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Rancho Santa Fe students haul in catch of a lifetime

The 13-foot, 540-pound blue marlin caught by six R. Roger Rowe third graders and their crew. Courtesy photo.
The 13-foot, 540-pound blue marlin caught by six R. Roger Rowe third graders and their crew. Courtesy photo.
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Ernest Hemingway would be so proud. On a recent weekend six third-graders from R. Roger Rowe — Robert and William Kleege, J.T. Moss, Johnny Woodson, Andrew Aarons, and Jack Kafka — chartered the famed Indigo Seas to take them into southern waters in search of big fish.

According to Andrew, this tight-knit group of boys has been fishing together for half their lives. When asked what brought them out this day, Robert explained, “It’s important to be able to disconnect and remove yourself from the pressures of school and get away from it all, especially our parents — sometimes they’re too much for us to handle.”

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Robert’s brother William added, “For us the best way to do this is to go fishing. We simply leave all our troubles back on land.”

However, this day would prove to be unlike any other fishing trip the boys had been on. They were fishing about 40 miles south of the U.S. border, trolling lures in search of wahoo and big tuna.

But when J.T. heard the trolling rig suddenly screaming and letting out line at the lightning speed, he knew they had something big. It was only after it broke the surface a few minutes later did they realize the magnitude of their catch. It was a giant blue marlin.

Johnny screamed for the captain to “stop the boat!” At this point Jack Kafka rallied his fishing buddies. Listen, he said: “This is going to be way harder than cleaning up dog poop or doing math homework or letting your mom comb your hair. I’m not going to lie, boys —we have our work cut out for us.”

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The first few moments were a chaotic blur, which was compounded by the deck hands, the adults, said Andrew: “They were total amateurs.” Only after William put in the DVD “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” did they finally get out of the way.

Undaunted, the boys designed a plan of attack. They would take turns at the reel. Fueled by determination to muscle the beast in, little by little they gained line.

Over the next 3 hours they battled the fish. When one got tired or needed a doughnut another would step in. They truly worked together like a well-oiled machine.

When the fish finally came close enough to the boat, Robert and William had decided that the only way to subdue it would be to jump on its giant back and together apply a wrestling technique called the “sleeper hold.” However, that plan was scuttled at the last moment in favor of a more traditional gaff and tail rope method.

When they got the fish aboard, none of the boys could believe their eyes. They had done something no one had thought possible. They caught and landed a 13-foot, 540-pound blue marlin in just under three hours.

They were assisted by deck hands Bruce Kleege, Josh Moss, Adam Aarons and Andy Kafka. When asked for comment, Bruce said, “Those kids worked us like dogs and were lousy tippers.”


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