My second fishing trip was into Trinity Bay, near Baytown, see “[Trinity Bay – A Bigger Pull On The Line]” and almost fifty years later, after catching some really big fish during the intervening years, I enjoyed what must have been the biggest pull yet!
Several times Bob Baugh and I took a course of around two hundred degrees out of the Freeport Jetties, to a block of oil rigs, sixty-five miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. Our objective was the abundant, at the time, hoard of large amberjack that lived around these rigs.
We were heading out in his twenty-three foot Formula that packed two, hundred and sixty-five, horsepower I/O’s. He’d rebuilt this boat, it was very sea worthy, had a real deep, vee and we’d been in some rough stuff and made it out just fine! Several times we’d been out over a hundred miles in it, without a hiccup, but today’s trip was only sixty-five.
We stopped at the first rig in the field, tied up to it, baited our fishing, rigs, with squid and cut mullet and let our lines down a hundred feet to the bottom. That day we were using heavy, six foot boat rods, Penn Senator reels packed with eighty pound line, heavy wire leaders along with a stainless steel, hook, heavy rigs for the heavy work we hoped we would encounter. For the time, we also had, high, tech (ha-ha), rod holders that we had strapped on.
As I was fitting the rod butt into my holder, my bait hadn’t completely settled on the bottom when I had a big hit! The fish picked up the bait running and ran right back into the rig structure, cutting me off. Bob was a little quicker and got his fish’s head up and started tugging it toward the surface. His tugs were futile as the fish, probably a big grouper or amberjack, dove back into the rig and cut him off too!
Reeling up our slack lines, we decided we’d tighten the drags almost all the way down and try to strong arm them up. Same story as our baits hit the bottom, strikes right away, but this time there was no give in our lines. Talk about a fight, both fish pulled, pulled and pulled some more. Even with our high tech rod holders, neither one of us, both stout fellows, could raise our rods off of the boat’s gunnels, but finally the fish began tiring. After a ten minute, tug-of-war, keeping my line tight, I put a flying gaff into Bob’s big, amberjack, we guessed a fifty pounder.
Still fighting my fish, a twin to Bob’s, we were fiddling around getting his amberjack aboard and into the cooler. Mine got its second wind and down it went. Stopping the run short of the rig, I manhandled it back to the surface and the flying gaff, applied by Bob, calmed it down. Whew, these two big, amberjacks almost filled up our big, cooler and almost wore us both out!
Letting our lines down again toward the bottom, Bob had a big hit about half way down. Setting the hook, down the fish bored, but he stopped it short and began the battle to get it to the surface. My bait was on the bottom, still untouched and loosening my drag, I set my rod in the through gunnel, holder and got the flying gaff ready.
Leaning over preparing to gaff Bob’s big ‘un, in the water below it was another monster, amberjack, half again as big. It was lazily coming to the surface. Looking into the water, we couldn’t believe it, but here came ten or fifteen more of the bruisers up to the top, where they just lolled around until the disturbance of getting Bob’s fish aboard spooked the school and they flushed. They went down much faster than they had floated up.
We crammed the last amberjack, a thirty pounder, into the cooler and kept fishing, but the amberjacks had developed a severe case of lockjaw! We did add a couple of red snappers to our bag, but up came a storm and chased us on in.
The school of huge amberjacks coming to the surface was a once in a lifetime deal! I’ve heard of snapper schools coming up and turning the surface red, but I’ve not seen that either. Our cooler was full of big fish and all the way in we wondered what we’d done if we had hooked one of the real big ‘uns.