by Gordon Chan
From the Editor: Gordon Chan is a new Federation member who lives in California. He has been blind since the age of four but resisted being around other blind people because he thought he was too busy being a husband, a father, and a businessman. He joined due to the persistence of a friend and his own reluctantly acknowledged conviction: “My helping is long overdue; I have been very fortunate, and it is time for me to give back.” On joining, he warned his chapter that they shouldn’t expect too much of him: “I’m pretty busy. I ski the second weekend of the month, which conflicts with your chapter meeting, so you’ll probably see me no more than four times a year.” That warning notwithstanding, Gordon now has willingly taken on the chairmanship of the sports and activities committee and the best in tech committee. He is also one of the most active members of the membership committee and the fundraising committee. “I guess you could say I went from zero to sixty pretty fast,” he says.
For those of us who aren’t familiar with some of the vocabulary, Gordon has helped with the definition of a few phrases: “awww, fresh one” means “I have hooked one.” “Fish on” and “hook up” mean the same thing. “Sawed off” means that the friction from another fisherman’s line has cut your line. Now, here is what Gordon has to say about his deep-sea fishing adventures:
The boat trolls, or pulls tuna feathers, and the anglers wait for the fishing reels to go off with their clickers screaming out an alarm. Suddenly, the corner rod goes off, and someone yells “Hook up.” All the fisherman grab their fishing rods, race to the bait tank, and start throwing out their lines with a sardine pinned to each hook. I am somewhat slower and at a severe disadvantage in selecting the choicest bait or finding an open spot in which to cast out. Another angler to my right yells out “fresh one.” My adrenalin starts to increase just being in the fray and having the opportunity to fish for tuna or yellowtail. I feel my bait begin to feed out and a slight tap; then my line begins to accelerate rapidly. This is a critical moment because, if I try to set the hook too soon, I will pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth. I put my reel in gear; feel the line go tight; lift my rod; and, as it begins to bend, I set the hook hard and fast. The initial pull of the bluefin bends my rod to its limit. The drag on my reel screams out an intoxicating whiz and hums as line is peeled off. I yell out “fish on.” My fish pulls me hard to the left, and the deck hand yells at me to move left and follow my fish. “Go over this guy, over another, and under the next,” he instructs.
My fish then decides to pull me to the right, and this dance will continue until I get him to the boat or he breaks off. I have been fighting my fish for about thirty minutes, and my hands are sore and tired. The end of the rod is jammed against my stomach, which is also beginning to become extremely sore. Another fisherman who is fighting his own fish tells me he needs to come under me, and, as I attempt to step back, my fish pulls hard, and I bump him hard on his back and mutter a quick apology. I feel a friction on my line and say, “I have a line on me.” The deck hand cuts the other person’s line, and I continue to fight the fish. I ask people around me, “Do you see color?”
Someone says, “You have deep color.” I ask the deck hand for the gaff, and he coaches me to stop reeling and lifts the beast onto the deck where I hear his tail flapping the deck. “That’s a nice one,” someone exclaims.
And my friend confirms this by saying, “What a beauty! That’s about a thirty-eight-pound bluefin.”
The action continues all around me as I hear another “hook up,” and “awwww, fresh one.”
The deck hand says, “You are clear, so grab another bait and get it out there.”
For the next three hours we are in a wide-open bite, and the entire boat is filled with running feet, flapping tails, and the laughter of happy anglers. Intermixed with the excitement are some groans of disappointment and outright cursing. I can tell that some fish are sawed off and others have broken the anguished angler’s line. Tuna fishing is among the most challenging, and bluefin can be some of the most line shy or finicky when it comes to bait presentation.
Being totally blind has not stopped me from learning all about deep sea fishing. I have learned about different hook types and sizes and what weight of line to match to the hook in relation to the bait. I have gathered knowledge about the different types, lengths, and composites of rods; when to fly line; and when to use a sliding weight or a torpedo weight. Each species of fish requires a different game plan. I have caught calico bass, barracuda, halibut, white sea bass, yellowtail, dorado, Wahoo yellowfin tuna, albacore tuna, and bluefin tuna.The captain steers the nose of the boat out of the harbor. He increases throttle, and the diesels begin to hum. I feel the sun and the sea breeze on my face. A slow smile lights up my face as the realization comes over me that once again I am chasing the tuna. I am deep sea fishing, and this is a joy I hope my example and this article can bring other blind people to share.