Early November 2016 was a good time for big fish on the Ribbon Reefs. There had been a hot bite on Number 5 Ribbon with only a relatively small number of boats fishing the area, in very calm conditions. We enjoyed a relatively slow start to the day’s fishing with our clients from Hawaii after a big morning swim and spearfish (coral trout) behind the reef and had been out the front trolling for just over an hour. Already we had seen a few fish caught and were ready for our turn!
Fishing with us was Dan and Jada Holt (nee Van Mols) and Jada’s father Chip. Jada was our main marlin angler while husband Dan much prefers the other species (sport fish). But when the rod went off, Jada suggested Dan jump in the chair and catch one for a change. Jada may have briefly cursed her luck giving this fish to Dan as soon as we saw it on the first jump. It was a big one and Jada loves nothing more than catching big fish – she is an awesome angler in the chair!
Of course Dan has caught many marlin himself as well and is not one to get too caught up in the adrenaline rush so we were all pretty happy about being hooked up to a big one and backing down after it in calm seas, and I was getting plenty of photographs. Suddenly a second fish started jumping beyond our fist. At first it was headscratching what was happening, but as the second (much smaller) fish started a panicked horizontal series of jumps across the surface towards the boat, zooming past the transom and ending up back in the water on our port side, we quickly figured out exactly what was unfolding.
The smaller fish had hit the line underwater and spooked up and jumping and gotten caught up in the line in the display we had just seen.
Captain Luke quickly instructed Dan to back off on the drag but after some more frantic jumping, it was obvious he was now well wrapped up. Moments went by with the fish jumping past again in the other direction before settling back in under water. And then, after some erratic rod tip action (from the fish struggling in the line underwater) the line parted due to the damage the small fish caused and we watched our big fish jump off over the horizon.
It was pretty disheartening to lose this fish in this way. And while we’ve all heard of and seen small fish swim through and damage the line before – as often the big girls have groups of small males swimming with her – it was the first time for it to unfold so visually for us! And many combined years of experience on the boat were quite speechless afterwards as we reset the lines.
And we almost began to think of it as a very cool experience, until it happened again only days later!
This time Jada was on the rod herself and again we were all completely stunned when another small fish came up jumping in the line jumping in the opposite direction to the first, another big fish. This time after some very aerial and energetic jumps, it came untangled pretty easily and we collectively held our breaths to see if the line would hold. Jada fought that fish for 5.5 hours in the end, and the damaged area of line (quite visible) hovered tantalising off the rod tip on many occasions, but stayed connected.
And so that tale of how the fish ganged up to free each other!
Definitely one we won’t forget but luckily both incidents were caught on video – videos below.