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Biloxi Heat
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.

Breakfast 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!

Our 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 about.

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.

I 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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