December 21, 2011

Outer Banks Angling: Tuna Time


Christmas is rapidly approaching and 2011 is almost over, but the tuna fishing seems to just be getting started.

I had the chance to go offshore over the weekend with some close friends and my fiancée.

I got the call late Wednesday afternoon from my buddy to join him on board the Big Tahuna out of Teach’s Lair Marina for a day of tuna fishing.

The recent reports had included some good blackfin tuna catches and some scattered yellowfin.

I was definitely all for it, as I had not been in a boat all year because of a double torn Achilles tendon. I’d been worried about my balance and ability to stand in the offshore seas after such an injury, but with my last surgery several months behind me, I figured now was a good time to test out my sea legs.

We got to the docks around the crack of dawn on Saturday, Dec. 17.

The weather was cold, with a cloudy sky and blustery winds. I figured we would have a rough day on the water.

We headed out of Hatteras Inlet, and it wasn’t long before we saw the white caps and rolling seas.

The wind was a steady 15-20 mph and the seas were 6 to 8 feet.

I had little sleep the night before, so I lay down for a quick nap, being easily put to sleep by the sound of the dual Caterpillar motors, which is my favorite sound to fall asleep to.

I awoke to my buddy, Jim, hollering out to me that we had arrived at our first stop.

The motors geared down, and I knew it was time to get started.

We were going to try and butterfly jig a few marks in the hopes of catching some blackfin tuna.

I love jigging offshore. It has become one of my most favorite things to do.

I was introduced to this style of fishing a few years ago on this very boat and have since been back to do it more times than I can count.

This potluck style of fishing can produce just about anything that swims in offshore waters.

On our first drop, the rods instantly bowed up and the fight was on.

Albacore, amberjack, and blackfin tuna were the fish that hit the deck during our first stop for jigging.

For the next couple of hours, while moving around and dropping jigs on marks, the bite and fish remained consistent. Hoots and hollers rang out as a steady variety of fish hit the deck.

After a while of jigging, we started trolling in the hopes of finding a few yellowfin tuna.

It wasn’t long before four rods doubled over and the sound of screeching reels filled the air.

For the next few hours, trolling produced blackfin and yellowfin tuna regularly.

It was truly a good day on the water, given the conditions.

But, this is where my story takes its turn.

If you noticed, I described my trip with sounds.

That’s because I spent my day in the cabin, seasick in a manner which I’ve never known.

I was so sick I just wanted to go home. Yeah, I was that guy.

Most of you who have fished regularly have either seen this person, been this person, or heard about this person.

It was not pretty.

I am not sure if it was the lack of sleep, that my body was out of whack from so many serious injuries this year, or the fact that by the next day I was on antibiotics for a sinus infection.

Was I off my game or was there a deeper cause? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter.

I was beyond typical seasick.  I could have easily been the guy that gets offshore and after 30 minutes of fishing, begs the captain to take him home.

I looked at my watch and it was 10:15 in the morning, and after what seemed like four hours, I looked again, only to realize that it was 10:40 in the morning. It was going to be a long day.

I knew that I would get another chance to fish in the near future, where my friends would not.

I was going to have to suck this one up and take it like a man.

I found myself giving myself pep talks. After tearing my Achilles tendon twice this year and herniating a disc in my neck, I thought I could take anything thrown at me, but this was rough.

It was suffering on a whole new level. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn’t get myself right.

I just lay there, unable to stand, because every time I did, I wanted to be sick and thus far I hadn’t been.

After a while my fiancée, Lisa, came and checked on me and let me know she caught her first yellowfin tuna.

How depressing. I missed my girl’s first tuna. I couldn’t even get a picture of it, but my buddy Jim did.

Lisa was feeling under the weather also, but nothing like me, although she did use up the remainder of her energy on that tuna and lay down for the rest of the trip.

Time dragged on, and I continued to fight the urge to ask Capt. Kenny Koci to take me home.

After what seemed like days, the motors finally geared up to cruising speed, and within minutes, I was standing on the back of the boat with my friends.

All it took was getting rid of the rolling seas, and I was fine again.

My friends and the crew were relieved to see me standing and with some normal color in my face. None of them had ever seen me in such a state, but I’ve been told it happens to the best watermen.

During a conversation later that evening, Capt. Ernie Foster and Capt. Patrick Caton both shared stories of fighting serious seasickness daily as kids.

It made me feel slightly better, but was unable to keep from feeling down about the first and only boat trip of the year for me.

However, I was happy that Lisa caught her fish and, most importantly, that I survived the trip.

I’ve spent my entire life on the water, whether it was chasing fish in the Chesapeake Bay, wakeboarding on Lake Gaston, or waterskiing in the Intercoastal Waterway and have never been that ill.

I am still trying to find excuses for it, but I guess it’s a moot point, because it will not change that day.

All I can do is wait for the next trip to come around and see what happens.

But, I do plan on taking a little Dramamine next time.

Better safe, than sorry.

(Rob Alderman is the owner of the Hatteras Island Fishing Militia website and is a kayak fishing guide. Rob has 10 years of fishing experience on the Outer Banks, and is host of the “Outer Banks Angler” television show. You can follow more of his extreme adventures or contact him at

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