It was early in the morning with a light fog hanging over the water and a cool nip in the air. You could see the horizon starting to get a little brighter to the east. The marina was quiet except for the sound of the wheels of a fish cart rolling down the dock as my deck hand pushed it full of bags of ice towards the boat for our trip that day. He had been there extra early that morning anticipating an exiting day of fishing and couldn’t wait to get ready to go. As I walked up to the boat I noticed he already had all the fishing poles out, rigged and ready. “Good morning Captain!” I said yes it is. He knew that we would probably have a day of fishing to remember today because just as I do, he checks the weather and hears all of the latest fishing reports and knows that the fish are biting good and we have the perfect forecast for the next several days.
I was looking forward to the trip as well because I knew that some of my good customers from Chattanooga Tennessee would be there. They are a group of guys from their local Baptist Church and even though they live in Tennessee, they are very experienced fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. That meant I could expect them to be as excited as we were. As I got on the boat and opened the wheel house door to put my stuff down, I heard the chatter of voices coming from around the corner of the building in the parking lot. Sure enough, it was them and they were an hour early. Seems they couldn’t wait to get down to the boat either. As they filed on down to the boat we said our good mornings and loaded up, laughing and talking about who is going to get the “Big One” today. The day was off to a great start.
We left the marina around Six o’clock and headed out the pass at Orange Beach, Alabama. I told them we would stop and get some live bait out about twenty miles and then continue offshore to start our day of bottom fishing. We already knew there were some Amberjack and Grouper biting out about 35- 40 miles so we had to have some good bait. Usually we have some that we catch at the marina, but this time of the year the “Pinfish” are still a little scarce, so we use what ever we can get off shore.
As we cleared the pass my deckhand put out the high speed trolling lines. We usually run about 16 knots and troll with heavy trolling weights (16-48 oz) in front of a heavy lure (24-36oz) and we use wire line on the reels. All of this gets the lure down deep enough to still have it presented good to the fish even at 16 knots. After all, Orange Beach, Alabama, is home of the “World Record Wahoo”. We catch a lot of Wahoo trolling in and out to our fishing holes as well as King Mackerel, Dolphin and some times even a Blue Marlin. You never know.
After stopping and catching some small White Snapper, Mingo’s (Vermillion), and some Sand Perch, we were off again to head out to the deep water. Typically, the fish are in deeper water earlier in the season because the water temperature is still around the mid 60’s. When the temperature comes up to 70 something, they will migrate into the shallower waters. Knowing this I had a plan. Head on out to the deep water first and work my way back in.
Later we would even go try to get our Red Snappers in Florida waters, as it has not yet opened in the Federal waters. After arriving to our first destination it was clear the day was going to go well when we dropped our lines in 180 feet of water and every one got bites rite away. The Big Mingo’s and Big White Snapper were on fire. We caught around 50 to 75 pounds off the first hole and people were beaming excitement. We headed over to the next hole as every one regrouped and got something to drink, baited there hooks and waited for me to stop the boat. It didn’t take long for them to get back into the groove after waiting for a year to come fishing again.
On our next stop, I noticed what appeared to be the familiar markings of Amberjack on the fish finder. I told my deckhand to put down some of the live bait that we had caught that morning and see if they would bite. He dropped the bait down anticipating an immediate strike, but it didn’t come so he handed off the rod to a “new comer” and continued to take off fish from the others. About ten minutes went by when all of a sudden we heard this yelling “Help me!” We all looked over to see this new guy who had never been out in the Gulf of Mexico before trying to get to his knees as the fish is trying to pull him overboard. That’s when I knew that we were truly blessed for the day. After a fifteen minute struggle with the fish, I looked back and saw my deck hand reach over the stern with gaff and make one clean swipe and pull in over the railing an Amberjack around 35lbs. Every one cheered and high fived and patted him on the back. This was his biggest fish he had ever caught. He set the rod down and slumped down to his knees with exhaustion. That was surely a memory that he will have for the rest of his life.
As we continued to fish we caught several more Amberjack and a few Gag Groupers as well as some Scamp. We fished several holes in the area doing well on all of them and then decided to put the trolling lines back in the water and head back into Florida waters to see of we could catch some Red Snappers. Although trolling didn’t pay off that day for us, I heard that there were some others who did catch a Wahoo and a few Kings.
We arrived in Florida waters and noticed that there were many boats on all of the public reefs as well as a few private and after careful consideration I decided to see if one of my “Personal Private Reefs” had some fish on it. As I expected it was loaded with nice fish.
It didn’t take long and we caught our limit (2 per person) and were on our way home. What a day! Every where we went that day it seemed like we had a little “Divine Intervention”? We did have the preacher on board. As we headed back to the marina I could hear every one talking about what a good time they had and were already talking about booking another trip.
The whole day proved to be a complete success. When we pulled back into the marina there were friends and loved ones waiting on the dock for us to arrive. We rounded the corner of the dock and they began to wave and shout with excitement. As I backed into my slip I thought to myself how lucky I am to have had such a great day with friends and family out on the water all day. I think the picture says a thousand words.