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As many know, this last long trip on the Excel has been chartermastered by Ralph Mikkelsen for a long time. Well, Ralph's wife of 53 years recently passed, just 2 weeks before the trip shoved off, and it appeared Ralph would not be making this voyage. Well, I guess Ralph had enough calls, emails, and cards asking him to please attend the trip, that at the last minute, he decided to go. I for one, was very pleased, as he is one of my heroes. As a result, the trip was renamed the Jo Ann Mikkelsen Memorial Big Fish Special. It turned out she was indeed watching over us. This trip has a group that accompanies Ralph yearly, and among it are true long range veterans of many trips. Al Scow, John Montgomery, Andy Markum, Peter Gammarino, Nigel, Bob Orth, Bob Buckland, guys that have been fishing since very early long range began. I was in awe. These anglers have been there since 6/0 reels, straight mono and large loads of passengers. Auggie Roberts picked me up early on the departure day, and we got there in plenty of time. The line had formed already at 6 am, and Sean was putting us in loading order to help with quick easy loading. Kathy and Betty were checking us in, and before you know it, we were on our way. During checkin, we all signed a photo taken by Marc, and to be framed and given to Ralph on the trip. He was proud and moved by the gesture.
We all settled into our rooms, got a nice load of bait, and prepared for our long run down to Hurricane. No one had been there in what would be 8 days upon arrival, and Roy had excellent skin fishing when he was there on Brandon's trip, so we thought we might get a wahoo or two. The crew was awesome, Captain Justin, 2nd skipper Mike Rameriz, Jordan, Oscar, Derek and Brandon on the deck, and Jason "Captain cook" Fleck with Stan in the galley. Ralph and Marc have been doing this a long time, and are very good at activities to keep you entertained during the travel time. Marc downloads tons of movies which can be watched either in the galley on the plasma, or in your room on your personal viewing device. We had a dart tournament one afternoon, and let me tell you, I suck at throwing darts on a boat! We all got two turns, you throw three right handed, 3 left handed, and then one dart worth double to be thrown by your strongest hand. There were two catagories, crew and passengers, and nice prizes were given out at the end. Also, many penalties were inflicted and to be paid when we play NFL style bingo. One night, after dinner, the 1st bingo night, and Bob Orth won $400! All these activities, and before you know it, we were there. And so were the wahoo. We got our first wahoo strike and school a half a mile from the bank! It really was "GAMEON" of wahoo fishing, all wahoo safety tips had to be exercised.
They were biting bombs, jigs, bait if you got tired, biting through the wire, I got a few boils on the long rod and surface plug, but mostly missed them, or got my plug eaten off. They really were as thick as we had hoped. Weather was just soso, with a few boot fillers here and there. Even the hoodad can catch one or two.
We all got a bunch, they were really snapping.
Marc is a good wahoo go getter. He's a winding machine just like me.
Auggie and Brandon, and another one coming down from the bow.
Derek and George
Andy and Justin
One on the 9 foot Super Seeker bait rod, 20# test, Accurate 270.
Ulyssess and Brandon.
Bob Orth adds another. Bob is a very good fisherman.
Wind wind wind Joanne
Persistance pays off.
We had company. Seemed like nice guys, but there was no tuna there to speak of.
We had a full day of wahoo fishing, but the tuna seemed to be missing. No shortage of sharks. I got up day two, and quickly got about an 80 pounder, but that was it. Simply no sign of tuna, Justin made a few drifts over the area we had most the jig strikes, and we got what we needed to finish us up on wahoo. Bound for Clarion. We cruised into Clarion, seemed like the wind and weather was up a bit. We went straight in, as the camp seems to like us to check in before chasing any birdschools, so Justin did just that.
Here they come.
Check in was pretty fast and easy, Nothing out of the ordinary. Out to the tuna grounds. It didn't take long once we were outside about 7 miles, got on our first school. We were trolling to hope for some offshore wahoo, which once in awhile we get, however, world record holder Curt Wisenhutter got bit as we made a chum circle on his Marauder. While Curt was fighting his fish, I hooked one on bait.
I got mine, then Curt landed his. Mine was about 180, Curt's was 250. While drifting, George hooked one. George wasn't ready for as tough as these fish were on this first stop, and handed off to Marc. Their's was around 240. Good grade around, and we are just getting started.
A few shots of the last circles. Marc did a great job on a very tough fish.
George and Marc, a team effort.
Day two, weather still not perfect, but pretty darn nice. Joanne shows us guys how it's done.
The master at work. Ralph is a purist, just a pad, pulls with his arms. No rail for this guy.
Larry got one about 250, had the back up rig on a couple of times.
We had some stops where they came to the corner and bit pretty good. Here was one of those.
Yet another 250ish fish comes aboard, this time Curt's friend Lou from Arizona. We had to deploy the skiff or the backup rig many times.
A familiar site as the skiff comes back in.
Mike and Lou pose. Mike is just one heck of a cool guy. I'll bet he's a trip getting a skiff ride with him. Lou got to go twice, but once was a big ole shark foul hooked.
Here is Andy Markum, he fishes very very well. He is the master of the bobber balloon rig. I could learn a lot from this guy. Very cool dude to share a trip with.
I wanted to learn this rubber flying fish method from Jason, and I had these new prototype Braid lures to use. I rigged them as Jason and Justin prescribed, and did just what Jason said to do. On my second wind in, about 50 feet from the stern, whoosh, huge boil, oh, he missed. I waited, and sure enough, the big fish circled back around, and got it this time. This fish easily ripped off 700 yards of line, then I went to work. My Accurate 50W and that Black Steel 6463XXXXH worked just fine, and before you know it, gaffs were stuck in this pig.
I knew it was close, but thought it might be a bit under at the dock.
Tom, Joanne's other half, shows he's a talented angler as well.
That night, Joanne asked me a bunch of questions about flylining baits, types of hooks, flourocarbon leaders. She proved she listens by getting this nice 223 on the first school the next day, on a flourocarbon leader I made her. You go girl.
So, we're on this one stop, where sharks are just hideous, can't even flyline a bait or get a fish through them. My roommate Peter goes up the side, flips out a bait, on a rusty hook and straight tie one hundred pound mono, and gets this monster. Not for the feint of heart, or the captains peace of mind. THREE OH NINE, NICE ONE.
Peter with his catch, what a beauty. Well, the days of big tuna fishing ran out, and up the line in gorgeous flat calm weather we ran. It was 2 days travel, but then we'd get a full day at Cedros. And it looked very good until the current died.
They were really biting the yoyo. Here is Marc with a nice one. All good grade yellows, very willing to bite too.
Curt shows he can catch something besides huge tuna. Here's our world record holder with a nice yellow.
Ulyseses gets his turn.
Bill did ok, for a Diamondback fan.
We had great weather there all day, no flatfish, no seabass. Off to the cod grounds for a brief stop in the morning. And indeed the reds bit, very well. We just wanted a few, could have slayed them if we had time.
This was an exceptional trip, Justin made our bait last all the way through the trip. The quality people on this trip have left a major impression upon me. The weather was a little iffy at the start, but absolutely beautiful at the end, where it counts. I have a lot to learn, about Yummee flyers, bobber balloons, wide open wahoo bites. But the Excel is a great platform to learn these things on.

