I’m getting ready for our annual fishing trip to Dauphin Island, Alabama and am reminiscing about last year’s trip. Since I didn’t put up a report I thought I’d tell part of the story now.
Since we went in August last year, the snapper season was closed. This was disappointing but when we could go, so that’s just the way it is. We caught a bunch of great snapper though, as well as lots of amberjacks and other fish, but we primarily focused on kingfish.
While we accepted that it was not snapper season, it was hard releasing all of those great fighting and great tasting fish. It was infuriating though when the commercial boat comes up to the rig, pretty much pushes the recreational boats out of the way, and proceeds to catch and release undersized snapper, not venting them, we watched to make sure, leaving a trail of dozens of undersized snapper floating out behind their boat. So we cannot catch and keep for personal use legal sized fish, but they can catch and sell for profit, public legal sized fish and worse catch and kill undersized fish. I try not to gripe about the government or the law much, but in this case we had in our face a ridiculous example of terrible regulations that give our public fish away to private profiteers.
This was the last day of a five day trip, its late in the afternoon, and we are hot and tired. We are about done in, trolling ribbonfish near the rig, making one last pass, when one of the rods gets pounded. After a long battle with clearly not a kingfish, my buddy brings in a great red snapper.
After the quick photo, we vent and release the fish and it just will not go down. After numerous attempts and various methods, each time the beast swimming down, it floats back up. Very frustrating, especially with us making all this effort to release a fish we really should be able to keep while this commercial boat nearby is making no effort to save undersized fish. Finally, we rig up a light hook on a light leader with some heavy weights and drop the fish down to the bottom. After a few minutes the fish really starts to fight the weights, apparently having revived in the deep water, and we pop the rod to break the light line and release the fish.
All of this used up the time we had committed and it was time to head in. However, young Chase, who is a passionate fisherman but on his first long offshore trip, had not, like the rest of us, caught a real trophy of a fish on the trip. He had caught a bunch of good fish, but had also lost a few really big fish and was desperate for one last shot, “just one more time around the rig guys”, he pleaded. We were smoked but we couldn’t resist. We reset and off we go. As we start, Chase half yells to us and half calls out to heaven, “I probably shouldn’t pray for a fish but please God just let me catch one big fish before the end!” “Maybe the fish god’s (really just God) will reward us for that effort with the snapper release,” someone said.
By halfway around the rig, nothing. Three quarters around no signs of life, it just ain’t gonna happen boys. Until a big trolling rod just about breaks in two and the reel starts screaming. The fight is on and it is clearly a big fish. Three big screaming king runs, just like they do, but the fight reaches stalemate, like Chase is just pulling in dead weight. What has happened, we wonder? After pumping and cranking inch by inch we see, the huge king was now foul hooked and had died on the line, but Chase had his trophy!
We were all elated, and exhausted. What a perfect way to end the day and the trip! The next day, after a long drive home, before we go our separate ways, Chase meekly asks, “Guys, do you think God really cares about prayers like that?”
Yes sir, He does. Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. There’s no guarantees there, and people can argue about how that verse plays out, but in this case I have no problem saying it fits!
This year, to our surprise, snapper is open for a few of the days we are there, so we will get to keep a few!
Also, I guess I didn’t mention that this all happened within a few hundred yards of where a boat I was crewing on, with this same captain, sank about ten years ago,, while snapper fishing. So there was some redemption there too, but that is another story….