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Barracuda

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Barracuda

Barracuda




Ding Ding Ding……………..The alarm sounds off as I shuffle to end the noise before it awakes my youngest son. 3am comes early, though my anxiousness has kept me awake most of the night. I stumble around the bedroom trying to find my good luck shirt and a comfy pair of shorts. I grab a quick bite to eat, usually a boiled egg or a bowl of cereal. It’s not much, but it will keep me going for the long ride ahead. I ramble through my belongings trying to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I steal a quick kiss and towards the truck I go. It’s Saturday morning and we’re going to the reef.

I wonder what the day has in store for us while going down the road. The roads are so empty it’s almost a disturbing silence, as I try to gather my thoughts. Soon I pull into the drive, silently cursing the bumpy road on the way to the house. I can see the light on outside from a short distance, and I wonder to myself if they had as little sleep as I did. I pull up beside the shed and I notice it is already unlocked, and shortly afterwards the pitter patter of Mikey’s feet is startling as he sneaks up behind me. It’s almost comical to see him moving around in a sleepy daze, not completely sure what’s going on yet. We begin to load up the boat, which doesn’t take long. All having the same goal in mind, we work in harmony as if we had been doing it for years, all knowing what had to be done without speaking a word. By 4am, we are ready to go. The boat is loaded, cooler full of drinks, and bait thawing in the front compartment. It was time to make that long haul to the place we had been waiting all week to go.

Finally we were on the road. No one says it out loud, but I know everyone is thinking it. Jim and I pass small conversation, as we are both still sleeping on the inside. Mike usually lasts a few minutes before he takes advantage of the large backseat which doubles as a small bed for him. With the help of large quantities of Pepsi and a couple cigarettes, we gradually get more and more awoke. The conversation turns to the fishing trip itself as we near our destination. From time to time, Mikey’s will pop up from his slumber and ask how far we are. Silently Jim and I laugh as our response is always “another hour” regardless of how far or close we are. Discouraged and irritated, he assumes his position back on the seat for another nap. As we near the inlet, we can smell the salt in the air and feel the cool breeze off the water. I begin to wonder if I remembered everything and ponder how the day will go; hoping the water isn’t too rough. Before much longer, I’m making that last right turn into Murrells Inlet. We have arrived, what a relief.

Before we unload the boat, we make our ritualistic stop by our favorite little tackle store about a mile up the road. We usually beat him to the store, making any final adjustments to the boat while we wait. More so than anything, it’s nice to be able to stretch the legs and take a quick bathroom break. When Tom pulls in, it’s a sigh of relief. We walk in behind him as he unlocks the door, and when the lights flip on we all just kind of stand there in a state of “awe.” The walls and floor is packed from top to bottom with everything an angler could want. Rods, reels, hooks, line, and the occasional item we haven’t seen before. The temptation of all the great product in that little store is almost overwhelming, and I softly giggle as I can look at Jim and know he’s feeling the same way. After a minute, we get back focused on the issue at hand. It’s usually mud minnows and the occasional hooks or something small. I think we’d go there rather we needed to or not, it’s just one of those stores you have to stop by when you’re in the area. I know Jim is particularly fond of it, probably simply because it’s one of the few stores of it’s kind that you can still have a smoke in. Sometimes it really is the small things that make a place special. Now that we’re all baited up and iced down, it’s time to hit the water.