This post edited by wahoodad 06/05/2008
 

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Excellent report and nice pics.Sounds like a great trip,I always check for the daily reports on the website for this trip.I have been fortunate to have fished on this boat a few times but nothing longer then a 10 dayer(some day).The skippers and crew have always made fishing this boat fun,plus all the legends you got to fish with.I beleive on your last big Ex trip you got to fish with Bill Poole.Awsome!
 

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David,

Thank you for the great report and pics. Unfortunately it is killing my buddy Pat who had to cancel at the last minute due to a family issue.
The pictures show just how crowded the Rails are on Ralph's trips.
124 feet of rail on each side, a huge transom and many of your pics only showed one or two folks up or down rail. I hope Pat and I will be able to make next years trip. Every time I see anc chat with Ralph I wish I had been on his last trip and wish I could make his next trip. So glad you guys had a blast.

Jamie
 

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Great Pictures and report. Incredible fishing, along with the Legends on a legendary boat. Great job hauling the Cows In
!!
Have fished with Curt a few times, and he is a really fishy guy! Nice to see the Excel Crew in tact, looks like Oscar is back on the boat with the rest of the experienced guys. Can't wait to step aboard in late June, Thanks Steve
 

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David great job on the report & photos, congratulations on your big one. I love fishing with Justin, Jason & Mike they have taught me so much over the years. I'm sure you have all the techinques now for the Yummie Flyer. It's pretty much fun watching those fish blow up on the gummiebear next to the boat. How does the Braid flyer swim compared to the Carolina lure flyer.

Tight Lines
BG
 

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I have been reading and watching videos featuring Ralph Mikkelson since I was probably 12 years old (i'm only 23 so it hasn't been THAT long). His no holds barred, man vs fish style of angling has always appealed to me and from what I hear his character is top notch (I haven't had the priviledge of meeting him yet but I hope one day I do). My condolences go out to him and all of his family for their loss, and I hope that you, Mr. Mikkelson, continue to fish longrange for many years to come.

-Jon
 
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