Now for my final take following our last morning of fishing spent hauling up a modest amount of delicious vermillion rock cod to our anglers delight. The beautiful weather that has followed our every step this voyage continues as we head for home, now a few hours away.
At 0700 hours tomorrow, we will arrive at Fisherman's Landing as the second of four boats arriving from ten day voyages. What anglers and spectators will witness tomorrow and Sunday is the largest catch of two hundred pound class yellowfin ever taken in such a short period of time by the San Diego long range fishing fleet. Transoms will be full of giant yellowfin standing on end, tails flying proudly in the air, as triumphant symbols of our expertise in this venue. Photos will be taken, brass bands will play (just kidding), and the atmosphere will be alive with pride as skippers crank trophy after trophy up on the scales displaying weights indicating the overwhelming success of the best voyages they have run in their lives.
Let me say that I have participated many times in similar scenarios and relished every moment as well as the memories I carry from my younger days in long range fishing when the trophies we caught were symbols of success with little value when the scale was lowered and the fish dragged across the concrete to waiting processing venues.
Evolution has changed our business on Royal Star as well as several other progressive vessels in this fleet who have realized that with a little education and a huge amount of effort a premium quality product, far different from brine frozen, cannery grade tuna, is possible on our vessels. Of course this is old news to many as "RSW" has almost become a household name in regions familiar with long range fishing, but I am still amazed at times that many individuals in our area are unaware that we are handling these present catches as such. When Royal Star backs in tomorrow you will not see a rack of thirty or forty brine frozen yellowfin standing on their tails two or three deep, rigid as steel, across our transom. That is because of the ninety one beautiful, one hundred fifty to two hundred ninety pound yellowfin tuna on our vessel at present, only twenty were committed to our brine tank before the remaining tanks were dedicated to RSW storage. As such we will return tomorrow with the vast majority of our catch in the most incredible, premium condition possible ready for sashimi, fresh seared, or prepared fresh to one's taste.
What I have to say regarding this amazing load of fish is that this Royal Star crew, who are the finest assembly of capable, dedicated, professional, hard working young men I have worked with in twenty two years in fishing, have taken the level of service on a long range vessel to heights previously unknown. Think of it: wide open fishing, ten giant yellowfin hooked simultaneously requiring razor sharp senses and team work; all hands on deck. As the incredible action unfolds, both galley men, well acquainted with the mechanics of keeping lines clear and swinging a gaff, join the action on deck lending a needed hand and tip the equation back in favor of the crew who were almost to the point of no return; "on the ropes" as we like to say. With the crew in full swing, giant yellowfin begin coming over the rail, slowly at first, then in two's and three's as the crew gets on top of the action and begins "putting the wood to them" as the saying goes.
To take a step back, in the "good old days" of long range fishing a giant yellowfin hitting the deck undoubtedly meant one thing - a bloody spectacle typically initiated by a crewmen wielding a baseball bat bludgeoning the vanquished beast's head to a pulp to prevent an out of control, potentially dangerous flapping episode as the creature awakens on deck. Definitely effective, the bludgeoning approach unfortunately missed the sweet spot on occasion (although you'd never know by appearance) temporarily stunning the fish but failing to prevent the inevitable eruption later. Next, the fish was haplessly heaved into the brine well, slamming down amongst it's frozen brethren to settle into the form it displays when again exposed. I know we were young back then and the glory of the kill was hot in our veins, but I can't help but marvel at our primitive approach when today's alternative is much more effective and produces a tremendous difference in the quality of the fish.
Even when the fishing is red hot, this crew maintains premium quality, professional fish handling standards, spiking every fish with a thin metal pith as it is gently laid on deck, then follows the spike with a thin metal wire threaded down the spinal column to deaden the nerve endings firing along the spine. While this process is taking place, the fish is also bled then allowed to rest five to ten minutes as the blood drains from the rugged muscle tissue leaving a delicate premium product behind. Finally after the fish is weighed on our scale located on the stern (if assessed at two hundred pounds), it is dressed out (gilled and gutted), and thoroughly cleaned before being quickly immersed in the RSW tanks maintained at twenty eight to thirty degrees until the product is unloaded into the dock side slush totes or carts.
Ten, even five years past I would not have believed producing this premium quality product was possible as the amount of organization and effort required to accomplish this demanding process was simply beyond my imagination. Keep in mind this process is all taking place while order is being maintained and astonishing feats are occurring at the rail. But today this crew of Captain Brett Rouintree, Captain Sean Bickel, Captain Brian Cook, Joey Conrad, Steve Gregonis, newest Royal Star crewman Moses Milton, and the galley team of Executive Chef Tommy Zee, Chef Drew Rivera, and Eduardo Vargas handle the demands like professionals with, using an old cliché, the precision of a well oiled machine.
Yes, the purpose of this report is to indulge in more self promotion; I feel the present Royal Star crew is literally unmatched in their overall ability and performance in the field of long range fishing, but it is also to convey my sincerest thanks and appreciation to these young men who deserve incredible recognition for the standards they have pioneered in this industry. Thank you guys from both Randy and I.
If you are not busy tomorrow morning the Royal Star crew would be ecstatic to see you at the dock watching this historic morning unfold. Come see the fish and see for yourselves what I am promoting. We hope to see you there.
Royal Star crew 2005