By Don Magee
It was late July. Our small band of land
lubbers had arisen early, 4am, to have breakfast at a local hash house and
head off for a day of fun, sun and charter fishing. Something that none of
us had ever done before. Upon arising and heading out the door, all of us
were somewhat anxious. The air was heavy and humid, lightning was striking
in the direction of the gulf and light rain was beginning to develop.
was somewhat somber and optimism was low. We talked about the "correct"
breakfast to have and the chance of being seasick, assuming we would even
get on the water. After breakfast, we made our way to the dock where our
boat and captain awaited. The captain was busy giving the boat a thorough
check. It was nearly 6 a.m. and though the skies did not look promising
the weather forecast was more to our liking. According to the weatherman
the front was blowing inland away from the gulf and should clear within
the hour with better skies the rest of the day or at least until late
afternoon. The captain said his only concern was a thunderstorm to the
east near Mobile and what it might do. We all made our introductions and
huddled around some picnic tables on the dock eagerly waiting the
captain's decision and listening to other locals expressing their concern.
They too were wrestling with whether or not to head out into the big
water, risking the onslaught of storms and high seas or stay close to the
confines of the harbor and the shelter of land.
Around 7a.m. the captain and the deck hand, Matt, gathered us up and had
us board the boat. The weather had broken and the whole front was pushing
inland. Although the skies were still overcast, clouds were breaking and
the seas were calm and there was virtually no wind. Our
trip was a go!
Captain was Captain James. He was ex-coast guard and licensed and
certified for much bigger vessels than the boat we were taking out. The
boat was a 3310 Proline. A thirty three foot boat with a forward cabin,
that included galley, marine head, a flying bridge and air conditioning.
It sported two inboard diesels and was considered one of the fastest boats
on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I believe it. The Captain was a seasoned
veteran with a love for the water and charter fishing. It makes a real
difference to go with someone you like and with his easy going wit, we all
took to the Captain very quickly. The deckhand Matt, was much younger than
any of us but like the Captain had a great sense of humor. As I later
found out, Matt had pretty much been raised around boats and knew much
about deep sea fishing. He was also a very hard worker. I know that I
would never keep up with the pace he kept up in that humid July heat.
The first order of business was introduction and information. We all
gathered around aft as the Captain gave us an indoctrination of the boat,
what to expect, answered questions and explained the rules:
Rule 1. - Safety First. This was crucial above all else and he
explained what all that encompassed.
Rule 2. - Have fun. That's why we were here, and what its all
Rule 3. - The Captain never gets wet!
Finally we were off! It started with a long but pleasant boat ride. The
sky was somewhat overcast so the heat was never a problem. The smell of
salt water as the wind blew through my hair and the surf splashed the
sides of the boat just served to heighten the anticipation of catching big
fish. The captain was taking us far out into the gulf in the direction of
Chandeleur Island off the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. The biggest
challenge in deep sea fishing is " finding the fish ". As it turns out
though, the captain had no problem doing that. Eventually he came to a
stop, explained that we were about to start trolling and with luck the
fishing would commence. Matt rigged the poles, put the lines in the water
and away we went at a slow pace.
had just opened a bottle of cold water and was taking a drink when it
happened. "FISH ON!" Matt hollered. I saw one of the poles twitch and
shake as Matt grabbed for it and handed it to one us. We took turns as
much as possible in stepping up to reel in the fish or fight them as the
case may be. The fishing was nearly non-stop most of the day. At many
times during the day we were literally busier than the one legged man in a
butt kicking contest. As soon as we could reel one in and get the line
back in the water we would have another one hit.
What Fun! I was mesmerized and, pardon the expression, "hooked".
Catfishing would never seem the same after this. I never caught so many
fish, so many big fish, so fast, in such a short time, ever, and was not
likely to again. If you have never gone charter fishing or never been much
of a fisherman but would like to try, this is the trip to take.
During the trip, while trolling, we all took turns in visiting with the
Captain up on the flying bridge and getting a feel for riding on the
bridge, the view, and how to spot the schools of fish that the mackerel
were feeding on, which in turn led to where we would troll.
Primarily we were fishing for Spanish and King Mackerel and we caught some
nice ones. Although we did not catch any records or "trophies" it was a
blast! Most of us caught the "biggest fish" we had ever caught. I happened
to get luckier than the rest of the group and towards the end of the trip
landed a bonito. What a battle! At the time it was the biggest and
prettiest fish I had ever caught and definitely the most fight I ever got
from a fish. I was really excited and thought that nothing could top this.
I was wrong. A very short time later, being the only one not to have
caught a "big" King Mackerel. I was getting preference to being handed the
pole when we would get a strike.
(My thanks to all the others on the trip for giving me this opportunity).
I was handed a pole that was bending nearly in half. What a fight! I was
not sure who was going to win, the fish or me. At times I thought I was
going in or going to lose the pole. Suddenly, it stopped and felt like I
lost him. I pulled and reeled and I knew he was gone. Just as I was going
to pass the rod off, Wham! He took off again and the fight was on for
another round. For awhile those around thought it may be a yellow fin
tuna. From the boat, looking into the water they could make out a "good
sized fish" with yellow or amber markings. I don't know how long I
struggled but I finally landed him. It was a Jack Crevalle! He was full of
fight right up to the end. I was exhausted. I had just landed the bonito
and turned right around battled with this Jack Crevalle. As my father
walked up I quietly said "I'm done". He asked what I said, I repeated "I'm
done" and then as he laughed, he announced to the group that I was done.
Matt looked at the Jack Crevalle and then told me "You've caught nearly
every species there is to catch out here". I was extremely happy and
proud, not to mention exhausted. We were done and started back for shore.
I had a fishing memory and story that would last me for some time to come.
The sky began to turn overcast, and grew darker the closer we got to land.
It was not looking good. As we approached land, a few miles offshore the
lightning started and a light drizzle began. The boat stopped and the
Captain came down from the flying bridge. He laughed as he told us we were
breaking rule number three. The Captain was getting wet! We all laughed.
It was middle of the afternoon and we had just made it back to the dock.
Everyone was safely ashore when the storm broke. Thunder, lightning, and
rain as heavy as I have ever seen it.
What luck. What a day. You could not have planned a better trip. As we
waited for Matt to finish filleting the fish, Dad and I sat and talked
with the Captain. I told them both that at my age (forty six), in this day
and time there were few chances for me to feel like a kid again but this
day was one of them. We took our limit of fish, we were safe and we had a
lot of fun, however, we violated rule number three.
Thanks to my Dad for sponsoring the trip, and thanks to the others
fishing, and especially Matt and the Captain for a great fishing trip.
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