In the last few weeks, the fishing world has been buzzing with news from the White Marlin Open. Drama, polygraphs and over $2.8 million in winnings that will apparently be withdrawn from the top team have held everyone’s attention. But the best way to get over bad news is with good news (and good fishing), which is exactly what happened when Capt. Kyle Peet headed out of Ocean City, Maryland, September 13, 2016.
Peet and his crew run the 54-foot Taylor Made No Quarter, which is based out of Sunset Marina. These boys are local and know the area as well as anyone; tuna fishing is their expertise, but as any Ocean City local will tell you, white marlin is a species you grow up catching there. With a scheduled charter for the team from Xtratuf boots on the books, there were rumors of a red-hot white marlin bite off Norfolk Canyon. Kyle and his mate Erik Mateer had to scramble all night before the 5 a.m. Tuesday morning departure to make sure they were well-stocked with bait.
“I said to Erik, I think we need to try and get a grand slam on this trip,” Peet says. The table was set. The boat arrived at Norfolk Canyon at 9:30 a.m. and caught a triple out of four white marlin bites within the first five minutes of fishing.
“Then at 3:30 p.m. we got a blind bite on the flat, and I immediately put the boat in a turn,” Peet reports. “I saw a roughly 200-pound blue one greyhounding between two other boats. I don’t think I ever backed the boat down that hard, as I knew it was going to be the most difficult part of our grand slam, getting the blue marlin. We got the release and then it seemed like a light switch went off — we were getting savage bites, left and right.”
“At around 4 p.m. I was trolling away from the sun and something crushed the teaser. I had no idea what it was, then the left flat went off, and then the right long. When the flat line came tight, we saw him jump and I backed up right through the dredges — it was the sailfish we needed for the grand slam.” Then around 6 p.m. they hooked what they thought was a small blue marlin, until they got it to the boat and realized it was a longbill spearfish. That gave them a royal slam: four billfish species in one day. They had planned an overnighter so they kept fishing until the sun went down. “From 6 p.m. until dark we burned them up, catching 11 white marlin out of 20 bites, including one I hooked in the complete dark,” Peet reports.
The team now needed a swordfish to complete the fantasy slam, which is one of the rarest and most difficult challenges in sport fishing. Peet says: “I was marking so much bait you’d think you could walk on it, so I just shut the boat down right there and boy, was there bait: squid, balls of fish, I’ve never seen so many schools of blackfin tuna. I was sure that we would get a sword bite.” They jigged up a few tinker mackerel for bait and sent one armed with a 9/0 Gamakatsu hook down to around 220 feet on a Shimano Tiagra 130.
“I got the grill out and cooked dinner, and then everyone went to bed,” Peet says. “Erik and I were still up, just hanging out and talking about the day, when the rubber band snapped. At first the fish was just lying there, and we figured it was a shark, so we pushed the drag up and cranked about 50 feet. Then he took off. At that point we knew it was a swordfish.”
“Finally, around 4:30 in the morning the fish started coming to the boat, and Erik says it’s the biggest swordfish he’s ever seen,” Peet says. “I looked down, and it looked like a sea monster. We got a couple gaffs in him, and it was done — we had the fantasy slam.
By now the sun was coming up, and the team talked about calling it a trip, but with such incredible fishing they decided to stay and catch a few more. So from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. they caught eight more white marlin and another longbill spearfish, finally heading for home around 1 p.m. that afternoon. “It was just an epic trip, and I don’t think it’s even really set in yet,” Peet says.
The final catch stats were: 23 white marlin, two longbill spearfish, one blue marlin, one sailfish and one 345-pound swordfish.