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Ill let my customer tell this story as he did a much better job then I ever would have.

Venice, LA August 24 & 25, 2006
I’ve been accused by many reading these brief stories I toss in too much information. I’ll try to limit this accounting to only the trip.

Two months ago CataTonic sent me an email saying he was going to be putting another Venice trip together for August, similar to the one I missed one week before Katrina’s landfall. I figured what the hell, I’ll lay my cards on the table and tell Joyce early and explain to her I was offered a chance of a lifetime to join a crew for YFT……just like the one I had to cancel last year due to a flare-up of my daughter’s hormones. With her well on the way to her due date of October 22, 2006 (yes, the date of the Panama City Head Boat Bash) there couldn’t possibly be any reason for me to miss this one.

Three pair of anglers would depart around 0600 on Wednesday, August 23, 2006. Cefus (aka Wide Open II) and Lever (aka Lever) from Atlanta, Mike and Captain Ken from Crystal River and Chris (one of my business partners) and me from Gainesville. The trip was uneventful other than ChumBucket canceling a Waffle House breakfast in Tallahassee due to an unexpected Corporate Meeting he had to attend that morning.

The three pair arrived after our long journey through an indescribable trip through New Orleans and down SR 23 past mile after mile of homes and businesses in different stages of collapse and disrepair from Katrina’s landfall. From Empire south the signs were obvious the road and everything around it had been underwater for a considerable length of time. We were to meet with Captain Eddie Burger at the Venice Marina after we checked in to our FEMA homes. The temporary housing would provide a place for us to escape the heat and rain and get little more than catnaps for the next three days. Capt. Eddie told us we needed to eat early because the only restaurant within 40 miles closed at 6:pm…..it never opened on Wednesday. Upon arriving at the closed restaurant, now looking forward to some of Lever’s famous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper our Captain pulled the first rabbit out of his visor. Eddie made a quick call to a friend of his in Empire and asked if she would mind throwing something together for us to eat. Off go the four vehicles back north on SR 23 to Empire and JoAnn’s house. She had just received about a gazillion pounds of fresh shrimp, had about a half a gazillion cleaned and peeled, table set, French fries in the oil fresh salad on the table and greeted us like we were family. The seven of us sat down and ate a wonderful home cooked meal prepared by a local Angel. We visited and listened to her stories of Katrina, evacuation, loss of her home and all belongings. Her photo album told it all.

We graciously thanked our host, left Eddie to sleep in what had been JoAnn’s FEMA housing for several months before she was able to get her new modular home delivered and set up only a few weeks prior to our arrival. I honestly don’t know what we were thinking when we started putting this fishing trip together in May……..there weren’t nothing there in May and there’s little more than nothing there now.

The plan was to meet Eddie at the Marina around eleven on Thursday morning. It was raining. And then it rained some more. At noon-thirty Mike and Ken were hunting an old shoe to chew on… off to the restaurant we went, and it was open. I had my first cheeseburger poboy platter. This thing consisted of two, one pound patties of hamburger on a poboy bun covered with French fries. Some time during the ride home on Saturday I was convinced that gut-bomb had become breeched somewhere between my small and large intestine. I’m all-better now, thanks.

Back to the boat we all waddled, it was sometime around 2:pm and there was a slight break in the rain. Captain Eddie ordered us to load up on the boat and we’d give it a try. My first thought was I it would not be a good idea to go boat riding so soon after depositing that gut-bomb, if something would happen I’d surely sink to the bottom of the muddy Mississippi. But, off we went……at 45 mph for about 2 miles, then we saw the first rain storm heading down the river. Fortunately, Captain Eddie slowed the boat down enough for those of us with slickers could put them on. Unfortunately, Lever and Ken didn’t have a slicker….this was not going to be a problem, they’d take off their shirts so they could stow them and have a dry shirt to put on after the rain. That didn’t sound like a reasonable decision to me, but hey, I had a poncho. Going 40 mph in a center console boat in a rain storm without a shirt on didn’t seem rational… After a few miles of this journey Eddie spoke to a friend of his on the VHF who was returning from a tuna trip. He said we would be running in to solid 5 foot seas, gusty winds and rain. The Captain made a wise decision and returned to the marina; both Lever and Ken were much relieved and looked forward to their dry shirts. We had been in Venice for 24 hours. I had caught the first fish the day before on a GULP wurm, it was a hardhead catfish....but a fish none the less. Chris and I had discussed harvesting one of the many resident longfrog that were stacked up along the roadside
At 1700 Eddie made the decision that we were going, there was a break in the weather (maybe in Tallahassee) at we would catch the tuna bite at sunset.
The ride out was uneventful; the trip down the river was approximately 20 miles. The shoreline was still littered with Katrina’s debris; the commercial activity appeared to be very limited. Our first stop was at a weed line to catch bait, two dozen six to eight inch blue runners were quickly added to the live well. The next stop was at a floater, we hung there until well after sundown. For three hours the action was constant. The water surrounding the rig was alive with striking fish; there was seldom a time when one of us was not bringing a fish to the boat. Just about every fish out there was constantly hammering Captain Ken’s luminous painted jigs. We killed six YFT’s ranging in size from 25 to 60 pounds. Lever tussled with the largest of the evening for about 15 minutes. From that time forward, at every sound of a reel’s clicker Lever treated it like the buzz of a rattlesnake and danced his way just about as far away from that rod as possible. During one of our “special” moments, Lever informed me that he once caught a halibut. He considered catching that YFT along the same lines as catching that halibut….he’d done it once, glad he did and didn’t much care if Lever ever caught another. He’d just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and had no intention of being in that position for the remainder of the trip. Just after sunset Captain Eddie announced we were going to move offshore to another floater 37 miles further wherever.

