Catching A Leviathan

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what it elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope – John Buchan

By Taylor Guest, Boca Chica Bait Company

Every so often, you get a rare chance to take a shot at a tailing monster. A true leviathan. This is my story. It was May of 2015 anno Domini. You learn something new every day. The Mississippi Sound was glass that morning and was projected to stay nearly that throughout the day. This amount of calm was rare form for even the sheltered Mississippi Sound, so we used it as our opportunity to make the nearly 12-mile jaunt from the Gulfport Marina to Cat Island, which is one of the six barrier islands off the coast of Mississippi. Cat Island was given its name by the Spanish due to their misidentification of the resident raccoon population on the Island. Cat Island has an extensive marsh system that laces most of the Island, making it a premier spot for targeting Specks and Reds. The large oyster population that the Island sustains bring predatory fishes to the shallows in search of small fishes and macroinvertebrate prey items that use the use the oysters as shelter. This makes the area great for sight casting.

The day was going swimmingly – fish pun – having a two person limit of Specks in the cooler by about 9 AM. We decided to push even further back into the marsh and oysters in order to start filling our limits of Reds. As we approached our spot, we noticed that the waters were teaming with small to medium sized Blue Crab. Blue Crab = tailing Reds, so we were fired up at the potential of our discovery. Keenly aware of the potential that the area had, all eyes were on the lookout for a beautiful translucent blue tail to breach the water’s surface. Side note, tail fishing, whether it be on fly or using soft plastics, might be my favorite style of fishing there is. At that point, it becomes hunting, nay, stalking! It’s so technical and gratifying. I was on bow. As we cut the inlet corner, I scanned right to find what my brain initially could only identify as a log laid on its side, with the upper half sticking out of the water. After instantaneous further analysis, my brain concluded that logs don’t have dorsal fins, and that this was the biggest tailing Black Drum that I had ever seen. The water depth that the drum was foraging in was approximately one foot deep, but the back of the beast stuck out another eight inches above the surface of the water. The tail was about the size of those Asian hand fans that you used to could win with tickets from the arcade – childhood analogy. This fish was a monster. As a selfish angler, I decided it best to keep my discovery to myself, at least until I had a few shots at it first. It only took one. I reached back and whipped my paddle tail on 12 pound test toward the beast, knowing dang well that my setup was far from ideal to bring in such a big Black Drum. The lure soared the 20 yards it took to reach the drum, and I must say, it may have been the single greatest cast I’ve ever made. The lure gracefully dropped, quite literally, on the fish’s nose, leaving the cruising drum with no choice but to inhale the paddle tail during its normal breathing. The lure disappeared, I set the hook like KVD during the final day of the Bass Master Classic, and the fight was on.

With a fish this big and gear so small, it wasn’t much of a fight, but rather a one sided sleigh ride. All I could do was hang on and 1) hope I didn’t run out of line, and 2) pray that the drum didn’t take me over the minefield of razor-sharp oysters that peppered the marsh habitat we were in. The drum would run and tire, and I would gain ground. This tug of war lasted 35 minutes before I really ever got to see the full size of the fish. Up close, the drum was even more impressive than I expected. The stakes to get it in the boat for a coveted picture became even greater at this point. As the beast saw the boat, it made on more stomach wrenching run, but was too tired to really do much. I was able to safely get it back to the boat where it took two of us to grab the head and the tail and heave it over the side of the boat. It was a beautiful big ugly! We knew time was of the essence here, as the drum was so worn out it desperately needed to be back in the water. I got a good grip on it and slung it up to my chest like a power lifter doing a clean and jerk lift. I think I strained my back. While the drum and I were chest to chest, the beast let out several drumming calls from deep within its swim bladder that reverberated through my body. The drum and I connected through those calls, and I don’t know if you get to choose your spirit animal, but if you do, that Black Drum is mine. Its swim bladder quite literally punched me in the chest. That’s what it felt like. The sound was like someone bouncing an overinflated exercise ball on tile floor. What an impressive animal!

We snapped a couple pics with our celebrity guest, measured it, and placed the fish back in the water. After about five minutes of revival, the leviathan swam gracefully into the depths. The drum measured a whopping 54 inches in length, and although we did not weigh the fish for fear that turning the fish vertically might harm its insides – fish’s bodies aren’t capable of supporting their weight out of water, so turning a fish vertically could potentially cause major harm – we used a good fisherman’s estimation and concluded that the fish might have weight 800 pounds. Just kidding, we think it may have weighed about 55 pounds. There you have it…my story of the time I fought the beast and won.