Friday, March 5, 2010

Deep Sea Fishing Aboard the Kingfisher Party Boat, Port Aransas

It was still dark as we loaded aboard the Kingfisher, a seventy foot Port Aransas party fishing charter, and headed out into the Gulf of Mexico. Gerry and I were both a little concerned about motion sickness but it was a needless worry as the Gulf was like glass. Too excited to go inside we watched the jetties glide by and the headed east.
We passed an anchored fleet of tankers and then two groups of gas platforms. All the while the deck hand worked patiently on tying lines, making steel leaders, cutting bait and rigging poles. Watching his hands I was able to figure out how easy he made his work seem. It was obvious that the boat was lucky to have such a talented crew member.
The plan was to head out about sixty miles to a place called Bakers Rocks. Now Bakers Rocks are near the edge of the continental shelf, where the ocean plunges to its depth, and we were heading there to catch vermilion snapper. The ride was a three hour journey and it seemed endless, although another fisherman told us that the ride home would be the trying time.
As we neared the spot the deck hand brought clothes baskets and placed them along the rails, He also brought bait buckets of squid, already cut into pieces. We all lined both sides of the boat, baited our hooks and waited as the boat slowed and the anchor was set.
Dropping the line, we were using an eight ounce bell sinker with two circles hooks above on drop lines, I waited for the bottom but never felt it. It was about 200 feet deep here and so the deck hand brought us all another eight ounce sinker. We were now fishing with a pound of lead! It still tok a count of sixty five before the rig hit the bottom and my reel stopped and make an ugly backlash.
Clearing the line I asked what the bite would be like and my neighbor said it would be a slight tick. Jigging up and down, I felt a slight bump and then another. Reeling in I definitely felt that a fish was on but it was so hard to pull up the heavy rig that I wasn't sure it was still on as it neared the surface. I had a double, two blue runners! It turned out that they were bait fish and so the mate unhooked them and tossed then back overboard..
I rebaited and dropped again and as soon as the rig hit bottom I felt another bite. This time it was a vermilion snapper, the desired fish and so the hand unhooked the fish and brought a rope stringer. Placing the fish on the stringer he told me to remember number 65, so I could retrieve my fish at the end of the day.
Another drop and another fish. They were biting as fast as you could get to the bottom, when the work would began as you reeled the fish and the bait back in. The next fish was quite a bit larger! It was a beautiful red snapper, about five pounds, but red snapper season was closed and so it went back overboard.
Soon everyone was catching red snapper after red sapper and so the captain decided to move the boat to another spot. There we found more vermilion snappers but the red snappers were almost as plentiful.
One of the fisherman who had brought his own pole caught a bonita tuna, and was jigging a minnow when he suddenly yelled shark and ran to the back of the boat. There a pole had been rigged with a pop bottle for a bobber and tow large baits placed for just such a fish.
Grabbing the pole the shark took the bait and the fight was on. I was amazed to see such a large fish as the mako made a run near the back of the boat. The fish was about seven feet long and 140 pounds and it was all the hands could do to gaff the fish and bring it aboard.
With the excitement over they quickly dispatched the shark, so no one would get injured or bit. They bled the fish and we all went back to fishing for snapper.(It was really a mess and I won't post my picture of it as it was well, a mess).
Now the red snapper moved in again and so we went to another spot. Here I added to my stringer, but all to soon it was time to make a run to a place and fish for king mackerel.
As we rode to the next spot the mates went up and down the boats putting wire leaders and prerigged hooks on each pole. They then baited each hook with a large sardine like fish. Arriving we all took our positions on one side of the boat and as we started to drift we put out our lines, about thiry feet away from the boat. Chum was thrown into the water and a bonito swam up and grabbed my bait. The circle hook missed and the fish swam away.
When no mackerel appeared we moved to another spot and then another. Each time the process was repeated with no success. One of the deck hands baited a rig with a heavy sinker and dropped it down lower. He quickly had a fish and he handed the pole to a kid next to me who fought the large mackerel for about ten minutes before it pulled free and swam away. Just then my pole twitched as a fish grabbed my bait, but again it never got hooked. I was zero for two!
No more mackerel appeared and so the boat headed to another spot for shark fishing. As we moved the mates retied all the poles and baited them with cut up pieces of the bonita tuna. Arriving we dropped our rigs to the bottom and in no time at all my neighbor was fighting a shark. Two others soon had sharks on and I watched with envy as they were gaffed and brought aboard. Now my friend Lannie had told me how to clean shark and I had brought my knife along for such a job. My pole jerked and I waited for the circle hook to work but the fish got away. I was now 0/3 on big fish.
Too soon it was time to head back to port and so we woumd in and sat down for the long trip back.
The sun was setting as we arrived back at the docks and we were all tired from the long day. The weather had been perfect and the sea calm. Hundreds of dolphins had swam alongside the boat on the way in, and it had been a day to remember, even though I only had enough fish for one meal.
Now it may seem that I catch a lot of fish but I usually release most, only keeping enough to eat, and so it really had been a great day for me. Gerry and I both agreed that it was an experience that we both had enjoyed, even with the six hours of running in and out from the port.
We cleaned the fish and split them into two packages as it was the right thing to do when you share an adventure. I have been blessed again to have so many adventures and to have such good companions! Clear skies.

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