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Big Bay Brawl


You feel a good hard strike, and set the hook with enthusiasm. The weight of the fish becomes apparent. As the drag begins to steadily peel out you think to yourself, or out loud, “nice red.” 30 seconds and 150 yards later, the fish shows no sign of stopping. You have 10 wraps of line left on your spool and you think to yourself, or out loud, “oh sh.., how do I slow this thing down”. By now all of the other anglers in the boat have reeled in their lines and are staring dumbfounded at the absurd bend in your rod, ignoring the shouts and rapid movements of the guide as he prepares the boat to give chase. That is, if you were lucky enough to be in a boat when you got the fish on to begin with.

If you were wading, you are already staring dejectedly at the shiny arbor in the middle of your spool where your line used to be. Your mystery fish swims free with a new piece of lip jewelry, probably never even noticing that he was hooked to begin with.
The guide is now moving the boat toward the powerful fish that seems by this point to be about two time zones away with no sign of turning. The line is not yet returning to your spool, but at least it has stopped going out. The boat is nearly on plane headed toward your adversary. Finally there is an opportunity to gain back some of your long lost line and close the gap that just moments ago seemed hopelessly insurmountable.

Twenty yards off the bow of the boat, the fish swirls on the surface and you strain your eyes to get a positive ID on the monster to which you are bound. What you see brings more questions that answers, as it does not meet the description of anything in the bay fishing reference library of your brain. You turn to your guide to ask the obvious, and for the first time since the hookset, you see the knowing smirk on his face. The fish makes another run, and again you can easily count the wraps left on the spool.

The boat chase begins and the question shifts from “do I have enough line” to “do we have enough gas.” Thirty more minutes pass with little change. He takes, you take back. He takes more, you swear under your breath. Each time he finally appears to get tired and you begin to feel victorious, he peels off another run that makes you invent an entire vocabulary of cuss words.

Over an hour from the start of the battle the fish finally lays on its side next to the boat and the guide reaches over and grabs its tail. As it comes aboard kicking and squirming, the entire boat breathes a sigh of relief. This is usually followed by a grand cheer from all of the spectator boats that you were completely unaware of until now. You are now posing for a picture with a Jack Crevalle, an unusual but seemingly more frequent visitor to the Rockport bays. It is long and tall and heavy and yellowish green and despite its twenty-something pound weight and formidable countenance, you cannot believe that something this size could give you the workout you just endured. After the photo session you set the fish free, and look around at the completely unfamiliar surroundings that you have not taken in for the better part of an hour. “Where are we” you ask, not realizing that besides the incredible length of time it took to land the behemoth, it took several miles as well.

A dozen deep breaths, a Gatorade, and a weary smile later you are back to yourself again. The guide fires up the motor and asks “shall we go back there and hook up another.” All the anglers on the boat look at one another and take stock of the events of the past hour, then simultaneously reply “let’s try somewhere else.”

An event like this one was extremely common last fall, and shows no sign of letting up this spring. Several schools of these “Green Hornets” have already been sighted in the bay resulting in a number of hookups and some great memories. They get their nickname partly because of their color and partly because of their behavior, swarming over a reef or shoreline in a white foam devouring everything in their path. If you have a line in the water and see them coming your way, you have a decision to make. Get out of their way,or learn firsthand why everyone who poses for a picture with one of these beasts has the same sweaty, exhausted half-grin on his or her face.