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Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Thursday, August 09, 2018
Some things old and some things new


Fads, fact and fiction
A fish aggregating (or aggregation) device (FAD) is a man-made object used to attract ocean-going fish such as marlin, tuna, dorado, wahoo and other pelagics. The devices usually consist of buoys or floats tethered to the ocean floor with concrete blocks. By all accounts, the FADs attract baitfish that in turn are an attraction for a remarkable number of pelagics of every description.

FADs have been around for decades, and frankly, my personal relationship with them has had rocky beginnings.


Somewhere in the mid-1980s, after reading many glowing reports of the successes of placing FADs in Hawaii and beyond, a handful of my fishing buddies and I decided that we would place one of our own in the middle of the 9-Mile Bank off San Diego.


onlytoreceive
ONLY TO RECEIVE a frantic email just a few days before my scheduled departure that tragically read “Foxi Lady” had caught on fire and burned to the water line; however, thankfully, everyone was safe.


We all pitched in with funds, time and effort and staged the entire project at the San Diego Yacht Club. There, we constructed the device out of PVC and filled many, many bags with sand with which to anchor the device.


By late spring on a Saturday morning, our flotilla of sports fishers, ranging from small skiffs to Bruce Kessler’s 48-foot “Zopilote,” gathered at the yacht club to be loaded with the various components, including sandbags, the PVC structure and lots of anchor line.


Our spirits were high and excited chatter filled the VHF radio as we headed out to the selected location for our FAD. Flat calm seas greeted us as we passed the Pt. Loma Lighthouse at the tip of Point Loma. Once on station, four of the larger boats circled stern to stern, each with at least a dozen bags lined up on the swim steps attached in sequence — to each other.


Our carefully laid out plan was to dump the sand bags sequentially; then release the FAD followed by more rope and the large marker buoy from the final boat in the line.


On signal, the first bag was dropped, and the others followed flawlessly gaining speed as they plunged into the depths. Then, the team released the FAD itself. All eyes followed the sequence to the final boat with the marker buoy.


Suddenly there was a commotion! Eyes widened. With every member of the team watching helplessly, one member on the final boat with the marker buoy frantically threw a metal grappling hook at the slowly sinking line that had somehow come untied.


Venture failed! The VHF remained eerily silent as the flotilla slowly made its way back to port.


FADS continued to be a success story in many locations. One of the most notable was roughly 100 miles off Quepos, Costa Rica, where anglers were regularly hooking 10 or more marlin per trip. As with all fishing, some raise more than that and reports of hooking and releasing double-digit billfish in a single day are not uncommon.


When my friends Pete and Denise Wishney, based out of Los Suenos Marina, invited me to fish the FADS offshore from Suenos, Costa Rica, in early July 2014, I eagerly accepted their invitation.


Only to receive a frantic email just a few days before my scheduled departure that tragically read “Foxi Lady” had caught on fire and burned to the water line; however, thankfully, everyone was safe.


Since then, most of the offshore tournaments held on the waters surrounding the tip of Baja now require that all fish hooked must be reported, and their location noted. Often, seemingly, while inside the grid, some hookups seem to be in the middle of nowhere, where it would seem unlikely fish would be congregating.


This has led to speculation by some local captains and crews that with the success of the FADS off the coast in Costa Rica, could there be some unmarked Phantom FADS that have been set in the waters surrounding Cabo San Lucas?


The answer to this question has thus far neither been confirmed or for that matter denied. However, I suspect that hook-ups in strange places may draw more scrutiny from teams and crews than ever before this upcoming season.


Stay tuned…


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