It’s a 2 minute ride from the tackle store to the landing, but none the less a nerve racking one. By this time I’ve got my game face on. We pull into the landing, which is usually pretty quiet that time of morning. It’s a sweet serenity as the wind blows softly over the marsh. I pull the truck up to get it strait, and Jim takes the wheel. Mikey’s and I climb aboard, scrambling to get the rods up and make any final touches to the electronics. I trim up the motor and down we go, waiting to get the boat afloat. I give the key a quick turn and VROOM. The motor cranks without a hitch. There’s something about the sound of an outboard motor that gets my blood flowing. As always, the Evinrude 150 is purring like a kitten, and I anxiously await the moment when I can put the hammer down and let loose some of those ponies. As I back the boat around, I ask Mike “you going to catch the dock this time, or are you going to be too scared?” Down deep inside I know he won’t be able to do it, but maybe one day the hard time he gets will help him to overcome some of his fears. This is a philosophy that Jim and I share alike, and we have an unspoken cooperation that maybe one day it will pay off. As I ease the boat towards the dock, I wait patiently to see if maybe he’ll catch the dock this time; however, I grin in discussed as the boat gives the side a gentle bump and continues along the dock. Maybe next time I think to myself. With the boat tied off, Mikey’s is quick to get his cast net out. He always asks if he can throw it. Though I know he won’t catch much during the high tied, I still encouraged him to practice while the dock wasn’t busy. He still hasn’t quite got the hang of it yet. While Mike plays catch with the local forage, I wonder my way to the truck to relieve Jim of his position behind the wheel. I quickly stomp the gas as the excitement has set in now. I pull in, hop out, and lock the truck; we’re almost on the way! My walk back to the boat soon turns into a run, but that doesn’t last long. My run turns into a stumble, as my flip-flops don’t agree with my speed. Finally back to the boat, it’s time to head out.

Now we’re ready. Mikey unties the boat from the dock, I give a turn of the key, a quick shove and off we go into the wild blue yonder. I turn the VHF to channel 71 to see if my buddy is on the water, but more so to check the radio to make sure it is functioning properly. I keep a close eye on the fish finder as I glance around the boat to make sure there is nothing loose that can flop around and injure someone. The job of a skipper is never done. I think to myself from time to time, wondering if Mike understands the immense responsibility when skippering a boat. I know that one day he will be old enough to go out on his own, and I hope he is watching me closely. It’s almost nerve racking for me at times, knowing that the safety of the people on board is my responsibility. Aside from my thoughts, I notice Jim sticking hooks on his rod already. He always says he likes to be the first in the water, and he always did succeed at that. I’m always the last in the water, go figure. By this time, we are nearing the mouth of the jetties. Like clock work and with out being asked, Mikey’s is digging the life jackets out of the front of the boat. We all have a certain respect for the ocean, as we all found out how quickly her mood can change on a previous fishing trip. Calm water can become the finger of God with no notice, and it takes no prisoners. We all agree it’s best to respect that often-overlooked fact of nature.

Now that we’re all set, the boat has been looked over, and everyone is in place, I lay the hammer down and put the ponies to the prop. I had already picked structure to navigate to and pre-programmed it in on the way through the jetties. It was just a matter of time now, and we’d be fishing. The water was calm and the ride was peaceful for a change. The sun peeking over the water painted a majestic portrait for the short ride out. It was at this time I wished Amy where here to see it. I silently thought to myself that Jim were thinking the same thing about Sue, as he rose from his chair to take a peak at the beautiful sunrise. We dodged a light salty spray as I zigg zagged through the swells on our way to Paradise Reef. A quick glance at Mike and I noticed the same cheesy smile he has when he knows we’re almost there. We all look on with anticipation as we near our famed destination.

In the horizon, I can see the reef markers; and soon afterwards the GPS gives me a beep letting me know we are there. I kick the boat down to an idle as we all peel off the life jackets and jump to our feet. The hardest part of the trip is finding the structure and finding the fish; consequently, both of which that are my responsibility. Once in the general area, I made a few passes and finally noticed the reef on the fish finder. I swung the boat around for one more pass, marked the structure on the GPS, and got the anchor dropped the first try. I had just purchased a new anchor that week, and Jim and I both were curious as to how it would work; now we knew. With the anchor down, it was time to get some hooks wet.
Of course Jim already had his rod ready as always, and was the first to get his hook baited up and in the water. I always laugh at him because the majority of the time he doesn’t wait for the boat to spin around, and ends up reeling his line right back in. Once the boat was in it’s final resting place, I began to rig up my small bottom fishing pole as always. Before I could get my line in the water, Jim had reeled up a pin fish. I quickly made a decision to stick a hook in his back and send him out on a balloon. Through out the morning, we caught a few pinfish from time to time, but nothing to speak of. That pin fish had been on the balloon for nearly 2 hours with out so much as a sniff from a larger fish. With the bottom fish not biting very well, I think we all were getting a little discouraged. Before long, Jim suggested we move to another spot, and I graciously humored his thoughts and pulled up anchor. Around and around we went and again I found the structure and anchored us off. If nothing else, I was impressed with the performance of our new anchor. It was at this spot we would be in for a big surprise.

