Wheelhouse Tales. “The Kelp Whale”

We arrived offshore at grey light on the first day, of a two day trip.  Very nice family on board the “RailTime” including the husband, wife and kids.  Just as the sun gets bright enough for me to break out the gyros, I spot a big kelp.  We are below San Clemente Island, just outside the 43.  As we slide up upwind of the kelp to set up the drift, about a million dorado attack the boat.  “Bitchen!”

My Deckhand Brett Rouintree and I are on deck, pinning on baits, casting them, and hooking/handing fish off to everyone on board.  It’s a blast, with all the typical craziness that goes along with a WFO dorado bite.  I tell Brett to start counting, so we don’t go over the limit of 10 fish per person.  That’s 80 fish if you include Brett and I.  At 36 fish it shuts off.  I never know why it does this, but the fish just decided to stop biting.  We slow trolled, tried much lighter line, and smaller hooks.  We even tried chunking baits with small hooks, with no love.

So I punched in the numbers, and looked at the track on the plotter to see where the kelp was going.  The plan was to put the jigs out and look   for another kelp, and come back to this one if we did not find a new one.  Brett cleaned the deck, and put the fish on ice.  The passengers were super stoked, and waited eagerly by the bait tank and looking forward forward to more of what was some really fun fishing.  I looked hard for a couple hours, and never found a new kelp, or got a jig bite.  I announced to the passengers that we were heading back to our pot of gold, the original kelp.  They again waited on deck, ready for round two.

By the time I got to the area where the kelp “should be”, the wind had picked up quite a bit, and I knew finding our original salad would be a challenge.  I put the sun at my back, and tacked back and forth for over an hour.  The passengers had grown bored, and were sitting in the salon in front of the TV.  The stress began to get to me.  The plotter looked like an Etch-a-Sketch, all blacked out.  I looked way downwind, and all the way back up to where we first found the kelp.  Nothing.

Brett was sitting next to me on the bridge, and we hadn’t said a word to each other in what seemed like an eternity.  Frustrated, I decided to call it quits and head for San Clemente Island for some calico bass and yellowtail, before the sun went down.  I looked at Brett, asked him “did you see that kelp whale this morning?”  “No.  What’s a kelp whale?”  He asked.  I explained to him that “a kelp whale eats kelp, and I think I saw one this morning.  They are really rare and a major problem in cases like this, because they eat the kelp AND all the fish under it.”  I waited for the laugh, but it never came.  Brett got up, and walked off the bridge to address the passengers, “Listen up gang, the Captain saw a kelp whale this morning, and it probably found our kelp and ate it!  Damn things eat the fish under the kelps too.  We hate those things, but there is nothing we can do now.  So, we are heading to San Clemente Island for the afternoon bite.”  I was dumbfounded.

I kept quiet, and waited for one of the passengers to come up and call me out, but it never happened.  I never said a word to Brett.  I felt it was too late, and he might get pissed that I had straight flambuzzled him.

At the end of the next day, we were back at the dock offloading the group and getting ready to clean the boat.  We had regulars that came by whenever we got in from a trip, and the relief deckhand Taylor was there too, to help out.  Someone asked “so, how was the trip?”  Before I  could speak Brett was off and running his mouth, “We found this epic kelp and were on our way to limits when a giant kelp whale came out of nowhere and ate the damn thing!  It was unbelievable!”  Not only had Brett believed my BS, but had added his own twist to the tale.  Everyone started to laugh hysterically when they saw me lose it behind Bretts back.  I could not hold it back any longer, and literally dropped to my knees with laughter.  Good thing the passengers were already gone.

After a couple years I signed all of Bretts sea time letters and he got his ticket, then went on to work on the Royal Star.  Brett now owns a commercial Albacore jig/bait boat that fishes the outer waters off Oregon, by way of San Diego.  Whenever I get the chance to talk to him I always end the conversation with “nice talking to you buddy and remember, watch out for those kelp whales.”  In which his typical reply is “screw you man, that’s messed up.”  I still wonder if those passengers ever figured out that there is no such thing as kelp whales.

“Watch out for Kelp Whales Brett!”

Kelp Whale Brett and his albacore jig boat.


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