Boynton Beach, FL: Big Fish & Bigger Parties
Eric McDonald – a Michigan transplant now giving autographs to South Florida pizza delivery guys for his offshore kayak fishing celebrity-ish status – opened my 6 am charter with an apology.
“I just need one. Sorry, man. I’m feeling a little rough.”
He cracked the top on one of the previous night’s surviving Corona Lights and handed me the other, a selfless gesture guided by the assumption that I couldn’t be feeling much better than he. Within minutes, beers number forty-seven and forty-eight were finished to round out our Thursday night party.
With only a six-hour nap in between, it was better late than never.
Besides twelve times through the movie Scarface and the occasional Pitbull music video, I have no experience with South Florida. But it hit me right around three-quarters of the way through my breakfast beer; this is exactly how I imagined it: big parties before catching big fish off of the beautiful, postcard beaches surrounded by fancy cars and ocean-front mansions.
To me, this was so south Florida.
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Finding My Sea Legs and Sober Stomach
We tossed the breakfast empties in the back of his truck, dragged the two Hobie Outbacks through the soft, white sand dunes, and launched through the bumpy-at-best glass surf. Look, I like moving water, but the ebbs and flows of the first one-hundred yards out to the bait boat had my ghost-white knuckles clenched to the rudder control and the paddle – just in case things got sideways, literally.
“Is this stuff pretty average surf for down here?” I asked while trying to hide the trembles in my play-it-cool voice. Between the dwindling fear of capsizing in the swells, the thought of predators underneath, and – my biggest concern – the growing need to send last night’s 4.1% ABV liquid dinner overboard, it was an uphill battle convincing myself that this discomfort would pass and unreal fishing would be waiting on the other side of it.
“This is calm for us” he replied as my stomach sunk further into the night’s still-brewing chemical reaction: ten beers and four tacos with a sea sickness catalyst. “The surf is usually much worse this time of year.”
My knuckles turned a deeper shade of white.
Forty dollars, eight goggle eyes, and half a mile later, I peddled into some comfort in the chaos. With kingfish, sailfish, and even tuna on the menu, it was time to get over both the discomfort of the hangover and the discomfort of the ocean’s roller coaster ride.
This was so south Florida
Small Kingfish. Big Fight.
We got a couple of miles out and let the current take us north as we trolled a 1-2 mile per hour pace across at depths between 80 and 200 feet. With the goggle eye bait alive and swimming on the line, the presentation was there. Hooking up was all about rolling it on top of something hungry. While vertical jigging was an alternative to slow trolling, the effort involved in rapidly pulling a heavy jig up from 200 feet didn’t appeal to the lazy, morning-after energy we were looking to invest.
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Within thirty minutes of putting our lines out, my drag started screaming. There’s something to be said for the adrenaline rush given off by screaming drag. Never have I ever had a fish run like that. At 13 pounds, it wasn’t even a big fish for Eric’s charter standards. His lack of size and fight was evened out by my naivety and inexperience making for a fifteen-minute, evenly-matched duel that resulted in the Deep Blue Kage Gaff through his head.
We thought that would be the first of many fifteen plus minute fights with bigger fish, louder drag, and longer battles. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t.
The previous two days, Boynton Beach was smashed with rain. The freshwater – both from the sky and from the inland runoffs – turned the blue water a darker shade of green and confused the once-hungry fish. With this realized and accepted, we called it a day after a twelve-mile drift and did what any moderately successful South Florida angler would do: we made plans to hit the pool and then the bar.
Classic south Florida.
Where the Fishing Ends and the Next Party Begins
At the beach, the Deep Blue Kayak Fishing celebrity status kicked in again. No longer than twelve hours before, the star struck pizza delivery guy recognized Eric from his popular offshore kayak fishing YouTube channel as we sat patiently waiting for the celebrity small-talk to end and the pizza to hit the table. As we landed through the seemingly non-existent surf, another fanboy came running up to discuss the gear used in a recent video and the day’s catch.
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Eric was used to the recognition; I was not.
Then the girls came. Apparently, nothing attracts girls in bikinis like monster fish. As we pulled the fish out of the cooler bag on the kayak for photos, heads turned and interest in the fish became tangible with the crowd of sunbathers relaxing on the beach outside of the multi-million dollar condos.
With kingfish fillets for dinner and a full refrigerator full of beer, we hit the pool party – so South Florida.
With fluctuating travel plans, this one took a little longer to shoot out than most. While it seems like the distant past, I do want to thank everyone who helped make my stop in Boynton Beach stereotypically accurate:
- Motel 6 – Shout out to you for not having bed bugs in my room. I don’t care what those jerks on Yelp said, at $50/night you guys have the best deal in town!
- Eric and Trisha McDonald – Thanks for the hospitality and the fun times. I have no doubt I will be back soon with a bigger crew to tackle bigger fish and better parties.
- Mr. and Mrs. McDonald – Thanks for the steak you guys brought to the bar. While it looked like pretzel sticks, felt like pretzel sticks, and smelled like pretzel sticks, after a full day of Jaeger shots and light beers, it tasted like prime rib.
- The Sails Inn Pub – You’re the real MVP for the sweet road trip discounts on our tabs!