The seas Thursday evening had settled down considerably. Rather than the choppy fives promised by Captain Eddie’s friend earlier in the day we were fishing in sloppy 2’s most of the evening. They made for a wet ride while traveling, and in the darkness a rouge three footer that came from somewhere else often compromised our footing. Both Mike and I brought along our beanbag chairs that made moving and riding comfortable. Although Captain Eddie had a new 36’ Contender with triple 225 Yamaha four strokes, he couldn’t part with his four original ******* that were now flattern’ a pancake and weighted about as much as the YFT’s we were catching. Once we arrived at our fishing location it took several minutes to move all the bag chairs forward. When the action slowed, Ken would disappear towards the bow and would make himself comfortable in the pile of bags. The only way we could find him was to be very quiet and listen for him muttering to himself while he slept.

After a long bouncy, kinda wet ride we arrived at the “Thunderfoot”???, Thunder something, I can’t remember the name. Eddie said it was the largest floating oil rig in the world and after three years had yet produced a thimble of oil. Once again, the water was alive with feeding fish. At about 0100 Friday morning I decided to retire to the bow since Captain Ken was stirring about towards the stern. I settled in to my medium armchair bag chair for a brief nap. Since the fish were being caught towards the stern, Lever was parked just forward of the helm reading his book with his clip-on light. He was able to watch the only wave of the evening crash over the bow and deposit 55 gallons of seawater on top of my head which soaked any portion of dry clothes I had on. For the remaining fishing trip that incident provided Lever with great humor which he never let me pass off to file away to my unpleasant memory files. At 0200 Captain Eddie announced we were going to head off “thataway” at 10 miles an hour so everyone could catch a “nap” before arriving at our starting point to catch the tuna bite at daybreak. It was then that Captain Cefus McRae took the helm and watch for the next three hours.

At 0530 lines went in to the water, 70-80# YFT’s were feeding and crashing bait everywhere you looked. At one point we had 5 fish on, not one of them being YFT’s. I’ve never seen so many large skyrocketing tunas. It was a sight I’ll never forget. By 0800 we had only boated one yellow fin and the fleet from shore had begun to arrive. We made our last move of the morning to an anchoring jug and boated one small dolphin. At 0930 Captain Eddie announced it was time for us to “head in”, clean the fish and take a short nap. It was right then when I thought to myself, “I don’t know if I’m up for doing this again today”, it was a thought that stuck with me until we arrived back at the marina and Eddie said we’d meet back at the boat in four hours. I never “napped” good in kindergarten, or ever……I was tired.

By the time we got back to the FEMA trailers, showered and cooled down it was noon-thirty. The little air-conditioner cooled off the trailer until you got used to it and then it got warm. I napped little and tried to be quiet for the rest of the crew……..no-one else had a problem sleeping, there were rattling sounds coming from everyone. Eddie made it down and took a nap over at Cefus’s and Lever’s. At 1500 we all assembled back at the boat.
By 1730 we arrived at the floater we fished the previous day and that morning. The fish were still there crashing baits. Several of the guys were tossing chuggers towards the schooling fish that were just out of casting range. Eddie began chunking BFT’s from the previous trip and an occasional tuna would zip through the chum slick. At 1845 Captain Ken just happened to be next to the 30# class rig Eddie had just placed a chunk of tuna on and tossed off the stern….the bait couldn’t have been more than five feet off the stern when the reel started screaming…..Lever grabbed the bill of his had and danced just as fast as he could towards the bow. Captain Eddie grabbed the rod and shoved it in to Captain Ken’s hands and told him to hang on. After ten minutes, the harness was strapped on to Captain Ken and he proceeded to fight that fish for the next hour and twenty minutes. With only a few adjustments made to the harness Ken took and gave line until the big yellow fin tuna broke through the 150 foot barrier on the depth machine. After and hour and thirty minutes Eddie stuck the fish with the harpoon and then he and Mike double gaffed it and brought it to the deck of the boat. I hurt for Ken for the last 45 minutes of that fight…….there was no short strokin’ involved. As tired as we all were from the previous night’s fishing we knew Ken had to be absolutely whipped. He never considered passing the rod. By the time the big fish was iced down in the box Eddie announce we were moving in to 1,600 feet, 18 miles away to try for a swordfish.

