Out Far and In Deep

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The appeal of deep sea fishing begins where the water has become a dark blue essence, where land is far out of sight. So far out of sight as to belong to the different era of a hearty breakfast ashore well before dawn. Out here the mightiest creatures may be the predator or the prey. Any emergency must be dealt with on the terms of the sea. Although the deep sea fisherman usually returns safely, with only a sunburn, this is nevertheless true adventure.

In North Florida, deep sea fishing belongs essentially to the Gulf Stream and to the wandering eddies and branches that flank it. Immediately along St. Augustine's shore, surf fisherman compete for redfish, pompano and whiting. Just beyond the near shore in waters forty to one hundred feet deep, there is excellent fishing for king and Spanish mackerel, small tuna, tarpon and the sociable barracuda. This fishing is within the capabilities of most boats and gives any number of people a pleasant taste of the sea. Yet the deep sea crew does not slow down in these waters. You plug in the coordinates to the "ledge" with St. Augustine lighthouse behind you and sunrise a glimmer on the horizon, the compass reads 100 degrees and the radio relays reports of other boats ahead and behind, all seemingly crewed by Daffy Duck. The first flying fish erupt from the swells. Porpoises scramble to ride the bow wave. A toy tanker appears on the rim of the world. Somewhere near the "ledge", the Stream waters reveal themselves quite clearly to the eye.

The first sight is a shock, looking into depths the color of blue topaz. The suspicion that this could be your day of days edges into consciousness. Here the engines are cut to a murmur. The leaders are clipped to lines, the outriggers swung out. The baits first skip in the water and then settle down in varying lengths from the stern. The reels are checked. Fishing begins.

Fish of the open sea are accustomed to taking prey that is moving fast itself. The trolling speed is sometimes set surprisingly high - large species of the mackerel family (Wahoo, King) can move through the water at better than thirty knots. Strikes can be spectacular. A 50 lb. dolphin will greyhound across the surface to take a bait, dive sixty feet and, visible all the time, rise like a Poseidon missile into a series of acrobatics.

Part of the magic of deep sea fishing is that it is carried out on the edge of the unimaginable. The trout fisherman, even the salmon fisherman, fishes with poetry and technique, but they fish within limits for there is only so much that will fit into a mountain stream. Not so in The Stream. A foot behind the bait, parting the water just twenty yards astern, may be the throat of a 500 lb. blue marlin or a mako shark. The beginning of a battle to last eight hours or more may be two seconds away at any moment the lines are in the water.

There is an unusual delight and remembrance of those sports whose imagery relates closely to home. St. Augustine, the nation's oldest settlement, remains a child of the sea. The air of Salt Run before dawn when every surface is as wet as after a thunderstorm, the sun rising from a fiery sea, the exciting dance of the lures, the ice cold beer as the Stream slips to the stern homeward bound, along with the outrageous camaraderie at the dock at Camachee Cove and the pan bread at Oscar's, are images equally of deep sea fishing and this area's life. They are impossible to improve upon. And sixty miles out, a meandering thunderstorm flickering far astern, with your line being ripped out by a marlin rising out of the sea like a flying boxcar, you will remember how it once was there in The Stream. When united by good and kind feelings, you and your friends captured your dreams.