Sometimes things happen to me that I couldn’t make up if I tried. I’m certainly not complaining – just making an observation that when you’re tied into lots of other fanatical anglers, well, things just happen.
It all started last week while I was over on the coast for a short mid-week getaway with my wife, Elaine. We were going to beat the crowds, stay at our favorite hotel and try out several seafood restaurants. I was relaxed (as much as possible while knowing the fish were biting – shh!) and trying to get into the coastal mode of enjoying the breaking waves when I got a phone call from a fishing buddy, Mike Esposito.
“Roger, I need your help!” Mike said in a stressed-out voice. “I’m over at San Luis Reservoir in the big lake, bent over the side of the boat all by myself – and I’ve been fighting a huge striper for over 45 minutes that I can’t get to come up off the bottom! I finally decided to call to see if you had any ideas on what to do to get the fish up.”
Whoa – what a quandary. I wondered if could I be of any help to Mike at all.
“Well, what are you fighting this thing on?” I asked.
“I’ve got it on a 7 1/2-foot spinning rod loaded with new 10-pound test while throwing a small lure by shore. Yeah, I knew better, but when it crashed the lure – all I could do was hang on! The good news is that the line and lure are new, the hooks are strong and I tied a good knot!”
Thinking fast, I finally said, “Mike, obviously you’ve got to take your time, but the real trick will be netting it. How big is it?”
“Well, I got it up once, and I guess around 40 pounds,” Mike answered. “My hands and arms are worn out-just from holding the fish for so long!”
“Mike, you need to put the phone down and fight it!” I said. “Call me when you can.”
I hung up reluctantly and was feeling helpless when it suddenly hit me: Hadn’t my buddy Dexter Ibara from Fowler mentioned they might go fishing today? I quickly dialed him and luckily Dexter answered. Yes, they were out fishing – and had even seen Mike’s white bass boat. They could help!
I quickly called Mike back to tell him they were on their way.
“Great – the fish is still on!” he exclaimed.
I was anxious for an update and it was another 30 minutes before Dexter called. They had gotten there just as Mike landed it. Mike had quickly weighed it on his digital scale (it was right at 40 pounds), got a picture then worked on getting the fish released ASAP. Incredibly, Dexter had a new Seaqualizer release tool onboard – the perfect tool to release the huge fish unharmed.
Clamping the gripping end of the tool onto the striper’s lower lip, they then attached the connector on the other end of the tool to the downrigger cable. Letting the cable back down to the 50 foot level, the Seaqualizer’s pressure-sensitive clamp activated and opened up the lip gripper – and the monster swam away! It was now at a depth where it’s air bladder pressure was equalized and it could recover. They waited a half-hour to confirm it stayed down, and Dexter added that they all felt the spent fish would have just floated on top and died without the tool.
Success! Mike, Dexter and I had all worked together to save the huge fish after an epic, one-hour battle. I was proud of what we had done. Funny, I’m still not sure what made Mike call me, but I’m glad he did.
You know, I never dreamed that it might be possible to help a fishing buddy 150 miles away – even while stuck in a place like Pismo. Sometimes we forget: We’re all in this together. Big catches are special, but this reminded me that the real joy of fishing is in the sharing and caring. Never give up!
Old pal retiring – Long-time – 29 years! – Fishermans Warehouse manager Eric Kaai is working his last day Friday, telling me he’s retiring and moving to Shelter Cove to fish and kayak. Good luck, Eric!