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Six of us fished the deep water floaters on the Akela out of Freeport Aug 25-29, 2003 and caught 60+ yellowfin (boxed 8 and release the rest with tags in 40 of them), 150+ blackfin (most released with only about 25 boxed or used for bait for YFT) and 2 billfish.

Live bait was almost a guaranteed bite but worked best on straight tie 40-50# line when the fish were on top and with an ounce or so of weight when the fish were hold deep. Chunks rigged the same way also worked well. In either case make sure that you don't use offset circles (Owner, Hayabusa) because they will hook deep and then pull later in the fight. We had great success with Mustad demons and Eagle Claw 2004/2005 in the 5/0 and 6/0 sizes. We also used diamond jigs and iron when the fish were holding deep and big poppers when they were chasing bait on top.

Trip down.
Arrive at Tex's house about 15-20 minutes early Sunday morning to find his huge pile-o-stuff sitting in and around the back of his truck. After a quick pic for Ragman and a little rearranging of my stuff everything is loaded in my truck and we are on our way to the coast.

Make it to Rick's storage shed about 4:00 after stopping for a few last minute items at BPS in Katy and some epoxy for Rick's SSI cooler in Lake Jackson. Rick is packing his tackle bag and TJ is working on Rick's boat and patching the cooler while we discuss the plans for trip and BS for a couple hours. Meet DBG at the hotel about 6:15 and then all 6 of us pile into Rick's truck for dinner at Willie Joes. We decided to run by the marina to see if the Akela was back in the water -- the owner called Tex on the way down to tell him that they had pulled the boat because there was slight vibration on Saturday. Back to the hotel for a little tackle rigging and then everyone tried to go to sleep but I don't think any of us really got into a deep sleep because of the anticipation.

Day One.
Up at 6:00 for a shower and breakfast then Tex and I go grocery shopping while Earl, Rick, and TJ head back the Rick's shed to pack all their stuff into Rick's truck. Meet everyone back at the shed and after a couple of more stops for some ballyhoo and pogies we get to the marina at 10:30 to find the Akela still fueling up. We spend about 30-45 minutes trying to catch some live bait with a cast net to past time until the boat pulls back into the slip. Then we started the chore of loading all our tackle on the boat. About half way through the crew started to become a little nervous and you can see the look of what are we going alll this SH* in Ed's face.

Leave the dock about 3:00 and finally make to the first stop about 8:30 or 9:00 to find live flyers all over the place. We boat a few blackfin on iron for chunks and then start testing different methods for YFT. I pinned a live flyer on a ringed mutu on my 50# outfit and get bit almost immediately by what felt like a good YFT only to have the hook pull after minute or so. NO more offset circle for me so I replace the mutu with a 6/0 mustad demon circle and start chunking. I caught a one or two blackfin but start to feel green so go lie down in the salon and don't fish much more that night. It had been over a year since I had been offshore but the seas where all most flat calm so I think it must have been more psychological than physical. I went an crawled in my bunk about 2:00 and didn't wake up until Tex asked me to take over the troll rotation.

Day Two:
After Tex wakes me up I decide the he*# with being sick so I strap on my relief band and go sit in the fighting chair to watch the trolling spread about 9:00. Trolling is uneventful until we come across a very large pod of porpoises (acres of them, hundreds if not thousands) which stay with the boat for a few minutes. Not long after the porpoises wander off we see a whale but it sounds when we get a 100 yards or so from it. About 11:00 we see another whale and this one stays up and lets us get fairly close and circle around it. I abandon the fighting chair and grab my camera to take a few pictures. After circling it for 5 minutes or so I put down my camera just to take in nature's show and it decides to sound so I miss the fluke shot. Back to trolling jail until about 12:30 or 1:00 when the rest of the group wakes up and we fix some sandwiches for lunch. Not thirty minutes after I get out of the chair a rod goes off and TJ jumps into the chair a gets a small white marlin.

