Cast & Blast

That time a mako shark stole your 600-pound swordfish ...

You would have to be a child of the '60s to remember the song "Mama said there'd be days like this." Remember that song? As I was showering this morning, that song popped into my head and since that moment, it has been stuck in my mind like a fly on fly paper. "Mama said, mama said ..."

Just because I write a lot about fishing and post pictures of my friends and I holding big slobs, you might think this happens every time I head out. It doesn't. I have had many a day when I couldn't buy a bite. But these are precisely the days that keep me going out with high hopes of hitting the jackpot.

The way I see it, it's all about percentages.

That said, I thought it might be interesting to reach into my Swiss cheese memory and tell you about a few of these home run days, many of which happened with no warning whatsoever. Oh how I would give my right (or left) leg to have had a movie camera back then, so I could have recorded these events. Trying to put a few of these experiences into words is nearly impossible because so much of the events are visual, but I'll try my best.

Years ago I did quite a bit of swordfishing. A friend of my dad had a beautiful 60-foot sport fishing boat and every year he would swing into Hilton Head Island on his way back from Florida. We would go on what became an annual night swordfishing trip.

Using giant squid as bait and lightsticks to attract other squid (and swordfish), we would drift along the far edge of the Gulf Stream in about 1,500 feet of water. With four rigs staggered at different depths, it was a waiting game. Sometimes it was like watching paint dry on a wall as hour after hour passed, and Mr. Sandman would have me doing the old nod and snap as I tried my best to stay awake. One time, just when I was about to call it quits, one of the rods bent double, and from the way the swordfish was taking line off that big reel, we knew it had to be a monster.

The minutes ticked by as my dad fought that fish. Four hours later it appeared that this beast was beginning to tire. All the lights on the boat were blazing, so it looked like daylight when finally we saw this massive silver shape about 60-feet down in the depths. That fish was at least 600 pounds. Just when it appeared he was beaten, the fish would make another run. Two more hours passed before the sword came to the surface, about 20 feet from the boat right under the halogen lights on the outriggers. Then, out of nowhere, this equally massive mako shark shot straight up and in two bites went straight through the swordfish right behind its head.

We all sat stunned as the majority of the fish sunk out of sight in a pool of blood and gore. All we had left was the head -- which alone weighed 135 pounds.

Another spectacular day happened in 2004 in Port Royal Sound. My late, great friend Warren Matthews and I were like Mutt and Jeff. We fished all the time on his boat, a 32-foot Intrepid called the "Reel Lucky."

It was late August during the tarpon run and we were on fire, having boated 45 tarpon that month. At the spur of the moment, we decided to try an afternoon tarpon excursion. Getting live bait in the afternoon is always hard, but we lucked out and got enough to at least justify the trip. We anchored up near the mouth of Port Royal Sound with the tide going out. The water was a chocolate brown. It just didn't look promising at all, plus we only had about two hours of good light left in the day.

I had just put the baits out when a rod heeled over and a tarpon went airborne. Warren grabbed the rod and, before I could get the other lines in, two more rods went off. We had three tarpon on at the same time. I am scratching my head to remember who else was with us -- I think it was John Sconyers from Hilton Head. Anyway, we landed and released two of the three, and if you have ever fought a tarpon, you know how they take it out of you.

Already high-fiving each other, we put out the lines again. Immediately -- and I mean immediately --two more were hooked. It was insane. To make a long story short, we landed 14 tarpon in less than an hour. The only reason we didn't catch more was simply because every person on that boat was too worn out to reel in another fish. It got to the point that when another fish was hooked, we would just look at each other with fingers pointed: "You take it." "Not me. You take it."

Now that was a day I will never, ever forget.

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.