You know what lizards don't like? The cold

January 4, 2011 

This might sound strange, but I truly believe that at some time in my genetic past one of my ancestors was a reptile.

What would possibly make me think something so outrageous? For starters, ever since the weather got cold my legs are so dry they actually have scales on them. Secondly, when it is warm and sunny outside, I am one happy camper -- active and vibrant. But just as soon as winter hits, my metabolism slows to a snail's pace, and all I want to do is hide in some hole until the sun comes out again.

Alligators do it, lizards do it and I do it. Case closed.

Last week when the weather finally warmed up a bit, I stirred just enough to answer my cell phone. It was my fishing buddy Don McCarthy, asking if I wanted to go offshore. The first thing that went through my brain was to say "No" and tell him to touch base with me again when spring arrives, but he was very persistent, spouting how he had looked at every forecast model and they all said it was going to be warm with no wind, and the ocean would be as flat as a pancake.

Now, I have been to this dance before and even though he and I are pretty darn meticulous about going out only when conditions are perfect, I knew that regardless of what the weather man said, it was going to be one chilly ride out. Running at 40 mph when it is 32 degrees outside is not for reptiles like me. Before my mind could process the facts, my mouth opened and out came, "Sure, I'll go!"

As with every bottom-fishing trip, the first order of business is to try and catch live bait -- with pinfish being the bait of choice. I loaded my car with several buckets and went to one of my pinfish honey holes. Using tiny hooks and small pieces of shrimp, I started fishing. The pinfish were there all right, but the water was so cold they would grab the bait and simply sit there like a dog with a bone in its mouth. After two hours of fishing, it became evident that it was going to be frozen bait on this trip. The three pinfish that I did catch were cold as ice cubes. I wonder if they come from reptiles, too.

As dawn cracked the next day we headed out. Besides Don and myself on board, we had Al Martin, Will Thompson and Harry Morales to fill out the crew. The ride out was pretty darn cold but, as Don had predicted, the ocean was flat -- and because it was so flat, we all decided to go for broke and head out about 50 miles.

Arriving at our first drop, we sent our bait down and immediately everyone was hooked up to monster black sea bass, otherwise simply called "blackfish." Though blackfish rarely exceed six or seven pounds, their flesh is pearly white, delicate and, in my opinion, they are one of the best eating fish in the entire ocean.

Moving from spot to spot we crushed the sea bass, plus we snagged some nice trigger fish and a couple of dandy red snapper, which unfortunately had to be released due to the moratorium on snapper.

My reptilian side actually started to come alive as it warmed up nicely and I was glad to be out there. I guess the instincts that told me to stay home were way off base.

None of us was paying much attention to the time until I happened to glance at my watch and saw it was 3:30. It was time to head home. Just about that exact same time I felt a gust of wind, then another. In a matter of minutes the wind went from zero miles per hour to 15 and then to 20, straight out of the north. With more than 35 miles to go, Don and I glanced at each other. I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was: This is not going to be fun at all.

With the sun dropping in the sky and the temperature going down with it, we plowed headfirst into the mounting seas, walls of water hitting us in the face with each and every swell. Stopping the boat, we all put on our foul weather gear, plus every other piece of clothing we had and kept on going. This went on for an hour, then two and as the sun dropped over the horizon we were still a ways from Port Royal Sound.

The lizard side of me kicked in and from what I could see in every other face on-board, I was not along. We all felt as though we were moments from hypothermia. It is one thing to be cold, but to be wet and cold is one of the most miserable feelings imaginable. Finally reaching the dock, we all said the heck with cleaning the boat or the fish and headed home to hot showers.

One thing is for sure: This reptile is staying home until spring hits -- scaly legs and all.

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