and Cathy McArthur on
the Road 2008: 8
I only caught 3 fish in 12 hours of fishing, but it was a fun trip. I always love being on the water, so fishing for me is a secondary part of the experience. Twenty-four of us were on the boat, which seemed older than any of us. It rained occasionally on Wednesday night and Thursday, but I was equipped with a rain jacket, so it wasn't a problem. The temperature was in the high 70s and low 80s with a 15 mph wind. The seas were running 4 to 6 feet as predicted.
I found out that night fishing is like day fishing except that you can't see. I perched in the bow (like in "Titanic"), so I was sitting in compete darkness. We were about 12 miles off shore, outside the reef. The two young mates (helpers) were shanghaied from a local bar, I think. They were glum and taciturn and unhelpful. It was pretty funny watching them try not to do anything. I was able to catch some good looks at the eclipse of the moon through the scattered clouds. I ended up with a very heavy duty tuna pole with a huge reel, cable-like line, and a giant hook. I got a great arm workout working that equipment. I had a hard time feeling any fish action (it's like a mosquito crashing into a tractor), but managed to catch a keeper Yellow-Tail Snapper and a throwback Mutton Snapper. The boat came back at midnight. I got to bed in the motel at 1:30 AM.
For Thursday's fishing, I got up at 5:30 AM and caught a nice pancake breakfast at a typical Keys breakfast room, equipped with the standard tan 40-something blonde with short shorts and a cigarette voice. The coffee felt good going down. We checked out and boarded the boat around 8:30 AM for the day's fishing trip. Once the boat got outside the reef, we were in the dark blue water that I really love. Back home, we have to go out about 40 miles to get into the deep blue, but in the Keys you can be there in under an hour. The boat was doing a bit of rocking and rolling, which doesn't bother me. I spent some time on the "Yellow-Tail assembly line", but ended up on my perch on the bow, loving life. I saw some flying fish, a big sea turtle, and a Magnificent Frigate Bird while we were out. I caught a keeper Mutton Snapper for my day's effort.
The "Yellow-Tail assembly line" was this weird dance of 10 anglers shuffling along the back of the boat and returning to the baiting station after each traversal. At the baiting station, a small piece of bait was put on the hook which was then embedded in a softball sized mass of oatmeal and some fish oils. The mate threw the ball in the water to start the dance. The idea was that Yellow-Tail Snappers would swim into the chum cloud and get on the hook. That didn't happen for me, but a few people did catch fish this way. On one of my repetitions, the guy next to me hurled a chunky stream of vomit into the water. I cheerily remarked that it was nice of him to add some chunks to the chum. I don't know if he liked my comment, but the next time I saw him, he was lying on a bench in the cabin with a few other sufferers of mal de mer.
When I fish, I don't eat, drink, or take breaks. I simply keep baiting and rebaiting and fishing. At the end of the day, when the captain starts the engine for the last time, I'm the guy that thinks that the trip was too short. I love fishing from the shore, in my kayak, on a small boat, on a charter boat, or on a party boat.
The hard part of the trip was driving the 3 hours back to Naples through the Everglades. My wife made me watch the Democratic Debate after dinner and kept nudging me when I dozed off. To her credit, she let me go on the trip and was happy that I enjoyed it.