Cast & Blast

Lowcountry fish tales, some caught on camera. Always expect the unexpected

George Norton’s grandsons George and Beau with stud tripletails.
George Norton’s grandsons George and Beau with stud tripletails.

Though I haven’t been on the water as much I would like lately, the few trips I have taken each reminded me of one thing. Out there, you had better have your senses wired tight because a once-in-a-lifetime drama can, and usually does, happen in the blink of an eye.

I’ll go as far as saying there isn’t a camera made that can shoot frames quick enough to catch many of these events.

Starting with those two weekends where red snapper could be taken. I was lucky enough to go twice.

On the first trip, I was sitting looking out the back of the boat as we ran offshore marveling at flocks of flying fish soaring across the ocean as the boat no doubt caused them to scurry away.

Even after hundreds upon hundreds of offshore runs and thousands of flying fish, I still find them fascinating. What an amazing creature of evolution. They are so graceful and with the wind in the right direction, they can stay airborne for hundreds of yards.

This time I happened to glance at our wake as nearly 50 took off at the same instant. One in particular was larger than most so I focused in on his flight pattern.

If you aren’t familiar with flying fish, the bottom part of their tail is longer than the top and as they begin to hit the water, they often give a quick wiggle of this lower part of the tail, sending them airborne for another 40 or so yards.

It was on his second leg of this flight that it happened. Out of nowhere, a king mackerel explodes out of the water and catches him in mid-flight. The entire thing lasted all of two seconds, but I saw it in such detail. If only I had captured it on film.

On the second snapper trip, we had stopped to try a spot drifting along with the current. It was near the end of the day, we had plenty of fish and, man oh man, was it hot. After reeling fish up all day from 100- to over 200-feet in that heat, it will take a toll on just about anyone, and as the day wears on enthusiasm starts to wane.

Talk about a wake-up call. Not 30 yards from the boat, a white marlin erupts into the air and tail walks 360-degrees around the boat. I swear he never let his body touch the water as he skittered across the surface. I have seen marlin tail walk many times, but it usually occurs when it feels a hook in its mouth.

Everyone onboard was slack-jawed watching this take place and though there was definitely time to grab a camera, no one did. As to why that marlin did what it did is a mystery, but I suspect he ate something that didn’t quite agree with him and he was hell-bent to spit it out. I can relate because once I grabbed the wrong tube when brushing my teeth. It was Bengay.

My last couple of trips on the water each had one of these “Best of Nature’” moments.

The first happened with George Norton, a part-time resident from Kentucky whom I fish with often. His grandchildren, Beau and George, were visiting, looking to catch fish, any fish. I love taking kids and if things go according to plan, most all are hooked for life.

This was one of those times as we ran across tripletail. A prehistoric-looking fish that floats on its side with the current, each of the boys caught one. But these were jumbos compared to ones I usually see.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time, this was that time.

Once again, keeping your senses tuned can create memories that last a lifetime.

Finally, on Wednesday, Waddell Mariculture Center staff members Jason Broach, Ashley Marranzino and I rode out with local Chuck Robinson to possibly capture a live tripletail for the Mariculture Center in Bluffton.

We caught one medium-sized tripletail and a we were about to head home when I saw waves breaking in the distance in a spot where there shouldn’t be waves. It was huge jack crevelle that had a school of menhaden corralled in a ball so tight that half the menhaden were actually out of the water riding on the backs of the thousands of other menhaden underneath them.

I have seen jacks do this many times, but never have I seen a bait ball so tightly packed.

The jacks were slashing through them with total abandon so I grabbed a rod, quickly put on a fat live shrimp and into the mix it went. As I handed the rod to Ashley, it was darn near yanked out of her hands by a stud jack in the 30- to 40-pound range.

For nearly 45 minutes, she wrestled this bruiser until boat side the hook pulled. To me, it was a caught fish but hey, that’s fishing.

The point of these tall tales is quite simple. Whether you head out every day or every once in a while, always expect the unexpected. Caught on film or not, I promise these once-in-a-lifetime occurrences will stay with you for the rest of your days.