Gulf Exploration Mission (GEM) 2006 Port Fourchon, Louisiana, November 18-21 Captained by Steve Tomeny on the Caribbean Sea With varying wave forecasts up to 14 footers, we made the trip a go on Thursday morning and most all of the crew set out on the long drive to Fourchon with high hopes of a changing forecast and many drag-screaming events! McGolfer (Rick), North Texas Fiberglass (Michael), and I (Ragman) left Michael’s shop in Denton at 6:30 a.m. for the 11 hour drive to the boat. Michael offered to pull his enclosed trailer with his F-250 which enabled Rick to bring almost a tenth of his gear, and we still had room for mine and Michael’s gear. That truck pulled the trailer very well, and accommodated all of our extra coolers, rods and reels, gear bags, milk crates, bed rolls etc. We met Grescobia (John) near Alexandria, La. early in the afternoon, and knew that DrShark (Vance), DrFishalot (Vic), Neill were on the road. Deep Sea Gull (Tony), bighead (Bert), and jedi243 (Jeremy) rounded out this year’s crew. L to R: Tony, Vic, Neil, Rick, Vance, John, Michael: Around 6 p.m., everyone met up at Capt Tomeny’s bunkhouse to unload our gear and left at 7 p.m. to eat dinner at Griffin’s Family Seafood. I had the fried shrimp dinner and the best tea I’ve had in a long time. Back at the bunkhouse (across the street from the boat) by 9 p.m., we all caught up with each other, introduced the new people, and admired and discussed everyone’s gear. I made sure everyone knew that they could use at anytime all of the Ocean Tackle Int’l prototype rods, jigging and topwater, as well as the prototype topwater lures and flying fish we had brought for the trip. Rick had put Kaikon reels on the rods so that jigging and topwater fishing could be done easily. Look for the reports from the others to see how they did, but I think the 5 ½ and 6 foot jigging rods were a hit, the Sea Dragon topwater lure did really well, and the 7 foot spinner caught many tuna, but as suspected, we will strengthen that model to a true 50# blank before we offer it. There was a lot of concern that the boat wasn’t going to hold all of our gear, but I did my best charter master impression trying to keep everyone positive since we had not yet actually been on the boat yet! LOL I chalked it up to pre-trip excitement and the building anxiousness of just getting on the boat and departing! The Captain came over about 10:30 that night and we agreed to meet at 6 a.m. Saturday, load our gear and depart by 6:30. The boat was much bigger on the inside (so we had plenty of room), and I think that we are just getting used to how really large the Big E is compared to most head boats. The Caribbean Sea is a 65 footer that had 10 comfortable (long) bunks and except for enough rod holders, and the boat was laid out really well for this trip. Some had brought milk crates so we did have plenty of rod storage. We’d find out later how well she’d handle up to 12 foot seas, but we had almost 10,000 pounds of ice, 10 fisherman, 3 crew members, a butt-load of gear, and leaving at 7 a.m., a plan to make bait at 30 miles out then head towards the Greens Canyon area, with the Brutus floater the first stop. During our drive down to Fourchon, Rick was able to access the internet wave forecast sites and we knew Saturday through at least Sunday late morning was going to be fishable, but Sunday night on was not looking good at all. Though some forecasts called for 5-7’s, most called for 8-9’s and possibly 10-12’s Sunday afternoon and it might be REALLY blowing Monday a.m. The first bait stop didn’t do much, but we filled the tank quickly at the second buoy stop. Vic and Neill even had 6-7 hard tails each coming on a single sabiki drop! We left that buoy planning to arrive at the first floater around 3:30, 90 minutes before sunset, and troll the area until we would begin drifting. Nothing but cudas on the troll, so the Captain set up for drifts just as the sun set. We have to thank Frenzy Tackle for the huge box of Flying fish, Angry poppers, 80 and 60 pound fluorocarbon, sabikis, hooks, and especially for the Get Angry t-shirts that Capt Seaner supplied for us. Late into Sunday morning, the flying fish were THE only lure that had a chance of hooking up (2 ½ hour window)! Also, thanks to Granddad’s Tackle for the 2 spreader bars they sent for the trip! The great thing about this boat is that you had access to the full boat to fight your fish. The beam being almost 13 feet was great, but the bow was perfect for throwing topwater and surface iron too! Even with all 10 fishermen, we always had plenty of room and never felt crowded fishing or fighting