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Lou could see that the rest of the crew except John was overawed by the size and energy of this matchless black marlin. They were a seasoned crew of local friends who had been marlin fishing several times but they had all frozen at the moment of truth and that bothered Lou. Well, it was a huge marlin and except for John no one else was weathered at fighting or landing really big marlin like this one looked to be. This was a substantial black marlin in the prime of life, the kind of marlin that would be feeding off New Zealand one day and swimming the Gulf of Panama a few months later. She swam the Oceans of the World searching for optimal forage and habitat circumstances much like a large predatory fish in a small Lake. Surprisingly not aboard that particular day was Theodore Schmidt, it being his wife's birthday he would be sorely missed. But still something had to be done to promote the crew's confidence since they would all be needed to get this dirty great giant marlin in the boat.
The spirited whopper black marlin was taking out too much line at once even though by now it had changed course several times. Lou knew that if enough line were towed through the water by such a fast ambitious billfish the resulting extreme drag force would cause a break off. For this reason the Schmidt's ran reasonably light drags on the big reels and had a square piece of leather sewn on the reels so as to apply thumb pressure to ably increase resistance on the spool when needed during a tough battle with a gargantuan long running billfish. Lou tried to remember if any other giant marlin had ever done so much in so little time, then he wondered if there was something wrong with the drag of the reel. Well it was a pretty big marlin so it was natural she cause quite a commotion when first hooked up. But this outrageously energetic animal was making a lot of extra distance and taking too much line!
Over millions of years marlin have evolved the perfect hydrodynamic fusiform shape, which offers the least resistance in their aquatic environment. They are composed mostly of muscle devoted to fast swimming with a specific density that is only a hair over that of its surroundings (saltwater). Through the use of its swim bladder it is in fact weightless in the water and just one flick of its powerful tail will move it quite a distance at great speed. Marlins are the fastest fish in the oceans, their attainable speed increases concurrently with larger size. The biggest marlins are female and not accustomed to bearing or carrying any weight or feeling the least resistance in their natural habitat, the ocean. When hooked up to a rod and reel she feels a great opposing counterinfluence confining her, she instinctively panics, turns tail and stampedes until spent. That is if the angler has mastered his craft and throughout the battle skillfully and mercilessly applies constant pressure never allowing the fish to rest. This is a giant marlin's Achilles' Heel and how to catch them on rod and reel.
The phenomenal black marlin made her first astounding greyhounding run of about 600 yards in less than 30 seconds which translates into more than 1/3 mile at speeds exceeding 60 miles an hour! This speed and distance had been achieved mostly through saltwater that is 800 times denser than air, dragging 30 pounds of dead weight, which increased steadily to about 75 pounds courtesy of the 16/0 Penn Senator drag and quantity of wetted line towed behind her. The potently outsized billfish instinctively changed direction repeatedly, dynamically jumping and forcefully crashing though the waves as she sought to free herself.
It all happened so fast no one could tell how many times the giant dynamo marlin jumped, just that she was still breaking water and leaving a trail of mortar-like explosions as she raced away. Her first airborne contortion had been breath-taking as the irresistible leviathan had cleared the water completely, vividly manifesting her heavyweight elephantine magnitude in living neon blue/black, silver and gold colors, as if to terrorize. Her other highballing hurdles had served mostly to panic the crew and heat up the big reel to the point that ice water was poured on it at intervals to keep it from melting or seizing. Now that the lines were cleared everyone's strained attention focused on the quantity of line missing from the reel and the appreciable distance that must be reduced by the Caiman II busily carving its way though the churning choppy ocean waves.
Lou depended on John to skillfully maneuver the boat to allow him some sort of advantage over the restless monstrosity if there was to be any hope of landing her. It was of fundamental importance that angler and captain work in harmony during this incredible battle as line had to be effectively recovered and the boat expertly positioned to accomplish the catch. John admirably jockeyed the Caiman II in the rough ocean conditions that made locating the vigorously lively quarry fiendishly difficult. The old give and take was launched, tide in - tide out between Lou and the prehistorically proportioned marlin for the first hour and change. It was essential that they crowd and press the great Herculean beast forcing the long blistering runs allowing no rest for either angler, captain or the priceless black marlin. Lou must bear hard on the drag and John had to keep the Caiman II close upon her for they had little control if she was too far away. A wild barbarous marlin like this one had to be kept on a short leash as she might dive or break the line on a floating obstruction if given the luxury of a loose rein. Whenever she savagely took line on one of her sizzling runs out came the ice water and onto the reel it splashed in copious quantities, steam rising as it cooled the big 16/0 Penn Senator. Lou paced himself for what could be a long rigorously relentless battle, pumping the rod to recover line and pressuring with more drag whenever possible. But the colossus black marlin was still belligerently running and more than occasionally jumping regardless of the tremendous burden levied upon her by Lou. The imposingly furious marlin took to thrashing the water, with her enormous blunt bill she pounded and beat the surface into a maelstrom. Then as the boat neared she made high frantic shaking jumps and plunged through the seas on swift short runs just before again stopping to attack and batter the water sending spray high in a frenzied attempt to repeatedly kill whatever was hindering her. The grand black marlin took to milling on the surface and then making short runs and leaps each time the Caiman II drew close. After a time Lou sensed a fading in the overpoweringly aggravated fish's movements, subjected it to further pressure and was rewarded with more precious line on the big reel. John saw what Lou felt and moved the Caiman II in for the kill. More than two hours had gone by and finally it seemed as though the blitz was working. Lou Schmidt drew the biggest angriest black marlin anyone had ever seen close to the boat inch by inch foot by foot apparently by sheer will power and bull strength. As she neared, the stark abnormality of the indignant black marlin's length and breadth approximated fairy tale dimensions.