The rest of the day trolling was uneventful until we get to the Auger rig about dusk. Lobster ravioli for supper and then some serious fishing. I have only landed one or two fish at this point so I start chunking with a passion with my 50# rig and almost immediately land a good blackfin. While Tex, TJ, and DBG try to get the kite flying I land my first YFT -- a tough one of about 50#. They give up on the kite after about 30 and break out the balloon rig but the boat's helium tank is empty so Tex sets up his swordfish drop. I pick up a small blackfin on iron but decide try casting a popper on my spinning rod (Penn 850SS and GF700H that I had wrapped for the trip) when I see fish boiling at the edge of the lights. Since we were planning on releasing fish I had replaced the trebles on the popper with one 8/0 mustad live bait on the rear. On the first 8 casts I boated 5 blackfin and a 45# Yft. Tex walks by as I'm taking a break and I convince try my new rod. After a couple of cast he boats a 15-20# blackfin and that was enough of the coffer grinder for him. I switch between the spinner and my 50# rig the rest the night and catch fish on poppers, iron, chunks, live flyers, and a couple of live squirts (squid caught in the flying fish nets). I think I had the hot stick that night and ended releasing 5 YFT (3 of the 40-50# grade and 2 in the 65-70# range) and a 15 or so blackfin.

Day Three:
Start the day trolling slowing trolling 2 jumbo hardtails that were caught during the night on the marlin rods right after sunrise. My bait was swiped by one of Auger's resident barracuda but TJ landed the one that ate his bait.

Had some of the French toast that Capt Dennis made for breakfast, shower and then hit the rack for some sleep. Wake up about mid-afternoon to find Rick watching the trolling spread so I eat some lunch -- chopped beef sandwich. About 4:00 Rick yells HOOKUP and we run outside to watch him crank in a barracuda on one of the Marlin rods.

Since I'm still tired from fishing all night I go back to bed to be ready to do it again. While I'm sleeping the 650+# blue marlin jumps off and Rick lands his 80# white. Get up about 6:30 and walk outside and see we are trolling around semi-submersible rig. Tex says look and points at the rig. I'm still in a little bit of a daze and say, yeah it's a rig. Then he says read the name and I then realize why he so excited it is Ensco 7500. On the way down we had talked about trying to get the captain to hit this rig since gets very little pressure but thought they would reject the idea since it's about 220 miles from Freeport.

We start the real fishing when the trolling spread comes in and the cockpit is cleared. Flyers are a little harder to come by since the only ones we are seeing are being blasted by tuna so I start fishing chunks on my 50# rig and pick up a couple of good sized blackfin. One of the crew offers me a live flyer which I pinned on an almost immediately get bit. A few minutes into the battle I'm convinced that I have a better grade of fish since I'm 50 yards or so into the spectra and the fish is going deep. After 10-15 minutes of some serious cranking I have the fish at deep color but he sees the boat and takes me back down into the spectra again. Another 10-15 minutes of cranking the fish is finally at the boat and I call for the tag. After the tag is planted he takes about 30 yards of line and starts circling again. A few more minutes goes by before I get him back up to the boat and the line is cut releasing all 70# of very athletic muscle. Go fill out the info for the tag and take a hard earned break before picking up another blackfin and a 65# YFT that comes to the boat with very effort. Since we had decided that everyone would kill a fish tonight I box my first fish of the trip. It intrigues me that some these cookie cutter fish fought so much hard than others, I guess some them just have a stronger will to live.

After going back to the rig to start another drift I break out the spinner to try the popper again. Land a blackfin or two on the popper then hookup with another athletic YFT that really put on a show and made me wish I had my TLD20II instead of the 850SS. For the first 2 minutes of the fight it stayed on the top of the water just going crazy and then went deep. Twenty minutes of hard pulling gets the fish to the boat for release it but have a little miscommunication with Captain Dennis and he sticks a gaff in it. Realizing that the spinner is not the idea tool for these fish I put it up for the rest of the night in favor of a Kaikon 4000 with 40# for casting poppers.

