Feature Article: Vagabond Memorial Trip

Vagabond memorial trip yields 29 cows

BY POLLY KINSINGER/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Sep 19, 2018

SAN DIEGO — Amazing! Emotional! Outstanding! Thrilling! Therapeutic! Epic! All words that have been swimming through my head since we returned from our 5-day trip aboard the Vagabond.

When my husband Jim and I heard that a long-time charter group from central California had named this year’s trip “The KJK Memorial Trip” in honor of our son Kyle, we knew it was something we wanted to join. When we signed up, we had no idea how perfect it would be.

PART OF THE VAGABOND’S incredible haul from a recent memorial trip.

The weather was less than perfect as we headed out Wednesday evening. Few of the 26 passengers were present for the wonderful prime rib dinner served that first night, and there were more than a few pale faces throughout the next day of fishing. But 6- to 8-foot swells with 20 to 25 knots of wind couldn’t keep the majority of fishermen off the rail waiting for their turn at one of two kite baits or Flat Fall jigs fishing at depths of 150 to 300 feet. As most of us waited for our numbers to come up, we concentrated on the horizon, trying to keep out of the galley where it seemed food was always being prepared.

Sometime midday, Captain Mike Lackey graciously put out the sea anchor which kept us out of the trough (even though it can make fishing these monsters quite difficult for the crew), so when my turn on a kite came up at the end of the day, I felt confident enough that I would be able to handle the 200- pound-test rig and not fall overboard if I was lucky enough to get bit. By the end of the first day, I was fortunate to have caught one of the 9 big bluefin tuna on the boat.

Over the next few days, the weather calmed, and by the last day almost everyone had caught a big tuna over 200 pounds. It was wonderful to be a part of the comradery we witnessed amongst the group of friends that had been fishing together for the past five years. Everyone was on deck to take a few turns of the handle if a guy needed a respite from the fight. The excitement was palatable and the friendship profound.

On the final day, everyone had a big fish except a young man named Tyler and my husband, Jim. The night before had been banner for Flat-Fall fishing; about eight guys fished all night and brought in around 18, most of them over 150 pounds! But Tyler and Jim had slept through this flurry and were now faced with a day of minimal wind to get on the board. As the men who had fished the night before slept, Tyler and Jim waited, tending their flying fish bates at the end of the long line that went first up to the ring of the kite leader and then down to the calm ocean. The sight of fish resting on the ocean surface and red splotches on the sonar were tantalizing and frustrating as the hours ticked by with no bites on the kite fish or any of the baits that were cast out or jigs that were worked. It seemed as if there would be no giants for these two…

Suddenly, something crashed on Jim’s bait. He wound and wound but the fish had not been hooked. Seconds later Tyler’s was bit, and he wound tight. Tyler weighs about 125 pounds “soaking wet with rocks in his pocket” as he put it, and this fish was a monster. With the rod resting on the rail and tucked between his legs he was being picked up off the deck as he struggled to work this trophy he had been waiting five days for. With the patient guidance of a vigilant crew, he was able to land the biggest fish of the whole trip at 276 pounds!

And still, Jim waited for his opportunity. We all speculated about Kyle’s trickery being played out over the five days. Captain Lackey had told us how much Kyle loved rough weather and that he would likely have been up in the crow’s nest whilst most of us were trying just to stand let alone keep our breakfast down. How he ensured that his mother caught a fish of a lifetime on the first day whilst his father was still waiting. How the smallest person on the boat had been given the biggest fish to catch and that it had likely struck his dad’s bait first but had moved on to the other. Kyle’s mischievousness was everywhere and the vats of gummy bears and sour gummy worms were a playful reminder of past adventures with crew and passengers. By midafternoon there was verbal speculation that Kyle was going to play the ultimate trick and keep his father from catching one of these giants.

Captain Lackey made a final move and fresh baits were put on the kites. The sonar was red and there were fins on the surface of the vast ocean and BAM! One of the baits was boiled on! Wind, wind, wind and bend-o, Jim was bit and had his chance! I’ve never seen an entire boat of passengers and crew wish for a fish to be landed more than this one. Every time the fish took line I gasped and fear raced through me when it looked as if the fish might be lost as it raced back and forth under the bow of the boat. It took about 40 minutes and Jim had his 237 pound trophy. Everyone took a deep breath.

I speak for both Jim and I when I say that the only way this trip could have been better is if our son had been by our side when we caught the fish he loved to slay.

In the end, the boat had 49 blue fin tuna with 29 cows over 200 pounds (another that was 199.1) and 9 more over 100 pounds!

I’m so grateful for having had this opportunity to join these wonderful people on a tribute trip to my son. It was on the Vagabond that Kyle had found his groove. The passenger’s experience was his focus and catching these big fish is what gave him joy. He found a mentor in Mike Lackey and an extended family that he cherished in the rest of the crew.

It’s been a rough six months since Kyle died, but after this trip I finally feel that there may be peace one day. Thank you to the Vagabond family and the “Fish Till it Hertz” charter group for welcoming us, tossing gummy bears and catching them in your mouths, and regaling us with your fond memories of our boy. It’s clear that he left his mark on all of our hearts and will live on in our memories.

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