"For over 20 years now, my brother (Rich), father (Ron) and I have been going on multi-day long range trips for cod and pollack with Capt Steve Forsberg on the Viking Starship out of Montauk NY. There are many reasons why we religiously fish with Steve and the Viking Fleet year after year. First off, we catch fish. Pure and simple, Steve will do his best to make sure you have the opportunity to catch fish. Secondly, you never know what you will see (whales, dolphins, sharks, sunfish,etc...) or what you will catch (big cod, pollack, hake, haddock and wolffish). In fact, one year, I caught a 30 lb wolffish and my father caught a 47lb halibut!! Another year, my father caught a 68lb cod only to be edged out of the pool by a 69 and 70 lber! Also, we love the boat. It is big and has all the creature comforts you need from reclining, cushioned seats to cushioned bunks to hot food! Lastly, the crews on these trips know their and are really fun to fish with.
With the decline in the cod population and with significant closures on the codfish grounds, Steve has begun exploring other fishing options, most notably deep water wreck and tilefish fishing. We began tilefishing with Steve a few years and have caught some really nice fish. The fishing is done in extremely deep water and can be challenging but fun which is why we keep coming back.
Last June 26th, we set forth for another deep water wreck trip targeting cod and tilefish. We left Montauk harbor at 7pm Monday the 26th and steamed all night to the northeast canyons, approximately 120 miles from port. At 6 am Tues morning, we heard the sound we always love to hear; the throttling down of the engines. This is our signal to get ready. Stepping out into a drizzly morning, 25 anglers stepped up to the rail and baited up or got their jigging outfit ready, waiting for Steve to position us over the productive bottom.
Steve signaled for lines down and soon all the lines were on their way to the deep. As soon as I hit bottom, I had a bump. I stopped the line, put it in gear and lifted up. soon my rod was bending under the weight of a medium pollack. Looking around, most rods were bent. The bite was on! As I reeled in my pollack, I looked over in time to see my brother lifting in a double-header pollack and my father lifting in a single. Steve then signalled for lines up. Time to do it again!
After a few drifts, everyone had a few pollack in their cooler. There was also a few hake, cusks and a few lone small tilefish were caught.
The way it works on the drift is that Steve postions the boat so that it will drift over the productive bottom or wreck. On most drifts, you get one shot at a fish. Sometimes you get one. Sometimes you get tanlged or stuck in the wreck. Or sometimes you get nothing.
After awhile, Steve decided to move to a relatively new piece he had found the year before on our trip. Upon dropping to the bottom, we were into pollack again. Another drift and some different fish started to come up. I hooked into a double-header of a 10 lb tilefish and an 8lb wreck fish. Wreck fish are very rare on these trips and rare in the north east. On another drift, more wreck fish (my brother caught 2 and my father 1) and tile fish came up. Someone also caught a barrel fish! Steve then re-positioned the boat and signaled lines down. As soon as my bait rig hit the bottom, I locked it up and immediately felt the tug, tug of a solid fish.
I lifted high to set the hook, turned a few cranks off the bottom and then the fish took off. It was peeling drag as it headed back to the bottom. I was fishing mid-ship and Capt Steve came out of the wheelhouse to notice I was into a big fish. With many lines drifting out on the same side of the boat, Steve did not want me to get tangled up and lose the fish. He asked everyone to reel up so that I could fight the fish unobstructed. We were fishing in 500 feet of water so it took some time to reel it in. I would gain a few cranks and then the fish would take some line back. I gradually worked my way down the rail towards the stern as everyone on the boat was watching. I didn't want to lose
the fish now after making everyone stop fishing!! Slowly I made progress and then I heard Steve say "I see color". Then another person said holy sh!t, that's a big tile! I reeled the last 15 feet and stepped back as co-capts and mates Steve JR and Eric skillfully gaffed the fish. They hoisted the huge tile over the rail to cheers and yells from the crew and people on board. I was so psyched to finally land the fish!
After a few rounds of pictures, Steve motored us back to the spot. There was a mother and daughter fishing next to me. On the next drop, when Steve sginaled for lines up, the mom was reeling in when all of a sudden, her line started peeling out as her rod doubled-over. We thought she was into another monster tile when the fish decided to run straight back. We then thought "shark". She could not handle the fish and instead, handed the rod over the Steve jr. He successfully fought the fish up and down the boat and finally, up near the bow, saw color. We saw that it was big bluefin tuna that was tail hooked (on a cod rig!). We sunk three gaffs into the fish and lifted it over the rail and into the boat. In the space of approximately 1 hour, we caught a huge tile and a 125lb bluefin tuna! As I said, you never know what you will catch on these trips!
Capt Steve told me that my fish might be a record so we packed it on ice as we still had another day of fishing. After a few more moves and more fish put into the boat, it got dark. It was time for much needed cleaning and dinner before turning in for the night.
At 5 am Weds my brother woke me up to tell me that the cod bite was on in the stern of the boat. Steve had sailed north overnight to the codfish grounds. Most everybody was still sleeping. I staggered my way to the stern with half-open and saw 2 guys into fish and then my brother was in. I quickly grabbed my jig rod and cast it out. It hit bottom and I jigged up and down. I soon felt the solid thump of a hit and reared back on a nice cod. We were into an early morning bite!! Soon, people were hearing the commotion and working there way back to the stern, including my father. Everybody was into fish!! We were in the stern because were at anchor and the tide was screaming towards the stern. Eventually it got too crowded back there. Steve said he was going to pull anchor and make some drifts over the wreck. Everybody spread back out as Steve manuevered over the wreck. When the lines went down, we were in again!! What a morning! One of the passengers fishing next to me wound up catching a 37 lbs cod which won the cod fish pool. Most of the cod we caught were from 5 to 20lbs with the occasional 25lber. There were also lots of double-headers.
Steve had planned to hit 2 wrecks that morning but we spent most of the time on the first wreck that we did not need to hit another wreck. Instead, with coolers full, we started the 13 hour ride back home. On the ride back, the pools were settled and luckily, my brother Rich, Dad and I won the pollack, edible (hake) and tile fish pools respectively. The person fish next to me on the last day won the codfish pool. This was a lucky trip for all of us!
The boat docked at midnight Weds back in Montauk. We dragged the tile out of the ice cooler and put it on the Viking's certified scale where it weighed in at 56.5lbs. At that time, we did not know what the record was. When I got home and after some sleep, I checked the IGFA online to find out that the current record was 51 lbs!! Woo hoo!! Now I had to find out how to certify my fish. Without getting into too much detail, I went through all the necessary steps to have the fish certified. In December 2005, I finally heard from the IGFA that my fish was the new all-tackle record!!
Many people have asked me what type of tackle we use on these trips. Most "codfish type" tackle will work. I use a custom Seeker CSB909 rod with a Shimano Torium 30. The reel has Ande 40lb pink as backing and topshot. I use 65lb Power Pro braid as the main line. For hooks I use Gamakatsu 5/0 baitholder hooks with B2 squid teasers (pink and green). For bait, we use clams and squid. For jigs we use jigs up to 24 oz with teasers. The tilefish took a squid bait. On these trips, you'll also need plenty of lead to reach the bottom. We use sinkers from 20oz to 32oz. Sometimes you need to go heavier!
All in all, these trips are great and by going when we usually do, which is June, the weather is also good. We have been going with Steve for over 20 years and will continue to go and explore with him and the crew as long as the Viking Fleet will still do these trips. In fact ,we have the boat chartered this June with hopes of catching some more record breaking fish! I would like to thank Steve and the Viking Fleet for the trip of a lifetime!