuna, into a ball the size of a volkswagon and the water was churning like a boiling pot while these birds just diving all around. The tuna and sardines were racing everywhere.
All sudden like, Jose reaches into a 5 gallon bucket and pulls out what looked like a spool of thread only about 6 inches across and 3 inches thick. It had a couple hundred yards of 100 lb. test, a 24" steel leader and a 2" hook. There was a lead weight that that acted as a sheath that had what looked like feathers on it. It looked like a 4" fly. It dawned on me at that instant that Jose, who had been fishing for a living since the 5th grade, didn't use a rod. Actually none of the fisherman use rods. He handed one of these things to Bob then to me and then he grabbed one. I didn't even know how use the damn thing. Bill, a friend of Bob and Jose, gave me a 60 second lesson and in it went. About that time, Bob who is 60, starts yelling. He's got a fish right...no he has a 25-30 lb. tuna. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. These guys cut up bicycle tubes and put pieces on each index finger. It allows them to let out line if the fish runs or to get grip on the line when they start bringing the fish in.
In 45 seconds this monster fish is thrashing around on the floor of the boat between Bob and April's feet. They called it a toro because the thing fights like a bull. Then Jose pulled one in. It was a different species altogether. Hell of a fighter but only about 15-20 lbs. Then Bill got one of the smaller ones. They told me I had to pull the next one in whether I caught it or not. He handed me one of the rubber finger cots and I slid it on. I asked Bill, "How I will know if I have one on?" He laughed and said I can't miss it. He was right. The thing hit my bait perpindicular to the boat and it felt like nothing I had ever felt before. It would be like putting the line on Lazlo and then shooting him with a BB gun. I was petrified.
I started stripping line and in about 45 seconds it was on the floor. It started thrashing like hell spraying blood and water everywhere. Jose promptly picked it up by the leader and clubbed it in the head. I was shaking like Katherine Hepburn's head in a helicopter. I couldn't stop smiling. It was overwhelming. I had a nest in my line so I gave the finger cot to Bill. Jose fixed my nest and then put a sardine on the hook. The sardines were about 6-8 inches long. Right then we were passing over the top of a sardine school and he throws my line in the water. A tuna hit the sardine so hard that the line came out of my hands. I grabbed it and it was limp. It had ripped the fish clean off the hook. Jose grabbed my line and slid on a new sardine. As he was doing that I was watching the tuna feed in the wake of the boat.
The school of sardines were following underneath the ponga and the tuna were picking them off at a rate of about 20-30 strikes a second. It was like machine gun fire behind the boat. Jose than threw my sardine in the water and about 10 feet off the back a tuna hit my line going the other direction. It happened so fast that I didn't realize the line was limp in my hand. Immediately the slack came out and the line ate into my finger like butter. I gripped and then immediately dropped it like a hot iron. Which it was. It was excruciating. I knew then why they wear the cots. The line was limp for about half a second and I instinctively wrapped the line around my hand so I wouldn't get burned again. The tuna bolted and the line tightened so hard that I still have a mark across the back of my hand. It took me close to 2 minutes to land that one. I caught one more and we caught 10 total. In all I say it was about 200 lbs of fresh tuna. One caught Bill off balance and he went ass over tea kettle into the compartment in front of him. He won though.
When we got back Jose fed everyone (except April) mackerel ceviche with jalapenos and the cerveza flowed like wine. My finger never bled. The 100 lb. test literally cauterized as it cut and it doesn't even hurt. A little fresh lime juice and a band aid will fix me right up. What started out to be a lazy, indecisive morning turned out to be the best fishing experience of my life and I never touched a rod or reel. Viva La Mexico!!!