Even when we heard some other skippers on the VHF complaining about a lack of good liveys, the SkipaDory's wells were filled with huge, lively, juicy menhaden. They didn't get there without some effort. While Boston sleeps, DiStefano's out in the harbor at 3 a.m., setting his 150-foot gill net in the path of bunker schools. "I had about 80 of 'em in 10 minutes," he told his anglers at one point.
We fished them beneath kites and under balloons, and we free-lined as well. The latter was the route chosen by Maitland, who felt the 80-pound braided line slipping through his fingers, pulled by a quivering, frightened menhaden. That was almost instantly replaced with the rush of a hungry tuna looking for some takeout, picking up the hapless baitfish on the run. Maitland had been waiting for the chance to take on a hefty bluefin on his spinning reel - the Daiwa Dogfight, an $1,100 reel introduced (after long service in Australasia) in the U.S. market last year.
Angler and reel had their hands full, but ultimately they prevailed, and soon the first bluefin of the trip lay flopping on deck. It was a good fish by any measure, but a nice test indeed to show the mettle of the latest from Daiwa. Shortly thereafter, a kite bait went down, and Reedenauer found himself in a corner of the cockpit, tied to a similar beast but on a Daiwa Sealine filled with 130-pound mono.
An Exceptional Year Class
If this season pans out as it should, the class of 2004 will be back, but of course incrementally bigger. Last year, these were "the 160- to 190-pound fish you got into off Stellwagen," says John Graves, professor of marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
To complicate matters a bit, the class of 2004 may be the class of 2003, depending on which bluefin scientist you speak with. Graves goes with '04; some others like '03. It's likely that anglers are catching some from both years, and even more likely that they don't care about the distinction as long as big bluefin are thick in places like Stellwagen.