I scrambled back to the cockpit to see for myself. We’d both been holding that damn trolling line all day waiting for a nibble — with no return. But, Phillip was right. There was definitely something on the end of that line this time. As he started to reel it in, I gathered up our official “fish kill” kit (the gaff, fish gloves, trash bags, filet knife and, of course, the actual “fish kill” – rubbing alcohol in a spritzer). Phillip said he didn’t think the fish was that big as he was pulling it in. Apparently it wasn’t fighting too hard. But, this time, he was wrong. SO wrong.
That thing was friggin’ HUGE!
I mean, the girth of it. She looked pregnant! I got the gaff in her and held her up over the stern while Phillip pulled the hook out. But, it made me nervous when he did because that thing started flopping and flailing, with only my hook to keep her from being our dinner!
And, I know you’re checking out my fine derriere in those Gorton’s fisherman pants. I know how good it looks. Don’t hate.
But, I’m telling you that thing was heavy. My biceps were burning trying to hold that thing up! Phillip broke out the “fish kill” and tried to spray her gills. I had used an old miniature hairspray bottle to make it (ladies – you know what I’m talking about):
The darn thing wouldn’t spray at first, but Phillip had it upside down (he doesn’t use hair spray … that often).
He was squeezing and pressing and cursing that stupid little bottle until it finally choked up some alcohol and coughed a little cloud on the fish’s gills, which only seemed to piss her off more. She started flailing around again and beating the side of the boat. My arms were shaking and starting to droop. Phillip finally took the cap off the fish kill bottle, and just started throwing the alcohol on her like a damn baptism but – nothing. She was still as lively as ever. We decided to just bag her and tag her. Phillip got a bag over the stern rail and up around her and we got her in the cockpit floor.
Smiling and carrying on like two kids on Christmas morning. “We caught us a fish!” We whipped out a measuring tape to see how long she was – 25″. I mean … I can easily say that’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught – with a friggin’ hand line! Thankfully, Phillip had the wherewithal to think to look it up to make sure she was legal. Turns out she was a red fish, a red drum to be exact. You could tell by the black dot near her tail fin.
And, wouldn’t you know it – legal limit is no more than 27″. She was perfect! The regs said, too, that you can’t filet the fish until you return (in case they need to verify the size). So, we bagged that shit up like the mafia and stuffed her in the fridge!
Phillip kept saying: “I told you we were going to catch a red fish! Did I not tell you??” He was stoked. It was that red fish rouser, I’m telling you.
The golden spoon gets ’em e’ry time!
And, I have never seen Phillip haul ass so fast back to the dock. We cranked the engine, dropped the sails and pointed that ship right home. Rather than make a bloody scene at the dock, we decided to haul our catch up to the condo and take care of things in the tub. Phillip stepped on the scale to weigh her and we were shocked.
20.2 pounds! Like I said … HUGE!
Sad thing was, though, even after the traumatic hoist out of the sea, the exorcist-style alcohol splashing on the back of the boat, and the hour spent in the fridge, that fish was still flopping.
I couldn’t believe it. It was time to take care of business. Phillip got the big serrated knife out and set to it.
I’ll tell you, fish are hard little bastards to kill. We were seriously trying to do it – quick and easy – poor guy, but I hate to say … it took a while! And, the bathroom looked like a scene straight out of Very Bad Things.
Finally, though, we got it done and set about to cleaning and fileting her. Funny, neither of us really knew how to do it. We were Googling and watching Youtube videos in the kitchen. Each of us with a filet knife in hand, watching the other’s progress.
We had no idea what we were doing, but we knew were about to have some fish that night! Sadly, we learned after we had cut the meat from the bones that you should try and trim off as much of the dark red meat near the backbone as you can because it’s not as tender and flavorful.
They say the dark red meat is a sign of an older fish – ours was apparently getting on up there because she had a good bit. So, we had to go back and trim her again to try and get as much of that off as we could. But, when it was all said and done, we ended up with a pan full of fresh (not-so-red) fish meat. Seven pounds total.
Which, if you think of what that would cost at the store, that was a pretty good cash crop to pull out of the water! We didn’t waste any time cashing in, either, we started cooking her right up – three filets a piece! We’d had a big day!
And, perhaps it was all the work of it, all the waiting, the effort, the labor, the reward – perhaps – but I think it was just the freshness of the fish. Either way, Phillip and I both agreed it was the best damn fish either of us had ever eaten. I mean, she had just been swimming out in the bay a few hours before, and now she was buttered and browned and lying right there on our plates ready to be devoured.
Over a bed of savory grits and piled up with roasted carrots. Oh shit! It was definitely a meal we will never forget. And, she was even good the next night too!
With sauteed spinach and roasted parsnips. And, the lunch the day after that, too. We were happy to eat red fish for a week. We caught that shit, baby!
Every time we’ve gone out on the boat since, we throw a line over the back hoping to catch dinner. The boat is now always stocked with a filet knife, bags, lemon and a much stronger spray bottle of “fish kill.” We are ready! Catching a fish that will feed us for a week is a great way to supplement the food budget on our next big passage. It’s all about getting ready for that trip. Stay tuned! Next time – our plans for the Keys!