It was a long weekend – warning - this will be a relatively long blog. And please don’t eat anything while you read this. You'll understand why in a moment.
The “2013 Rock-The-Dock Fishing Tournament” in Panacea, Florida event was this weekend. Scheduled to be on “Geeks 1” this weekend are: Nick Sloan, Jeff Paul, Gene Griffin and me.
Gene and I spent the night down there Thursday night so we could get a "practice" day in before the tournament started on Saturday. You know, just so we wouldn't do anything stupid during the tournament.
Friday morning – 7 a.m. As soon as we head out, it is clear we won’t be going far. The wind is HOWLING! 4-5 foot seas. Ain’t no way we are headed out to the reefs 20 miles offshore in this wind. So we fish the bays. We don’t catch much. As the day goes on though, the wind starts to lay down. At 1 p.m., the waves subside enough for us to attempt a run out to “Oar Reef”. I am dying to practice trolling with the big rigs, the new ribbon fish lures, and the new planers. I can’t wait to see if the Kings have returned.
Although it is still pretty choppy, we make it out to Oar Reef without trouble. I reach up to grab one of the big rigs that are in the rocket launcher above my head, but I lose my balance and instead of grabbing the pole, I grab the hook on the lure. The hook goes right through my finger and burrows in. Now, you may be thinking, big deal, people hook themselves all the time, but have you ever seen the size of a King Mackerel ribbon fish lure hook? Here it is being removed from my finger at the emergency medical center in Tallahassee Friday afternoon:
2.5 hours that damn hook was in my finger. It was a long boat ride back in. I was so glad when they finally removed it. So I get a few stitches, a tetanus shot (which hurt all weekend - and my finger didn't), and we head back to the coast to re-join the festivities.
We all drink a few beers Friday night (I have more than a few). Hey, I blame my finger.
Saturday morning, we try it again. Mother Nature says, “No Way”. 4-5 foot seas in the morning, but we know it will get better so we hang out in-shore fishing and biding our time. Around 1 p.m., we head out again to Oar Reef. Very, very choppy, but we make it there eventually by doing 10 mph. My crew tells me I am not allowed to touch anything that has a hook on it. To be honest, I am perfectly fine with that.
Here is where the blog starts to get interesting:
We throw out the trolling lines. We fish for 15-20 minutes – nothing. Then Jeff says something about eating a banana. I tell him there better not be a damn banana on my boat. He asks me why, and I explain that bananas are bad luck on boats. Honestly, I'm not sure why either. Slipping? So he takes the banana he is holding, and instead of eating it, he throws it in the water. It isn’t 15 seconds later that – WHHHHHIIIIIIIIZZZZZZZZ, the trolling line goes crazy and we catch our first King of the day. I’m sorry Jeff that we didn’t take a picture of him, I really should have done that for you. But he was a nice big fish everyone - trust me. My family intends to eat him tonight.
We begin trolling again. Nothing.
Jeff finds another damn banana. “Get that f*cking thing off my boat”, I yell. He throws it in the water. 15 seconds later: WHHHHHIIIIIIIIZZZZZZZZ, the trolling line goes crazy. Gene hooks into an 18 pound grouper. Here is that picture:
We are in Federal waters though, so we have to throw him back. That sucks! Don't even get me started on fishing regulations these days. You know, come to think of it, I think I will dedicate an entire blog to that subject sometime in the near future - just to vent.
We start trolling again. Nothing.
I know you aren’t going to believe me, but Jeff finds another f*cking banana hidden in a different cooler. Was he a monkey in a previous life? You know where this is headed right? He throws it overboard. You guessed it, 15 seconds later: WHHHHHIIIIIIIIZZZZZZZZ, the trolling line goes crazy. Nick reels in a 13 pound grouper. Here it is:
Sorry for the fuzzy pictures, but my cell phone lens apparently, is coated with salt water. We got very wet headed offshore due to the waves.
Fishermen, by nature, are a superstitious bunch. Now I understand why. If you fish with me, please do not bring bananas on my boat! Or if you do, please prepare to throw them overboard. Chumming with bananas. Who knew?
K Tower isn’t far, and I have an ongoing war with the Barracuda that guard that particular tower, so we head over there. I am up on the bow throwing a large eel on a spinning rod, Gene is also on the bow throwing a large silver spoon, with a weight and a triple hook. Jeff and Nick are near the stern bottom fishing. I get a barracuda to attack, but he immediately bites through the line. Man those guys have sharp teeth. Current Score: Barracuda 4 - Marc 0.
I am minding my own business, when WHACK - something hits me in the side of the head, and I feel something rip through my ear. I go down hard, hitting the bow face first. It doesn’t knock me unconscious, but I know I am hurt and I'm pretty damn sure it was Gene’s lure that hit me and sliced through my ear. The only question I ask myself as I lay there, “How much of my ear is remaining?” In my head, I visualize the size of the hook that was on the spoon he was whipping through the air. I get up to my hands and knees. Blood is dripping from my ear onto the bow - not a good sign. Gene comes over and very calmly says, “It’s just a scratch!” But I know how hard it hit me, so I'm not really believing him. In fact though, it really was just a scratch. The weight is what hit me in the head, not the hook. The hook only sliced the very tip of my ear. In fact, it barely grazed me. But Gene and I are both thinking, “Thank God”. At the speed in which he was whipping that large lure off the boat, it could have easily torn my entire ear off, or worse, had it hit me in the back of the head. Well, let’s not go there either. For some reason, we decide to immediately stop fishing K Tower. I’m not sure who is shaking more, Gene or me. It is one of those moments when you keep thinking to yourself, “What if?” But that didn’t happen. Gene apologizes for the umpteenth time. Time to keep fishing.
Did we miss a banana somewhere?
Believe it or not, I consider myself to be a very safe Captain. I don’t drink on the boat, I don’t head out in unsafe conditions, I study the weather, the tides, I keep the boat well maintained, I read. I do all the things I am supposed to do to make sure that I, and my crew, stay as safe out there as possible. But guess what, off-shore fishing is inherently dangerous. Bad things happen out there very quickly. There are LOTS of sharp things flying around. If anything, I re-learned that being overly conservative is not just being a wuss, it is a necessary virtue for being an offshore Captain.
We head into State Waters and catch ANOTHER 13 pound grouper trolling. This one is legal, so he goes into the cooler. It is now around 6 p.m. The weather is beautiful and as we head in, I have my “moment”.
You know, that moment when it all comes together and everything is just right in your world. Jeff had taken over the driving for a little bit. I was relaxing on the back seat. The sun was setting, the temperature was perfect, we had fish in the cooler, I still had both ears, and I was returning from a productive, yet physically challenging day of offshore fishing with my close friends. So I said, “Gentleman, I am calling this my moment”. And it was. Perfection. It is why I love to fish. Thank you gentleman, for your respect, for always asking me if I needed anything, for giving me that moment and for being a great crew:
There isn’t much to write about for our Sunday. The wind was even worse. I really did feel for you out there 30 miles offshore Robbie - I don't care how big your boat is. There was no way my bay boat was going to make it offshore so we headed over to St. Marks for some inshore fishing. We caught lots of small trout, some catfish, some ladyfish, and some other junk fish, but nothing to write home (or in a blog) about. Pretty much why I don’t enjoy inshore fishing much anymore. Still, it was another beautiful day and we caught fish. I didn't hear any complaints.
We wrapped up the weekend at the bar with a lot of oysters, a few more beers, and here I am back at work Monday morning. Dammit.
Stay safe out there folks. Thank you for reading.
(My new nickname at the marina. I’ve been called worse!)