Take a break and have a dinner egg rolls, fried cheese sticks and taquitos then check on TJ and DBG who are on the bow casting poppers and iron. TJ bows up on a good YFT which he fights from the one side to the other and then down to the cockpit. Since the fish was only hooked by a single hook in the rear we were able to release it by putting the gaff in the bend of the hook and popping it out, however, in our excitement we forgot to tag the fish.

Later Tex, TJ, and I are on the bow casting poppers when we notice a pallet drifting toward the boat. Someone yells out that it is holding bait so we all race to back of the boat to tie on bait rigs. While Tex puts on a sabiki and me a speck rig (we did know the type of bait it was holding) one of the deckhands dips up a small tripletail and a couple of small trigger fish. We get back to bow about the time the pallet is drifting away from the boat but a lot of the bait stays with with us. Tex quickly gets a small hardtail and puts down the sabiki rod to put it on his 40# rig. I pick up his sabiki rod since I'm not catching anything on the speck rig and land a couple more hardtails while TJ gets a bucket for temporary livewell. TJ pins on a hardtail and gets a blackfin while I let one drift out and continue to make bait. About the time TJ gets back to the bow we see a bunch of fish run through the bait and my drift line gets bit. I hand the bait rod to TJ then start fighting my fish but I hear TJ say "O crap" and see his rod bowed up. When I ask what's wrong he tells me a YFT just bit the jig that was be used for a weight so there he is with 20# line on Ambassador 7000 with a the sabiki rig and a YFT on a jig. I had my own problems so I have to leave him to fend for himself but it breaks off a few minutes later. I tag and release another YFT then start making bait again. It was another good night for me with 4 or 5 YFT, about 10-12 blackfin, and about 20 or so pieces of bait. Exhausted I crash in the salon.

Day four:
Wake to find Tex, TJ and Earl slow trolling hardtails around the rig. By the time I get down to the cockpit Tex is fighting a fish and Earl is caught in the props. Tex lands his fish and tells me Ed keeps putting the boat in reverse and sucking the lines in the props. I know how to prevent that and make a long cast to get my bait away for the boat. I get another tough 65# YFT and lose the last live bait to a barracuda. In 30 minutes or so of slow trolling Tex and I both got an YFT, Earl had a large blackfin, Tex had two other strikes and TJ and I both lost a bait to barracuda -- who says tuna fishing is better at night.

Tex and TJ fix ultimate breakfast sandwich for breakfast, take a shower, and then hit the rack while we start trolling back to west. Wake about 2:00 and have a sandwich for lunch and peel about 5 pounds of shrimp that Ed provided for supper. Trolling is uneventful so we pull in the lines for awhile to run a little faster to make to Hoover/Diana by dark. Put the trolling spread back in about an hour before dark while Tex fixed a wonderful supper of shrimp scampi, grilled tuna, pan seared dolphin, wild rice, and sauteed zucchini.

The seas have picked up when we arrive at HD about 8:00 but we have high hopes of putting some fish in the box to take home. Unfortunately, the fishing is dead except for a few blackfin that where caught on diamond jigs. Ed agrees to move to Nancen when TJ asks about 9:00. Since its 2 hours away a couple of us take a nap. There is a little more life at Nancen and we boxed few more black on iron and live flyers. The seas are continuing to build and about 2:00 we tie up to the supply that is on the mooring buoy. We pick up a few more fish (Tex got the only two YFT of the night) and then head home about 5:00. Arrive at the dock about 11:30 and start the carnival of unloading. The rest of the group goes to Rick’s shed while Tex and I wait for the fish to be cleaned.
Rendezvous at the shed to divide the fish and start the trip home about 2:00

In summary it was a still very good trip even though we didn't get to fish like we wanted in the daytime. Tex, TJ, Rick, Earl and DBG are great group of guys to fish with and just be around. The boat and crew were great and I would fish with them again after tournament season.

** edited 08/16/2007 for typos
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