Smaller fish feed and hide along the rip, so we troll the blue-water side. Transparent Portuguese men-of-war drift with the swells, looking like empty plastic bottles. Seabirds perch on the clumps of seaweed. Flying fish, a favorite food of the wahoo, skitter about the waves like aquatic blue jays. But still, no bites. The lines trail uselessly behind the boat.

Suddenly, someone yells, "Fish on, fish on!" The boat engines cut, there's a flash of fish on the surface, and then nothing. It didn't catch the hook. The crew pulls in the lines and adds teaser lures in front and behind - three different baits on three lines. We continue along the rip, watching the lures behind the boat. Somewhere below the surface, wahoos are darting about, ignoring us.

Hours later, under clear sunny skies, we're still circling rigs. The weather turned out perfect. I think we're about 40 miles from shore, but I'm not sure. There is nothing but sun and rigs and miles of blue water. Time means nothing. The pace is out of another century. I feel like Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick, scouring the high seas for the elusive white whale. Or the fisherman who was dragged out to sea by a giant marlin in Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Except in my fish tale, nothing happens. And college students aren't forced to write term papers about it. Although I am curious exactly how to turn in a magazine story about fishing, without any fish.

The combination of sun and light wind relaxes all of us. We sit and stare at the water, lulled by the engine noise, as Kevin trolls the rip and circles the rigs.

I recall all the happy people pulling up tunas as we cruised through the Midnight Lump. Yesterday our crew caught 17 black-fin tuna in one and a half hours. The clients were so tired they said, "That's it, we're done for the day." And when I first contacted Earl, his boat had caught two wahoos the day before. Venice was hot. The wahoos were on. But not today - and after all the talk about how exciting wahoos are, I'm convinced it's as real as the giant squid.

I wonder if Earl is feeling as frustrated as I. He comes out of the galley with another sandwich and says, "The fish ain't hungry, but I am."

The skipper and first mate are feeling more antsy. They want to catch something. They can't go back to the marina empty-handed. Kevin tries one more rig, and after a few circles pulls in the lines and says we're headed back to the Midnight Lump. We roar along at full throttle, kicking up spray, the wake forming a perfect V behind us. Nobody says a word.