The alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and I rise feeling grateful for the gentle movement of the boat. We’ve had “greasy slick” seas the last couple of days, which means no knobby knees or curvature of the spine from trying to lock myself into the bunk, and a chance to cook fried eggs without decorating the diesel stove. I feel reassured by the mast lights and strobes bobbing in all directions as I look out for evidence of dawn. We’re part of a drifting city, 200 miles offshore.
We hear real minimal conversations over our radios as we sit drinking coffee – “running partners” checking in to see if the others are up and how far they’ve drifted during the night. As soon as we’re able to see, Jim puts the boat in gear while I jump in the pit and start throwing the gear in the water. A five-minute effort and we’re fishing, a real vacation from all the baiting and fussing we do salmon fishing. Albacore are thought to be attracted to floating objects, so they might have spent the night under the boat. A bell attached to our gear announces a strike and the beginning of our day. Several more strikes and Jim rushes back to throw the boat in a circle and help me pull fish. We work fast, but carefully, so as not to tangle the lines. We both feel excited, like we just got a jackpot at Harrahs.
By 11 o’clock we’ve got 60 fish in the hold and the brine box. Since the fishing has slowed, we start getting nervous about “who’s getting ‘em” and head for the cabin to listen to radios and fix a generous breakfast
Mid-afternoon brings an occasional stray fish and lots of conversation about problems, “hot” fishing gear, and the “good ol’ days.” It’s during the slow part of the day that fishermen think about their families and long to be home. There’s lots of nervous eating to fill the time.
“Evening bites” begin at about 6 p.m. and continue until the last rays of sunset. Our catch, coming two, three, four at a time, gave us a total of a hundred fish; not the highest “score” in the fleet – nothing like the 1,000-fish days old timers talk about, but it’s a living and tomorrow could be better. Five minutes to pull the gear and some time freezing the fish, and we’re free for a glass of wine and dinner: a quiet evening at home.