A few months ago, I realized after selling the boat I had spent the better part of last year restoring, that I was now without means to fish for the first time in 16 years! A few weeks into this new deal, Kim agreed to help me find a suitable replacement. We did. Found her on Ebay! Not an amazing beauty. In fact, I snubbed my nose at her the first time I saw her. A few days later, I came to my senses and pinged the buy it now button. A quick three day trip to South Florida to pick her up and she’s now a North Carolina gal, the “Saucy Mamma.”
As I shared, she’s far from perfect. The old ticker which moves her about is a well used 2003 model. I knew this going in, and it’s why I was able to afford her. A bit of tinkering and about three weeks in the shop awaiting tlc and she was ready to go. . . or so I thought. Kim and I organized a church outing on the Island last Saturday. Wow, the motor really couldn’t have run much worse for the first part of the day. I figured most of the kinks had been yanked out by the end of the day, so I planned her first offshore run. My first in over a year and a half!
The guys were stoked. The boat was fueled up and I was ready to go! I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and waited! At 5:30 I realized the alarm hadn’t sounded, and I was LATE! A quick zip through the house and I was off! I picked the other guys up and we charged toward Carolina Beach for Bulk Ice before launching. We pulled the coolers off the boat, set them up and started pulling out money when, we realized the machine only takes $1’s and quarters! At 6 a.m. there are not that many places open for business. . . So I took a leisurely stroll down the street to the gas station to break my $5. I was slightly dismayed when they only had 4 carefully guarded $1 bills in the drawer. I bought a soda and crackers and headed back to the boat. We gave up with our measly 20lbs of ice and headed out only to meet a hopeful fishing partner sauntering out of the nearby camp ground. He had change for a $5! I almost hugged the guy. So, we iced her down and headed for the boat ramp!
We motored into the Carolina Beach Basin in search of Menhaden, a favored King Mackeral Bait. A quick call on the VHF to find out where the school might be and we were on them. Live well filled, I set my eyes (and GPS) on a favorite spot about 20 miles out of Carolina Beach Inlet. Affectionally known as the School House, this artificial reef is home to countless decommissioned barges including the Hyde Dredge Barge and one old Coast Guard barge once used as a school.
We turned our caps backward and dropped the hammer! Thirty seconds later we were drifting! I thought I had all of the kinks out of it! Nope! Still there we three agreed. So, we struggled with the mysterious fuel issue for the two mile run to the inlet. Just before we entered what is now considered to be one of the least friendly N.C. inlets, I declared, “If we can just get through the inlet, I’ll fight the fuel problem all the way to the reef! We can always call Sea Tow.” Not sure whether I was serious or not, Allen just chuckled. Don has been with me 30 miles out when we lost the ability to shift the motor in and out of gear. . . we ran further off! This time we turned and decided to skirt the coast for a bit in search of Spanish Mackeral. Forty-five minutes of this and I was more convinced than ever that I was headed offshore! We turned to the east and went for it. Thirty seconds later, same thing! Don suggested I call the mechanic for advice. I did. He spoke words of wisdom and made suggestions for things he’d like to do to the engine if I’d carry the boat to him. Essentially, I think the old girl heard us talking and decided she’d better straighten up. I decided to let the fuel cleaner I put in the night before have time to do its job.
We turned East again and went for it! This time we made it to the 10 mile Box Cars. Picked up one small King over the next hour and half, but nothing amazing happened. Weather was good and seas were favorable, so we ventured on to the School House. Forty-five minutes later, we were there! There is no way to describe the peaceful feeling and serene sense that comes over me when I’m on that nearly clear blue water! So amazing! The occasional boat in the distance almost seems out of place. Most of the time is spent in near solitude. Once in a while a bird or Dragon Fly might venture by. Always cool to see Sea Turtles swimming by. We saw one yesterday that must have been four feet across!
We had just come off of plane and were putting out lines when we noticed the water boiling a few hundred yards away. Cobia! The largest school I’ve ever seen. They were feeding on small bait fish and the water was raining scales. Almost a constant shower of shiny reflections sinking through the water column! What a sight. A few trolls around the 1/2 mile reef, and we heard word on the radio of a Mahi bite that was just a mile or so away. We pulled in lines and ran on. ‘In My Dreams’, a large, beautiful pale blue Yellowfin with triple 275 Verados hanging on her transom was on a school of Dolphin! How cool. we picked up a few tips from the skipper before moving to a favorite ledge of mine just a few miles further east.
With lines in the water, we started the troll from one end of the ledge to the other. This particular ledge runs North East to South West for about 300 yards. The depth around it is 78’ on average. The trough, however, drops to about 100’! I’ve always found fish there. As a matter of fact, it has saved many a day on the water. This trip was no different. All of a sudden, our peaceful afternoon was thrown into utter chaos! A ‘Chinese Fire Drill’ ensued. We had three fish on with one reel screaming as the large King stripped line off of the reel! Ten minutes later we had boated two of the three. One measured 48” fork length!
Not long later, we pointed her due West and headed for CB!
As we started the 22 mile run back inshore I thought about the ever present, but unneeded Sea Tow Membership. About 30 minutes later, we passed a couple of boats about a mile to our North East. One in tow behind a Tow Boat US rig! How easily that could have been us. How thankful I am it wasn’t! Didn’t take long to once again be mesmerized by the spray of the water off the bow and the escort of flying fish ushering us back toward land.