Anybody that fishes a lot usually finds that one partner that just seems to jive with their personality, making them lifelong friends. I have been blessed with several people that fit that bill.
One person in particular has become one of the best friends I have ever had; his name is Dan Cornell. I met him nearly a dozen years ago when his wife asked me to guide him and his two young’uns on his 24-foot Grady White boat.
We just clicked, and since that first day we have logged countless hours scouring the ocean. In the process, he has upgraded his 24-foot boat to a 32-foot then a 35-foot rig, a 45-foot Hatteras, and now a beautiful 60-foot Viking sportfishing boat called the “Game On.” Together we have caught just about every type of fish that swims out to over 100 miles from here.
The one trip we had yet to do was a “guys only” trip to the Bahamas, more specifically to Chub Cay. To fill out the crew we invited Warren Holland, who works at the Harbour Town Marina, and Dr. Ben Parker, the long-time veterinarian and friend who has cared for my animals for decades.
Both Warren and Ben are avid anglers and it didn’t take but the blink of an eye for them to say they were all in. Dan and I had left the boat in Fort Lauderdale and as soon as those two flew down and hit the ground we were off to Chub.
Greeted with flat, calm, turquoise and inky blue indigo water, we were jacked up. Arriving at Chub Cay, we cleared customs and headed out to wet a line. It was mid-afternoon, so we stayed in shallow water in hopes of catching delicious yellowtail snapper.
In the space of two hours we caught yellowtails, five different types of grouper, ocean tally (a type of triggerfish) and queen triggerfish.
Other than small queen triggers in his saltwater aquarium, Ben had never seen large ones. These beauties are almost beyond description. If I had to describe one, the colors are like the artist Jackson Pollock was handed a palette of fluorescent paints and told to go to town on a blank canvas. Their colors will simply blow your mind.
We rigged up to troll the next morning in the famed “Pocket” just off Chub Cay, known for blue marlin and other pelagic species where, in the space of a mile, the water drops from around 50 feet to more than 3,000 feet. Our nighttime rigging was interrupted by an added attraction with Chub’s resident bull sharks.
A billfish tournament was in progress, which we didn’t enter, but deckhands from surrounding boats and our motley crew joined forces to have some fun with these beasts.
Turning on our underwater lights and using fish carcasses, we got quite a show from these massive bull sharks. Some were easily over 500 pounds and, as they came after the carcass, we would pull it just out of the water and they would come halfway out of the water for an easy meal. Putting it mildly, it was crazy cool!
Now on to the blue water – and when I say “blue,” I mean the deep water there is almost a deep purplish blue. The first couple of hours trolling had one blue marlin come into the spread before sinking out of sight – and then it happened. Kapow! Kapow! Kapow! – as three rods doubled up. All three were wahoo, of which we boated two. Re-rigged, we made another pass in the same spot and all hell broke loose.
This time it was wahoo and dolphin (aka mahi mahi). It was if someone flipped a switch, as wahoo and dolphin came screaming through our lure spread. With eight wahoo in the box and several nice dolphin to boot, we decided to pull out some light spinning gear with 20-pound test line and drifted as I threw out handfuls of chum.
It didn’t take long before a horde of neon green and yellow mahi found the chum. The secret with mahi is, once one is hooked, leave it in the water and the rest will stay with it, including some big male bull dolphin.
I handed the rod to Ben since he hadn’t experienced this much. He picked out the biggest fish and dropped the bait in front of his face. In a flash, he was hooked up to a 40-pound bull that nearly dumped all the line off the reel while doing somersaults and long, screaming runs.
It took 30 or 40 minutes before we gaffed it, and into the box it went. Actually, Ben caught two pigs this way and you would have thought he had won the lottery! Along with the eight wahoo, we ended up with 16 mahi and was definitely the high catch boat in the entire fleet.
I could go on and on about our trip, but I should leave some room for some nice photos. All I can say is, it was definitely a Bahamian “Game On”!
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. firstname.lastname@example.org