When we got anchored off, I decided to check the balloon rig that had been following us behind the boat while we moved. To my surprise, I reeled it in only to find a dead pin fish with the tail bitten off. “Go figure,” I thought to myself. Shortly after pulling up that rig, Jim caught the first Black Sea Bass of the day and suggested we try it on a balloon. I figured what the hell, it might just be what the doctor ordered. I unhooked the bass from his rod and stuck two treble hooks in his back; and then gave him a mighty toss into the water. My mighty toss wasn’t so mighty as the bait landed only feet from the boat. But seconds later, I saw a dark, mysterious shadow in the water that looked to be 5 foot long! It was long and slender, with a pointy-head. Next thing I knew, I saw a huge mouth open wide and suck down that poor, helpless sea bass. After watching him gorge on the bait, I gave the rod a hefty jerk hoping to lodge the 2/0 treble hooks into his bony jaw. “It’s a huge King!!!!!” I belted loudly with excitement. The second those hooks pierced his frail skin, it made a quick, short run. I handed the rod to Mikey’s and the unexpected happened. Before I could say a word edge wise, I saw a huge flash come out of the water. I watched speechless as the monster fish hurled over the boat. He missed Mike’s head by no more than a foot and Jims head by no less when it landed on the other side of the boat. I was laughing with excitement as Mikey’s thought the fish was still on the other side of the boat, not realizing that he had just jumped over us. Jim didn’t realize what had just happened either, as he exclaimed “I heard the splash, was that his fish!” I quickly grabbed the rod and darted to the other side of the boat, frantically reeling up the slack as I went. I was worried that the fish had thrown the hooks as much slack was in the line. To my surprise, the slack disappeared and the fish was still on. I quickly handed the rod back to Mike and he battled the fish tooth and nail. On two separate occasions the fish ran under the boat and I had to weave the rod under the anchor line. It was such a thrill to see the light in Mikey’s eyes as the large, torpedo like fish stripped line off the reel in a sports car fashion. I watched as Mike was shaking with excitement and fear. After about 10 minutes, he had battled the fish to side of the boat. I stood ready with gaff in hand, hoping to make an easy pick of the large fish. None of us had really seen the fish up close, other than when it had jumped the boat earlier in the fight; but that happened so fast it was hard to make anything out. I heard Jim shout “ I see color!” I did as well, but I was silent in awe as the moment progressed. Soon the fish rolled up on it’s side in plain view. “It’s a Great Barracuda!!!!!” I commented in a firm voice. I was lost in amazement, the whole time I thought it was a huge king. I knew in my mind that Barracuda shouldn’t be in this close, and it was at that moment I realized that I had never seen a King get air borne like this did. No matter, I wasn’t going to let his first barracuda get away. The fish slowly made passes on his side, and at my first opportunity, I stuck him in his broad side and watched as the deadly accuracy of the sharp tipped gaff pierced his fleshy shoulder. At this point I knew I had him, or he had me, however you wanted to look at it. I took a breath and huffed as I attempted to drag the 5 foot beast over the high rails on the boat. During the process a rouge wave struck and I stumbled as the heavy carcass of the fish slid over the rail. I still carry the a small scar on my right leg where the incisor of the Great Barracuda grazed me on the way down. I suppose we were even now. We all three stood in awe as the monster lay still in the bow of the boat. I noticed Mike’s hands trembling with excitement and disbelief. We stuffed him into the front console until we knew the fish was lifeless and unable to do us any harm. While we all captured the moment, I thought of how lucky we all were during the fight. A fish that size and powerful can do a lot of damage to an unlucky onlooker. Later we would run the gaff through the massive jaws of the 62 pound beast and look on as Mike did his best to hold it up for a picture. If there was ever a question of the massive size of this fish, it’s picture is worth a thousand words. Of all the moments I had wished Amy would have been there, that was definitely the one. But no matter, nothing could take the glory away from us three anglers that day. For us, for a single moment in time, we were the kings of the sea.

