In my nearly 14 years writing outdoor columns, I have never once received any recognition for my rather peculiar writing style. But that is all right because, quite frankly, I continue to write because it comes easy to me on most weeks and besides, and I love trying to open people’s eyes to some of the incredible acts of nature that I have been privy too in my thousands of hours scouring our waters.
My recognition dry spell ended recently, when totally out of the blue, Rhonda Carper, a woman I barely know, donated $10,000 to the Waddell Mariculture Center in my name. To say I am humbled is putting it mildly.
If you follow my columns with any regularity then you know the Waddell Mariculture Center and the work they do there has been my adopted child for a lot of years. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Rhonda – because your contribution will fund sorely needed interns for this incredible facility.
I should have thanked Rhonda earlier but I was in Orange Beach, Ala., fishing in the Gulf for yellowfin tuna aboard Blufftonian Bud Mingledorff’s 68-foot boat, the Line Set. Along with Aaron Dowell, Dan Cornell and Chuck Robinson, we trucked to ’Bama, and no sooner had we got there than it was time to hop aboard and go.
Leaving the dock at midnight with another Lowcountry friend, Corrin Askeland, at the helm, we traveled nearly 100 miles offshore to fish near one of the deep-water oil rigs in nearly 4,000 feet of water. Arriving at the rig around 4 a.m. was like encountering a massive alien spaceship. Lit up like a Christmas tree, the rig’s lights revealed big tuna busting the surface here there and everywhere.
Though we had some live baits and chummed like mad, all we could catch were blackfin tuna, the smaller cousin of a yellowfin. As the sun began the rise, the yellowfins pretty much disappeared, so we decided to hop from one oil rig to another.
Because the water was still fairly warm down there, slob barracudas were demolishing our live baits before tuna even had a chance. But that is fishing, and with perfect seas and a warm breeze, the experience was well worth the long trip down.
We did nail a couple of mahi and a few more blackfin, but our target species, yellowfin tuna, were playing hide and seek as we hopped from rig to rig.
While running to yet another oil rig, we had an encounter with two sperm whales. I have had really cool encounters with right whales, humpback whales, orcas, and pilot whales, but never a sperm whale.
Talk about blowing your top, these sperm whales’ blowholes shot water up a good 30 to 40 feet. In water that deep, they were no doubt readying themselves to dive down to the bottom in search of huge squid.
The reason I say that is because when we got in and were cleaning our catch, a guy next to us was cleaning a swordfish caught that day, and in that sword’s stomach was the largest squid I have seen in years. If that swordfish was able to whack a squid that big, Lord knows the size of squid those sperm whales feed on in those deep, dark depths.
Corrin had two mates onboard, but I don’t think either of them knew that the four of us were very experienced offshore anglers. It was strange to have the mates doing the rigging, etc. that the rest of us are so used to doing, but taking a day off from this tiring duty wasn’t all bad.
Every area of the country uses different yet similar techniques but after several strike outs at different rigs, I suggested we try a ballyhoo, with a blue and white Ilander lure in front of the ballyhoo. In my thousands of hours fishing blue water, that blue and white lure has accounted for more fish than just about any of the hundreds of lures I own.
Met with skepticism by one of the mates for most of the day, we pulled up to the last rig of the day and I finally got him to give in to this proven blue and white killer. It hadn’t been out in the spread for more than a minute when a nice yellowfin inhaled it. In the next 40 minutes, we landed a few more yellowfin – all but one on that same lure – before we headed in.
It was a great trip, eye candy every which way you looked and, best of all, a chance to fish new waters. One tip though, whether you fish our blue water or the Gulf of Mexico, be sure to bring along a blue and white Ilander!
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. firstname.lastname@example.org