SHARING THE CATCH
Jim Henderson didn’t hesitate — he had never seen great white sharks like this.
As he and his boatmates navigated the exclusive waters of Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico, Mr. Henderson said that he could easily see six to eight dark shadows surrounding the Red Rooster III — great white sharks looking to feast on massive yellowfin tuna.
“Sure, I had seen great whites before, but this was something special,” said Mr. Henderson, a longtime fisherman and resident of Solvang of nearly four decades.
As Mr. Henderson and his buddies reeled in what felt like countless yellowfin, they’d only get half the catch at times, with the great whites feasting on the easy prey.
“It was surreal to see them just come up and eat half,” Mr. Henderson said.
The trip was a unique one, as the group of high school classmates had to receive permission from the Mexican government to even fish the waters of Guadalupe Island. Beyond the approval, each person on the boat had to fork over $350 before venturing 150 miles off the coast the Baja California Peninsula and 250 miles from Ensenada.
“Totally worth every cent,” said Mr. Henderson, who has also traveled to Alaska to catch halibut.
Guadalupe Island is a volcanic island and is surrounded by the “bluest waters you’ll ever see,” Mr. Henderson said. The island has only 150 permanent residents, mostly due to its overall rugged landscape. The island is roughly 22 miles long and six miles wide, with an islet on its southwestern end called “Tuna Alley.”
“It’s way out there, it took like 20 hours to get there,” Mr. Henderson said. “It’s just you and the ocean.”
Mr. Henderson is still partial to the Channel Islands, knowing he doesn’t need to go too far for an incredible encounter with sea creatures.
“I’ve been blessed to be so near so many great spots to fish
While he started the trip with a handful of buddies, Mr. Henderson was surprised by a pair of friends that he had not seen in nearly 30 years, randomly also making the trip.
“It was like a reunion, it became one big fishing party for us,” Mr. Henderson said.
Mr. Henderson looked to have won the boat’s “jackpot” after catching the largest yellowfin on the voyage’s final day — a 98.4-pound behemoth.
He was approached by a fellow fisherman, asking Mr. Henderson if he could use the heart of his massive yellowfin to help him land one of his own — as yellowfins enjoy the taste of yellowfin hearts. Mr. Henderson obliged, and the fisherman would land an even larger catch — by 4.2 pounds.
First place took home $500, while Mr. Henderson landed $300 and third place netted $200.
While Mr. Henderson’s wallet was a bit lighter than he had hoped, he thought it meant for a better story.
“Incredible things happen out there, and even though I lost a little bit of money, the story is one that I’ll always remember,” Mr. Henderson said. “I feel like I won no matter what, it really does take heart to be a champion — or giving it away.”
Mr. Henderson, 65, is technically retired nowadays, finding himself out at sea or on Lake Cachuma much more often after leaving his career in construction and a multitude of other professions behind.
He keeps his days busy helping launch a new restaurant near Lake Cachuma called HOOK’d Bar and Grill, with Mr. Henderson looking forward to utilizing his fisherman skills to keep plates full of fresh sea bass, amongst other fresh catches.
The restaurant, owned by Craig Lingham and his business partner Dustin Farnum, has aspirations of creating dining cruises on Lake Cachuma, combining the beauty of the water with tasty dishes.
Mr. Henderson has watched his son befriend Mr. Farnum for years, while his daughter was dear friends with Mr. Lingham’s sister — making the restaurant adventure an extended-family affair.
“It is something special, we are having a ton of fun helping get the place going,” Mr. Henderson said of the restaurant located at 1 Lakeview Dr. in Santa Barbara.
Don’t worry though, no great whites will be taking a bite out of this meal.