by: Capt. Jim Kalvin
February is the time of year that I have a love-hate relationship with the Gulf. It brings back memories of some of the best days I’ve ever enjoyed off-shore – with temperatures in the low 70’s to mid 60’s, cool gentle breezes, a 1 to 2 foot chop, and clients who were in an awesome mood – because they were generally talking amongst themselves about friends and family up north battling life-threatening winter weather. And here they were down in “Paradise” part-taking in “brochure-worthy” boating and fishing.
Then again cold fronts happen. There don’t seem to be any “moderate” conditions in February. It’s either a “Chamber of Commerce” day as mentioned above. Or… it’s blowing freezing rain with a 4’ to 6’ chop.
I seem to remember that the “Chamber of Commerce” days seemed to be very hit & miss!
Back n the 80’s, I ran an old 28’ Dusky, and I have to say that it was the wettest riding boat on the Planet. It was the only vessel I ever skippered that would require a full-body wash after a run to the fuel dock. It was seaworthy, mind you. But on a windy choppy day, you might as well have been wearing a wetsuit!
I had booked a group of young executives who were hell-bent on going “wreck fishing”. At that time, there were a slew of small wrecks up and down the coast not too far offshore, and action was better than fair most of the time depending upon the tide.
This particular day was the kind of day that made sitting at the dock with a bowl of clam chowder sound like a great idea. Winds were northwest and building. That was red-flag #1. Rain was in the forecast. That was red-flag #2. Then the guys showed up at the dock – with Heinekens in-hand. That was red-flag #3. Pounding beers at 7:00 in the morning before a day on the water in February just never worked out for me.
I tried to talk them into a back-water trip to fish Caxambas Pass and the mangroves in between. But the answer was, “Hell no! We want to go wreck fishing! YEEEAAAHHHHH!!” in a collective awful harmony.
Off we went. We made the old mine-sweeper wreck off of Dr’s Pass, and began to troll. Seas were 4-6 and fairly regular – too rough to anchor on that small wreck. After some fun with a couple of barracuda, I was circling back to the wreck when I heard the guys laughing. I turned around to see one of them hung over the side calling for “Ralph.” His Waffle House omelette had collided with the beers and the 6’ swells. He was having an awful morning.
Thinking this was my “out”, I said, “well, I guess that’s that – we need to get him to shore”.
“Hell with that,” the designated leader of the group said. “We’re here to fish – he can hang by the rail – he’ll get over it!” The rest of the group held up their beers and heartily agreed – again in awful harmony. “YEEEAAAAHHHH!”
So..we bumbled around the wreck harassing the barracuda, caught a couple of snapper and one goliath grouper, and came back in at noon. The guy on the rail was taking water over his head with each swell, and salt water was running out of his sleeves onto the deck with each wave. He refused to move – felt better with the water on his face.
When you’ve scheduled only one day to go fishing – it’s a roll of the dice. You get what you get. Three guys had a great time, and one guy wished he’d never been born!
Captin Jim Kalvin is a Florida Native, a USCG Licensed 100 Ton Master, and a Marine Contractor. He can be reached at 239-280-6054, or at [email protected].