Captain Hook

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:

Ouch. Indeed. 

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.

Captain Hook. 
(My new nickname at the marina.  I’ve been called worse!)

New Fishing Season


Hey guys (and ladies?):

My brother Russell says he actually reads these blogs, so I will continue with them!

Fishing season is coming, fishing season is coming!  I can't wait.  I got sooo tired this winter staring at my fishing poles in my garage wishing I was actually using them.  Yes, I admit, I casted out into the yard several times.

Jim Pittman and I went out on Saturday.  We spent the night at the coast - we bonded.  I hadn't taken the boat out in a couple of months.  It was filthy.  A couple of people gave me crap about cleaning it BEFORE I took it out.  But hey, I am used to getting crap at the dock.  This is my 2nd year as an offshore Captain.  Things are gonna be a little different this year - I'll explain exactly what I mean towards the end of the blog.

Last year, about this time, I thought the end of the channel was a long way.  This year, not so much.  In fact, my GPS was acting up on Saturday, but I still had every intention of heading to K Tower without it.  I have both my phone as a backup and even if that didn't work, I am now very comfortable using my compass to guide me offshore and back.  Who's your Daddy!

So Jim and I headed out Saturday morning.  Not very windy heading out - that is cool.  I really want to see if the Kings are running on Oar Reef.  Oar Reef is 5 miles short of K Tower.  I  caught several Kings there last year so I am pretty confident of my waypoints. 

We troll for 45 minutes there, nothing up or down that reef.  Hmm.  Perhaps I am pushing fishing season a bit here in late March.  I am on my boat though!  That rocks.  We can see K Tower (5 miles away) from where we are so we head over there. 

There were live pinfish in my bait trap next to the dock (another small trick I learned last year), so Jim starts fishing the bottom, next to K Tower, with live bait.  For months, I have been anxiously waiting to see if these new huge spinning reels and the plastic eel I have on the end of the line attracts Cobia.  So, I start casting the eel.  After 15 minutes, both Jim and I are fishless.  Eventually, he attracts some odd looking fish (let's call it a crapfish), and he throws it back.  I have a bottom line down but I am also still casting the eel.  I am about to give up, when you guessed it, WHAM!  I set the hook.  At first, he doesn't seem very big, but as he gets closer to the boat he decides to run.  Fish never like the sight of the boat do they?  Holy crap, he starts taking line fast.  I tighten the drag even more.  80 pound test on a spinning reel bitch, you ain't breaking this!  I fight him for 15 minutes; Jim helps me with the net and we get him in the boat.  Amberjack.  What a great fight!  My first AJ.

Not huge as Amberjacks go, but still a decent-sized fish.  I had no idea the AJ would hit the eel. Good to know. I was expecting a cobia.  Nonetheless, in the cooler he goes.  At this point, the wind is really starting to howl and the swells are running about 4 feet.  Time to go.  I have learned that, just because the sun is shining and the weather is warm, the wind can still get very scary out there 20 miles offshore.  I have also learned that the DIRECTION of the wind is very important.  I knew when we were heading offshore that we were going INTO a SW wind.  On the way back, I knew the wind would be at our backs and therefore, the ride would be much smoother.  It was.  Swells hitting your stern are much more desired than swells hitting your bow.

So what do I mean about being a better Captain?  Well, on Saturday, when Captain Vic returned to the dock, we discussed how much the wind was a factor.  Captain Vic is the most experienced in-shore charter Captain in these parts.  That boy knows how to catch fish.  Because of the wind though, he had "no keepers" for the day - not even a single rock bass.   Geeks 1 - one keeper AmberJack. I beat him, albeit by one fish.  First time that has ever happened!  Go me.

So that's pretty much it for today's blog.  Rock-the-Dock is April 27.  I'm getting ready.  The Kings should be running by then.  Let's go catch em boys!

Captain Paul