Shannon’s Scrapbook: Adventures in the Equatorial Pacific, Part II

by

Shannon O'Donnell

It’s well known around here that Brent Cannon is our resident fisherman. His idea of a good time is trekking out into the middle of Timbuktu in a pair of hip-waders and fly-fishing away a perfectly good autumn afternoon (while Laura smartly passes her time with a good facial, no doubt). I’m NOT much of a fisherwoman myself, but I do have ONE fish tale to pull out of the vault that might even rival some of Brent’s. I have the pictures to back it up.

It’s July 1995, and I’m still in the middle of the Equatorial Pacific aboard the NOAA ship Discoverer (see my previous blog). I had hoped to see a lot of oceanic wildlife on my six week journey, but other than a small pod of pilot whales that visited our ship on the second or third day, sea life sightings were few and far between. While whales and dolphins eluded me, I was able to get up close and personal with a few FISH.

Between stops at the various NOAA buoys, the crew would ‘anchor up’ the ship to allow for some sport fishing. Many of the guys were pros, yanking Mahi Mahi out of the sea by the dozens. The mahi were fairly easy to reel in, but once on deck, they fought for their lives. It was hard to watch these gorgeous, shimmery blue-green fish with the big doe eyes thrashing around all over the place–I forever have a different view of mahi as a result.

But watching the guys catch tuna was easier to stomach. Now THIS was a sport–the tuna are much harder to coax onto a line in the first place, and once they bite, the ride begins. Unlike the mahi, which didn’t fight too hard until already pulled out of the sea, the tuna would bite a line, then race in a panic as fast and hard as they could go, deep into the ocean below. The guys’ reels would be spinning like crazy, and the battle to pull in the 50 to 80 pound fish would seem to go on forever. Both fish and fisherman would lay lifeless in exhaust and defeat after the fight, no matter who had won. I had no problem taking in THIS fish fight–watching these mighty 200 pound fisherman sweat and pull and give it their all in the pursuit of tonight’s supper was pure entertainment!

So you probably know what’s coming next… one of the guys coaxed me into giving it a try. “It’s easy! All you have to do is hold on!” Of course I succumbed to the pressure, and took over a line that was already submerged. Not a minute had gone by before I felt a strong tugging on the line. Wow, the strength of whatever was on the other end practically pulled me overboard! I held on for as long as I could, but whatever had bitten the bait was REALLY giving me a go. I insisted that I absolutely could not hold on any longer, so the guy smirked and took back over his line. The patronizing didn’t last long, as this feisty fish practically pulled him over the side of the ship too. “See!? I told you it was a big one!”

Two guys were required to pull the giant fish up onto the ship, and it turned out that ‘my’ tuna was almost as big as me! Weighing in at just over 100 pounds it was by far the biggest tuna pulled in on the excursion. Not in personal need of three dozen rounds of sushi, I donated my fish to the ship, and we enjoyed a big tuna BBQ later that night. Delicious. And much better than what I’d find myself ingesting later on the trip stay tuned for round III of my Adventures in the Equatorial Pacific. Sorority hazing has nothing on what you go through when crossing the equator for the first time!

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

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