Colorful fish -- and memories -- to be had in the Gulf Stream

cdad@hiltonheadisland.netMay 21, 2013 

All I can say is wow. What a week. There are so many memories attached to the past seven days that it feels like my mind is going to explode.

Then again, maybe it's just the meds I take for my back.

Gulf Stream fishing is probably one of my favorite types of fishing. Every time I head out there it brings back memories of the many trips my dad and I shared, along with thanks for my offshore mentor, Captain Buddy Hester, who taught me the ways of big game fishing.

To this day if I get stressed all I have to do is close my eyes and visualize that incredibly blue water, as trolled baits skip along the surface only to suddenly disappear in an explosion of white water as one of the pelagic species that roam the Gulf Stream waters viciously attack. I know that might seem like a strange way to release stress, but it works like a charm.

Considering I am no spring chicken, one Stream trip a week is hard on me, but this past week I went twice. I feel like I have been run over by a Mack truck -- or a locomotive.

The first trip was Wednesday, aboard the rocket ship "Doc," a 36-foot Grady White with three 350 hp engines, owned by Bob Murray. Bob, his son, Grant Kaple, another young man and I headed out in less than ideal conditions, determined to make it to blue water. After a long, and somewhat brutal ride, we made it, and I got to work rigging and putting out an eight-rod spread of lures. This task is somewhat my forte, and as anyone who fishes with me regularly knows, I dare anyone to mess with my spread.

It was rough out there, but the amount of bait around was simply amazing. Flying fish were so thick that at any given moment, acre-size groups of them would lift off and skitter 100 yards at a time. And because the wind was gusting around 20 knots, a lot of these groups would take off and just as soon as they got airborne, the wind would catch their wings and send them flying in a totally different direction than they intended.

So how was the fishing? It was dolphin city. Not dolphin like Flipper, but mahi-mahi, by far the most colorful fish that swim. All day long I was changing baits and gaffing fish. Because they are so tall and flat, even a small dolphin is a handful. They put that broad side to work so it feels like you are pulling in a board. By day's end, we had a box full of dolphin, one wahoo and, of all things, a king mackerel.

Just when I felt like I had nearly recovered from that trip, I got another call from a friend, Bud Snyder, asking me to go to the Stream. So off I went again, this time with Will "Catfish" Thompson and my nephew, Johnny Bringas, who is an avid fisherman but had never had an offshore experience. I could see Johnny's eyes light up as the first dolphin hit and went airborne. He was quite simply, blown away.

This day, the ocean was flat calm (thank God), which made viewing a real treat. We saw several loggerhead turtles and one massive leatherback turtle, and as we trolled along Sargasso weed lines, dolphin after dolphin would scurry around the boat. First neon blue, but as soon as they saw our baits, that blue changed to a brilliant yellow-green with orange spots as they would charge a bait.

One dolphin in particular will forever stand out to me. I just happened to be watching one of the baits skipping along and from 100 yards away this dolphin came charging at warp speed toward the bait. It came so fast it left a white trail in the water and, in an instant, changed course, coming up behind the bait with its dorsal fin erect before crashing the bait in a shower of water. Stopping at one of the Navy towers, we ended the day having fun with big mangrove snapper.

I have only touched on a fraction of the images that keep pounding away at my brain. One thing I do know is this. Being the addicted fisherman that he is, my nephew will never, ever forget the things he saw that day. Have you ever seen a grown man scream like a girl? I can now say I have.

God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.

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