or even sleeping. Jiggers and Chunkers stayed on the starboard side, while the topwater and surface iron guys fished from the port side. Everyone did a great team effort in tuna shuffling so that during the entire night, only 1 fish was lost due to a tangle. This was my first trip using a spinning rig for topwater and after the first night, I’m totally convinced that this is the best rig for chasing tuna with topwater lures. I used a Stella SW8000 with 65# solid spectra on a 7 foot GUSA Monster Mag blank that Txseadog wrapped for me. IMO, the perfect topwater rig for the Gulf! I had plenty of drag, rod pull to control the fish, and I could easily, without that much effort, cast my 1 ½ - 3 oz. lures past the lights into the darkness. My first tuna on this rig, about 65-70 #’s, came to gaff in about 7 minutes!!! After the tuna’s first drag-screaming run of about 90 yards, I dialed up the drag to about 22 lbs and just short-stroked the fish in. It was really amazing and I was not as worn out as usual. That tuna hit an OTI’s topwater lure called the Sea Dragon. The lure’s 4x hooks are attached to swivels which are all linked with steel wire thru, perfect out of the box. Tony had not hooked up yet late into the night, so I offered him the OTI Sea Dragon that was green/white with black tiger stripes as the “magic bait”, LOL! Tony No Catch: There was something special about that lure because every time I saw him coming down the rail from the bow after that, he was hooked up and bowed over fighting nice yellow fins! Later that night/morning, when the YFT’s would only hit live flyers, just as the bite started to turn on, I got hooked up on 3 consecutive casts, but all 3 came unbuttoned. I believe that lure caught 6 or 7 yellow fins (four different guys) before the trip ended. Tony Catch: We made multiple drifts past that rig and we caught Yellow fin tuna on every pass! Some drifts were too close to the rig and some started on the wrong side, but the Captain was working these areas because he had marked many big fish there during our trolling session when we first arrived. He had marked a large sea mount rising from the bottom, 1040 meters, to about 200 meters from the surface and that’s where we picked up the tuna that stayed with us during our drifts. All but about 2 or 3 people had caught yellow fin before midnight, but only about 13 or 14 black fin were caught the entire night. Pesky barracuda were there as well as a couple of nice dorado and a huge rainbow runner too, but only 1 shark! Those cudas were responsible for some head-only tuna coming on board. Around 2 a.m., we set up for what would be the last drift, but for some reason, the yellow fin stayed with us until sunrise!!! We were catching them on topwater (GT’s, Surface cruisers, flying fish, Angry poppers etc), chunk (the biggest tuna were caught this way up to 90 lbs by Rick), live flyers, surface iron, swim baits occasionally, and even a woodchopper by John! John is one of the most flexible fishermen I’ve ever fished with! He would catch a YFT on iron, then immediately switch to topwater, or swim bait, or chunk, then after catching another tuna, switch to a live flyer! It seemed he was always hooked up with a fish! I even held his line one time for him on the bow, so he could undo a backlash with a fish on! When he got the fish to the gaff, we were amazed that he had caught two tuna, black fin and yellow fin, on one jig, each on a separate assist hook! LMAO Back to the tuna staying with us. We constantly saw them around the boat cruising like sharks, breaching, or hunting flyers. The captain never had to make another drift because we had a ton of yellow fin with us that last 5 hours. We could see them right next to the boat, busting flyers almost past the lights, cruising and jumping outside the lights, it was really amazing. But, they became solely focused on live flyers around 3 a.m. They were so picky that the crew stopped chumming and focused only on getting flyers for each of the fishermen still up that late. If you had a live flyer, you were guaranteed of a hook up, guaranteed! Whether you got the yellow fin to the boat was up to you. Many came unbuttoned, had line breaks, had knot breaks, or reel malfunctions. At about 4:30, with only about 2-3 fishermen, I was trying to get Neill his first yellow fin. He had lost a couple due to line breakage, but the crew was still hunting a flyer for him. I’m rigging up a new bait, when I look down and at my feet is the fattest, liveliest flyer ever! I scoop him up and hand him to Neill. I had told him to add a ¼ oz rubber core sinker about 8 feet up his line and