The Fifth Element
I have written before about planning the perfect fishing trip. The stars need to line up in just the right configuration to pull it off. At its core I had always preached that there are four basic elements: Time, Weather, Bait and Bite.
Time is simple, if you do not have it, you cannot go fishing. You can only go fishing when you have the time.
Weather is fickle. You may have the time, but if the weather window is not in your favor you should reconsider.
Bait is not always available, particularly here on Catalina Island. I cannot tell you how many times we have had to go fishing without bait. We have learned tricks to make sure we have bait, like freezing some. But, fresh bait is a key element.
Bite time is prime time. When the fish are near and they are on the chew, you gotta go. It will not last. Make the time, hope for good weather, have some bait in the receiver and go get bit.
That always seemed to be the gist of it until this week. One of my Captains taught me that there is a fifth element in the charter fishing business and it is the customer.
I knew immediately that he was right, but the lesson came from a day when all the other pieces were in place. We had a booked charter, the bait tank was flowing with a load of sardines, the weather looked promising and the fish had been biting.
The charter was a nine-hour off-shore trip aboard Afishinado. The plan was to head directly to the Farnsworth Bank in the hopes of catching some of the larger yellowtail and then head off-shore up the back side to the 499 to see about tuna.
The part of the plan that involved yellowtail speaks volumes about the importance of the customer in my fishing equation. Had this not been a charter, we would have gone directly off-shore.
We know that customers have high expectations with big fish dancing in their heads the night before their charter date. We also know that going off-shore in the hunt for tuna can be a crap shoot. Some days they are jumping in the boat and many days you cannot get a single bite.
Although the slow days off-shore exceed the great days in number, those days that are great are epic and they burn bright in our memory, nearly wiping out the fact that we have had anything but.
Having customers aboard means managing expectations. Going off-shore for tuna and coming home with an empty bag is not fun. So, our plan was to get some fish in the bag and calm the expectations, then go off-shore for the long shot.
On this day the magic looked to be working. Afishinado pulled up to the Farnsworth early and within 5 minutes the customer was begging for mercy as he fought a tough yellowtail.
This is like hitting a silver mine before prospecting for gold. It can be good enough to sustain the effort of the more precious metal (fish in this case). So, things were looking good. “Let’s get another, the fish are here and hungry.” The Captain called out.
Then the fifth element reared its head, and it was looking green. Our customer was getting sea sick. Worse than that, he was asking if it was possible to bring him all the way back in to Avalon (1.5 hrs) and then let his friends continue the trip. Yikkes!
This customer had chartered us at least 5 times this summer and there was never any hint of sea sickness. However, on all previous occasions, he had fished with his family. On this outing he was with his fishing buddies.
Maybe he had partied it up too much the night before. Maybe he just needed to get his sea legs. Rather than return to Avalon, the decision was made to continue off-shore in the hopes that a faster moving boat would help to clear his head.
It did not work. This poor guy was sick and he could not shake it. Regardless of how well the stars had aligned, in spite of the fact that all the elements for a perfect fishing trip were at hand, there was no way to make this trip work.
So now we have added another element to the equation when we get the call. Time, weather, bait and bite are not enough for that perfect off-shore fishing trip…bring some Dramamine!
By Capt. John King
Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – firstname.lastname@example.org – 888-613-7770