A short story by: Bryan Draper September 21, 2006






Bryan Draper

Your Saltwater and South Carolina Moderator




http://www.catchemcreekoutfitters.com


(This post was edited by Tarpon4me on Feb 1, 2007, 6:47 AM)
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Re: [Tarpon4me] Barracuda In reply to
I have story envy now..

I need to do some big fish fishing..


Steve
Fish On Have a fishing product that you want tested or reviewed? Stop by the Product Tester Forum and let everyone know!
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Re: [Feydakin] Barracuda In reply to
LOL, it's not that good of a story Feydakin, but thanks for the kind words. It is, however, a near perfect representation of that particular day. I was hoping to get this story publish in the Saltwater Sportsman Magazine, and i'm still waiting for George to get back with me on it.

As you were saying though, fishing for big game definately brings out the excitement. Cool



Bryan Draper

Your Saltwater and South Carolina Moderator




http://www.catchemcreekoutfitters.com


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Re: [Tarpon4me] Barracuda In reply to
Nice read,
just a tip don't hold your breath on Saltwater Sportsman, very busy over there, you may get lost in the shuffle until a slow month.


Captain Joe Verdino
Ft. Myers Beach, Florida
www.captjoeverdino.com
captjoeverdino@earthlink.net
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Re: [CaptJoeVerdino] Barracuda In reply to
LOL, yeah, they are pretty darn busy. My son and I met George a few weeks ago at a seminar. He's a pretty nice guy. I did an over view on the seminar including his pictures and an accurate representation of the seminar itself; as well as sharing alot of the tactics that were passed along. George called my cell phone one day out of the blue and thanked me for the great write up and the kind words. He asked if I minded if they used some of the info and pictures in the SWS mag, and that when the time comes they'd send me a release form and stuff. They sent me some SWS stuff in the mail, shirts, hats, stickers. It was really cool to be reconized by a big name like that. I was also told that the story I emailed in w/ pictures would be given a look over. You never know Joe, something small like this can become the start of dreams comming true. I'll always have that hope. There's nothing more i'd love to do than to get paid to travel and fish either for a magazine or just get sponsored enough to travel around and cut everyones crack on the tournament trail. Let my wife stop having to work, all that stuff. It's the american anglers dream, and i'll have it until it either comes true or I die. Cool



Bryan Draper

Your Saltwater and South Carolina Moderator




http://www.catchemcreekoutfitters.com


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Re: [Tarpon4me] Barracuda In reply to
Way to go Tarpon4me. Very nice story and a nice fish to boot.Cool


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Re: [Tarpon4me] Barracuda In reply to
Not bubble bursting, don't give up hope, but don't hope too much. Also if you want in on the sponsorship stuff you just need to try. You will get ignored, shot down, discouraged, and a bunch of other not great results. Then like you said something small will lead to the big break. Chances are you will never know who will give you the shot but when it happens and you look back you will be able to review all the steps to success.

This comes from my personal experience, writing won't get you paid, listing you are a writer, and showing some skill at it, will get you paid. Most big name companies like people who are in the winners circle but with the amount of tournys out there they come a dime a dozen. Showing intelligence, people skills, and a good relationship at the local level will open a lot of doors.


Captain Joe Verdino
Ft. Myers Beach, Florida
www.captjoeverdino.com
captjoeverdino@earthlink.net
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Re: [Tarpon4me] Barracuda In reply to
Thanks for the story, nice pic
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Re: [Tarpon4me] Barracuda In reply to
Thats a great story! Really exciting! Are you a writer?