Business And Pleasure

In March of 1970, my company sent me to their plant in Boca Raton, Florida to work with the developers of a new product for small business. The product turned out to be a hit, but while over there, I let it be known that a fishing trip would suit my fancy. It wasn’t 2 days until I met up with Jerry Rodgers, who owned a 32, foot offshore, fishing boat and arrangements were made for me to take an afternoon off and accompany him on a fishing trip.

He kept his boat covered in a marina two miles away form Jupiter Inlet and leaving work, we drove the 40 odd miles up to his marina, stopping along the way and picking up food and drink. His tackle was onboard and we’d be using a medium action rod, with a gold reel spooled with 30 pound line, good equipment! We’d be using sardines, sardeneros where I came from, with a weight and fish off, or near, the bottom.

We loafed up the Intercoastal Waterway until we turned into the inlet and taking another turn we proceeded on out into the ocean. Our goal was a wreck that Jerry knew of, five miles out, on the west wall of the Gulf Stream. This area was under serious attack in WWII from German U-boats. Maybe this was one of old ships? Jerry quickly found the wreck, we baited up and let our lines down until they touched the bottom, or something else, then reeled up a couple of turns and waited.

Our wait wasn’t long when I had a rod bending strike, my drag was set too loose, the fish ran and cut me off on the wreck I guessed. Jerry then had a rod bender, he set the hook and with his drag a little tighter almost horsed the 15 pound amberjack to the surface. Gaffing it, I swung it into the cooler, then tightened my drag, “rerigged” and let my bait down.

Another big strike and I could feel the power of the fish! This one was bigger and really pulled, but my tighter drag and the rod’s pressure finally forced the 20 pound amberjack to the surface, where Jerry gaffed and boxed it. This was my first try at catching amberjack and they really pulled hard. Thinking that if I could tie a kingfish tail to tail with one of these bruisers the amberjack would drown the king!

We caught several more 15-20 pound, amberjack, then I had the idea to simply take the weight off of the sardine and drift it with the current. This was a winning strategy and not 10 minutes had passed when I had a big strike, the fish, a barracuda, ran and fought on the surface, finally throwing the hook. Jerry, who was watching with interest, said, “There’s a lot of those on the wreck out here, but we don’t keep barracuda, so it’s good he threw the hook.” On that note, we upped the anchor and started trolling.

We had caught a couple of small kings, or smokers as the locals called them, but they were really no match for the mid weight tackle, but we trolled on anyway. Not using the outriggers, we were surprised when a lightning bolt, a sailfish, smacked one of the lines. Grabbing the rod, I tried to set the hook, the sail jumped, the hook went sailing and I reeled in a slack line.

Time to go in, so as Jerry piloted the boat, I filleted the amberjacks. When I got to the kings, I volunteered to “ball” them. Jerry didn’t know anything about “balling” so I explained; in the sides of the kingfish, from top to bottom, cut one inch slices all the way down the fish, starting at the first slice near the gills run your index and middle fingers into the slice and push the meat out and upward. This pushes the meat out and leaves the bloodline, that tastes yucky, along the skin. Move to the next slice and continue pushing out the meat and by the time you finish that side you have a pile of kingfish balls. Flip the fish over and repeat the process. Kingfish balls are best fried, but also can be grilled or boiled. Eliminating the bloodline vastly improves the flavor of the kings.

We docked and cleaned up the boat, then he returned me to my hotel and thanking Jerry for the hospitality, he told me that he and his wife would try the kings that night. He came by the next day and told me that last nights fried kingfish balls were much better than smoking them and that he would start “balling” all the kings that he caught.

Returning to Houston, overall it was a good trip, the product was successfully launched and I even caught some fish. Talk about mixing business and pleasure!