Sorry Charlie, it’s just not a very good time to be you in the blue waters of the mid-Atlantic.
Not with the hundreds of boats trolling baits from the Carolinas to Maryland – some of them with four-ballyhoo spreads to those towing as many as eight.
We understand that you just can’t resist these kinds of offerings.
And then, Charlie, if the anglers don’t get you, there is a pretty good chance that a Mr. Jagged Jaws will. Sharks of all species have been destroying anglers’ catches just before they can get them to the boat.
Yep, it’s one hell of a struggle in the tuna family right now.
Tuna migrate north and south along the coast with the seasons and they are intensely followed by anglers and shark – both of which hold a high desire for their meat.
Most common this time of year are yellowfin tuna, but anglers can expect a decent number of bigeye, blacken, true albacore and false albacore.
On a rainy Saturday earlier in the month, a group of family and friends teamed up on the Backlash. The Virginia Beach-based boat spends the early part of the tuna season at Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo, N.C., then follows the fish back to Virginia waters.
Owned and captained by Steve Richardson, with mate Brandon Bartlett working the fishing cockpit, the boat had been raising plenty of fish in days prior to this particular outing.
On board was Mike Cehrs, Heath Valliere and Josh Ruloff, all of Virginia Beach; along with Amber and Scottie Hostetter, and Jason Mendola of Rockbridge County near Lexington, Va.
It was raining when the crew met at the dock at 4:45 in the morning and it continued to come down the entire day.
Who cares, right? The fish don’t mind getting wet and everybody was prepared for the weather.
They were not, however, prepared for the slow start to the action.
Many trips have seen fish boxes full early in the morning and boats back at the dock by lunchtime – despite having to fight through the sharks.
When the first knockdown came around mid morning, the fish turned out to be a small blacken. The skunk was out of the boat, the fish was on ice and the party was drooling over the thought of a lunch featuring some cold, fresh-caught tuna with a little soy sauce and wasabi.
Things eventually managed to pick up. Bartlett’s bait spread started to get more hits and the box started to fill up.
And the couple of offshore virgins on the boat got themselves a perfect Steve Richardson experience.
The guy is a bit of an old salt who knows his way around the water. And he has a strong reputation for catching fish. He’s also know to ride his anglers a little bit when they aren’t following orders.
Some of his ways appear to have rubbed off on Bartlett.
The two simply hate to lose fish.
Losing them to sharks? Not much you can do about them except to get fish to the boat quickly. Unfortunately, that wasn’t happening enough for Richardon’s taste and the orders to “reel, reel, reel” and “pay attention” saw the volume turned up.
Going offshore fishing? Check your thin skin at the dock. We’re out here to catch fish.
Besides, the barking is more fun than it is hurtful.
Eventually, the box was stuffed to the gills with the exception of a fat 198-pound bigeye that wouldn’t fit. So Richardson cranked up the diesels for a quick ride back to Oregon Inlet.
As the anglers rubbed sore arms and enjoyed a couple of icy cold adult beverages, Bartlett immediately went at the task of preparing baits, re-rigging tackle and cleaning the vessel for another pre-dawn start the next morning.
The young man is an absolute blur of a workhorse in the fishing cockpit and a joy to watch.
Back at the dock at Pirate’s Cove, a gang of spectators waited to see the catch – which included 10 yellowfin, 2 blackfin, 2 skipjack and a total of three bigeye that weighed 105, 140 and 198 pounds, respectively.
One large shark that had been hooked and fought for about 45 minutes, swam away to rethink the whole, tuna stealing thing.
As Richardson and Bartlett relaxed in preparation for the next day, the six anglers worked tirelessly at filleting, dressing and packaging three large coolers full of meat – taking time to look at dozens of pictures and process a day full of lots of great memories.
And plenty of apologies to Charlie. It was another day that didn’t turn out to well for he and his buddies.
Editor’s note: The tuna bite along the mid-Atlantic coast remains excellent and if you’ve never experienced the thrill of a day catching them, you should schedule a trip.