My friend and colleague, Jason White, has been a sailor all his life, and also has spent time shipping out as a merchant marine. But I've never heard him talk much about fish until recently. Now he's sent me his second piece on the subject in a matter of months, and I'm starting to think he's harboring dreams of being Boats.com's regular fishing columnist. That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I think you'll enjoy his latest story. — John Burnham
Jason's Latest Fish Story
In my line of work, I spend lots on nights on the road in crappy hotels eating worse food, but on this day, I was staying in a borrowed condo on the beach in Lido Key Florida. And it had a grill outside.
It all started the day before when the two-day meeting my colleague Joe Lingerfelt and I were having with the big wigs at Galati Yacht Sales not only was going well, but was going quickly. We had another few hours scheduled on Tuesday to talk about Search Engine Optimization for the web site we built for them, but Carmine Galati suggested that if we got things done efficiently, there might be time for a quick trip out to a secret wreck that his brother Chris knew. Nothing makes two guys like Joe and me efficient with our time like the promise of getting out on the water, so worked late Monday night developing an SEO plan so that Tuesday’s meeting might go quickly.
Sure enough, we’d jumped aboard Team Galati by around 11 am and headed offshore with Captain Chris at the helm. Our Mate for the day was Galati Broker to the Stars Chris Carrere. Chris took an afternoon off selling boats to look after Joe and I, and boy did he ever look after us.
As Captain Chris maneuvered the Tiara upwind and current of the wreck, he gave the signal to drop the anchor. When he shut down the engines, he twirled the helmsman seat around and with the words "Well boys, there are fish waiting for you down there that have never been caught before," we were off to the races.
We’ve all heard fish stories before—and I have been known to never let details get in the way of a good story—but this is the honest truth. Within 90 seconds of lines going in the water, we hooked in to an Amberjack. As the fish came on the gunwale, we all turned around to see what Chris had to say about it. A simple shake of the head and "He’s not worth the ice," and AJ went back into the drink.
A few more throwbacks, and then I hooked into something that felt substantially different than the Amberjack. Now I am no pro with a hook, but even I knew this was different. Mate Chris helped me through the rookie mistakes and when I got the fish closer to the boat, there was enthusiasm and general excitement in the two Chris’s voices saying, I think it’s a Cobia.
I’m looking around for a 20-foot center console boat, which is what I know to be a Cobia, and said, "We are the only ones out here, what are you guys talking about?
"No, you dope, the fish you have is a Cobia."
"Is that good?" I asked.
A truly dreadful looking fish on the outside, I soon discover, and they get very angry at being brought out of their environment and leave a trail of blood on the deck. But this is a great tasting fish, Chris assures me.
Suddenly, a seed is planted in my pin head, and remembering that there is a grill at the borrowed condo, I ask if it can be grilled. OF COURSE it can be grilled. Visions of Gourmet Magazine meeting Sport Fishing Magazine seep into my brain, and, as casually as I can, I ask, "So what do you do with the fish you catch? Sell them?"
"No, we eat them."
Wondering if I am going to actually walk away from this trip with something I can cook that night, my peaceful thoughts are interrupted by another fish on, then another. Joe and I madly reel in two more Cobias.
Now and then, despite the action, I can't help myself, and I peek at my Blackberry, wondering what I am missing at the office. Captain Chris smirks, shakes his head, and says, "You won’t get service out here. Put the thing away – the e-mails will be there when we get back."
Carmine later tells me that Chris brings him out there sometimes when he feels that some cell phone separation would be good for his older brother.
Then something amazing happens.
Joe hooks into something very rare indeed. But it ran forward and all I heard was Capt Chris saying it was running for the anchor. I guess they can tell what kind of fish they have by which way they run, and Chris thought it might be a Kingfish. With the skill of tight rope walker, Mate Chris asked for the rod from Joe and danced his way to the bow like an America's Cup Bowman going to set a spinnaker. He cleared the line from the anchor rode and walked the rod back to the cockpit on the other side and handed it back to Joe. Chris is hootin' and hollering and when the fish gets close to the cockpit, his voice turns from enthusiasm to guarded apprehension.
"Now Jason, get well back, because these fish have teeth that will send you to the hospital. It’s big and it will flop around a lot."
My mother didn’t raise an idiot, so I calmly replaced my rod in a rod holder, then ran with all speed to hide behind Captain Chris at the helm station. There is a moment of calm before the storm as the fish continues to tire, and Mate Chris turns to Captain Chris in the chair and me hiding behind him and asks, "Is this the biggest gaff you got?"
A rookie like me figured those are some pretty cool words to hear.
Chris says, "That is a BIG ole king Fish. Would’ve won the tournament last week."
A little later, figuring we've run out all our luck at this wreck (I am now convinced it isn’t luck, it is professional fisherman knowing their equipment, their waters and the species they are going after), we took a side trip to another wreck that was better publicized. I had mentioned earlier that I really love Grouper, and while neither Chris has said anything, I am sure they've been figuring that if I wasn’t going into full-on Blackberry DT's, we might be able to grab a Grouper at the next spot. Sure enough, I landed a nice one and we called it a day.
Later, back at the condo, I cooked it, and we had a meal to remember on top of a day to remember. Sure beats room service. Thanks to the Galatis for making this happen.