In the Wake

Capt. Jim Kalvin

Just had a great trip to the Dry Tortugas with Family and Friends. It has been a long time – probably 20 years – since I’ve been down that way. For once in the past decade, I actually looked forward to an 8-hr. boat ride.

On a typical vessel delivery, an 8-hr. travel day is grueling, and leaves you wiped-out by sundown. All you want to do is secure the boat and sleep. But hanging with my boys, my son-in-law, my nephews and my brother-in law – along with some of my old (and older) ridin’ buddies…. time flew. As the sun was getting lower and I felt the engines throttle down, I couldn’t believe we were already there. I put my fishing pole in the rod holder, and waited for the signal to “drop!” I guess that’s the beauty of not being in charge and letting someone else drive! I didn’t have a single thing to do – even if I had wanted to do it! It was a strange place to be, but I liked it, and am looking forward to the next trip. There was enough BS thrown around over the two-day trip to fertilize a tomato farm! But it was all in good fun as we tend to be a competitive lot. It began with lane and yellow-tail snapper on the first drop – a slack tide made for a slow start, but we managed to put some fish in the box.

The next spot was busier, and the grouper and mangrove snapper started coming aboard. Nice mangroves – pushing 5 lbs.! Here and there a nice mutton snapper – but the goliath grouper and sharks were always there – and if you didn’t get your fish off the bottom fast enough, it was “Gone”! Once it was dark, the vessel was lit up with spreader & deck lights, and the flying fish flocked to our wake when we were moving. Right behind them were the dolphins – using our lights so they could see and herd the flying fish into “attack” positions. We watched them for hours during the course of the night – mesmerized by the grace and beauty of the scene before us. It was almost a shame to stop and fish!

As the night went on and we moved from spot to spot, some of the older crew started feeling the effects of sun, salt, fatigue, and…. well…. cold drinks, and retired to the “snoratorium”. That was the collection of bunks below that served as sleeping quarters for 15 anglers. I fell out at about 2:30, and the air conditioning and the thrum of the generator put me out in moments.

My nephew Elijiah

Elijiah woke me up at about 5:00 saying, “uncle Jim! The permit are on fire! You need to come out!” Sure enough – he had landed a 32 lb. permit, and was in the lead for the “pot” – which was for the biggest (by weight) edible fish that was legal to keep. His lead lasted through the night and all through the next day. On the final stop of the trip, I put a butterflied pin-fish out on a flat wire behind the boat, and continued bottom fishing on my other rod. The Captain came out on deck and hollered, “this is your five-minute warning! Lines and anchor up in 5 – we’re heading home!” About 2 minutes after that, my flat-line started singing! Three runs later, I had a 52” kingfish to the gaff. Minutes after it hit the deck, the engines fired up, and I couldn’t help but notice that Elijiah seemed to be the only one on board who wasn’t happy for me! I actually think he was a little pissed! He certainly worked harder than I did over the course of the trip– but that’s how it goes. Better to be lucky than good sometimes! I did help him out though – I used my winnings to pay the crew to clean our fish. Otherwise, he and I would have been in the back yard filleting fish for 3 hours once we got home. We’ve already booked the boat for our trip next year. If you want the details on the trip – drop me a note. Will be glad to share the information!