Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Saltwater Fishing Fun!

The last time that we were in Orange Beach, the trip went by way too fast. On the way home, Heather and I decided that in July, we would try to make it down for a longer trip. After consulting our crazy schedules, we decided on this past weekend, and decided to go from Thursday, 7/10 through Monday, 7/14. That way we could spend a little more time. I also wanted to wait until after the 4th, so that the crowds wouldn't be as heavy. As the time of the trip approached us, the dates were to change back and forth around the weekend, and we actually ended up going down on Thursday and coming back on Monday.

Chris and Jessica also picked the same weekend to take a beach trip. This worked out well, since we all enjoy doing things together. Chris suggested that we take an inshore fishing trip Friday morning. He spoke with some friends of ours and was referred to Kathy Broughton, a Birmingham native who has run her own fishing boat for the last 16 years.

So on Friday morning, Chris, Jessica, Heather & I were ready to take to the water and bring back supper. Chris and I checked in at Zeke's and were directed to the Kittywake, Kathy's boat. Kathy is a certified U.S. Coast Guard Captain. She's also a frequent fishing tournament winner and she enjoys teaching others what she's learned from a lifetime on the water. We could tell from first meeting her that she truly loves what she does. She seemed pleased that we had our wives with us, as she said that females always bring good luck on her boat.

Our trip began about 7am with the incoming tide. Kathy told us that if the tide's not moving, the big fish aren't feeding, and that we should plan trips with the incoming or outgoing tides. The fish we were trying to catch feed best during tidal movement.

Heading out of Zeke's marina on smooth water, we passed magnificent boats and bayside homes. Just outside of the marina, we stopped for a lesson in catching bait. At this point, Chris and I got our new names for the day. Chris became the "Captain", and I became "Bait Boy." Kathy gathered the bait net in her arms and grasped the weighted edge in her teeth. With assured movement she then threw it gracefully onto the water. It landed, and captured a school of lively bait fish which she called Elvis's, or LV's. They looked like little minnows to me. As Bait Boy, I got the job of getting all those little suckers out of the net and into the live well. Kathy told me right away that I had to move quickly or they would die within seconds of being out of the water.
We then headed to one of Kathy's favorite spots for red snapper. She spoke with other guides along the way, finding out how things were biting. Finally, she decided to position our boat along the docks at the Caribe condos. She gave us a quick lesson in casting with the lines and showed us how to set the hook when the fish struck. We cast off opposite sides of the boat, and within minutes I was reeling in what felt like an extremely large fish. Kathy cheered me on, giving pointers, and stood ready with the net when my fish was close enough to come aboard. It was a black snapper, and we then had our first of many fish for our supper. We continued to fish in that general area for a while, with Jessica, Heather, and myself catching several a piece.

One thing that was interesting, was the number of jellyfish that were in the water. At times, the masses of jellies were all we could see. When I pulled in the anchor for Kathy to move the boat, my hands stung from the jellyfish residue on the anchor rope. There were literally thousands of them.

Lured by the thoughts of larger fish, we headed through the pass out into deeper waters. The water was rough, and I had a little trouble here and there keeping my balance. Kathy put out the lines to troll, and we watched her fish finder for the big ones. She pointed out several points of interest deep under the water.... a sunken sailboat, for instance, that broke one of our lines. At one point, Chris had a fish on his line, but while he was bringing it in, it got off. We stayed out in the Gulf for a bit, and then the weather looked like it was going to storm, so we headed back closer to the marina. Kathy took us to her favorite spot for white trout, and put us slap in the middle of a bed of them. We started catching them as soon as the shrimp would hit the water. It was lots of fun, and we all ended up catching several each.

We could have stayed out there all day, but our trip had to come to an end. We headed back to the marina, where Kathy backed her boat into her slip with the precision that comes from years of experience. We gathered our things, and our fish and proceeded up to the cleaning area. We ended up with several snapper fillets and a bag full of trout. We then made plans to gather together that evening at Chris and Jessica's for a delicious "catch of the day" supper.

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