I’m Back…

Well, it’s been a long time since my last post, much longer than I anticipated. But at least I can honestly say I’ve used the time productively.

We had a chance to fish out of the recently reopened Port Eads, hit something on Vixen and bent both props and our starboard shaft, fished the Blue Marlin Grand Championship tournament, and spent a couple of weeks lobster diving in the Keys. “That’s not productive,” you say? I guess it depends on your definition of  the word. But I did finish my third book, The Aral, and my fourth book, Tears of Coral. More about them soon.

Bluewater Fishing’s Been Slow

 In early June, the Vixen crew headed south for four days of bluewater fishing the current rip that forms just south of the Mississippi River and is usually teeming with fish.

On the first day, we encountered vicious squalls, with winds and driving rain matching most anything we have ever seen while at sea. After managing to get through them, we found the current rip. A yellow belt of sargassum separated the pea-green water from cobalt blue.

A short time after we began to troll, my daughter, Brittany, was in the chair fighting a nice sized white marlin. After catching and releasing it, we quickly spotted four more billfish—either free jumping or working their way through our bait spread—before we were hooked up again.

With the center-rigger reel screaming, Brittany took the chair once again, as we cleared the cockpit with our pulses racing. A flash of silver marked a nice blue marlin as it leaped from the water and tail danced its way across the rip. But after a short fight, it pulled the hooks and swam away.

We continued to fish without much luck. So late that afternoon, we stopped trolling to catch chicken dolphin on light tackle alongside the rip. It didn’t take long for Brittany, Hunter Bentz, and Addison Gill to load the boat with plenty of fish for dinner, and we headed to Port Eads to spend the night.

Port Eads Lighthouse

Port Eads Lighthouse

Port Eads sits at the end of South Pass, a mere stone’s throw from the open gulf. Until it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mississippi anglers had fished out of there for years, enjoying the close proximity to good fishing with a safe place to spend the night or seek shelter from storms.

It finally reopened this year, better than ever. It features 60 slips with power and water, a fuel dock, and a lodge with full food and beverage service open to the public. With eight bunks in each of six rooms, the lodge can accommodate up to 48 anglers. This means that Mississippi anglers now have the option to fish bluewater and then duck into Port Eades to spend the night in air-conditioned comfort, for around $100 per night, including breakfast.

Finding the capable and friendly staff eager to provide world-class service, we opted to dine at the lodge and save our fish for later. The meal was excellent, and we climbed into our bunks on Vixen looking forward to another great day of fishing. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

The fishing was slow the second day. We fished all day without another billfish bite, and only caught a few small dolphin. Sunday, after the New Orleans Big Game Club’s Invitational Tournament ended, our crew headed home and the Port Eads marina emptied. With Vixen the only boat remaining, we found ourselves alone, except for the alligators and gar working the docks.

Vixen alone at Port Eads

Vixen alone at Port Eads

  After a one day break, Capt. Eric Gill and I headed out for two more days of fishing. I caught a cow and a bull dolphin with a combined weight of only 20 pounds on the third day. But late on the fourth day, we got more action than we wanted.

We were trolling the rip late in the afternoon when something hit our left rigger. Before I could clear the cockpit to fight the fish, we had a second bite, and then another, and another. Four fish were hooked up at the same time!

I fought the first fish to the boat with visions of a nice dolphin or wahoo, as I saw the flash of color deep below. When I finally brought the fish to the surface, it became clear what we had hooked—four jack crevalle. After fighting all four to the boat and releasing them, we boated another pair of dolphin, each weighing just over 20 pounds.

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Me with a decent mahi mahi

  With four days of slow fishing under our belt, we headed up to Venice, Louisiana, where we would pick up our crew to fish the Mississippi Gulf Coast Big Game Club’s spring tournament. We were headed up Tiger Pass when disaster struck.

We had just entered the channel and were making a bend when we hit something—hard. We immediately pulled back the throttles. After confirming that we weren’t taking on water through the propshaft or rudder post seals, we engaged the engines one at a time—only to find that we had obviously bent both props.

With our stomachs in knots, we limped into Cypress Cove Marina to spend the night and lick our wounds. At daylight the next morning, we got underway heading back to Gulfport at 8 knots rather than our normal 32. We made the trip in 10 hours instead of our usual 2 and a half.

We are certainly disappointed that we will miss some fishing during the prime part of the season. But having travelled over 44,000 miles on Vixen during the past 10 years, with this happening only twice, we really can’t complain. Besides, offshore, it’s always something.