We were lucky because the crew would start culling the catch as soon as the net was dumped. The culling and throwing of the by-catch overboard would jump start the food chain and the predators should gather around eagerly gobbling everything up.
Just as dawn was breaking on this late June morning in 1986, we, Bob Baugh, Charley King and I had cleared the Freeport Jetties and headed out on a hundred and ninety degree course, looking for anchored, shrimp boats. We were lucky to find our first one just pulling in the net and circled it until the crew started culling.
Pulling up beside the boat and starting our drift, we put out our lines. Our rigs were six and a half foot, medium action rods, reels loaded with thirty pound, line, a three foot steel leader and a sharp, single hook. Our first drift wasn’t productive so after two hundred yards we pulled back up alongside the shrimper and started another drift.
We were watching the chum floating, some was sinking, when we saw the flash of a predator fish, probably a kingfish. Just after this, Charley’s line took a big hit. He set the hook, the fish took off peeling thirty yards of line off of the reel and all he could do was hold on. Relenting to the rod’s pressure the fish soon came to gaff and we saw it was a small, barracuda, Sphyraena. Here Charley is holding it up for a picture and the fish’s distinctive markings are easy to see. Since barracudas aren’t good to eat, we threw it back.
Soon Bob and I were both hooked up with bigger fish and after spirited fights, we gaffed and boxed them, almost identical fifteen pound, kingfish, or king mackerel, Scomberomorus cavalla. We caught eleven all told, ten kings and the one barracuda and the action was hot and heavy until the crew stopped culling. Then, like a light switch that’s turned off, the fish quit hitting.
We kept looking for another hour, then ran over to a production, oil rig and tied off to it, hoping to hook up with a snapper or amberjack. No luck this time, just small ones, and since we had a good mess of fish we decided to beat the heat and head back in.
Overall, a good fishing trip and a lucky fishing trip!