I like to read a variety of boating and fishing magazines. Who would have guessed, right? Somehow or another, these magazines have found me as they continue to send me free issues. I'm really not sure what I have done to warrant free magazines, but hey, I like free stuff. In fact, my two favorite types of beer are: free and cold.
In one of the articles in this month's magazine of Power & MotorYacht, the publisher, Daniel Harding Jr, talks about the dearth of young people who fish. Apparently, only old guys (like me) are fishing. According to the article's author, most young people aren't getting outside as much and tend to spend more time inside with their phones and video games. Since I have children of my own, it is very difficult for me to argue with that logic. The author challenged us old guys to make an effort to take these "outdoor-challenged" kids out fishing.
So a few months ago, when a friend of mine from volleyball, Dave, called me and said his teenage daughter really wanted to go offshore fishing, I was more than happy to schedule a special trip for them. Her 16th birthday was in March, thus we selected a March weekend for our trip. March tends to be windy out there, so the odds were against us to succeed. Nonetheless, we picked a weekend and hoped for the best. That weekend was last weekend.
Sam brought SJ ("Sam Jr - who has grown a foot since last year"), so I had crew members to assist. It is always nice to have experienced crew on the boat.
We left the dock promptly at 8 a.m. Forecast was sunny and calling for 2-3 ft seas. Not bad. I have learned from experience though that I should double the sea forecast. So I am actually expecting seas between 4-6 ft. Trust me - this practice is more accurate then not. Our destination: V Tower - 42 miles offshore. Absolutely EVERY DAMN SPECIES is closed, so we can't keep a single fish we catch. (Don't get me started) on the ridiculous fish rules.
On the way out, I decided to do a quick run across Oar Reef since we go right over it anyway. We are only trolling for about two minutes, when the birthday girl "Meagan" catches this nice gag grouper:
We keep heading farther offshore. An hour later, we reach V Tower. There is one other boat out here - so we do have company. They seem to be having fun catching fish also knowing that they can't keep anything. Well, at least I am assuming they aren't keeping anything. I'm not sure everyone plays by the rules. Still, the fines for NOT playing by the rules are pretty steep - steeper for me as I would lose my license. We watch them throw back all the snapper and Amberjack they catch. So apparently, they are also playing by the messed-up rules. (Don't get me started)
For the first 20 minutes, we don't catch anything. This is frustrating since the boat quite near us is catching fish. Since I have now fished V Tower numerous times, I actually do have a favorite "spot" near the tower. It isn't far from where we are fishing, probably only 75 yards, but nonetheless, I decide to drift over there. We start fishing again.
Um, yeah. For the next couple of hours, we kill it. First up, some small snappers, groupers and AmberJacks. We don't take pictures of every single fish, but here are a few:
Samia with a nice, small AmberJack.
(I called her "CE"/ pronounced SEE cause she has such cool eyes - get it?)
(I called her "CE"/ pronounced SEE cause she has such cool eyes - get it?)
SJ with a nice red snapper . We caught LOTS of those. They are everywhere.
Oh, we caught more Gag Groupers also. Here is smiling Sasha with a small and colorful one.
(I called her Sasha cause that is her name).
CE with another AmberJack.I should also mention that she was the best-dressed on the boat as her "matching fishing ensemble" was quite impressive.
Red Snapper for everyone. Sam doesn't like them looking at him. No CE ums. :-)
Sam, as always, does a wonderful job all day helping the kids/teenagers and instructing. I can't thank him enough for being such a great friend and crew member.
Back in the Gulf they ALL go. (Don't get me started.)
Everyone is having a great time catching fish snapper and gag grouper. Then things get a little more interesting. Drum roll, please.
The birthday girl catches the biggest AmberJack that has ever been on my boat - and I have had a LOT of AmberJack on my vessel. We measured it at 39 inches. That is a big damn AmberJack. I didn't time her, but it took her at least twenty minutes to get this monster into the boat. Bless her heart, she was so exhausted from bringing this fish in that she was shaking like a leaf as she tried to hold it up. Here it is:
Happy Birthday Meagan! Nice fish dear. 35 pounds. I hope you get this picture framed. If you do, make sure you also use the Capt'n Hook logo! :-) Sorry, no, we don't get to keep him. Back in he goes. (Don't get me started.)
