Posted by: Barbara Evanhoe | July 8, 2011

A Day of Fishing ~ Gulf Coast Style

Ever since we came to Florida, Keith has been talking about going fishing to catch “a great big fish”, the likes of which he would never have had the chance to catch back in Kansas.

 Yesterday, he finally had the chance.

We booked a fishing expedition with Captain Jerald Beckham, for a 4-hour fishing trip out on the Gulf of Mexico.

Keith and Captain Beckham

 The morning was overcast and the main waters were rough, so we took off for the other side of the island for smoother seas.

 Our Captain explained that there are so many fish in these waters and so many places to fish, that he doesn’t waste time hanging around any one spot if the fish aren’t biting,

We were fishing with open face reels and using shrimp for bait. Since everything was backwards on these reels from what I am accustomed to, my casting left quite a bit to be desired. Captain Jerald kindly offered me a spin cast rod instead, and not only was I happier, but my fishing buddies were much safer!

At our first stop we saw a good bit of action, catching speckled trout that were just under the 15” limit, some catfish (not the channel cat we eat in Kansas, but some relative that is just not good to eat), and a remora ~ an unusual fish with a row of suckers on the bottom.

 After about 15 minutes, we pulled up the anchor and headed off in the direction of the point where the Suwannee River meets the Gulf. We stopped short of that point and followed a tributary inland, in search of “the big fish”, when all of a sudden, the water around the boat was surging and boiling.

 Neither Keith nor I could see what was causing the action, but our Captain, who was born and raised on these waters could tell in a flash that these were huge black drum, and he shouted to hurry and get our lines in the water for the catch of a lifetime.

 Keith was right on it, and he immediately hooked a big one. His pole bent under and the line tightened as the creature on the other end put up a fight. Keith kept with him, and let the big fish tire himself out, while keeping him away from the side of the boat where he might break the line and set himself free.

 It took about 10 minutes before the fish calmed down enough that we could see him. He had a huge head and was the biggest fish I had ever seen. When Keith finally got him to the boat, our Captain pulled out a gigantic hook to pull him in, as a regular fish net would be useless for this big guy.

Keith lands his "big one"!

Keith named him Ginger (after the drummer, Ginger Baker – drum fish/drummer…get it?!), and after measuring, old Ginger measured 48” long and weighed 35 lbs. Keith was tired, but beaming, as he now could cross catching a big fish off his bucket list, and we could spend the remainder of our day just fishing for whatever we could find.

 We chased the drum for a while, in hopes of another colossal catch, but they decided they weren’t hungry so we moved on.

 At our next stop we had lots of bites but couldn’t get anything hooked. We were just sitting there deciding what to do next, when Captain Jerald spotted a manatee when it stuck its nose out of the water for air. We watched it play and we followed it for a while, but never did catch a good look.

A glance into the bait cooler proved that we were running low on bait, so we took off for the shallows along a little island to cast out a net for some bait fish. After a couple of casts, we had enough small fish to use for cut bait so we headed out into the open Gulf again.

 I hooked a nice big speckled trout at our next stop, along with a sand shark…two keepers for the cooler, and dinner in the future. Keith bagged a puffer fish, which was the strangest creature he had ever found on the end of his fishing line!

Surprise at the end of the line!

 About that time, something came up to the side of the boat and Captain Jerald heard it make a blowing sound. When he turned around, there was a manatee that had apparently come up to see what was going on in the boat. It followed us around for quite some time, and we tried hard to get a good photo, but it wouldn’t surface in any one spot long enough.

 The waters around Cedar Key are clear and shallow, with lots of sea grass, and you can look down into the water and see all manner of creatures swimming and floating about. We saw a giant conch, dolphins, stingrays, a sea turtle and an alligator, in addition to the manatees. What an amazing variety of sea life we saw out on the waters in just a few hours!

 The overcast sky kept the heat at bay most of the day, and when we got too hot, our Captain just started up the motor to take us in another direction, with the cool sea spray misting our faces.

 We caught another trout or two, and then decided to call it a day. We still had to clean the fish we caught, and there were storm clouds brewing to the south.

Me and my sand shark at the fish cleaning table

 The weather held off just until we had finished cleaning the last fish, and then the rains came ~ just as we were thanking our Captain for a wonderful day out on the Gulf, and making Keith’s dreams come true.

Now we are looking forward to sampling our latest catch!

If you would like to fish with Captain Jerald Beckham, check him out on facebook or call 352-214-5793.


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