If you’re looking for the usual fishing report, I’ll apologize right now. October is traditionally a slow month for fishing and I feel more like story time than reporting and prognosticating. As far as the following story goes, the names may or may not have been changed to protect the not so innocent. In addition, some or all of the tale may or may not be verifiable..
Let me start by saying this day is a sad day. Don’t fret, it’s nothing serious , but, it’s 7:30 am and I’ve been on an airplane since 6:45. Besides the usual airline stuff, like security strip searches, sitting between two Kevin Smiths, the old guy snoring behind me, the baby crying in front of me or the fact that one or both of the Smiths is floating air biscuits, the airplane is not the source of the sadness. What is, however, is that I’m leaving the Canadian Maritimes and Prince Edward Island…
I’m not really positive when the mancation started, but I’m relatively sure it was in the neighborhood of a week ago. Myself, Mike, Mike and Jeff landed in Halifax and oddly enough, I believe it may have been on hump day. After dropping the bags off at the hotel, it was off to visit downtown and sample some local food and drink. We spent most of the evening at a place called Durty Nelly’s (which by the way, is not a bad place to spend few hours) sampling the local fare and people watching from our perch on the patio. After a whole bunch more laughs and a couple night caps at the Economy Shoe Shop (also a local favorite bar and grill), it was back to the hotel for some r&r before the drive to Prince Edward Island in the am. The r&r, it turns out, would come at a premium on this trip.
Coffee and breakfast wrap at the hotel, van packed and we’re off to PEI to chase giant bluefin tuna with Tony’s Tuna Fishing. Had I not been a bit foggy from the previous evening’s festivities, I may have been able to tell the tracks were a bit suspect and the train was leaving the station on its way to inevitable derailment.. A stop for breakfast supplies, a ferry ride,a liquor store robbery (liquor in Canada is 3X more expensive than the U.S. so pack yourself a big jug in a checked bag) and we made it to Tony’s Cottages in North Lake PEI. Wheels losing traction, train listing to one side…
The rest of the story is not for the timid, so read on at your own risk…
We mirror the Halifax arrival with bags dropped at the cottage and off to Sorris (pronounced sory) to do more scientific sampling. Sheltered Harbor Restaurant beckons and we enter disguised as the nightly live entertainment. Entertainment, irritation, it’s all semantics and laughter is contagious, right? Thankfully, the people of PEI are extremely nice and very forgiving.. Very Best!! They say. Lucky for them, they only have to deal with idiots like us for two months..
Day one starts out pretty much as you’d expect it to with four grown children, unsupervised at a cabin in a foreign land. Three of us have a sensible breakfast while one opts for a coffee only with an Irish flair if you get my drift. Following breakfast, with only one bathroom, there’s a high stakes game of musical throne and shower before everybody is ready to roll. Van packed with four giggling school girls masquerading as fishermen and its down the yellow brick road to Tuna Town.
We arrive at the dock a few minutes before Captain Kurt and his deckhand Aaron make an appearance. While the crew ready the Frayed Knot for departure, our crew dons full rain gear, mixes go juice and prepares for the elements of the Canadian Maritimes. Down the short inlet and it’s into the brisk breeze, chilly temperatures and a big game fisherman’s Shangri-La. Jeff caught one last year and Mike N is the new guy, so Mike C and myself play a game of rock-paper-scissors for the first bite. Paper beats rock and I’m slated second man up to bat.
We arrive on the grounds and start catching northern mackerel for live bait while Aaron baits two rods. He puts a live mackerel out on a kite rig, one on a flat line and begins chumming with cut mackerel. We’ve been informed on the way out that the fishing was good up until the current nor’easter blew up, so we settle in for the long haul, waiting for the bite. With idle hands fueled by Russia’s finest firewater and being the overgrown juveniles we are, we are forced to entertain ourselves. You can only imagine how that turned out.. A chunk of mackerel in an unattended cocktail, a live mackerel down the back of the rain gear, faking a bite while someone uses the bathroom and a few other very mature pranks I can’t remember at this time.
Kurt moves the boat a few times looking for greener pastures containing hungry tuna, but we remain without a bite until early afternoon. Of course when the first bite happens, yours truly is downstairs using the facilities. At first I think it’s a prank until I hear the unmistakeable sound of the ratchet on an 80wide with 50 pounds of drag, screaming line from the reel like there’s a school bus attached to the hook. Zipper up, bib suspenders over the shoulders, jacket in hand and up the three steps,through the cabin, to the back deck where the excitement level is through the roof! The fish ate the kite bait, so the flat line is reeled in and Captain Kurt throttles the boat to catch up with the speeding tuna. Mike is using a stand up rod with a harness, so he is in for a real treat. Every time the tuna takes more line back off the reel, we all chant “tuna, tuna, tuna, tuna”. It’s a full body workout for one man while the rest of us are entertained by his struggle.. The saying goes something like “With friends like these…”. Truthfully, we weren’t that bad, we never denied him a sip from his tumbler full of jet fuel. After a few minutes, the layers of clothing start to come off. Jacket, hat, long sleeve undershirt off, he’s down to a short sleeve shirt and his slickers nearing the end of the forty plus minute fight. The fish finally relents and a 600 pound tuna is laying beside the boat. We snap some pics, revive the fish and release the behemoth to fight another day. A sweat drenched Mike C is pummeled with back slaps, attaboys and heartfelt congratulations. That’s about the time the last wheels officially fell off the cart.
