I shall make this my last post about the Florida Keys… at least for now. Not because there is nothing more to say, simply the fact I have many other places to tell you about.
We can come back to the keys another time… I did.
So, on with the post…
We planned to go fishing, troll fishing. Which, for the uninitiated has nothing to do with the internet, your personal details or catching the bad guys.
Troll, in this instance, refers to a form of sea fishing where baited lines are dragged through the water, relatively slowly, behind the boat. Several lines are used, some on outriggers, so the set lines do not tangle.
We were on the hunt for Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Kingfish, Swordfish, in fact we were not fussy. If we caught something we would be happy.
To get a good days fishing means an early start, a bleary eyed, why the f.. flip am I doing this, why am I out of bed before sunrise, type of early start.
Hey, and guess who got to drive.
I am not too bad at getting myself organised in a morning. in fact, if I have prepared the night before, I can be up and out of the house in around fifteen minutes, including taking a shower and a grabbing a quick drink.
The problem is ‘the others‘.
Especially when two of those others are eleven and thirteen-year old, as was my son and nice at the time.
At the other end of the scale, was the over preparedness of my mother in law.
To take a simply day trip with her, was like organising a military field exercise. The number of bags, containing equipment and substances to cater for any and every possible occurrence, from a small scratch to surviving a Zombie apocalypse, had to be precisely packed, in a precise order, in colour coded bags.
By the time all were ready and seated in the ‘bus’ (see part one of Islamorada series), I was two large mugs of black coffee awake and raring to go.
A short drive, to the right after exiting Cheeca Lodge, soon saw us at Whale Harbour Marina. This is a location many game fishing charters run from. Besides there was café which was open, even at this stupid o’clock time in the morning, so the kids could grab a drink, a light breakfast and the ‘others’ get their morning dosage of caffeine.
Eventually, as the sun began to wake from its own slumber, we were all in the ‘wide awake club’ and made our way towards the harbourside, where our boat and captain should be waiting for us.
Capt. Davey and his mate.
The Captain’s mate was a well suntanned girl, who I am certain worked out with weights, at least ten times a day and who I think was the Captain’s mate in more than just the boating sense.
We were helped aboard, the clean, smart looking purpose-built vessel. I have no idea what kind of boat it was, how long it was, or how many horses were stored away with all the knots and other sailory stuff. But it was white, had blue seating and plenty of places to for a dozen or so rods to be set at once.
Once we had stowed away the mother in laws ten weeks’ worth of supplies, we got under way and tootled out of the harbour.
We lazed about while the mate made her preparations. The women sat in the cabin, as the mornings sea breeze had a slight chill. It was still silly o’clock, about 6.am if I recall correctly.
I sat on the fishing deck staring out to sea. I liked the slight chill and the occasional spray from the sea. It is surprising how quickly the sun rises and how much more heat it radiates with every millimetre it rises above the horizon.
By the time we reached the first fishing spot, the sun was up and it was getting hot. Hot enough for the girls to venture out from the cabin.
If we wanted big fish, we needed to catch some smaller ones first. Small ones we could use as bait to lure the larger one to us.
Soon, we had a bucket full of assorted fish. Mostly mackerel or others of similar size. Now, I like Mackerel, grilled and served with a mild mustard sauce and any one of these ‘bait fish’ was large enough for a satisfying meal.
Soon we were off again, heading out towards deeper waters.
By now the sun was beaming down, the girls had already stripped off to swimsuits and bikinis. I was wearing my sports style sunglasses. At least we looked the business, even if we had no idea what the hell we were actually doing.
(I should have mentioned, this trip was taken when we were novices, before my wife and I became proficient at game fishing.)
Therefore, if you have never been deep sea troll fishing, please, please have a go, at least once. You may become hooked… excuse the pun… as we did.
Soon there were several lines out and Captain Dave was slowly driving the boat forward, trailing the lines behind and waiting for a bite.
We did not wait long.
John, my father in law took the first rod and started, under the mate’s guidance, to reel in whatever was on the end. ‘Pull the rod, by lifting it and then wind the line in as fast as you can, while slowly lowering the rod until it is level with the horizon… repeat, soon you will have wound in your catch.’
That’s all a beginner really needs to know, at this stage.
After five minutes we had a sparkly, shiney Dolphin fish… NO, not a flipper type Dolphin, but a brightly coloured fish also known as a Mahi Mahi. We were told they are excellent to eat. It was put straight into the ice-cold refrigerator.
Then they began to bite, more Mahi Mahi, Skipjack and Black-fin Tuna, Kingfish and more.
I took the line, reeling in a biggy… yeah, that old fisherman’s tale. Only this one was going nowhere.
Captain Dave put the boat into reverse and the mate strapped the belt around me, so I could support the base of the rod against my body. I was in a fight with a sizeable beasty.
Twenty minutes later, I was going to ask someone else to take over, as my arms felt like my biceps were about to pop, the mate shouted and leapt forward with the grappling hook.
I was asked to walk backwards, towards the cabin, but keep the tension on the line. This I did.
I could see nothing as all the family, along with the mate, were at the stern and looking into the water. I was still hanging onto the rod for dear life.
There were some shouts, big smiles and clicks of the camera, then that was it. The mate had released my catch. It seems it counts as a catch when brought alongside with the bill hook. It does not have to be bought aboard.
I saw nothing. After thirty minutes of hard graft I saw nothing.
It turned out I landed me a shark. No wonder it fought so hard. It was a young feisty shark; a smallish one, which conservation dictates must be released again. To me that was fair enough. Sharks do not make good eating.
The chefs back at Cheeca Lodge were cooking our catch today, for dinner tonight. Shark was definitely NOT going to be on the menu.
Besides, right then all I wanted was a cold beer and a chicken sandwich from my mother in laws stock pile of food.
As for how big the shark actually was; I only have the photographs to show. But if anyone askes, you can say it made a Great White look like a tiddly little Stickleback.
I’ll end my Islamorada tales there, at least for now.
Next time, on Wild Geese, I’ll entertain you with a tale from another part of the world.
Oh, just one more thing before I go. Rupert gets taken away, locked in the back of a plane by his kidnappers… It all happens in my novel, ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille.’
Why not grab yourself a copy now, you will enjoy Rupert’s adventures.