I know most of you are probably sick and tired of reading about my addiction to wahoo fishing, but this story I am about to tell you is just too good to not tell it. But first you'll need to go back to an article I wrote two years ago to the day, which, if my memory serves me correctly, was titled "It Was a Good Friday Wahoo."
In essence, that column told about a banner day of wahoo fishing I had aboard Don McCarthy's boat the "Manatee Mac," where we caught several monster wahoo on Good Friday.
Raised as a die-hard Episcopalian, I've always been intrigued by Good Friday. If you are not familiar with Episcopal traditions, we are what I call "cheap Catholics." Much as in Catholic services, we are always moving: stand up, sit down, up, down, up, down. For visitors to either denomination's services, this can be quite daunting.
Being a fisherman, the part about Good Friday that really interested me was why Catholics could eat fish but not meat on this particular day. I now understand the history of this tradition, but as a youngster, I was drawn to anything that had the word "fish" in it.
Flash forward to my column a week or so ago in which I told you that four of us had entered the "Manatee Mac" in the Hilton Head Wahoo Tournament. The rules are simple: Each boat can fish any two days they want before April 2. I told you about our first day of fishing, during which we boated five wahoo -- a killer day for these parts. As great as that day was, none of our fish came close to the 62.5-pound monster wahoo caught by the Hilton Head Island boat "The Papa Bear," which was leading the tournament. A 62-pound wahoo is a tough nut to crack because around here anything over 60 pounds is considered a slob, and to catch one that size in a tournament pretty much seals the deal.
We still had one day left to fish, but another factor came into play that considerably narrowed our odds of catching a fish at all. The full moon.
I don't care if you are a deer hunter, turkey hunter or a fisherman, when it comes to nature's critters, a full moon wreaks havoc. Especially when it comes to fishing, the full moon is pretty much considered the kiss of death. Theories abound on just why it affects the fish so profoundly, but my belief is that the fish feed during bright moonlit nights, plus the gravitational pull of the moon sends them into a tailspin.
Full moon or not we had to go, because time was quickly running out in the tournament. As luck would have it, the weatherman told us the wind would finally die down, and the day to go was none other than Good Friday.
When we left the dock at 4 a.m. It was so bright outside you could have read a newspaper. The ocean was flat calm and as we made the two and half hour run offshore I prayed my previous fishing experiences on this holy day would repeat themselves. As we all know, prayers are not always granted for such trivial requests. I seriously doubted that the big guy would put a lowly wahoo at the top of his list.
Putting out our lines as the sun peeked over the horizon, I could tell that the Gulf Stream had moved since our trip a week earlier. Instead of being bright blue, the water was green and not nearly as warm as I had hoped. It was as if every living thing in the ocean had disappeared. No flying fish, no schools of bait ... nothing. I was constantly changing lures and baits, hoping that some particular color would stimulate something to bite, but other than a couple of curious mahi-mahi, it was a dead ocean.
Hour after hour passed, and we didn't get so much as a nibble. The full moon was living up to its reputation. It was 1:30 p.m. when I swear I had a tingle telling me something was getting ready to happen. I reached in my lure box, pulled out one of my homemade lures and announced to everyone on board that the lure was going to do it.
It was out all of five minutes when the fish hit.
On the first run alone it ripped off around two hundred yards of line, and then three other times it screamed off the line. Finally, we saw a flash of silver 40 or so yards behind the boat, and the word "tuna" was shouted. What I saw was a glimpse of purple, and I knew what it was.
So the bottom line is this: The wahoo weighed in at 69.3-pounds, putting us into first place. By the time you read these words the tournament will be over. Win, lose or draw, Good Friday will forever be the day I head to the Gulf Stream for wahoo fishing.
Hopefully I won't offend anyone by saying this, but to me at least, the ocean is the most beautiful church I have ever seen.
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.