Speckled trout plentiful in deep water of the Gulf of Mexico

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2004

[7/15/04] ABOARD THE MATOU, Gulf of Mexico Sunrise over the Gulf is a dazzling array of colors greens and oranges, purples and reds.

Daylight is just starting to wake up this massive expanse of water. A glimmer of deep orange skates across the water. To the west, a full moon that casts its own glimmer on the water is disappearing along with a full complement of stars.

The weather is perfect as the 30-foot fishing boat rambles across calm seas.

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Our captain, Tommy Hazleton, glides the Matou French for Tomcat steady and fast. Two men and a boy occupy the back, while I bounce around the front on an ice chest that will soon hold a treasure trove of fish.

As we pass Marsh Island one of the southernmost tips of land in Southwest Louisiana the water gets choppy. The Matou slams into the waves, churning the moderate breakfast of two glasses of Sunny Delight and a biscuit inside my belly.

The two Suzuki 250-horse power motors make little noise as the Matou moves deeper and deeper into open water.

Soon, there is no land to be seen. Nothing but that sunrise and a smattering of white and yellow lights of the oil rigs.

Our destination is a place called the “pole hole” a small oil rig that makes a wonderful man-made reef. Speckled trout are all over the place, the captain tells us.

As we reach the pole hole, the motors subside as we ease toward our rig to tie on. At times on the ride in, I couldn’t tell whether it was my liver or spleen I was tasting. My insides churned and twisted in ways never before seen.

But I wasn’t sick.

I am the outdoorsman’s biggest nightmare, so our captain had to cast for me. They wouldn’t even let me try, but that was OK.

The captain was right on. We dropped our lines and speckled and white trout attacked our hooks like offensive linemen at a buffet.

Several slammed against the side of the boat and became free. Several more found the boat’s floor. The cooler was filling up quite nicely.

We fished the pole hole for about an hour, then bolted toward another hiding place the sweety hole.

There, the fish about jumped into the boat. But the surf that was once calm now started picking up a bit. The boat rocked and rolled, bounced and shook.

And so did I.

The entire trip out 40 miles or so caused little trouble, but the sweety hole was a different story.

In all, we took the Gulf for 50 fish mostly speckled trout.

But the ocean also took something from me that breakfast combo of Sunny Delight and a biscuit. The rest of the crew, who had been fishing for years, had no trouble negotiating the surf. Only the captain’s 10-year-old grandson suffered the same fate that I did.

My day ended well before the expedition did. Each time I would rise to regain my composure and catch some more fish, I would either sink back down onto the cooler, or end up hanging off the back of the Matou.

The ride back to our starting point was as miserable as the ride out was great. Each smack against the water drew gutteral noises from this rookie fisherman. If there was a bump in the water, the Matou found it.

Some two hours later, back on dry land, my insides found their places again. My stomach was empty their former contents now floating as chum in the deep but the land didn’t move, and neither did I.

So when the captain asked if we wanted to go back out on Sunday, the first hand in the air begging to go back was mine.

Gulf of Mexico 1, Yours Truly 0.

Sunday, though, would be a different day.

Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at smurphy@vicksburgpost.com.