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Ilwaco

We arrived at the Ilwaco Tuna Club just before the sun peaked over the hills as the boat crew was already hard at work. Jake Carse invited a few of our crew to join himself and a couple vets, Justin Rielly and Shane Hafner, for the inaugural Home with Heroes tuna fishing trip. As we ate breakfast and met the locals our stream of questions was met with the kind of insults you hope to get in a small fishing town. While most of us had fished the open ocean, none of us had gone after tuna. It became quite clear that fishing for anything else counted for  nothing.

The Port of Ilwaco is a world unto itself — a world with a surprising amount of charm. Our boat, the aptly named Oppur-tuna-ty, motored through the marina, making brief stops at interconnected floating markets to fill our livewell with anchovies and pack our hull with ice. Like kids at neighborhood pick-up games, captains and their deck hands talked smack to competing  boats.

After leaving port, we passed south around Cape Disappointment and pounded our way through an hour of merciless waves. It was at this point that our appreciation for Dramamine sharply rose. Captain Mike followed swirls of sea birds with one eye and kept the other dialed on a real-time map of water temperature, both of which pulled us into an infinite world of blue glass 45 miles offshore. We dropped four lines and began  trolling.

There are few moments more electrifying than those containing the words, “Fish on!” Between the five of us, we caught seven albacore, a spanish mackerel and a handfull of blue sharks. The latter are sissies, but for those who haven’t hooked a tuna, imagine throwing a motorcycle off the side of a boat and then reeling it up from the deep  blue.

Between furious bouts with albacore, we watched albatross, marveled at the creepy oddity of ocean sunfish, followed a pod of dolphins as they surfed beyond our bow and snuck upon a humpback mother with calf. It was, without question, a day to  remember.

A huge thanks to captain Mike Domeyer of the Oppor-tuna-ty, Shane Hafner, Justin Rielly and Willy Bravenec for serving in the Marines, Army and Coast Guard, respectively, Jake Carse and his Home with Heroes crew for their tireless devotion to taking veterans into the great outdoors and Jono Stark for lugging a camera around the boat all  day.

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