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My brother Steve and I braved a rough day in the Gulf a few years ago to bottom fish with my father-in-law, Fred Donovan, aboard his boat the Periwinkle II. To give you an idea of how bad it was, two members of our party were sick before we cleared Pensacola Pass. By the time we reached the sea buoy, we had a full-fledged chum line going.
The weather was nasty and the fishing was slow and hard. For most of the day, all we had was a few small fish. But out of nowhere, Fred reeled up a 40-lb. grouper. For the next hour or so we had to endure relentless comments about how it took the oldest guy on the boat to catch the biggest fish. We heard the phrase, “Old guys rule!” about a hundred times, along with several comments about how sorry the rest of us were.
We were actively discussing mutiny when Steve and I both hooked up.
His was the first rod to double over and it was obvious from the bulging veins in his arms and neck that it was a good one. My fish, on the other hand, was more erratic, fighting hard one minute, letting up the next. My thought was that we both had grouper on and that his was probably the bigger of the two.
As we reeled our fish toward the surface, we started to notice that our lines were closer together and moving in tandem, usually a sure sign that they’re crossed. But no matter which way we tried to untangle them, they wouldn’t separate. So, with nothing else to do, we just kept reeling.
Soon Steve’s fish started moving laterally and my line went with it. Just about 30 feet behind the boat, we saw a striped, silver flash and we finally understood what was going on: A 55-lb. wahoo had taken both our baits on the way down. Steve had done most of the work getting him up to the boat, but he had both our hooks in his mouth.
Just as we were coming to grips with the fact that we were catching the same fish, Steve’s line snapped and suddenly I had him by myself. In the space of just a few seconds, I went from thinking I was pulling up a 10-lb. grouper to being manhandled by a large wahoo that clearly didn’t want to come aboard the Periwinkle.
When we finally got him in the boat and weighed, it was time to rub it in: “Well, at least we don’t have to hear from the old guy about his damn grouper any more.”
Fred shot right back: “Well, mine is still the biggest fish that anybody on the boat caught by himself.”