I had been fishing for several years using an old built in the 1970’s Regal 209 center console fiberglass boat my father had given me. While it was a serviceable boat, it was not particularly well suited to offshore fishing, and the engine was old and tired. There were no serious mechanical issues, but annoying problems that needed fixing did surface on a regular basis. If you have ever fished a boat used in salt water, you know how everything eventually corrodes, weakens, leaks, breaks, etc. I had been thinking about upgrading to an offshore boat for quite a while. I finally purchased a 25-foot center console Pro Sport fishing boat to replace the Regal, much more suitable and safe for offshore fishing. I named her the Dianna Lynn, and I was ready to do some serious fishing.
In 1996 I entered my Team fishing aboard the Dianna Lynn in the Gornfolol’s Fishing Tournament staged out of Biloxi Bay, Mississippi. My brother Randy joined me on the boat, and we were pumped to be competing with “The Big Boys” of tournament fishing. Our target was Cobia, a fish that can exceed 100 pounds and is a powerful fighter. By the end of the tournament we had weighed in with more than 350 pounds of Cobia, including one fish caught by my brother that weighed 106 pounds, 13 ounces, and was a new Mississippi State record! Gosh Darn, that was fun, and I wanted more. From that day on I was hooked on Cobia fishing.
The following year in the early spring I fired up the Dianna Lynn and headed out of Biloxi Bay alone to the Chandelier Islands about ten miles offshore to chum for the first run of Cobia. Cobia will migrate throughout the year following the food chain, which is sensitive to water temperatures. Conditions were coming together in what looked like an opportunity to hook up with an early run Cobia. I couldn’t wait to get a line in the water! My plan was to chum the Island sandbars and bring the fish to me. Because I was fishing by myself I was keeping an eye on the weather, it can come up in a hurry when you are offshore. I wanted to be dog gone careful because I was alone.
When I arrived at the islands and got the boat anchored I noticed the wind was picking up, which is actually good for fishing the sandbars. However, it does create some large rollers as the swells come in and hit the shallow water where the sandbars form. I was going to be fishing in 6-9 feet of water. Someone once told me you can sing to the fish and they will come, but as I am not a particularly good singer so I rely on chum. Every critter and fish, me included, enjoys a free meal! As I reached down to grab some chum from the cooler a huge wave washed over the side of the boat! Luckily I was able to start the engine and reposition the boat facing into the wind (and waves) just as another big roller hit the bow. Let me tell you, a wave on the bow is a lot better that a wave over the side of your boat!! I hung on and used the engine to hold the bow into the waves while the bilge pump cleared the water that had come into the boat. I realized I was paying more attention to the fishing than I was to the water, and thought another roller over the side could have caused some real trouble. Dag nab it, I need to be more careful, especially when I am fishing alone.
I soon realized that Cobia or not, this was not working out! I did not want to find out how much of a beating the Dianna Lynn could stand, so I pulled anchor and high-tailed it for home. It shook me up to think about what could have happened. Upon reflection, I decided the strong falling tide was what had pulled the boat sideways, setting the stage for a roller over the side.
Lesson Learned: Three things occur to me as I remember that day. The first is to not go offshore fishing alone! It is unsafe to fish alone when there is the possibility of rough water. It is easy to get caught tending your line and overlooking the forces of nature. Second, pay attention to water movement and tidal action. Wind activity is obvious while tide movement can be easily overlooked. Third, set your anchor and watch the movement of the boat as the anchor bites bottom. You want the bow to be into the into the wind and water movement so you can take any roller head on rather than over the side.
Captain Earl of WhipaSnapa Charters