Tidelines – August 31, 2017
“It can be like Jurassic Park out here,” said Cat as he finished putting out a well-calculated mix of teasers, dredges, flat lines, and rigger baits off the 51’ Carolina Sportfisherman.
The trolling spread was out, and the air (and water) was full of possibility. We could hook a 1000 pound blue marlin, release a billfish grand slam, or pull in double digit numbers of white marlin, and since our offshore fishing day was also the day of the solar eclipse, the sense of possibilities and the mystique of the unknown that accompanies heading out into the fertile waters off Oregon Inlet seemed more heightened than usual.
Capt. Jay Kavanagh and Mate Cat Peele, on the charter boat “Bite Me,” were once again docked at slip B5 in Pirate’s Cove, rewarding themselves with a month of chasing white marlin after a long, hot summer of bailing mahi, and Fisherman’s Post was lucky enough to reunite with Jay and Cat during one of their therapeutic days of reconnecting with everything they love about fishing.
Zakk (employee, who helps me make money), Owen (son, who never runs out of ways to cost me money), and I had made the 10-minute run from Dare Haven Motel in Manteo, stopping briefly for coffee at the 7-11, to meet at the docks a little before 5:00 am and head out Oregon Inlet about 20 or so miles to find billfish. The white marlin in the area hadn’t yet focused in one predictable area, needing, as Cat believed from observations of previous seasons, a really good northeast wind before they would concentrate, so on our day the chances of whites, sails, and blues were all about the same.
Cat and Jay’s attention to detail is a large part of the reason that they are successful, so we listened intently as Cat went over some instructions for what to do when a fish is on.
First he showed us the lever on the electronic winches that controlled the dredges, reminding at least twice that you have to physically turn the switch off to stop the retrieve from coming all the way into the boat (which, apparently, would be very bad).
Then he instructed me to stand by one of the longer baits if I see him go to a flat line or grab a pitch bait. If the fish disappears and/or falls back, he explains, then sometimes the fish will go to one of the baits further out, and having the rod in hand—with the clicker off and in free spool, with hands holding the spool and pointing the rod at the rigger—gives a better feel for whether or not the fish is there and banging and tugging at the bait.
Our trial run came soon enough when we trolled near an acre of bait nervously gathered on the surface. A rigger line popped and drag started to pull. Owen got called to the rod, a belt went on (since all the “Bite Me” rods that day were stand-up tackle), and he did exactly what we had told him to do. It was simple—just listen to everything Cat says. Fortunately for us, a suspected bonita turned out to be our first blackfin of the day.
We landed a handful more blackfins, focusing on that same area of bait, and then it happened. Cat sprinted for the left flat line. A blue marlin, which he and Jay would later estimate at about 400 lbs., had come up under our left teaser.
The bite seemed to play out in several Acts. Act I had the blue marlin, aggressive and full of color, come up on the left teaser, move to behind the left dredge, and then disappear. In Act II the blue reappeared under the right teaser, moved to the right dredge, and then disappeared a second time. For Act III, our blue once again showed on the left teaser, and this time Cat immediately had a spanish mackerel pitch bait in its line of sight. The blue took a few bill swipes at the pitch bait, but Cat kept patient, not wanting to give the bait until the blue was absolutely ready.
“When a blue marlin is ready to eat,” Cat would explain to me later, “he lets you know. The most common mistake people make is they feel a tap and let the bait go. If you free spool the bait too soon, then you drop it behind the fish.”
“When a blue really takes it, they almost bird’s nest it, or they burn your thumb,” he continued. “That’s when you want to let it go—when your thumb’s burning.”
The blue marlin, as predicted, let Cat know it was ready. Cat gave the blue the bait, and then the 50-wide stand-up tackle doubled over, line continuing to peel out long after I was handed the rod and strapped into the fighting belt and harness. A huge first run, several jumps, a long session of give and take, more jumps, more give and take, and then Cat had the leader in hand, and while fighting the fish was a heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping battle royal, the hold-your-breath, hair-on-end drama of watching a huge blue-black-silver predator, striped with anger, move like a king from one offering to the next before please please please please please eating a pitch bait is the memory of this day that will outlast all others, even easily upstaging the first solar eclipse in nearly 100 years.
If billfish action is what you crave, and you like having a knowledgeable, hardworking, experienced team helping you achieve those billfish goals, then look to the “Bite Me” with Capt. Jay Kavanagh and Mate Cat Peele.
Hatteras Harbor Marina, their berth 11 months a year, is where they can be found chasing down mahi, yellowfins, blackfins, and wahoo for anglers looking to fill a cooler (or two or three), but just about any time from May to October, fishing with these guys also means you can target billfish, or at least always have a shot at one.
To find your own “Bite Me” possibilities and unique blue water experience, offshore trips where fighting the fish may be a denouement, visit their website at www.fishbiteme.com, or give Jay a call at (252) 996-0295.
You, too, may find that all the Gulf Stream’s a stage, and all the men and women and fish merely players; they have their exits and their entrances…