Two handlines, many mahi, and a near decapitation...

by Danimal
(Bagram, Afghanistan)

In 1995, a friend of mine purchased a 43' Beneteau (the Kai Luana) in Honolulu. He asked a couple of friends to help him sail it back to Kwajalein, Marhall Islands, about 2500 miles to west/southwest. Easy decision!

I brought two of my handline rigs - about 75' each of blue nylon braided cord rated at 500#, with corkscrew swivels (perhaps the single most useful part as it greatly simplifies and expedites changing of lures). Attached to these are 3' braided steel leaders and a few hand-rigged dual squid skirts on various jethead lures. We commonly use multi-colored skirts (e.g. chartreuse/silver over yellow/white for wahoo & rainbow runner, blue/silver over pink/white for mahi, ahi, & marlin). We had no YoYo's back then, but I would certainly use them today. The simple shock absorber was always a bike inner tube, and we used fat rubber bands that would snap loudly enough to get our attention with "fish on".

Our first day out of Honolulu, we were on auto-helm just cruising and accidentally went through the middle of a bird pile / bait pile - unbelievable to have happened by accident in the middle of the ocean! We hooked up two mahi mahi that averaged about 12-15 lbs, which made for multiple recipes for dinner and pupus.

On my morning watch (0500 to 0800), I would put the handlines out and caught several mahi of about the same size over the first couple of days. But as you all know, the first three days on a sailboat are exhausting, so we were all sleeping 8 hours between shifts. On the fourth day, though, we all had enough energy to be up and about in mid-morning just after my morning shift, so I left the handlines out. The guys were all interested in watching the lures dance in slow rollers of the following seas behind us. The owner was at the helm, the captain and other mate were port side, while I was alone on port side. We were all just hanging out and enjoying the beautiful day on the water when it happened...

The first noise was the snap of the rubber band and then the twanging of the handline as it was stretched to its limit, followed closely by the creaking sound of the aft port side cleat stressing against it fiberglass structure. That's the sound I remember the most, remembering exactly how I felt about the line being stretched to the point of ripping a cleat out of my friend's very expensive boat. As I turned to my left to see what was happening, the line snapped and recoiled directly at me at an unbelievable speed, with a couple of feet of steel leader flailing at the end of it. I leaned forward about 2 inches before it cleared over my head, went to its full extent near the bow on port side, then started on its return trip aft. That's when I felt the burn on the back of my neck from the cord running across it. I turned to my right to see how the line was recoiling to see that (thankfully) it was looping away from me, since if it had looped the other way I would have easily been decapitated and unable to share this very cool story with you all.

We all turned to see what had caused the commotion, and it was an amazing sight. Since we had slow rollers and the rising sun behind us, we could clearly see the silhouetted monster - a 4'-5' bull mahi with a head that appeared to be nearly a foot from bottom lip to the top - just sitting still as can be, apparently eyeing us with either disdain or disappointment, I'm not sure which. My guess is that he ran in the 60# range, but could have potentially topped 70#. He must have hit that lure (the pink & blue) at over 30 mph!

Soon thereafter I drank my first beer of the trip, followed by several more, and then a ritual shaving of my head to symbolize...well, something about narrowly escaping death and having beers to celebrate (as well as to calm my nerves a bit).

We caught more fish along the way, and set a new speed record for the trip, and still have a few stories to tell beyond that...

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Mar 12, 2018
by: Danimal

...meant to say that I was "on the starboard side by myself". Makes the story a little more believable!

Mar 11, 2018
Mahi stories
by: Rich Longbeach

My favorite Mahi Mahi story (Dorado in Mexico,
Dolfin fish in the Atlantic) is about a friend/ big business man I took to Loreto, Mexico fishing saltwater for his first time. He taught me a valuable lesson, and before we even pushed our Pongas off the beach.
He tipped the guide $50.
Usually the guides are tipped no more than $20, and always at the end of the day.
He returned to the beach that afternoon with a 60 pound bull Dorado. Since then I always tip up front.

Dec 17, 2017
A risky business!
by: Dick McClary

Delighted you lived to tell us this tale Danimal - thank you!
Incidentally, have you seen my other website ?

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