The journey started last Fall when I decided to pull the trigger on a 33’ Hydrasport center console.  Then came Sandy, then winter,  then Spring, then baseball and finally on June 21st, I captained my own boat offshore.  Joining me was my usual partner in crime Geoff Taylor.   After two crazy days of preparation getting safety equipment, chum, bait and two trips to West Marine, we were ready to head offshore for a shark tagging adventure.  The goal was to see if we could successfully tag a shark.   Sharks are much harder to handle at the boat than tuna so my expectations on our ability to successfully tag one were set accordingly.  To boot, what was a three man crew ended up a two man crew, which always makes things interesting when the action heats up.  Up at 4AM, we pushed off the dock at 5:15AM and rounded Sandy Hook by 6:30AM.  Just outside the hook, Geoff noticed birds working over a pod of bunker and we went right to work throwing snag hooks to catch some live bait.  Geoff is a master at hooking bunker and quickly dropped 8 live bunker in the live well.  With bunker in the tank, I pointed the boat Southeast toward the Glory Hole for the 40 mile run.  The boat ran great for the first 35 miles.  Using the electronics, trip tabs and throttle took some getting used to, but after the first 45 minutes I felt really comfortable at the wheel.  We cruised at 27 knots in a confused small chop, with dominant Southeast swell for the first hour, then it got smoother further out.  Almost at our way point, one of the engines dropped its rpms automatically.  This is a built in safety mechanism on Yamaha engines to protect the engine from damage.  Pulling the throttles back Geoff and I immediately went to work troubleshooting.  It was clear the engine was not getting fuel so Geoff went to work pumping the fuel bulb and jiggling the hoses.  We switched gas tanks and he finally felt some fuel in the hose and we cranked up the engine.  To our delight she started right up.  I ran the boat for another mile and decided to stop short of our final destination just in case we had trouble again.  As it turns out, the change in location would be a great move.  The water was 63.5 degrees and a greenish blue.  One of my favorite parts of sharking is turning off the engines.  With the engines off, and the boat adrift Geoff and I went to work setting out our chum slick and three mackerel baits suspended from yellow balloons.  Not 15 minutes into having our baits in the water the furthest balloon, which was the deepest bait starts taking off for the horizon.  The balloon was making a wake in the water as it left for China.  Geoff grabbed the rod, waited five seconds and put the Shimano 50TLD in gear.  We were using 12/0 Owner circle hooks so he just waited and the hook set.  At first we thought he had a bluefish.  The big rod was not bent much, and the drag wasn’t pulling.  So Geoff makes several yards back on the line, then it all changed.  As the line got closer to the boat, the rod suddenly bent like a pretzel, into the water, with line ripping off  the reel toward the engines.  We both yelled “that’s no bluefish” – as Geoff held on for life and I ran to the engines and stated them up and quickly gunned the boat around to get the line away and it was game on.  We got the fighting belt on Geoff and we went to work, he on the rod, me on the throttles.  After 15 minutes of hard pulling we saw color.  Up from the depths comes this huge blue torpedo of a blue shark.  Every bit of seven feet, estimated 200-250lbs.  While Geoff was fighting the shark I was trying to steer the boat and get the tag stick ready.  We were totally caught off guard as the tag stick was not ready, wire gloves in the drawer etc.   With this big shark at the boat, pulling Geoff downward and me fumbling with the tag gear we decided to release this one without a tag and properly rig the tag gear for the next one.  With Geoff’s homemade line cutter, we cut the 400lb mono right at the hook and let the big blue shark go.  Huge high fives and smiles followed as we couldn’t believe what just happened.  Aptly Geoff pulls out a small bottle of prosecco to celebrate the first offshore trip and first offshore fish caught aboard my new boat.  We got back to our chum slick that was marked by the yellow balloon that flew off the line.  Chum and baits back in the water.  30 minutes later Geoff spots a shark in the slick, circling one of the yellow balloons.  Few seconds later the second rod goes off.  I grab the rod, fighting belt ready and began the fight.  Another nice fight as the second big blue shark comes up from the blue green water.  This time we were ready.  We put the rod in the holder, I wired the shark and Geoff popped the metal tag in perfectly with our 6' AFTCO shark tag stick.

With the NOAA shark tag in, we cut the line right at the hook and were ready for another round of high fives when we see a huge splash 30 yards from the boat.  Then another huge splash, then I saw my huckleberry – big bluefin!  I saw the dark blue back of a nice bluefin break the surface.  Enter the fire drill of trying to rig up jigs for tuna.  Somehow Geoff got two jigs on and lost them both.  A mystery still on how the jigs came off.  We were joking that maybe the tuna has one of Kil Song’s jig pliers and was taking our jigs off.  Anyway we didn’t hook up, but that was real exciting.  Next time, we will have our popping rod and jig rod at the ready.  When we first set up our slick, we noticed small tinker mackerel by the boat, my guess is the bluefin were zeroing in on these tasty little baits.  In fact when we first set the chum out, Geoff saw splashes in the distance and we both thought it was bluefish, after we saw the tuna, we reconsidered.  In fact we didn’t see a bluefish all day.  It was midday at this point and we have already had a very busy morning.  Back on the chum slick we stayed for a couple more hours with no action except for a window shopper dorsal fin that did not take a bait so we decided to start packing it up.  We had chum left over so we decided to dump the bluefish chum ball overboard.  As we were cleaning up, Geoff notices a fin by the drifting chum ball.  So with a few bunker left we ran closer to the drifting chum ball.  As we got closer we noticed a large mako shark circling.  Geoff tossed out our last live bunker in hopes of enticing the mako to hit.  Geoff barely got the bunker in the water when the line started to rip off the reel.  Geoff was in the bow of the boat and the mako took the line under the bow.  As Geoff was trying to get the line out in front of him, leaning over the bow of the boat with the rod almost in the water, this crazy mako jumps straight into the air, 30 feet from Geoff's face, twisting like a missile gone crazy.  The huge mako (estimated 250lbs) was over Geoff’s head by 10 feet from my view at the wheel.  As the mako hit the water, Geoff’s line went slack, and he reeled back just the hook.  The crafty mako stole his bunker and threw the hook.   Although disappointed, we quickly rigged our last two dead bunker and threw two more offerings out.  Within a minute my rod started to rip line, then Geoff’s rod started to do the same.  We both waited a few seconds and engaged the reels.  We were both tight and fighting.  Crazy.  Few minutes passed and we started to think we had the same shark.  There were no jumps so we didn’t know what we had.  Then we saw the tell tale shape of another large blue shark.  This shark ate both our baits at the same time.  We fought this one to the boat, and dispatched another NOAA shark tag into the shoulder of the shark, cut the lines and off he went.  At this point we had enough.  We decided to leave the Glory Hole which was aptly named for the day we just had.

 

 

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Tags: shark tagging

Comment by Geoff Taylor on June 27, 2013 at 9:59pm

Big Congratulations John for realizing the dream and having such a fantastic boat and in the home waters of New Jersey and couldn't be happier to have been along for what is surely the first of many off-shore adventures to come..  Seeing that big Mako chomping on the chum-cicle and then jump before our eyes is something that I'll never forget - amazing !!

Comment by Christian Burns on June 28, 2013 at 3:18am
Awesome write up, John. Way to go guys!
Comment by Devin Nolan on July 29, 2013 at 5:01pm

Great tags!  Congrats on the inaugural trip.... 

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