After the beating Mike took from the tuna and the verbal ‘encouragement’ from everybody else, I start to rethink my desire to have a turn. Fortune favors the brave, so I fill up with liquid courage while we head in to ‘tag up’ (this fishery only allows only one fish to be caught per trip, so you run back to the dock to tag up and start another trip). But, that would be our only bite for the day, so I’m going to have to wait for day 2 for my shot at glory. We finish up the evening at the Black Rafter Bar (and grill) where the atmosphere is a bit more conducive to our shenanigans. We make some more new friends while we eat, drink and reminisce about the one that didn’t get away. Did I mention how friendly everybody is up there?
Morning of day #2 is Groundhog Day, breakfast, ‘coffee’, musical chairs, dock, raingear, cocktails (for some), inlet, bait, wait.. My head’s a little cloudy that morning, so I hold off on the beverages for a bit. After a few hours of nothingness, boredom gets the best of us holdouts and we end up in the galley. I concoct a boredom elimination elixir, shake it up and grab a handful of chips from the snack tray. Before I can even take the first sip or eat a chip, shouts of “Fish on” ring out! I run back to the screaming Penn 130 and grab the handle as if there’s something I can do. Am I going to use a harness? Hell no, that’s why they make swivel rod holders and bent butt rods! I’m not as dumb as some of my actions might make me seem.. Either way, forty more minutes of déjà vu with a different angler, same result and a 550-600 lb tuna released. Day 2 finished without another bite and our friends at the Black Rafter helped us celebrate another victory.
More of the same fanfare on day 3, except we ended up catching two that day. Mike N opted for the wise man route and caught a 650 plus on the 130 in the rod holder. Jeff, who caught a 600 last year, followed that with an 800 plus in the afternoon on the stand-up gear. Of course, neither man escaped the wrath of the peanut gallery. More celebration at the Rafter ensued.
Later that afternoon, Kurt received information about a body of bigger fish on a different bank, so he moved the boat around the island to Sorris, where we would be closer to the action. We arranged to meet there an hour earlier in the am, which put a crimp in both the evening social activities and morning routines. No worries, it sounded like it would be worth the sacrifice. Was it ever…
Day 4 was when the proverbial stuff hit the fan and all hell broke loose. We arrived at the Bank with several other boats and it looked like Sea World on steroids. There were several herring boats hauling back nets full of herring, the sky was dark with gannets and gulls diving like mad and there were a pod of pilot whales just milling about the fleet. But, all that’s not nearly as impressive as the 600 to 1200 pound tunas boiling the surface around the herring boats as some of the fish fall out of the nets. Needless to say, the excitement comes to a pinnacle when we pull up and start chumming. Aaron throws some mackerel in and we watch in amazement as these magnificent fish eat the chum not more than twenty feet from the boat! Mouths agape, we watch as Aaron chums a number of tuna and draw them away from the net being hauled back. Hooking up was just a formality as Kurt dropped Mike C’s bait pretty much right into the mouth of an 800 pounder. During the fight, the fish got tail wrapped, so Mike whipped him in thirty or so minutes on the stand-up gear which is pretty darn impressive.
After tagging up, it was my turn again and pretty much the same scenario ensued. We pull up, see giant tuna blowing up next to the herring boats and start chumming. We pull a few fish away with our chum and hook up for the second time that morning. We weave through the fleet, narrowly missing the herring nets and the lines of anglers fighting tuna from other charter boats. Fortunately, the fish finally stayed straight for long enough to avoid the obstacles and another 800 plus was released. In case you’re wondering about the second time through the batting order, the words of wisdom from the dugout remained unrelenting…
With the second trip done and our daily limit caught, there wasn’t a whole lot to do but chum and watch these beasts glide by like silent submarines. That’s when we realized how lucky we were to have left so early. For one more drift, the fish came up and ate the chum while we watched. The next time we drifted, the herring boats were done hauling, the tuna scattered out and wouldn’t really come up for the chum. The people who got there late had to work very hard do get any bites at all. We were on our way home by 1:00, at which time we enjoyed the lobster rolls and PEI mussels that Kurt and Aaron prepared for us every day. After the delicious eats, as we arrived at the mouth of the harbor, we indulged in a victory cigar with our beverages. And let’s not forget the Rafter after.
The return to Halifax was uneventful and we all agreed that downtown would have to wait for next year. Dinner and a couple beers in front of the fireplace in the Hilton lobby bar and it was sleepy time.
Between the good friends, new friends, fabulous food and fantastic fishing, you can see why leaving this place is so bittersweet!! But, there’s always next year..
See ya in PEI!!