The weather in mid-July looked perfect for some fishing. Sunny skies, hot temperatures, light winds some of the time, and according to Francis Wertheimber and Vassili Ermakov, our two skippers for the fishing trip (photo link below), high water temperatures. This, and the high latitude of the Kuroshio meant the fish would be near the surface, all manner of fish- marlin, tuna, barracuda, yellowtail, skipjack, saba… Sounded perfect. But as the week of July 15th began, a typhoon was approaching Kyushu. As the days passed the effect of the typhoon brought cold air in from the north and east and by Thursday evening, temperatures in the Tokyo area had dropped to the low 20’s, a fall of some 12 degrees from the Wednesday high. Additionally, the Kuroshio had shifted 50 miles to the south, meaning the warm waters brought north along the current were no longer reaching our fishing grounds. Ugg. Cool temperatures, rain, and moderate breezes were now forecast for our day fishing on the water. It didn’t look good.
Email started to dribble in from the invited members Friday morning expressing concern with the weather. “Too early to make a weather decision?”, wrote one. “Folks – we are still on for tomorrow, right?”, asked another. Then came, “Unlike us, fish do not mind getting wet, so as long as fish are biting, rain or no rain, I assume the fishing expedition is on.” Then the definitive message from Vassili arrived:
“I believe that all of our team accepts the possibility and consequences of getting wet. So, see you all tomorrow at 08:00 at Velasis. Just to remind you, Mary-Jane is an open fly bridge boat with an awning. So if it’s even a small rain you will get wet unless you stay down in the cabin.”
It was decided. Mary-Jane III, with her zipper down, was going regardless. Francis quickly picked up on Vassili including the word “team” in his message and quickly followed up with:
“Diva would like to challenge Mary-Jane for after-fishing beers and pizza at the harbour.
The rest of the invitees responded quickly saying they would be in Velasis by 0800h. The amazing thing is that they all were. (As the organizer, I was particularly happy with this.)
The teams separated at the bottom of the gangway leading down to the docks and went off in opposite directions. Gerry Brady, Eugen and Suzuko Mall, Warren and Rumiko Fraser followed Vassili to Mary-Jane III, a 36′ Yamaha sport fishing boat, while Tony Whitman, Wolfgang Bierer, Jeff Canaday, and Demir Sadikoglu and his partner Naoko followed Francis to Diva, another 36′ Yamaha sport fishing boat, where Masayo, Francis’ wife, was preparing for departure. Once aboard Mary Jane, we were given PFDs and quickly got under way on gray waters under grey skies, heading south past Kurihama and then Kenzaki Point. For an hour we sped along at 22 knots until we reached a point on the water about 10 miles off the north-west corner of Oshima. Francis had called in to say the water temperature was 23 degrees. Here there might be fish.
After bringing Mary-Jane to a stop, Vassili descended from the fly bridge to rig up four rods. The fishing lines from the outer two rods were run up long aluminum poles called outriggers which were then lowered from the near vertical to almost 50 degrees to get the lines as far out to the side of the boat as possible and help keep the four lines separate as the lures move through the water. The lines from the inner two were set directly off the stern of the boat. We then began to troll, motoring along at about 7 knots, with everyone’s gaze fixed on the distant lures 20 to 30 meters off the stern. We headed east for a spell, then we headed south. We returned to an eastern heading then swung around to the south again. Then again to the east and the south and the east yet again. The fish were clearly not going east and south. At this point we all felt the bite of excitement when our skipper, looking astern unexpectedly pointed the bow north and then west and Jerry cracked open the first beer. We’d been patiently waiting for this moment for two and a half hours. Eugen mentioned something about how the sun, if we could see it, would likely be above the yard arm. Time to slake our thirst. We continued on like this for a while- the fishing, not the drinking and we were beginning to have our doubts. Four lines in the water for almost three hours and not a single bite. Not a fin. Not a splash. Nothing to indicate we were swimming with the fishes.
At approximately 1130h, Francis called again on the VHF to tell us the fish had gone deep and there was nothing out there. He’d been experiencing the same frustrations aboard Diva and decided it was time to head home. Vassili agreed. We quickly reeled in the lures and hooks, furled the outriggers, and set course north toward Velasis Marina. Naturally we all felt a bit dejected. The opportunity to big-game fish south of Tokyo was a unique experience and it was really too bad no one on either boat got to feel the thrill of reeling in a fish.
We were soon back at the docks. Diva was in slings getting hauled out of the water and dropped into her boatyard cradle when her quiet crew came over to Mary-Jane and together the twelve of us commiserated with one another over beer and wine, all saying how nice it was to simply get out on the water, in spite of not catching even a glimpse of a fish and the cool, gray weather. And we were right. It was nice, but catching a fish would have made it just that much better. I hope we get a chance sometime to do it all over again, when the fish don’t go deep.
Here are pictures from the fishing trip
On behalf of everyone who participated, I’d like to thank our hosts Vassili Ermakov and Francis and Masayo Werthiember for their generosity and time and patience.