Passion for fishing, being out on ocean truly contagious

cdad@hiltonheadisland.netMay 6, 2014 

By now you probably all know the corner of S.C. 46 and U.S. 278 is destined to be Bluffton Gateway. I am not going to dwell on this subject, but I will give you a brief of the County Council meeting I attended, during which the project was unanimously given the green light.

Arriving at the meeting, I was glad to see Al Stokes from Waddell Mariculture Center there, but other than the two of us and Reed Armstrong -- a former oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who works for the Beaufort-based Coastal Conservation League -- there was not another person from our community there. Usually County Council procedure is items on the agenda are discussed and after you hear the facts, the public is given the opportunity to comment. But that was not to be. Instead, public comments were put first, which caught me by surprise.

Sitting there in shorts and my fishing shirt, I was called on to talk and I choked, pure and simple. I did speak, but I think I sounded more like Collins "The Talking Seal."

It became abundantly clear the council had already made up its mind on the matter, with one exception: Tabor Vaux. I want you all to know that this young council member stood his ground on the matter. That takes real guts. He pushed for an extension on the vote until further research could be done but was shot down by the other council members.

Jaz's promise of 100 percent containment of run-off, a new stoplight, a new road, jobs, and saving us all from the contaminants spilled at the location where the printing company Mr. Label once sat, swayed the council. So it's a done deal and as for the future of the Colleton River, we will just have to wait and see.

On the lighter side of life, two weeks ago I fished in the Hilton Head Harbor Wahoo Shoot Out. Fishing for the Hilton Head Boathouse team, we had quite the crew, which included Grant Kaple, Will "Catfish" Thompson, Dave Hughes, my favorite veterinarian, Dr. Ben Parker, and myself. Expecting calm seas and light winds, we went for broke by heading all the way up to the Edisto Banks off Charleston.

The fishing was on fire. We hadn't trolled for maybe 10 minutes before one of the reels screamed and a nice 40-pound wahoo hit the deck. But what was so neat was all the surface action around us. There was one period when all hell broke loose. First, we saw this monster wahoo chasing a big flying fish. The flying fish would fly 20 yards and that wahoo was on his tail. From our perspective, the moment the flying fish hit the surface the wahoo would explode under it a split second too late. This drama went on for what seemed like a long time. In all my days, I have never witnessed a chase quite like that one. Though I can't be sure, I do believe the wahoo won. It was awesome.

But the best part was having Dr. Ben on board. The rest of us get to be out there fairly often, but I saw Dr. Ben's eyes, and I know he was blown away by the drama. We had marlin and sailfish free jumping not far from the boat, massive hammerheads swimming through our baits, monster loggerhead turtles lounging on the surface, and he was eating it up like a kid might eat an ice cream cone with sprinkles on it.

If that was not enough, when we would hook into dolphin (mahi mahi), he would jabber on and on about how beautiful the fish was, all neon greens, yellows and oranges, as it swam in that deep, clear blue water. The colors are nearly impossible to describe.

When I think about Dr. Ben, here is a person who has devoted his life to the animal world. Just think of how many animals he has treated, how many anatomies he has had to learn. Yet this is a part of the animal world relatively new to him.

I know, from going into his office, that fish intrigue him because he has a large saltwater aquarium in his front lobby. But after taking him fishing on a number of occasions, I have found that he is quickly becoming hopelessly hooked on angling.

Here is a quote from Dr. Ben that I received in an email after our trip that says it all: "While I was out on that beautiful ocean, seeing flying fish soar 50 feet in the air to avoid becoming prey, sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, and suffering the pain of reeling in a reef donkey instead of a glorious wahoo, I realized it's the hunt and anticipation of the unknown that fascinates and invigorates me, not the kill. Thanks again for including me in your passion. It is, in a word, awesome."

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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