Gulf of Mexico's Road to Recovery

Posted by Colin on Sep 28, 2010

 

 

The Waterman's Journal would like to thank our good friend Woody from Paradise Outfitters for once again contributing to the Waterman's Journal. This time Woody shows proof that the Gulf of Mexico is alive and well!!

   On April 20, 2010, life as we fishermen (and others dependent on the water for income and lifestyle) know it would be changed forever. On that very day, as I sat in Sea School obtaining my 100 ton license, Capt. Hunter Caballero was actually mere miles from Horizon, crushing the yellowfin. The previous days leading up to that ill-fated day found us fishing the Horizon exclusively, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my esteemed colleague found himself in the way of disaster that day. Naturally I was relieved when I found out that he wasn’t in fact fishing Horizon that night. The next couple of weeks found us losing our bookings out the window to the press creating a much-worse scenario than what was actually happening. We were catching 8-10 yellowfin a day, and the fishing was red hot. But we continued to fish, and we continued to excel at our jobs. The mahi mahi were set to show up any day, and right behind them would be the summertime pattern of trolling weed lines for dolphin and billfish, and then live baiting the rigs for the tuna which the business had been built on.
   
 
Three weeks after the spill, all of our federal waters had been shut down. For many, there was not a college degree or other backup plan to fall back on.  Hunter had a wedding which was months away, and fishing was putting me through my last year of school. We were seemingly out of options.  Shortly thereafter, we (and most of the rest of the Gulf coast charter fleet) found ourselves employed in oil cleanup related jobs. Kind of ironic when you find yourself cleaning up someone else’s mess in your own back yard. But we kept our mouths shut, as we were happy to have steady income during these tough times.

Resiliency: noun, the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity

  
Over the course of the next few months, we looked longingly southward into our precious gulf waters; restrained by an invisible boundary with the risk of heavy fines if found discovered fishing within closed waters. It was the worst feeling in the world, and many wondered if we would ever be able to fish, or enjoy the beaches, or consume seafood again. By early August, there was not a drop of oil to be found on the surface of the waters. Our contacts on various rigs that we fish emailed us and told us of abundant life-bait, predators, whales, whale sharks, etc. teeming around the rigs. As of the date of this story, our rigs are still closed to fishing, but other areas to the east and south of my home here in Orange Beach are open.  

  The Mobile Big Game Fishing Club decided to host their end of the year annual Labor Day Tournament, and as soon as my boss found out, the Iona Louise was one of the first to sign up. This tournament normally sees 90+ boats; this year we were happy to fish alongside 57 other boats. While the fishing was good for some and lackluster for others, we were just happy to be able to let the twin 1350 Cats breathe on the way out Friday night. It was a dark night, the breeze was whistling through the bridge as I drove, and a feeling of relief set in as it was good to be back at the helm of this beautiful girl which surely must have felt neglected down in south Florida. Little did she know it was for her own good, as we couldn’t bear to see oil alongside those beautiful lines. At this point, I was just happy to be offshore again; but naturally, if fate was on our sides, it would be nice to top the leader board once again.  The first day was largely uneventful, but our very own Adam Hudson managed to be on the rod for a very determined wahoo which hit as the sun was going down. We had trolled all day with not much more than a couple of undersized dorado, so we were happy to have a good fish that was pulling drag.

   Ten to fifteen minutes later, I took wraps on the fish, and Matt came in behind me and stuck the cold steel into a fat tiger striped beast of the abyss. Upon hitting the deck with that telltale “smack,” we knew we had a fish which was dangerously close to bringing in some money for team Iona. The rest of the tournament only saw another couple smaller “wee-hoos” hit the deck, alongside some fat blackfin tuna that we assumed didn’t have a prayer. Upon pulling up to the crowded weigh-in dock on Sunday afternoon, we craned our necks and tried to call our friends to find out what was on the leader board for wahoo. The scales lit up forty six even, which was good enough for first place. Now the real fun begins for our team, and we celebrated with our traditional post-tournament trip to Waffle House. The first place only held up until the last thirty minutes or so, when our fish was bumped to third, where it would hold true. We ended up with third place wahoo, and 2nd place top money boat. Not a bad way to start/finish a tournament season!
     Meanwhile, we are all still in the fishing business. Sitting and awaiting NOAA to open up our waters to fishing again is like watching paint dry, and we anxiously away the day we can bloody the decks up again both in Venice, Louisiana as well as here in Orange Beach. Until then, the Iona Louise sits quietly in her slip, gently tugging against the ropes that restrict her to the confines of the dock. And you can find me in the tower watching the sunset, planning my next move. And that’s just another day at the office…

-Capt. Woody Woods

For more information on fishing with Captains Hunter Caballero and Woody Woods of Paradise Outfitters, please visit www.paradise-outfitters.com

 

Below: The boys pose with an impressive Mahi ...

 

Below: Ready for Battle...

 

Below: Woody and crew pose for a pic on another amazing day in the Gulf!

 

Below: Turtles have been directly affected by the catastrophic oil disaster...

 

Below: A Pelagic Pirate on the prowl...

 

Below: Lending a hand with the Turtle Project...

 

Below: An amazing day concludes..

 

Below: Lit up for the next great adventure in the Gulf of Mexico...

 

Thanks to Woody and Paradise Outfitters for contributing another great adventure to the Waterman's Journal. Check back in for more killer Offshore and Tuna Reports.