Living most my childhood in rural Arkansas I’ve been fishing too many times to count. But it typically was from the banks of a pond or lake, and never at the ocean. I’ve been to Panama City Beach 11 times now, not to mention several visits to other Florida and Alabama beach communities. I knew now was the time to finally get out in the Gulf of Mexico for some deep-sea fishing.
As I wrote recently, I wanted to find something to do besides the beach on our recent family vacation to Panama City Beach, Fla. And as I’ve never been deep-sea fishing, that seemed like the most logical, especially considering Bay County has boats galore to book for a fishing excursion.
When booking a fishing trip, I believe one must first think about how serious they are about the experience. I, for one, really only wanted to get a taste of being out on the open sea and hopefully bring back enough fish for a dinner or two.
That’s where the five-hour trip with Capt. Anderson’s Marina worked for us. For $55 we got five hours of deep-sea fishing, which included our license.
For others, who might be a little more serious or want a more personal touch, there are plenty of charter boat options. The thing that kept me from chartering a boat for our deep-sea fishing experience was the hourly rates we found ranged from $120 to $150. And for two guys, $750 for five hours didn’t make much sense. There are probably plenty of cheaper options, but when we came across Capt. Anderson’s, we decided we’d happily make due with our combined $110 for the same amount of time.
I’ll admit that when I first spotted the boat we’d be riding I was a bit disappointed, though. I had imagined a smaller group, so I was surprised to see a crowd milling around waiting to board our boat that is larger than the typical charter vessel.
My second surprise, and this definitely shouldn’t have been, was how long it took to get to our fishing spot. By the time we sailed out of the bay and to our spot about 12 miles from the coast it had taken more than an hour and a half. With the same ride back to the dock that meant we’d have no more than two hours of fishing time. But it’s called deep-sea fishing, not bay or harbor fishing.
Surprise No. 3: I got a tad queasy on the ride out. The waters were gentle, but I have to admit that as I sat inside enjoying a cold beverage my stomach wasn’t happy. But I made it and before I knew it I was rushing out to my spot next to everyone else to bait my two hooks and prepare to drop the line.
Once the horn sounded we let our lines loose. They quickly sank to the bottom thanks to the heavy weight. Once it hit the bottom, we reeled a few times before letting the bait sit there and wait for a tug. And here’s where surprise No. 4 started. I kept thinking I had a bite but every time I reeled my line up I realized I had snagged a line from down the boat. It happened probably 10 times and it was borderline infuriating. I was beginning to feel that fishing on a boat crowded with probably 30 or more anglers was going to be a mistake as I’d end up catching other fishermen’s bait instead of fish.
But with the help of the deckhand we began to figure out line placement to avoid those snags and the fish began coming in, starting with my friend’s hooking of a small shark that we threw back.
I couldn’t name any of the fish that began coming in. Honestly, other than a few red snappers here and there, it wasn’t the type of fish we’d find on the menus of the local seafood restaurants.
But that’s OK, because as I got the hang of it and the fish started coming up with a bit more frequency I started having fun. And that’s really all I could ask for.
Before long the horn sounded, signaling us to reel in our lines one final time so we could head back to the dock.
We didn’t get a huge haul, but it was enough to feed four adults three well-prepared meals over the course of our week.
So would I take this fishing trip again? Yes, although I’d prefer next time to take a more-intimate charter boat. But I’d like to have more than just one other person with me to share the costs. If that’s not possible, I’ll happily take a larger fishing trip like this again.
When I go to the coast I love fresh seafood. And this fish was the freshest meal I’ve ever had on my close to 30 trips to the sea.