On The Hook: Gomer & Associates

BILL WALSH

A couple of years back, we wrote about Gomer. But when we discovered recently that much has changed in his life, we thought an update of the story would be of interest.

Let's start from scratch with a little background unique to charter fishing.

Winter residents, visitors and guests et al almost always express their fishing expectations in an indefinite matter of degree. For example, they'll ask to go deep sea fishing which automatically conjures up the inquiry as to how deep is deep.

To that end, we foray into the Gulf a limited distance constrained by the size of the boat, the sea conditions and the single engine. The question as to quantifying their definition of deep usually brings a furrowed brow and a quizzical look. The response can be on either side of the extreme." Our lake at home is six foot deep so probably anything over 10 feet would do it for us. (Can do!) or "was thinking of something over a couple hundred feet." (Give directions to Miami).

But the more insightful customer requirement, measured again, by degree is the size of fish to be targeted. That can run from bigger than a "back- home bluegill" to just a tad bigger than "Jaws". We can handle the bluegill look alike here. But for the really big catch we talk up having them try a tussle with a piscatorial species resident here that can dish out all the "big" the angler can handle and then some.

Enter Gomer stage right.

Gomer is a Goliath Grouper, who weights in these days about two hundred pounds wringing wet. As we recounted in the previous article, he lives on an artificial reef some two miles west of the hotels. For years he has been a cooperative partner with a handful of our charter captains who arrive on his lair with a customer harboring "really big" expectations. It's then just a matter of deploying a nice live bait and have Gomer hop aboard for an all expense paid trip to the surface.

But that trip is literally a back breaker. With a rod the size of a broomstick and reel that rivals a Hummer winch the angler strains every muscle just to lift the grouper a few feet. Relax for a moment to wipe the sweat and Gomer will take your last two gains back and then some. The fight usually takes close to an hour counting hand cramps, back strains and cries of anguish –but, if you wanted BIG, you got it.

Most of the captains use a mega hook for Gomer with the barb flattened to minimize the hook incursion and to expedite the in-water release – after a lot of photos and high fives for the exhausted angler, Gomer takes leave of the boat and with a flip of the tail heads home.

And dependent on customer requirements and Gomer's appetite, he could well do the same thing tomorrow.

And now to last week and to the update of the Gomer Adventure.

Had a charter inquirer, couple of weeks back, here with his family who wanted to take the kids fishing. The initial conversation at the dock went something like, "know you don't have any big fish around here but I'd still to take my two boys out for a little nearshore bottom fish action." I let the big fish affront go by and booked the trip.

Our day turned out to be an ideal one for near shore comfort and action. Flat seas, clean water and active tides met us that morning as we traversed the Marco River and headed out for near shore mackerel action. All the way to the targeted reef, our customer recounted his exploits and skill in landing big fish from seemingly every corner of the earth. I thought he needed to meet Gomer for an over-the-top lesson.

So we changed course and punched Gomer's numbers in the GPS. After anchoring we set the chum and rigged the rods for Spanish Mackerel and away the three of them went. Didn't take long and they were into non-stop light tackle action. They tired early and racked their rods and that's when I asked the father's interest in something big.

"Oh yeah, I'm primed for some big stuff" was the haughty response. Just happened to have the "winch" rod aboard and we were right over Gomer's abode. We put a nice size white grunt on the barbless hook and tossed it to the bottom.

And this is where the titled "associates" made their surprising entrance.

The rod wasn't in the holder for five minutes when it doubled over with the drag locked on 120# test mono and our hero lurched into action. Surprisingly, it was a good fight but it wasn't to a remembered Gomer intensity. Up came a Goliath in the 30-40# class. Fair fight but not the back breaker. Gomer's offspring? Our world class angler pooh-poohed the experience.

We switched bait to a full size fresh mackerel and tossed it back to the bottom. The father, expecting another Goliath of the same manageable size, strapped the rod belt on the older son. Just then the rod surged and doubled violently and the son, assisted by Dad just got the rod into the belt when the catch took off almost vaulting the youngster overboard. The rod belt was switched back to our hero and the fight was on. He literally had trouble gaining any line on the fish although we knew it was still on open water with its errant moves.

The struggle to move the fish was enormous – we'd gain five feet and lose six time and time again.

Finally the fish must have tired or grew bored with the struggle and rose slowly to the surface behind the boat. The kid's screamed and our angler gave out with some x-rated expletives when they saw the enormity of the target. It looked the size of a VW Beetle.

The father just sat there stunned and the kids raced for a camera. Just then the behemoth fish lurched tossing the barbless hook and headed back down.

"That had to be over 300 pounds" was the exhausted pant from Dad as we picked up the gear; a bit of an exaggeration but not by much.

"Big enough to fit your big fish category?" was my question. Dad just stared at me.

On the way home, I told them the Gomer story but quickly added that Dad's catch along with the kid's smaller catch today tells me, the Goliath family is now in residence and maybe the smaller Gomer is really Greta and matriarch to this growing family of fish that bends rods and breaks backs.

As the family left the dock, I overheard our hero telling one of the marina dock hands – "biggest fish I ever saw."

So much for the heretofore maligned Southwest Florida big fish expectations.

Capt. Bill Walsh owns an established Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a current U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments or questions to dawnpatrolcharters@compuserve.com.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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