I’ve been on more than my fair share of fishing trips. There have been dozens upon dozens of adventures where sometimes the fishing was great and sometimes it was poor (i.e. skunked). This past week our crew set out for the deep blue waters of Mexico Beach and the Gulf of Mexico. It turned out to be one of the best; in fact a top five trip in my book of best ever.
When I began trying to rank the most outstanding trips I’ve encountered, the top two were pretty easy for me. They both not only brought about lifetime “catching”, but had more emotional ties to them than most. Let me explain. In 1983 I was fortunate enough to get the call to donate my brother, Terry, a kidney. It has, and will always be, one of the proudest moments of my life ranking just behind marrying my beautiful wife, Sheryl, and her giving us our two children, Brett and Andi. In 2003, Terry offered to take me on an all-expenses paid 20th anniversary fishing trip of that event to Stuart, Florida. We absolutely hammered king mackerel, amberjack, and many other predators. It was an epic trip where I was first introduced to trolling and bottom fishing all at the same time. If you have any knowledge of fishing, that sounds impossible. After all, trolling involves a moving boat while bottom fishing is also referred to as still fishing; the boat is not moving. Go figure that one out for yourself or ask me at the next ballgame how that is possible. I’ll just leave you hanging for now.
Again, in 2013 he took me on a 30th anniversary trip to Islamorada in the Keys where we killed the mahi-mahi and I got a trophy bull dolphin. Those two trips easily rank one and two on my list of fishing quests. The people that tagged along on those trips were big brother Alvin, my Dad Dewey Richardson, nephews Taylor and Grant Richardson, teammate and college roommate Phil Stein, and others. The company helped make these trips even more special. They were once-in-a-lifetime ventures that will probably never be rivaled.
However, last week’s trip was also very special. My son Brett is now the captain of my vessel, the “Reef Donkey”, and boy has he ever so humbled his big Daddy in that category. The other two members of the crew were made up of David Bryant of Covington and Steve Hollis of Rutledge. They proved to be more than worthy crew members. I didn’t have to flog them a single time. Let’s just say they are fine young men that are addicted to the sport of fishing and were great company. They also helped load the “old man” into and out of the boat which is no easy task these days.
The trip ranked right in there with a Flagler Beach trip on the Atlantic side of Florida where I took a 70 pound cobia with my friend Jason Phillips, and another one to Carrabelle on the Gulf side where we took pictures of the back of a pickup completely filled with our catch-of-the-day.
Let me count the ways this one was a top five pick. We brought in a two-day limit of red snapper up to 14 pounds, Brett captured his first-ever keeper gag grouper at 26 inches (very rare), the numbers, types, sizes, and table fare quality we brought home was second to none, and we made it home safely. I’ll expound on that in a moment. Folks, if you don’t know, if red snapper and its cousin called beeliners (which we caught a number of) are the ribeye steak of the sea, then grouper is the filet mignon. We also took Lane snapper, mangrove snapper, and other species that totaled up to 18 gallon bags of filleted fish. I’m up for a fish fry.
The final day we were on the water for 13 straight hours. This old man almost monkeyed. That’s a redneck term I learned from my Dad. It means you gave slap out. Upon returning to the hotel California (see my column for more details on this fine establishment), the flight of steps looked like Mt. Everest. Using ropes and climbing paraphernalia, the boys somehow hauled me up to the second floor. No one was injured in the filming of this event. Not even animals.
There were some problems, as always, that went along with the “catching”. Upon loading the boat at the end of the second day, the boat runner on the trailer simply floated off when we backed it into the water. Yep, just came completely unglued. Luckily, the engineers of the crew were able to secure a makeshift runner using zip ties, spit, and a little super glue (I think). We made it to the nearest Lowe’s where they contrived a way for us to get back to the big city of Rutledge. The second problem occurred on the third day when raging storm clouds completely enshrouded us 360 degrees.
There seemed to be no way out or around the thunderstorms. That is no small problem in an 18 foot boat that is 17 miles offshore. It was as if the hand of God just simply made us a way home. The clouds parted for no apparent reason and the only way out was straight toward our port of call. Prayers of thanks went up and we made it home safely; somehow. Thank you Lord for keeping us all safe.
The only reason you go fishing is hoping you’ll be on that one trip where the tide’s right, the moon phase is good, luck is on your side, and the fish are biting like crazy. You have to endure a bunch of trips where the fishing ain’t so good to be there at the right time and the right place. I’m just glad that I’ve been on enough of them to be on this one that I could say was in my Top Five ever. It was worth the wait.
Author’s note: For more on this and other fishing tales, see this week’s column: “Memories of an old angler.”