he took the flyer and sent him off. We saw many tuna immediately swim up to it, but shy off we guess because they saw the hook. But once the flyer drifted outside the lights, I think about 125 yards, hook up! Neill fought this one for about 45 minutes, but finally saw color and both deckhands sank a gaff into a nice 65-70 pound yellow fin! Neill was tired, but I think happy. Michael was the genius of that early morning slow pick. He rigged up a Frenzy flyer and instead of blind casting, he waited to see the yellow fin chasing/busting flying fish. He immediately cast as close to the explosion as possible and almost every time, he hooked up and the drag was screaming! Brilliant! I’m sure he’ll tell more in his report, but that was the best thing I learned this trip, especially during a picky bite. Instead of tiring yourself out with all that blind casting, focus on seeing, then casting to, blow ups while “matching the hatch”. Sunday morning light came and since the weather reports kept getting worse, we decided to make a move north for the day, while trolling, to a rig in about 250 meters of water. Captain Tomeny had caught tuna at this rig before, but it would give us some time to rest, heal some bumps and bruises that some had gotten from falling and/or fighting big fish, and check the forecasts again. During the 2 ½ hour troll to the next rig, besides a couple of barracuda, nothing knocked down the spread. We were trolling in solid 5-6’s, but not sure that had anything to do with it. Vance was adamant in watching the spread. As he put it, “We’re in the middle of where it happens, if it’s happening!”. I slept for the first time since we departed, and the pitching of the boat while in a soft bunk made for fine shut eye. We tied to the rig for some AJ drops, but the trips lone shark was all that anyone caught. I slept more here, but Vance woke me as it was time to determine where to go or what to do next. I saw most everyone was asleep as I made my way up top to discuss with Captain Tomeny. The forecast for Sunday night into Monday morning had worsen to possible 10-12’s and I made the call to head in. As disappointed as I was, I knew many of the others would be disappointed just as much. But, it was the right call. We had a few guys that really took a banging Saturday night and early Sunday morning. In the boxes were 29 yellow fin tuna from 40#-90#s, dorado, and one rainbow runner, so we almost limited out on YFT during the one nights full fishing (not counting boat limit). All but one person had boated a great yellow fin, especially Bert who on his first trip finally, after many frustrating misses, boated a beautiful 60ish YFT on a flyer. Though the boat could have handled 12 footers, there was too great a risk to fish that night at the floater, especially after the crew had stayed up all night with us on Saturday without any sleep. The Captain refunded 1/3 of our trip cost, plus unused fuel and did not charge us for the second night’s use of the bunkhouse. Captain Tomeny, besides Capt Frank, is one of the best Captains I’ve fished with. He’s a genuinely nice guy, easily accessible, easy going, and treated his crew extremely well. Matt and Lane were the best deckhands we’ve ever experienced! These young guys were knowledgeable, had great attitudes, anticipated what we needed, kept a great chum line going, while also hunting live flying fish so hard that it put DrShark’s first trip Big E’s efforts to shame! LMAO! We did not lose even one fish to missed gaffing and I think they really had fun fishing with us. That’s what they said anyway. Good luck to Matt on getting your Captain’s liscense in the next few months! We want to thank Texas Outdoor Organizers and Willie for all of their efforts to make this trip happen. You all don’t know how tough it is to first find 8-10 people that will commit to a 3 day trip, send deposit money, and then have to find a boat with a crew (and open date) to accommodate us and what we want to do. Everything came off without a hitch, except the weather. There are always ‘things’ unforeseen that are and will happen on open as well as charter trips. But it’s how the group pulls together to work through all of it that makes these trips great. Michael, Bert, John, Jeremy (new nickname is Rainman –he’s a numbers savant), and Vance were all first timers to the GEM trip and each had a great attitude, learned, but also taught things, and more than pulled their weight to make the trip, in my mind, a great success. Not only the fish that we caught, but the new friends and fishing buddies made as well. I'll post the rest of the pics in the next reply.