As you might imagine, coming up with a good story week after week is not always easy. Thankfully, this time around so many cool things have happened over the past several days that I am actually confused as to what to write about and what not to include. Though I have never been officially diagnosed, being ADD isn’t all fun and games, but what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.
Probably the highlight of highlights happened at the Taste of Waddell event last Sunday at the Waddell Mariculture Center. Over 500 people showed up, and among them were DNR’s top dogs including Director Alvin Taylor and Deputy Director Robert Boyles of the Marine Resources Division. About halfway through the event, Dave Harter got behind the microphone and proceeded to thank everyone for attending as well as introducing Alvin Taylor and Robert Boyles. Then the bomb dropped as Robert Boyles called Al Stokes, Waddell’s longtime director up to join them. Unbeknownst to all in attendance, Alvin Taylor pulls out this beautiful bronze plaque and presents it to Al for all of his hard years of work that have made the Waddell Mariculture Center the pride and joy of the Lowcountry. So what did the plaque say? It named the main building at Waddell the Alvin D. Stokes Building! How cool is that?
Most of us go through our allotted lifespan only to eventually fade into historical obscurity. That’s just the way it is. But Al Stokes doesn’t have to think that way anymore, because in a second’s time he became immortal. Maybe it isn’t as grand as say, the Lincoln Center or the George Washington Bridge, but it has to be humbling no matter who you are. If ever there is a person so deserving, Al Stokes is that person. I could swear I saw a tear or two as he accepted that plaque. I’ll leave it at that.
So what else happened in my confusing week? If you fish at all then you probably heard that the feds opened a red snapper season for two consecutive weekends, the first time in two years. Anglers could catch one snapper per person, and the snapper caught had no size restriction. I love bottom fishing simply because you never know what will hit each and every time you drop a bait down. It might be a black sea bass, a triggerfish, vermillion snapper, red snapper, grouper, cobia, king mackerel – the possibilities are endless. Personally I have always regarded red snapper as being overrated table fare. My favorite eating fish are hands-down either a triggerfish or a scamp grouper. But I will say that when a big red snapper latches on, it can take a grown man to his knees.
I hadn’t really thought that much about taking advantage of the open season on snapper, that is until Grant Kaple of the Hilton Head Boathouse called and asked me if I wanted to join him, Boathouse employee Casey Herbig and local Steve Flannery on a red snapper/bottom fishing extravaganza. Never one to pass up offshore trips, we headed out last Friday, the first day of the snapper season.
As usual the weatherman didn’t quite get it right predicting sea conditions that day. The ocean was a tad sloppy in the morning. Taking our time, we made it to one of our spots and within 15 seconds I was hooked up to a nice snapper in the mid-20 pound range. Better yet, I had it pinned on an ultra light jigging rod, and that rod was nearly bent double. I am so impressed with the rods and reels these days. They are so lightweight, yet they can whip just about any size fish out there. I got on a roll with big snapper and because of my back, once hooked I hand them off to whomever is beside me. A relative novice to this type of fishing, Steve was in hog heaven bringing big snapper up. We caught our limit of four nice red snapper in the first 30 minutes of fishing. That is strong.
As the day wore on, we absolutely wore out the fish. Thankfully, the ocean calmed down, and if I had to guess we caught and released another 40 or so red snapper of all sizes. In addition we loaded up on triggers, vermillion snapper, sea bass and one or two undersized grouper that we released. The fishing was so good we were back at the dock by mid-afternoon, and it seemed it took as long to clean our catch as it did to catch them.
Lastly, all I can say is “thank God for Ritalin.”