The seas were unusually rough with no sign of letting up. It was a chore for anyone to keep their balance, moving around on decks required forethought and concentration. Lou remembered the time 'Taboga' the deck hand had accidentally stepped into the coils of the flying gaff rope just as the flyer had been planted in the marlin. That marlin had made a break and the rope had come tight around Taboga's left thigh. The main thing that saved him was the marlin went belly up at the end of the line since it had been properly gaffed in the tough bone-ray area above the anal fin. They were able to lift its tail mostly out of the water as it struggled, gaining some slack and freed Taboga. Luckily there was plenty of bleach aboard to disinfect the wound and stop the bleeding. Tough guy that Taboga and he was working out O.K. as a deckhand now that he was particularly vigilant onboard. Lost some meat off that leg and left an impressive scar, though it didn't seem to bother him as he moved quickly and naturally now the wound had healed.
"Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt; Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt. Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip, Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip."....- Casey At The Bat by Ernest L. Thayer
Lou smiled and strained, applied more drag and recovered additional line. The Caiman II slowly advanced through the tumultuous ocean upon her. The Brobdingnagian marlin out of Gulliver's travels was on a short line. The oppressiveness of the incredible drag pressure applied for hours by Lou through the prodigious rod and reel had severely taxed both the huge irrepressible fish and the obstinate man. Lou was having trouble reeling in the last few yards of line. Now that the end was near he could feel weakness throughout his body. The Caiman II was busily busting through the scrambling scuffling seas at a rapid pace barely keeping up with the meandering Gargantuan black marlin. Try as he did Lou had the most difficult time getting the invulnerable Titan within gaffing range. The superbly massive fish and the bobbing Caiman II were moving together at close to 8 knots. Both John and Lou knew she was still not whipped. They exchanged glances and it was Lou who decided to let the lusty Mother Of All Marlins continue the battle rather than risk losing her at the gaff or worse still, injure someone in the melee that would surely follow when she felt the gaff hook.
"And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air, And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there. Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped- "That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said. From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar, Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore. "Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand; And its likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand. With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone; He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on; He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew; But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two.""...- Casey At The Bat by Ernest L. Thayer
Knowing that the peerless fish was still green and how she would react, Lou put even more pressure and effort into the rod and reel. John positioned the plunging pitching Caiman II as close as he dared and the inevitable happened. The unconquerable gigantic black marlin panicked. Lou backed off on the drag as the almighty demigod erupted through the surface in a sensationally high dramatic twisting leap drenching everyone aboard and scorched off like a night train express. The electric blue/black & gold hallucination continued rampaging in and out of the water on a mind-boggling surging splashing trek of almost equal fury and distance as the first! This time she harpooned deeper towards the end of her extensive trajectory and Lou groaned when he thought of what it meant to bring her up from the depths.
This last high stepping spellbinding epic sprint would have devastated the will if not the spirit of any reasonably rational individual. It was a singular display of the incredible raw power, speed, strength and stamina the seemingly possessed supernatural aberration could call upon. The ocean's maximum predator, the despot Queen Of The Sea ruling with absolute power and authority in her oceanic kingdom had put on a spectacular performance plunging under, streaking over and splattering across the rough water irradiated by the red hued tropical sunset, imitating an errant missile - only more faster. The Caiman II stubbornly dogged its enterprisingly formidable quarry like the fabled tortoise after the hare, plodding through the vulgar violent seas striving to make up the perilous distance between them.
""Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud; But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed. They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain, And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again."...- Casey At The Bat by Ernest L. Thayer
Louis Schmidt did not smile now. Lou sweated, grunted and strained as he recovered the endless length of line and wearily packed it neatly on the immense 16/0 senator reel using paced controlled but exhausting pumping motions. John still diligently at the helm wondered about those tuna towers he had heard about that made sighting fish in rough water easier. The tenacious teratogenic fish had given all she had to give and now swam only sporadically and very slowly. Lou, John and the rest of the crew sensed the change in her manner but like their supreme quarry the Mother Of All Marlins they were near blackout. It had been a mercilessly grueling battle, both the great indomitable fish and iron-willed angler had fought ruthlessly and the sea had cruelly punished all those aboard the Caiman II.
"The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate; He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate. And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go, And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow."...- Casey At The Bat by Ernest L. Thayer
As they neared the wonderfully huge tyrant Queen Of The Sea to end her invincible reign, the one thing that could not go wrong, the principal thing that Lou depended on for his fishing that had been carefully selected, best-money-could-buy, double reinforced, personally altered and approved to Schmidt-Built last-forever-quality ... broke!
Lou had bought and custom fit a vest harness manufactured by Gilbert W. Dixon in Pennsylvania, much like the stand-up harnesses used today in order to effectively wield the great bulky rods and reels of 1949. Most present-day anglers fighting sizable fish depend on either a bucket harness used in a fighting chair or a stand-up kidney harness. This is necessary to handle the heavy loads and drags that must be employed to land hefty fish utilizing the much lighter and more efficient rods & reels of these modern times. No reasonable contemporary captain or angler would ever dream of marlin fishing without one. If the harnesses are missing on a marlin or tuna fishing trip a conscientious captain would turn back as fishing for these large hard fighting game fish would be impossible under normal circumstances without their aid. Imagine that this is the moment your have lived all your life for. Try to envision all the innumerable hit and miss fishing trips, hooked and lost fish, obligatory years of monotonous trolling and trial and error learning development leading to this magic moment. Contemplate the significance of the substantial time and effort; toil and trouble, blood sweat and tears involved achieving this miraculous triumphant flash in your life. Envisage the patience, preparation and planning required to at long last have this wondrous good fortune befall you. Now picture in your mind the size of that marlin... The immensity and weight of the rod and reel used back then and the tremendous drag pressure that could not under-any-circumstances be reduced or risk losing the fish of the century after all that has transpired. Try to imagine that you have been fighting this the Mother Of All Marlins for hours in rough seas and are bone tired, on the verge of passing out from exhaustion and finally when you are upon the fish of a lifetime you are suddenly betrayed, the harness breaks! ...
Now imagine you have only one arm and one leg...
"The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day: The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play. And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same, A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game. A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast; They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that - We'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat"...- Casey At The Bat by Ernest L. Thayer
The crew rallied around Lou. The sensationally great fish could surely not get away now, not after all they had been through! Louis Schmidt near blacking out but through extraordinary determination and willpower maintained full force on the big heavy and now unwieldy rod & reel. An old shoulder harness of rough cords was improvised to roughly fit Lou and he somehow grimly suffered through his punishing predicament. Sometime after the crew had produced and Lou had awkwardly arranged the old shoulder harness of cords around his body, he passed out. He nonetheless managed alone to revive himself and torturously persisted in applying the tremendous drag on the Atlantean black marlin. The sharp shoulder cords were a tight fit. Under the considerable load they tore through his clothing and viciously cut into Lou each time he pumped the rod, causing him to bleed in four places. Still he fought the magnificent marlin. With difficulty in the raging seas the surging tumbling Caiman II held its position above the monumental fish, which had stopped all movement by now and was just dead weight, a millstone on the line. Several vain attempts were made at planning up the ponderous behemoth; each time Lou recovered some line but paid much too dearly as the malicious cords cruelly cut and bled him deeper with every attempt. Alternating between staggering stand-up stances and faltering in the fighting chair enduring the raging seas, Lou sweated, struggled, bled and strained his utmost to bear down and grind in the ostensibly anchored Mother Of All Marlins. But the furious pace of the merciless marathon battle had taken its toll; he was now rapidly succumbing to fatigue and looked as though he might cave in for good at any moment. John came back to the cockpit and tried to talk Lou into giving him the rod, but Lou would have none of it. By some irrational means he persevered for a time until it appeared he might disintegrate or die from the extreme grueling effort. The crew was noticeably uneasy and hesitant, afraid to approach him. John grew especially concerned for his little brother's physical condition. Finally after three hours and fifty-seven minutes Lou having lost blood, dehydrated, wasted and near collapse was convinced by John his older brother to reluctantly pass the rod. Through skillful maneuvering of the rolling pitching Caiman II and John's remarkable strength and skill the extraordinary Queen Of The Sea was finally brought boat-side. The majestic transcendental black marlin had become tail wrapped during her last fantastic run; this final terrific exertion had broken her heart and she died in the depths of the sea. It took John exactly 37 minutes to accomplish the feat as over a 1000 lbs of heavy dead billfish had to be slowly and laboriously dragged sideways through the turbulent water to bring it to the surface. No one had ever imagined a black marlin approaching the extent and enormity of this one. Most of the crew was especially apprehensive about getting near or touching the vast leviathan let alone grabbing, gaffing and dragging her in. With the assured urging of John & Lou the strenuous task was begun. It was well after dark when they finally heaved the half-ton billfish aboard the Caiman II and headed for the anchorage at San Jose Island.
