We’re kicking off our first Captain Experiences Captain’s Corner blog with a Trip Recap. Our trip with Captain Lee aboard the Tequila Sunrise was truly the trip of a lifetime for more reasons than you can count.
I met Mark at our Captain Experiences booth at the Houston Boat Show. I told him about how Captain Experiences makes booking a fishing charter quick and easy, and he was all in. He requested a 12-person Galveston offshore tuna fishing trip for his group of devoted fishermen, and that was that.
Then I remembered that Capt. Lee wanted to plan one of his 36-hour offshore trips with us and bring a professional photographer/videographer to capture some content for his trip listing on our website.
I told Mark about the purposes of our trip with Capt. Lee- Mark seemed pretty reserved at the booth, but he smiled ear-to-ear and nodded like a bobble head when I told him we had two spots chasing Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi.
Mark pinged his buddy Joe who was equally down for the cause. From there, all we had to do was find the perfect weather window…not an easy task in January / February along the Texas Gulf Coast (March – October is primetime for these trips). After a few close calls, we finally got what we were looking for from the NOAA offshore weather forecasts for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
Capt. Lee made the call Friday that we'd be leaving land behind on Sunday, February 16th. We got to work Saturday night spooling offshore reels and replacing inshore tackle with offshore.
HUGE shoutout to Vance at Line Cutterz for hooking us up with the brand new Line Cutterz Ceramic Blade Peel & Stick Fishing Line Cutter and LineCutterz Zipper Pulls attached to a Line Cutterz Lanyard. Chris and Benny (two of the best deckhands you’ll find) can attest that Line Cutterz products outperform expectations- they saved us in a pinch time after time, and I know Chris and Benny appreciated not having to cut monofilament line with their teeth anymore.
After we readied the boat, we had a few beers at the Galveston Marina Bar & Grill, and headed over to Sharky’s for some pizza and live music. Brian of FreeRoam Creative met us at the Galveston Yacht Basin late Saturday night, and we rocked to sleep aboard the Tequila Sunrise…
Sunday was go time. We grabbed groceries, picked up our First Mate (a good luck pineapple), Mark and Joe arrived right on time, and we were cruising through the Galveston jetties just like that.
The fog was thick out of the gate, with visibility ~20 yards. Massive 300’ tankers hid in the fog and lit up the radar. Capt. Lee navigated us through the busiest port in the U.S. with calm and methodical control.
Still in dense fog but with a quieter radar, we shot up on plane and cruised South Southeast. After a solid run, Capt. Lee pulled the Tequila Sunrise down to 10 knots, and we set up the trolling spread.
The spread consisted of 7 lines trolling the boat: two “divers”- Nomad 9” DTX Minnows, swam at ~40’ deep, two “nears” danced on the surface and were rigged halfway up the outriggers, two “longs” including a daisy chain off the starboard trickled along from the tips of the outriggers, and a “shotgun” off the cockpit brought in top-water reinforcements ~100 yards back.
We trolled the next stretch with not much action aside from a nice Skipjack Tuna. This species of tuna doesn’t make for great table fare, but its valuable chum inventory. We tossed him in the cooler as a means to an end…
We reached our first rig just after sunset. A few quick jigging drops produced multiple healthy red snapper. Unfortunately, this fantastic-eating fish is out of season until summer (Snapper trips are booking up fast by the way). We correctly released the Snapper, and back down they swam.
We were on the move again. We found the next spot aptly named in Capt. Lee’s GPS:
Capt. Lee cozied the stern up to the corner of the rig, and that’s when things picked up. The first hit was an athletic Jack Crevalle that fought hard:
Minutes later, Mark hooked into a nice Blackfin Tuna. The fourth species of the trip was exactly what we were after. Mark controlled the fish throughout the fight, letting the fish run and reeling in line when the fish gave in.
Joe was up next. He bagged his first blackfin of the trip, and we were off to the races playing make-it-take-it: position the boat rig-side for our drift, jig for tuna, set the hook on the ferocious bite, welcome the fish aboard, repeat. For four hours straight. Mark, Joe, and Chris even turned a rare triple-play:
Around 3:30am, the bite receded and empty space on the saloon’s luxury leather recliners was sparse. I headed down to the bunkroom for some much-needed shuteye.
I woke up to find the squad huddled around the Daiwa Tanacom 1000. Capt. Lee had positioned us perfectly for a drift along a deep subsurface ravine, and once again, his knowledge proved automatic. I got out there just in time to watch the Daiwa crank up a tilefish from 1,000’ deep.
This gorgeous fish is a prized dining experience for its taste and rarity. The gettin’ was good, and we roped up two more tilefish on a memorable double-header.
Taking mercy on the tilefish and sensing that the real world was finally calling us back, we replaced the single Daiwa Tanacom 1000 with our full, 7-line spread, and started the 130 mile haul north to Galveston.
But the party wasn’t over. Mark and Lee’s cockpit conversation was interrupted by a strike on the “shotgun” trailer. Mark reeled in another nice Skipjack from up top, and the trolling journey back continued.
We all agreed a nice wahoo or mahi would cap off this unforgettable trip. On cue, the starboard-side Nomad 9” DTX Minnow took a hit, and Joe grabbed the bull by the horns:
Wahoo always put up a fight, and this fish was no different; he spat the hook at the boat, but Benny’s gaff shot was true.
Landing a wahoo cemented this trip’s bounty: seven species, including eighteen blackfin tuna, three tilefish, a wahoo, red snapper, skipjack, a Jack Crevalle, and a pesky thresher shark, all in 36 quick hours.
But this trip wasn’t about the fish. As Mark put it quoting bass fishing legend Scott Martin, “We don’t go fishing to catch- we go fishing to catch up.”
I wish I could share how special it was to spend 36 hours personally getting to know Mark and Joe: Two NASA engineers sharing the ins-and-outs of their jobs and why they love going to work; two Marines, who were so humble about their service that it only came up in passing when describing each other’s background; two avid fishermen who love the sport because of the opportunity it provides them to explore nature and meet new people.
A blog can’t do any of that justice. But hopefully, these posts encourage you to get out there chasing similar life-defining experiences.