Perils Of Racing

At sunup, as we reached the end of the Galveston Jetties, we set our course to 150 on the compass.  Earlier we had stopped by our friendly, ex German submariner’s, see my post [“Invasion”], to buy some cigar minnows and were told by him that the shrimp boats could be found about 20 miles out on a course of 150.  The breeze created by Bob Baugh’s big, boat cruising along at 35, was refreshing to Brad and I and 18 miles out, sure enough, we sighted the first shrimp boat.

Pulling alongside of the shrimper, the mandatory swap beer for some chum, was made.  Beer is the legal tender of choice out on the Gulf and can be a barter item for shrimp, chum and even ice.  The trade made we baited up our medium weight rods, loaded with 20 pound line, a 3 foot, light wire leader and red reels, with cigar minnows purchased from our German friend, tossed out a couple of handfuls of chum, small fish culled from the boat’s night of shrimping and awaited the inevitable strikes!

The strikes weren’t long in coming.  All 3 of us got almost simultaneous strikes, and the race was on, 3 kingfish, roaring away at full speed, the reels nearly smoking as the fish pulled out line.  We gained a little line, then the kings took off again and two of the kings decided to battle it out on the top.  Many splashes later we gaffed two, but kept one in the water because we only had 2 gaffs and gaffing the last one, we whacked all 3 with our “kingfish persuader”, admired the 3, 20 pounders and into the cooler with them.

We repeated this scenario two more times, long runs, splashes on top and grudging fights alongside the boat and added two more kings, 20 pounders like the first 3, to our cooler, then Bob said that a person could eat just so much kingfish and we should leave these fish alone.  Because, this past week, he’d heard about a new rig, 50 miles out, in about 150 foot of water, that should have some amberjack around it.

Bob figured out our new course, this was using Loran way before GPS, and we headed out, the slick seas letting us make the 30, mile run in just under and hour.  Soon we saw the rig on the horizon, Bob’s calculations were right on, so we pulled up to it and trolled around it a couple of times with no luck.  Next, we pulled up to the rig and tied on, then let our cigar minnows out to drift in the current, then, not 5 minutes later, I had a savage strike, the fish heading south, then jumping several times.

The fish, later identified as a 25 pound barracuda, put up a savage fight all the way to the boat and, trying not to hurt the fish too much, we slid the gaff into the point of its chin and hefted it aboard, a nice catch, but no eating for this one.  Barracuda in southern climes, many times carry a disease, ciguatera, that they contract from other fish that eat the shellfish on tropical reefs, so we’d take no chances with this one. No amberjack at this stop, so we caught several more toothy, barracudas, then with the seas still flat, we untied from the rig and headed back in.

As usual, not a mile from the end of the jetties, we picked up a race, with a sleek, 30 foot inboard with, obviously, 2 big diesel engines and built for speed.  Full bore we were racing when we spied a crew boat heading our way.

Both little boats veered to the right, but both boats caught the edge of the crew boat’s wake, a 4, foot wave and both, slammed into it.  It’s a wonder both boats weren’t destroyed, but Brad and I were tossed around the fishing area of Bob’s boat and going down, my watch, a Rolex, hit a sharp object cutting my wrist and breaking the watch band.  Rolex bands aren’t cheap, even back then in the 80’s, and $200.00 later, with a new watch, band, I was ready for whatever the Gulf could bring my way, I thought.