Here is a story from Captain Earl McDaniel, a lifelong resident of Mississippi and a Charter Captain fishing out of Biloxi. His boat, the WhipaSnapa, is a 29 foot Sea Hunt center console with twin 250 Yamaha four stroke outboards. Whether fishing inshore under a railroad bridge or seventy miles offshore, he always works hard to give his anglers a memorable experience on the water.
Here are three stories about the vagaries of open water fishing. For a good chuckle, imagine yourself as the angler in each case.
You Never Know What Comes Over the Rail
When thinking about the more than twenty years years I have been taking people fishing, humorous incidents often come to mind. One that stands out and is worth sharing I call “The flying fish.” After loading a group of anglers and gear aboard the WhipaSnapa we headed out of Biloxi Bay for the Gulf of Mexico and some offshore fishing for red snapper. Because we were facing a long and often bumpy ride I loaded beanbag chairs aboard so the anglers could relax and be comfortable getting to the fishing grounds.
One of the anglers immediately flopped into a beanbag and dozed off. As we left the inshore waters and rounded Horn Island for a run into the Gulf a large Spanish mackerel jumped out of the water and into the boat, slamming into the sleeping angler’s face! Waking up with a start, he seemed unsure of what had just happened, and looked at the other anglers thinking they were playing a trick on him. They were as surprised as he was. Suddenly, he felt the flopping fish trapped in the beanbag between his legs, let out a scream, and catapulted on to the deck. By then everyone knew what had happened and were unsuccessful in holding in their chuckles. I quickly stopped the boat, got him calmed down, and we all had a good laugh. The fish went in the cooler as the first catch of the day, and I am sure he will remember this fishing trip for the rest of his life.
A Crash in the Night
My anglers had booked a trip offshore that required several hours of run time, so I told them we were going to get an early start and they needed to be at the dock at “0 Dark Hundred,” or 6:00 am. They arrived on time, a little sleepy eyed and toting paper bags with fast food breakfast sandwiches. Nothing like greasy food to set you up for a long boat ride!
We got underway in calm seas and headed for Horn Island, the Barrier Island between Biloxi Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I know the area well, so even though it was still dark we were running at about 25 MPH and I was navigating with instruments. As we approached Horn Island I heard a loud crash and felt some serious vibration coming through the steering wheel. What the heck, did I run into some floating driftwood or something larger? Both the angler sitting on the seat in front of the console and I were scared! What if the boat was damaged and started sinking? We were a long way from help from the Coast Guard if we ended up in the water.
I quickly looked around and could see nothing out of the ordinary, no nearby small craft or floating debris. That was when out of the corner of my eye I saw some feathers fluttering in front of the console. Doggone, we must have hit or been struck by a large bird! The angler sitting in front of the console was obviously very distressed, and I shouted at him to not touch the bird, I was coming forward. I pulled back on the throttles to slow the boat, clambered out of my helm seat and worked my around the center console. Lying on the deck was a dazed pelican. If you are not familiar with pelicans, they are about the size of a turkey, a big bird! It must have been flying low, scouring the wave tops for a tasty morsel for breakfast. Looking down instead of out, it was on a collision path with the boat and never knew it. I grabbed the bird by a leg and threw it overboard. When it hit the water it came out of its daze, paddled around for a minute, and then took off to continue its search for breakfast. We had a good laugh as we got underway again.
The Big One That Got Away
We were well offshore and camped on a hot spot. The bite was on and all my anglers were tying into huge sow red snapper, large females who give a heck of a fight. They also provide great table fare and are prized by everyone. All but one angler had landed fish, and he was getting extremely frustrated. He was also getting some snide comments and heckling from his friends about his lack of fishing skill! I tried to help him get a successful hookup, but he did not understand the fish immediately headed for the bottom when hooked, then worked to tangle the line in the rocks and break off. I hate to say it, but it appeared the fish were smarter than the angler!
After three mishaps where the fish won the battle by breaking off, the angler was getting mad – both at the fish and his heckling friends. There were quite a few snickers that were not well concealed. The tide started to move and the hapless angler was not paying attention to his line as it drifted under the boat. One of the other anglers became entangled with the line, I spotted it, and I told him to hold tight while I got over to him. I held the line while he got untangled, and then I handed it to him and told him to start tugging on the line, make like a fish!
Well, as you might expect, the angler started screaming that he had a big one hooked up. Try as he might, he could not move the fish and began to think it might be something really big like a shark! Then the light bulb came on and he looked around, saw his pal tugging on his line, and yelled “The big fish I had on turned out to be a big jerk!” And, of course, it was a big joke. Needless to say we all had a good laugh. All, that is, except the tricked angler! One fish story about the one that got away that will probably not be retold.
Want to fish with Captain Earl? Contact him at whipasnapacharters.com.