Greg Daly’s love of fishing developed while growing up in Eatonville. He would fish for steelhead in the Nisqually River and ride his bike to a local pond to fish for trout.
It was during a trip to Hawaii as a young adult when the desire to fish offshore was born.
“I had always dreamed of doing offshore fishing in a tropical spot,” Daly said.
But living in the South Sound, the closest offshore opportunity is chasing albacore tuna in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Six years ago, Daly did just that.
He and his friends got good enough, that in 2012 they finished third in the Oregon Tuna Classic. In 2013, they won the Washington Tuna Classic.
That victory earned Daly and his team a trip to the 15th annual Offshore World Championship held last month in Costa Rica.
Now, having experienced the highs and lows of offshore fishing during the tournament, Daly has realized his dream and wants to earn a trip back to the championship.
“I love the outdoors, but I dream every day of being on the ocean,” Daly said of his passion for chasing fish such as tuna, sailfish and marlin.
Daly and his four teammates certainly saw plenty of sailfish during the four-day tournament in early April. They finished in 20th place out of 64 teams.
The team earned 600 points by catching and releasing three sailfish, putting them in 62nd place on Day 1. Points are determined by the species of billfish caught.
But on Day 2 of the event, the team was placed aboard the boat Frenzy. Teams switch boats each day of the event.
Taking advice from the captain, Jose Fernandez, and mate Marco Solano Jimenez, the inexperienced billfishing team got after it.
Fishing from 7 a.m-3:30 p.m., the Washington Tuna Classic team caught a single-day championship record 35 billfish, worth 7,000 points and good for first place that day.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Daly said. “I haven’t talked to a seasoned offshore fisherman that has raised and caught 35 fish in a day.
“You have to have the luck, but you have to capitalize on the opportunity. Our team worked really well.”
The team — including Erik and Erin Erdman, Miriah Major, Terry Backstrom and Mark Taylor — hooked and reeled in almost three dozen sailfish averaging 150 pounds.
“Yeah, there wasn’t a lot of breathing time. You didn’t have time to celebrate, other than a quick high five, you’re right back fishing.”
Even though the team struggled to find fish on Day 3, landing just six fish, Daly thought they had a chance to finish well on the fourth and final day. But those hopes were dashed when their boat for the day had engine trouble and they could not fish.
Despite that final-day disappointment, the team already has plans to fish five qualifying tournaments, including the two tuna classics.
“We have to win one of those tournaments to go back to the Offshore World Championship,” Daly said.
Talking last week about the experience, it is obvious that Daly has converted his Northwest fishing passion into one for big billfish.
“The laid-back lifestyle and the people that you come in contact with doing this is what attracts me,” Daly said.
“There’s some magical thing that happens on the ocean. Whether out for albacore or in Costa Rica, there is something about being on the ocean. I always tell people I’ve lived my dream.”
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640