A Cicero In Our Midst

We always tried not to take ciceros, beginners, out offshore fishing with us. Several times we relented and each of these times we were burned. This trip was one of those.

The summer of 1982 was one for the books. Very nice weather, so nice you could plan an offshore trip for the next weekend and, sure enough, the weather would turn out to be nice! Early Monday in mid June, we’d planned to take off from work on Friday afternoon and fish around the oil rigs east of Galveston. These rigs, near the Heald Banks, had been consistent fish producers for us for several weeks.

The fishermen, Dewey Stringer, Max, Clem and I, reported for duty at Dewey’s boat sling at the Galveston Yacht Basin. Clem, a business associate of ours, was a cicero and had never been offshore fishing before. We figured that the three of us could help (control) him and make this baptism successful.

Passing the first rig, seven miles out from the end of the North Jetty, we circled the rig but the water didn’t look right, we didn’t see any signs of bait or fish activity, so we motored on. The next rig, over ten miles out, we pulled up close to it on the down current side and let out three lines. We were using six and a half foot, popping rods, black Ambassaduer reels packed with fifteen pound, monofilament, along with a three foot, steel leader and two hooks with the eye on one threaded through the other, a fish getter! Attached to the hooks was a six inch, frozen, cigar minnow that we’d purchased at the Yacht Basin. The frozen bait gave us the weight needed for short casts, they quickly thawed out and became excellent baits for king mackerel (kingfish) or cobia.

Drifting away from the rig, we had two solid strikes. Clem picked up one rod and was welcomed to catching a kingfish. His fish ran and took out line for a good fifty yards, made another shorter run, and with more instruction, Clem brought the fish up to be gaffed. We gaffed it, flopped it into the cooler and his only remark was, “It sure pulled hard!”

Max boated the other king, a nice one over thirty pounds, we rebaited, resumed our drift and soon had another strike. Clem grabbed this rod too and held on! Another long run, two shorter ones, gaffing the king and flopping it in the box, Clem, under his breath said, “This could be like work!”

Here’s Max’s big king and the rigging we were using.

No more strikes so we headed on out. After about twenty miles we pulled up to a working rig and tied up to it. Soon, the cook came out, started up a conversation with us and told of some nice tarpon and cobia that he’d seen lolling around the rig. This got our attention and we put out four lines.

Strike, strike, and thinking that it might be a tarpon, Dewey and I picked up the rods, but the long runs identified the fish as kings. Another strike and Clem picked up the rod, the line started out and a six foot, tarpon cleared the water. Dewey and I were working our fish toward the boat. Clem yelled, “How do I fight this thing?” Max was up talking with the cook as the tarpon cleared the water again and headed south. One more jump and it was all over as the hook came sailing back toward us.

Prior to the late 1990’s tarpon were extremely rare in the northern Gulf, but we told Clem not to worry; we’d all lost tarpon, that they’re very hard to hook, have tough mouths and their aerobatics make them difficult to land. We didn’t tell him that the first thing he should have done when one hits a bait was to really sock the hook to it, then give the fish some slack when it jumped and then hold on!

We were very slow learners about taking ciceros out with us!