I had swordfished twice before, and twice lost the fish. I wanted to have a shot at one and hoped there would be little competition for the harness. Once we arrived at “the” spot, Eddie set four lines at varying depths, 150’, 300’, deep and deeper. Each line had a $50.00 light attached and the greenlight was hung over the side to attract baitfish. It was now a waiting game and Captain Eddie decided to do a little house cleaning and dump some of the pogy’s from the previous trip. We’d all noticed a funky smell coming from the well we used as a garbage holder. Both Cefus and Mike were towards the stern of the boat bs’ing about something or another. Eddie reached in the box and grabbed the sack of rotten bait and proceeded to toss them over the side… about that time the funk hit everyone like a brick wall, that funky smell that that triggers the reflex that makes you hurl like a kid that’d just been barfed on during grade school. Captain Ken was sound asleep in the bag chairs exhausted from the big yellow fin tuna, for some reason he was the first to howl and ask “what in the f#$% is that you tossed over????” Both Cefus and Mike started barking and dancing forward, trying to get away from the most horrible smell you could imagine…………Mike started blowing chunks, erupting in spasms that made you think he might be in trouble of losing internal parts. I didn’t much care for the smell but I started laughing at the pure ugliness of it all… Captain Eddie just passed it off as a little house keeping. You had to be there.

At 2300 we had lost one swordfish to a quick run and had repositioned the boat for another drift….by 2315, still wearing the harness I thought if a swordfish happened to hit one of the lines I knew I was too tired to mess with him…….and there didn’t seem to be much interest in any of the other crew members, I was being lulled to sleep and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Just about then, the reel set at 150’ depth screamed and Eddie grabbed the rod and cranked just as fast as he could. The glow light attached to the line was bouncing about 100’ to starboard…at what depth I didn’t have a clue. Eddie passed the rod to me and let me know I’d be there a while. And I was. An hour and fifteen minutes later Captain Eddie stuck the gig to the swordfish, hook him with the gaff and with help from the crew dropped the fish to the deck of the boat. With that done, Eddie said, “That was a good two-fish night!”

The catch couldn’t have happened without a great crew, no one person can “catch” something like that. I was just the fortunate one that happened to be in the right place, at the right time to do something I’ve always hoped to do. Catch my first swordfish.

It was an incredible fishing adventure with a great group of anglers and one hellofa good Swordfish Captain. Something like that only happens once in a lifetime…I can’t wait to get another shot at one.

The End.

A little commentary from me as if your gonna catch two fish it might as well be a 130 yellow and a 180 sword.

I ran another sword trip on sunday night. This time we had slick calm weather. We had fun playing with blackfin on topwater poppers up until dark when we got set up in the SPOT. I put all the lines out and soon Kirk asked me what that light in the water was. I looked down and saw my electralume swimming around and I said thats your swordfish swimming down there. He thought I was joking but right about then the 150 tip line got tight and we were hooked up. About 10 minutes later we released a 44 inch sword. That fish had tangled a few baits up so while we had to reset all the baits. Before I even got them out the 100 jug line went tight and we saw a sword swim under the boat trailing the tri-color electralume behind him. We went to work on it and Earl got to release a 45 inch sword. At least we were getting bigger. Weve been fishing for less then an hour and we had already released two swords. We drifted another 30 minutes with no luck so we pulled the lines in and moved about a mile.

We were in the process of setting out the 200 foot jug line when we saw that light go swimming under the boat. I told Earl to reel fast as he had himself a swordie. We came tight on it and about 15 minutes later we put a legal fish in the boat. Unfortunatly that was the end of the nights action but who can complain about a three for three sword night with two releases.

We kept our lines in teh water until daylight and then went out to a floater and tossed in a couple yellows on chum before we setttled down for the ride to the dock.

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