9.05.2011

The One That Got Away But Didn't

While at work last hitch, we pulled up and tied up next to one of our other company boats to stand by for dock space.The dock where we discharge the oil that we pick up, was occupied by a big river boat and he was gonna be there for awhile, so we settled in to wait him out and do some catfishin'. When I stepped out of the wheelhouse, a friend of mine on the other boat hollared at me, "Cap, I thought you said there was some nice catfish here??"  "There is!", I replied, "ya just gotta know how to catch 'em", I taunted. "Give me some time to catch up my paperwork and I will show ya how it's done",  I hollaredI had checked my GPS a few minutes ago and knew it said prime fishing time on a 'good day' was 2 hours awayAs I sat there doing my paperwork and thawing out some chicken livers for bait, I worried that maybe I shouldna bragged so much or ribbed him so hard, but I figured either I'd strike out or catch something, and either way it would be funAt 1 p.m., the appointed time, I stepped outa the galley door and headed for the stern with a bag of recently thawed bait. I had a handline wrapped around a Gatorade bottle, so I baited it upThe line is 120 lb tar-dippped nylon, and for weight I had 4-1and 1/4inch flange nutsI baited the 2 #4 stainless steel hooks and let the line freefall into the water towards the bottomIt went down about 20 feet astern, about 20 feet deep 'til I felt it hit bottomI sat on a 5 gallon bucket, held the line in my fingers and waited, and waited, and waited some moreAfter 15 minutes without a bite I was scared I had bragged too much, and after another 5 minutes I began to pray, "Lord", I said quietly, "I know Ya have a soft spot in Ya heart for fishermen. Heck, some of 'em were Ya own disciples. That joke Ya pulled on them the time Ya told them they were fishin' on the wrong side of the boat was priceless, Lord,  I thought, and then that time Ya went walking out to them that night on the water, actin' like you were gonna walk right on by them had to be the best practical gag in recorded history.  So I know Ya love fishermen and us salty ol' boat trash, too.  Well, Ya heard me shoot my mouth off, Lord, and here I sit without a bite. Lord, I promise if I catch a good one I will never tell the story without mentioning that You helped, so pleeeese, Lord, how 'bout a fish so I don't have to take any crap from Terry (my friend on the other boat) cuz I'll never live it down."  Well, I barely finished my lil prayer when the line jerked so hard it hurt my shoulderThe line started slowly slipping through my hand as I hollared, "Boys!It's a big one!"  I only had like 2 feet of line left when I finally got him stopped fighting hard, but still, it was back and forth for a few minutes as I slowly hauled in the fish, hand over hand.  By the angle of the line in the water, I could tell that he was coming up to the surface. When we all saw the size of him thrashing and twisting about 15 feet behind the boat,  the whole crew of both boats were watching and hollaring and whooping as I struggled and got him to the boat. As the big fish twisted and thrashed, he wrapped the line around the center of him, and the other hook got caught on the line and wrapped around his middle, like a noose, and now I was really in a bind, trying to pull him in sideways. When I finally got the fish right up to the boat, both of us were tuckered out. Now I had a big problem. I couldn't reach far enough down to grab him, and because the line was around his middle, I couldn't pull him up by his head so's I could grab his jaw. He seemed to have gotten a second wind, so he started jerking around like a strong corkscrew, the crews were hollaring, I was leaning way over the edge of the boat, stretching, when something horrible happened! I had managed to get the noose off from around his middle, and started to lift him up, when the hook came out of his mouth and he was free! Completely unhooked.  Pandemonium on both boats ensued as the fish just laid there on his back, panting and slowly floating away in the current. My quick-thinking relief captin grabbed the only thing handly, a deck brush, and managed to pull the fish back to the boat. My long-armed deck hand reached down and got one finger in the fish's gill and lifted him barely high enough, but his finger slipped loose, just as I grabbed the fish's bottom jaw and I held on for dear life. It was quite a struggle, but we managed to lift the fish up onto the boat. 

After I caught my breath, I told the Lord, a hearty heartfelt "Thank You", then like any salty ol' sailor,  I fillet'd that bad boy, threw his gizzard to the seagulls and invited him in to a fine meal with our crew.  We kept his liver for bait and caught a bunch of "seacats" with it but das another 'tail'.
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