More from Ben about his fishing adventures
As commented before, the fishing gods sometimes reward good deeds. Sunday, September 10th may be one of those days.
Capt. Ben and his wife Jaye returned Friday evening from an event in New Orleans that was mandated by time and circumstance and proved to be extra special. The American School of Manila, where Jaye spent her high school years, staged a reunion for her Class of 1957 and several other Classes running through 1970. The experience for both of us was enjoyable and rewarding, fully justifying a week away from the DeBordieu beach just as the mullet run was swinging into gear.
After a day of unpacking, grocery shopping etc., Jaye sent me on my way around noon with a warm hug that said thanks for joining me on my special trip and your good deed is noted. The fishing gods must have been witnesses.
On my way to The Bait Shop (The Debordieu Colony creek where I catch my live bait), clouds suddenly darkened the bright day and my radar app showed a small set of rain clouds heading from the south towards DeBordieu. This was not enough to stop me from “giving it a go” after that week’s absence from the beach. But I did call Jaye to say she should hold up leaving home to join me until and if the weather cleared.
A memory from the day before I left for New Orleans that had stayed in the front of my mind over the past week. A Dad with some kids was casting his net into the deep pool at The Bait Shop. Every cast had produced a perfect mix of all sized live mullet. His kids were delighted to throw these treasures back and beg him to make another cast.
Today the water in The Bait Shop was murky. No bait action to be seen. I normally do not throw my net unless I can see a target. But my memory pushed me to do otherwise. And Bingo, three casts into the deep pool produced a perfect balance of the best bait there is for the surf:
- Two dozen 3 inch to 5 inch finger mullet that are well matched for Mama Bear (my Medium Surf Rig) to send flying in search of blue fish, trout, ladyfish, redfish or flounder
- Two 8 inchers that Papa Bear (my Heavy Surf Rig) could heave beyond the breaking waves and lure shark and bull reds
- Finally, two 12 inch mullet for cut bait that no feeding predator could resist.
So filled with the confidence only such a bait bucket of mullet can give, I headed to Beach Access #12. The thought of a little rain was no deterrence!
Upon arrival and looking east, a beautiful, calm surf at full low tide showed itself. The beach was almost deserted. Vacation time was over and the locals must have been looking west at the oncoming rain. No choice for Capt. Ben but to rig up and start casting with the hope that the rain would slide north and stay off his beach.
Papa Bear was the first to be deployed with one of 8 inch mullet flipping and shining on its hook. I was not finished rigging Mama Bear, when Papa Bear began jerking and blending in his sand spike. Line was pealing off the reel when I grabbed the rod and went to work. The strong pull interspersed big jerks told me that my great bait had likely enticed a nice-sized finetooth shark and the typical fight was on. At the five minute point, light rain started and not too distant thunder clapped. No beach goers to help with landing and release this time, I thought. This fighter proved to be a finetooth a little shy of five feet and around eighty pounds. No match for Papa Bear but a worthy combatant. I was able to accomplish a single-handed and successful release with total elapsed time of about ten minutes. The strength of this shark, his streamlined beauty and my success in winning the fight followed by a singlehanded release “made my day”.
The thunder claps were becoming louder and closer. I had already had more fun than the average surf fisherman has in a season. So I grabbed my lunch and headed for the sand dunes. My decision was vindicated. In about twenty minutes, the storm slipped north without becoming very violent on the beach, the light rain stopped and sunny skies returned.
So back to fishing.
The second 8 inch mullet flew well off the beach and I continued to rig Mama Bear for action. Again I was interrupted by a big jerk on my deployed rig. This time no hook up; the big boy must have enjoyed devouring my mullet without the effort of dealing with its presenter.
Now was the time to move on to cut bait. One of the 12” mullet was quickly prepared. First I scaled the fish, then sliced off the tail and finally cut the body vertically into five pieces. My favorite piece is the one at the tail end; this one is compact and great to cast. Papa Bear showed his approval of my choice with a long cast of my favorite piece well beyond the surf line.
Again I went back to the job of rigging and again an immediate interruption by action on Papa Bear. This time things seemed more wild. A huge spray of water were my bait had been cast was the first exciting indication that this hookup was something special. Then my rod was bending deeper that I had ever seem. My new sand spike was being tested to its limit by great pressure on my line. As I removed my rig from the spike, I realized that a very big fish was on. No choice but to watch line fly off my reel and resist the temptation to increase drag until that first wild run was over.
With about half my line gone, the run was over. Now the slugging toe to toe kind of fight began. I knew this guy was a heavy weight with a warrior’s spirit. Papa Bear’s backbone and 40 pound braid line made the contest one where Capt. Ben had a chance of victory.
The technique to use is when my adversary paused I increased pressure by palming the skirt of my spinning reel while raising my rod to vertical. Then lower the rod and reel simultaneously recovering lost line. Early in the fight, I would accomplish a couple of “pumps” recovering maybe five yards of line before this battler would make a run. I would have to stop palming and let the reel’s drag drag continue to pressure the fish while he took back my hard earned line and then some.
After about ten minutes the fight began to turn in my favor. I could make four or five pumps to every short run and on balance I was beginning to see line accumulating on my reel. But every gain was only grudgingly conceded. At the fifteen minute point, more line was coming in than going out and I began to wonder what would happen if I continued to succeed. The beach was completely deserted and the thought of handling this big boy for a singlehanded release was daunting.
Then the fishing gods sent an angel.
A DeBordieu resident named Kurt Moore had been watching my fight from his beachfront porch since the beginning and decided I might need some help. He was right. Now I had I had a fellow fisherman to talk to as I continued to work my fish slowly nearer the beach. Soon we both were treated to the sight of a big shark highlighted by the afternoon sun in the clear water of the near surf. He continued to put up a strong fight and Capt. Ben and Papa Bear were tested to the max. Finally a dorsal fin and sickle tail showed in the shallow water and the strength of the fighter was revealed - a blacktip shark.
The incoming tide helped to bring this big guy into the wash. Kurt deployed my tail lasso and heaved him onto the dry sand. Uncle Sam’s Truth Stick measured the length at 5 foot 3 inches and we both agreed a good guess at the weight was 150 pounds. I was able to use my de-hooker to free him. Then I dragged him into water deep enough for him to swim. Off he went! During the process, Kurt shot some great pictures.
From hookup to release was 35 minutes. My normal shark fight using Papa Bear seldom exceeds 10 minutes. This blacktip was the biggest shark I have landed since moving to Pawleys Island.
Jaye showed up shortly after the release to enjoy the late afternoon. As I packed up my gear to head home, Kurt gave her a full rendering of the fight and assurances that I would sleep well that night.
The fishing gods did indeed reward me with a sublime afternoon.
The vista that greeted me upon arrival on the beach was both serene and exciting. From long experience, Capt. Ben knew that beneath those tranquil waters the annual struggle of life and death lay within easy casting range, giving him an opportunity to be part of one of natures big events.