When the call came, it was in the middle of chaos.
“Holy s—t! There’s the cow!”
That was a cow, as in a frighteningly large yellowfin tuna, looking to be well past the 300-pound mark — in fact, thus putting it in the vaunted super-cow class.
The excited yell had come from Capt. Josh Temple aboard the Gladiator, a 78-foot custom, aluminum-hulled sport-fisher based in Cabo.
The reason many of the six anglers aboard didn’t immediately hear the call had to do with their various preoccupations. While the mate, who goes simply by Pepe, kept up a chunk line amidships, from each of the stern corners, Steve Zernia (a charter skipper from Seward, Alaska) and George Large (in charge of Yo-Zuri America) fought yellowfin tuna on spinning gear. Hardly cows, these tuna would be in the 30- to 60-pound range, which was just fine with these anglers, enjoying the unparalleled excitement of an extended yellowfin bite on poppers. (Large had — as expected — brought a substantial arsenal of lures with him; of several tried-and-true Yo-Zuri poppers, the 4inch Sashimi Slider, a topwater lure similar to a stickbait, proved the tunas’ favorite.)
On the bow, Ray More (then with Fin-Nor/Van Staal), had found another species that appreciated the Slider when a wahoo hurtled across the surface to grab the color-changing lures, giving More the chance to try out a new reel, the Van Staal VM 150.
Meanwhile, up on the bow pulpit, Andy Mezirow (the other member of the Seward charter-skipper team) hand-drifted out a live salami (blue) mackerel (Scomber australasicus). He had visions of a striped marlin, having hooked up and released a good stripe less than an hour before.
Yours truly and a co-photographer, Rachel (who conveniently shares my last name), were running around the lower bridge trying to figure out what to photograph next.
That was when, from the upper bridge, I heard Temple’s cow shout.
A Cow Comes A-Calling
By the time I’d rushed over to the port side to peer down into the chunk line, Arturo, the other mate, hurriedly married chunk bait and circle hook as More held the rod, ready to deploy. Moments before, he had managed to release his wahoo to run back and make himself available to dangle a bait for the immense fish I saw charging through the chunk line.
Though the shape remained fairly deep, I could scarcely mistake either what it was or its size. The basis for calling such tuna “cows” could hardly be missed, because it had all the body mass of a large bovine but considerably more grace. Like a minisubmarine, the tuna advertised itself to all those looking down, with yellow finlets aglow.
“Get that bait out there!” Temple hollered.
More did just that, though the huge fish seemed to have disappeared by the time the armed piece of bait began drifting into the chunk line. But a few minutes later, thankfully before the omnipresent whaler sharks snapped up the bait, the yellowfin had returned, lazily sucking in a chunk here or there. When one of those happened to be More’s bait, and the angler’s line came tight, someone on deck shouted, “He’s bit, he’s bit!” With the drag on strike, More waited for the circle hook to bite in, and it did. Then, for a few precious moments, he struggled against the tremendous power as his Fin-Nor Santiago reel screamed to protest the 100-pound braid melting from its spool.
Then suddenly, the fish was gone; all that remained was the hook, having never had sufficient purchase in the fish’s jaw to stay buttoned.