Sea Sick

This ling fell for an old trick. Bob Baugh nailed this 45 pounder, not too far out in the Gulf of Mexico. The “line cut” on the fish’s skin shows plainly.

Before sun up, on the outskirts of Freeport, Texas, we stopped at the only, open convenience store and bought us some ham, bread and snacks for our offshore trip that morning. Bob and I had been planning this, mid week, trip for almost 2 weeks and finally “caught” some nice, calm weather seas 1 to 2 feet, with winds calm to 5 MPH, all day. It would be hot, but what’s new for summer along the Texas Gulf coast?

We were going to try out Bob’s, new 20 foot, aluminum, deep vee, boat, with a 60 HP motor. It would “scream” in our bays, but we didn’t know how it would handle in the Gulf’s swells.

We launched the boat, bought some cigar minnows and headed out of the channel, between the rock jetties and on into the Gulf of Mexico. Our plan was to fish the near oil, rigs, 12 to 15 miles southwest, out of Freeport and, hopefully, load up on some kingfish, king mackerel, and, maybe, catch a good size ling, or cobia.

It appeared to us that we were the only boat out that morning and the first rig we tied up to was covered up with 10 to 15 pound kings and, in short order, we had 5 in the over size cooler. Using speckled trout rigs; 7 foot, popping rods, with 15, pound line spooled on our Ambassaduer reels, when we hooked a king, we were getting an initial 50 to 75, yard, screaming run. The fights were fun, but Bob was anxious to find a rig that held some big ling.

Unhooking from the rig, I asked Bob, “How about a sandwich, a ham, roll over sounds good to me?” Bob idled the boat away from the rig and I laid out the bread on top of the big cooler and opened the ham’s container. Ugh! What a rancid smell and I quickly threw the spoiled meat overboard!

However, the damage was done and within 5 minutes mal de mere! Bob jerked the boat up on top and sped toward the next rig as I held on and tried to concentrate on a rig along the horizon. Some times this helps, but not this time as I held up a 5, gallon bucket and up came breakfast. I felt bad, as only one can feel when sea sick!
Bob hooked up to the next rig and I didn’t feel like moving or fishing. I was still standing, checking out the horizon as Bob cast out, and right away hooked into a nice king. He subdued the 25, pounder, and to get it into the boat, I had to move-move around and gaff it.

Performing my job to Bob’s minimum satisfaction, we iced the king and Bob said, “We don’t need anymore kings, let’s go find a ling!” I wanted to find the shore, but replied a green, “OK.”

The second rig we stopped at, Bob raised the motor up and gunned it, making a huge splash, and up popped two big, ling, probably 80 pounders, the biggest ones either one of us had ever seen! These fish are extremely curious and the noise and splashing of the motor will draw them up from within the rig. When I saw these two big guys, lazily coming to the surface, I experienced a miraculous recovery, grabbed a rod and slipped a cigar minnow into the water.

One moved slowly over to the bait and ate it, I set the hook and straight down the fish plowed, the 15 pound line was no match for this bruiser, and “pop”, the line snapped. Bob also snapped, “I told you that light stuff is no match for these big fish!” I could only claim “sea sickness”.

Using the same splashing tactic at the next rig, sure enough up floated another big, ling. Bob said, “Watch this.” As he cast out a stout boat rod with, 80, pound line on a Penn Senator reel, the ling slowly swam up to the bait and just hovered there. Bob jerked the cigar minnow and the ling moved over and inhaled it.

Down, down, down, line tearing off the heavy reel, the ling was trying to get into the rig and cut Bob off. He tightened the drag and stopped the ling cold and began vigoursly, pumping the rod and getting the line back. The ling came up much easier that it went down and finished this fight, churning the water around the boat.

Completely healed, I gaffed the big fish and Bob whacked it on the head and we lifted it up and into the big cooler. We headed on in, loaded up the boat that, by the way, handled very nicely out there and drove on over to Bayou Vista. We filleted the fish and made sure we gave some to my neighbor. She was a WW II “war bride” from France and always made us the best fish soup anywhere!

She and her husband rode out Hurricane Alicia as it passed right over Bayou Vista. They looked out during the fury of the storm and counted 5 tornados/water spouts and her husband told me, “That was enough for me. We decided right there that we’d move.” A month later they moved to Alabama and we never got a chance to get her fish soup recipe.