It was the perfect day. The sun was shinning like the Florida tourism ads promise. The water was as smooth as a baby’s behind and Jeff, Allison, Juan, Kyle and I were looking forward to a great day on the Gulf. We were going to go to Dog Island Reef, load the Official ><((“> Pontoon Boat with the bounty of the sea and get back in time to fry, saute, smoke and feast on our catch of the day.
Yep … this was a sure fire day and way to catch our limit!
Except for one little thing. Kyle, who was born and raised in the Keys and I (as avid a fisherman as Kyle) forgot one little detail. We forgot to check the weather. It was just too beautiful a day to waste our time doing that.
So … we were about seven miles offshore having gone from 25′ to 3′ of water on the reef. My first cast attracted three or four sharks, and luckily none of them decided to chew on plastic. Kyle had a ferocious hit on his top water lure, but the fish didn’t cooperate and make its way into our cooler. Bam … I side hooked a nice trout and thanks to Kyle’s boatmanship, iced down our first keeper. Boom, Juan had a small trout that soon was released to swim back to its mother. And then, boom again, I had a nice bluefish which guaranteed we would fire up the smoker. It would just be a matter of time before our big cooler would be holding our dinner and then some.
Then Kyle announced for all to hear, “I’m not a meteorologist, but I’d say odds are that squall coming from the west is going to give us a good soaking.” His words were punctuated by the sound of one mighty thunderbolt.
Normally, squalls come and go so quickly, that I stand my ground. However, the sun looked like it was low on batteries and it only took one more lighting bolt to get me cranking the engine and heading for shore.
We were all particularly aware of Jeff’s wife, Allison, being on board. Guys deserve what the weather dishes out … girls don’t. It’s as simple as that.
Along with the wind, came the waves. Kyle kept screaming six foot or more! And to make matters worse, the distant shoreline disappeared as the wind and waves took us farther and farther east of our target … the marina we had launched our pontoon boat from just an hour earlier.
I kept my hands on the wheel, as we watched a giant wave rush over the bow and give us all a good soaking. Not that the rain wasn’t doing its part as well. Yes we had a Bimini top, but that a top mind you, no sides. And, rain somehow manages to come from all angles when the wind shoves its weight around.
We avoided turning over, having to jump in the water with only our life vests, sharks, giant squids and most of all, being fried like we were going to do with our catch later that evening. Sitting ducks came to mind. And, even lightening jokes didn’t take our minds off of the reality of that concept.
Just as we were avoiding a big reef that could have stopped us dead in our tracks, Juan yelled, “I think I see land!” And, sure enough, the storm had not washed away the rest of the planet, and it was indeed land. As the squall headed east, we began to find familiar landmarks and knew we had weathered a pretty major storm.
What amazed me in hindsight is what an incredible team we were. I mean a real team. No finger pointing or just jumping overboard with one of those, “who needs you guys” attitudes. Cussing was held to a minimum and it was really more of a feeling that took hold of each of us … a feeling of, we’re in this together, and together, we are going to get through it, no matter what.
And, when it was over, there was a bond that didn’t need any verbalizing to explain. We had been through hell together and made it … together.
I joked about fishing a little bit longer, now that the sun was showing itself, again. But, it was only a joke.
We all headed to our respective homes and I took the trout and bluefish home with me. Later that evening I made what I called Side Hooked and Squalled Fish Chowder. Tomatoes, green pepper, onions, mushrooms, garlic, secret spices, and white wine gave the fish starring roles in a meal fit for survivors. I ate my fair share as I thought about the day. I could still hear the thunder, see the lightning and feel the wind and waves. And, I promised I would save the rest of my chowder for my pals, my comrades in arms. We were a team. And, our experience would forever hold us together.
><(("> Tom Laughon
Tom is affectionately known as BIG ><(("> at Catch Your Limit
Catch Your Limit
Management Guides & Fish Cleaning Services
><(("> Camps in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia
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