The next day the Caiman II and its crew chugged about 20 miles to the fishing village of Mafafa on Isla del Rey where the great Billfish was cut in two and weighed on certified scales borrowed from another boat. The immortal Mother Of All Marlins officially weighed 1006 pounds. At 13 feet 11 inches in length with a girth of 76 inches she more likely weighed 1206 pounds instead of the 1006 pounds indicated by the scales. The disparity concerning the true weight of the beast is usually attributed to waiting more than 18 hours after it was caught to weigh it because they had to find a certified scale and the cutting of the animal in two due to the scale's limit. The makeshift weighing arrangements afforded at a simple fishing village on a remote jungle island probably didn't speed things up either. These guys had to do everything the Hard Way. It seems that always The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play, with two outs and that there was always something or someone in the way that must also be overcome. Nonetheless on June 11, 1949 it was the first Grander Black Marlin ever caught on a rod and reel.
Some say that the reason Lou was unable to bring the world's first 1000 lbs grander black marlin to gaff single-handedly was because no one could have done it using the equipment existing in those days. They point out that without a good harness the heavy rods and reels were just unmanageable even if just for a brief interval. That despite the aid of a harness and fighting chair, landing a marlin of those considerable proportions in 1949 was probably hopeless due to the intrinsic inadequacy of the linen lines and wooden rods. Knowledgeable veteran anglers assert that not until the 1950's with invention and use of superior fiberglass rod material and first nylon, Dacron then monofilament fishing lines would the landing of thousand pound grander marlin be possible. Others say the seas were overly rough; that this particular oversized black marlin was especially devastatingly energetic and consequently maintained such a furious pace that no one alive could have matched her in those conditions. Rarely is it ever mentioned that Lou had lost an arm and a leg in a train accident as a child - Lou was in fact handicapped. In fishing as in everything else he did he never used any special aids. Those that knew him never thought of him as disabled. He fought this great battle with one arm and one leg - pumping with his back and reeling with his one arm, bracing with the one leg. When the harness broke it actually was impossible for him to reel and hold the rod at the same time! Something to think about if you are ever hooked up to an apparently insurmountable situation and the going gets tough!
"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after" ~ Henry David Thoreau
A lifetime as an angling guide dealing with all sorts of folks from all walks of life seeking all nature of game fish has not immunized me from the outrage I feel every time see in print a new world record for a billfish or other large precious game fish caught on ridiculously light line. It appalls me to think someone could seriously consider the catching of a 500 pound billfish on line less than 20 pound test as angling. This smoke and mirrors trick fishing is not angling but an aberration and insult to all true dedicated anglers and to angling traditions in general. These angling impostors involved in pursuing this method of light line world records have either forgotten what angling is about or never learned in the first place. It is a sad commentary concerning the evolution of contemporary recreational sport fishing organizations that they entertain these claims as if they were something praiseworthy when in fact they are underhanded, immoral and unethical acts committed by persons in serious psychological turmoil who are unnecessarily allowed to manifest their disorders in our respectable arena. (IGFA take note) This is a misrepresentation of angling that has grown out of control, is beginning to confuse angling principals and is actually hurting our pastime. This is not angling or recreational fishing or sport fishing as it was intended to be with rod and reel. It can not reflect credit upon the fisherman involved. Rod and reel angling has always been intended to be a challenge, man against fish in a contest where each has as even a chance. This hoax fishing using big fast maneuverable specialized boats and practiced assassination crews trained to time the gaffing of a noble game fish before it realizes it is hooked can have no honor or respectability attached to it. Fraud I say. Is this type of deception fishing meant to be passed on to our children and grandchildren? What appeal or degree of achievement for someone with a sense of decency can this brand of fishing present? It poses no true challenge or sense of accomplishment for an honest angler in the pursuit of memorable game fish. It is a dirty lie. The harpooning of whales is more sporting. If in fact these deranged world record fame seeking asses in lion skins want a genuine challenge and proper recognition I would suggest they accomplish these fishing feats alone from a regular boat with a non specialized crew and gear. Also if they could do it using a circa 1940s rod and reel with one hand tied behind their back and on one leg, then I at least would be impressed.
Tide and Time will tell... Captain Tony
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