Monday, September 17, 2007

Tagging Giants Down Under - #1 - The Search Begins

TAG scientist George Shillinger is back from his incredibly successful tagging expedition in New Zealand and is ready to share his adventures. Below is the first entry in his seven-part series.

After nearly ten days of waiting, the skies cleared and the seas calmed enough for us to brave the Greymouth Bar and run for the Hokitika Trench. A long-awaited high pressure front cleared the way for us and we raced to the docks intent to capitalize on this short-lived opportunity.

The captain and crew were abuzz with news – fresh reports of jumbo size tuna breaking rods and tearing up tackle in rough waters off the coast of Westport, more than 70 miles north of Greymouth. I arrived at our vessel, Cerveza (photo above), around 10:00 p.m. with Capitan Larry Johnson. The crew was working hard, rigging gear for the giant tuna, and preparing the boat for the 36 intense hours of fishing that awaited. The passengers had gathered in the galley, anxiously awaiting our departure.

The passengers comprised a crack team of local sportsfisherman from the “Greymouth Gourmet Guzzlers Group” (4Gs, see photo above). In their spare time, the Guzzlers were coinsurers of New Zealand’s finest wines, rich cheeses, and fresh game and seafood. The 4Gs had gathered for their first-ever crack at fishing giant bluefin tuna. They had heard tales from West Coast commercial fisherman and local charter boat captains and wanted to partake in the amazing bluefin action.

After giving our requisite safety briefing, Captain Larry Johnston headed for the wheelhouse, with Ian Boustridge (Beau), and I following him up to the second deck to witness our transit over the Greymouth Bar during high tide in the cloak of darkness. Although the waters had calmed significantly in the past few days, we rocked and rolled past the harbor mouth, over the Greymouth Bar and out into the big winter swells of the Southern Ocean. We were on our way at last – on a quest for giant tuna!

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