Now I have bad news for the birthday girl. It, apparently, is Sasha's turn. Just a few minutes after Meagan brings in her huge Amber and although Sasha did not fight this fish quite as long as Meagan did, I have analyzed the photos and I know that this fish was 40 inches at 40 pounds. Um, very sorry, but this is now the LARGEST AmberJack on the Capt'n Hook vessel:
As you can see, even Sam is having trouble holding on to this whale of a fish - and he is a Marine. This fish is a MONSTER! 40 pounds. So sorry birthday girl, but Sasha currently holds the record for bringing in the largest AmberJack. But hey, who is counting right?! Personally, I am not very competitive. I don't care WHO wins when I compete. :-). Stop rolling your eyes Cameron! I can hear you do it even though you are reading this in Jacksonville.
Nice job cutting his tail off in this picture - Dave! Although getting V Tower in the background is a nice touch. Also glad you got both Sam and Sasha in it.
We continue fishing (and catching) for a while and Sam continues to assist and instruct. (You can see in the background that Sasha has another fish on):
SJ with a nice AmberJack. Back in he goes. (Don't get me started)
Meagan fighting her big AmberJack - or possibly some other large fish. She was a busy girl.
Sam gets a Goliath Grouper on his line. How do I/we know? Well, because he has caught a couple of them at V Tower now. We can tell because unlike AmberJack who race all over the place and snapper who are much smaller, Goliath just sit on the bottom for the first 30 minutes and refuse to move. Bringing them up is like bringing up a barge. He fights it for about 20 minutes, makes almost no progress with getting this ancient fish off the sea bottom. After 20 minutes, tension eases and he is able to reel. He reels very quickly. No Goliath, but in comes a huge red Snapper. He and I look at each other. WTF? Then we both figure it out simultaneously when we see that most of the snapper's scales are missing. The Goliath had the red snapper in his mouth and simply held onto it in it's mouth for 20 minutes. When it got tired of playing with Sam, it simply spit it out. Normally, I would say that Sam would be disappointed but as he had another 50-60 minutes of severe back strain ahead of him, I'm pretty sure he wasn't exactly devastated to lose the Goliath. That is now the 4th Goliath we have had on the line at V Tower. They really should consider opening this species up to limited fishing - but they won't. (don't get me started.)
Bottom line: As intended, it was LOTS of fun catching big fish for a few hours, but the winds have really picked up now. Seas are now a solid 4 ft with crashing white caps. Time to head back to the marina.
We troll away from V Tower and take a few more pictures:
The Captain apparently trying to look serious. I wasn't aware I was being photographed.
This last picture is one of my personal favorites. (Thanks Dave, btw, for taking all these great photos). Sam and I simply love to fish; we love being on the water. He is great with the kids (and all my guests) and like I said, I couldn't ask for a better friend. I thank God for putting him into my life. We don't even mind that we are in 5 ft seas. Our smiles are as genuine as they get - we absolutely love being out here!
We eventually pull in the trolling rods and head back.
Somewhere during the trip, I let SJ drive. I need to make a mental note to let him do that more often. Not too sure about the Crimson Tide shirt. We will need to work on that.
On the way out, I was able to haul-butt at 40 mph, but now I have a following sea and I can only get back in at 28 mph. How are the teenagers doing?
Um, yeah. They are all dead asleep. :-). If you had any doubts, I can assure you that offshore fishing is exhausting. Just taking the long ride out and back in rough seas is challenging, but catching HUGE AmberJacks really does you in. Those fish are strong fighters! In fact, some of the strongest in the Gulf. Well, I'm not that tired, I suppose. I just drive the boat these days. The teenagers did wake up at least once when we hit a rogue 7-ft wave which crashed over the bow and soaked everyone from bow to stern. I must admit, that particular wave caught me off-guard. I didn't see it coming. It was definitely rough coming back in. In a smaller vessel, I would have been pretty worried, but in my boat? Yeah, not so much. Steering in a following sea can also get challenging as the stern can, and does, broach. While it definitely did that a few times, fortunately it was only 5-6 ft seas and my boat is very heavy. That said, I still found steering challenging, and stressful at times.
So glad Dave (our photographer for the day), made it into a photo.
Two hours later, we arrive safely back at the dock. I thank God each time for that one also. Time for one last picture (above). Although we caught over 200 pounds of fish, there are no fish to clean, (don't get me started), but it IS time to have a few beers at Mad Anthony's.
Thank you Dave for my gift certificates signed by you and all the girls. That was very thoughtful of you.
Once again, another great (and safe) adventure. Happy birthday Meagan. Get your fish picture framed! I look forward to my next fishing trip which will be the 2nd week of April. Well, I am going bass fishing at Lake Cue this weekend, but that doesn't count, right?
See everyone soon. Thanks for reading. All three of you. Actually, 14,170 site page views now. Man, you three readers are hitting the refresh button - a LOT!
Jackson, when are you coming fishing with me?
Tight lines everyone.