March 2006 and we just took our first fishing trip of the year. Buckner and Bruce (Cann) came down from South Carolina on Sunday, worked on the boat a little on Monday, and we drove down to Jonathan Dickinson State Park Tuesday. As usual, they drove Buckner's Ford van with over 300,000 miles, towing the boat, and I drove the RV. That van just keeps rolling along. Buckner's mechanic is convinced that it's about to die - or should have already. I think he even called after they arrived at our house, to check and see if it made it ... haha. Now there's a concerned mechanic!

Fishing details coming up, but first a short note about camping at Dickinson. I don't know about other parks, but the ReserveAmerica website has been fouled up relative to Dickinson, ever since the hurricane two years ago. They always show that most sites are reserved or unavailable, but when we get there, we find several empty ones. Also, many sites are listed as only handling RVs up to 24' or 30' or whatever, and those numbers appear to be totally bogus. I think it's because they've cut down so many trees. For example, we took site #3, which was listed for a maximum 34' RV. We had plenty of room for my 36' Damon, plus room to park the boat and van in front of the RV. That's about 80' of  vehicles. Wierd, eh? If you're looking to camp at Dickinson, just take any site available, specify your RV as one that will fit in the advertised maximum, then work it out when you get there. The ranger at the gate said that there were no vacancies, but that was really hard to believe. We drove around the grounds every day and saw vacancies the whole time. I think some are marked as unusable because tree cutting was going on, but it's pretty much done now.

Anyway, on with the fishing "adventures". Wednesday, up at 6 AM (yeah! me! 6 AM! Amazing, eh?) and out in the Atlantic in about an hour. Bounced around the waves (4-6 foot) for hours with no bites at all! Saw a bunch of flying fish and seaweed, two sure signs that we're about to get a bite, but still nothing. The high point of the day was when we almost ran over a huge Loggerhead Turtle. His head was about as big as a football. Buckner said that's the first Loggerhead he's seen in the ocean in over 40 years of floating around the Atlantic!

So, we bounced around, tried all variations of trolling, dropping lines, different lures, Ballyhoo, with and without skirts - no luck. Got a good bunch of sun, drank a few beers, ate some bologna sandwiches (Buck and Bruce had Ham and Cheese), and swapped a bunch of war stories, but no fish. Closest we came was when we brought in one of the Ballyhoo and it had been bitten in half -- so we got one bite.

After that fishless day, we had Hot Dogs and Chili for supper. Ok with me, as that's a favorite of mine, but I guess we were all a little down about not having fish to enjoy.

Thursday, same ritual ... only today, the winds started blowing from the East, where they'd been Northerly or Westerly all the previous day. As we all know, that makes for better fishing. Well, after a few false alarms, Bruce finally caught a Bonita. Not good to eat, but we'd heard others talking about fishing with Bonita strips, so we decided to try that also. Plus, it was a fish! No matter that it wasn't our target brand.

Around noon, with the winds picking up, bouncing us more than the previous day, things weren't looking too good. Then Bruce got another hit! A big one! It was on an outrigger line that was probably about 100' out - the fish pulled it waaay out - probably several hundred feet out. It was a large Dolphin (i.e., Mahi-Mahi). He broke the surface several times way out, then continued to fight as he got closer to the boat. When he finally got up where we could see him, we were all amazed - this was a truly large Dolphin.

For the uninformed, Dolphins are Green when they're just swimming around, they turn Blue when they get excited (and close to the boat), then finally turn Yellow when they're tired enough to bring into the boat. When the fish finally turned Yellow, I took over the steering and Buckner grabbed the gaffing hook. He got a good hold on the Dolpin, but it was too heavy to bring in one-handed, as he usually does. It actually took both him and Bruce to finally bring it in, then Buckner sat on it for quite awhile until it quieted down enough to try to squeeze it into the fishbox. The box is about 4 feet long, but this fish was so big that it took three of us to bend it enough to fit in. We threw the cover on the box and Bruce sat on it - content at catching a great fish. Buckner, who has seen a bunch of fish, and a bunch of Dolphins, said this was the largest he'd ever seen. And the really amazing thing was that it was a female! And that's no bull! ... haha ... When it was flopping around in the ocean, we all thought it was a bull -- mainly due to  the size. But, it did look like it had the square head of a bull. Not so .. it was a cow. And Buckner said that the bull mate must have been really large, since the bull is customarily bigger than the cow! See photos below. Click any to see it larger.
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Part II of an RV trip to Mexico
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Bruce shows his pride and joy
Bruce and Buckner spread it out
Too big for the cutting board or the box it sits on
After all the excitement of this large catch, what happened the rest of the day is somewhat insignificant. However ...

About an hour later, Bruce hooked another Dolphin, much smaller this time. He pulled him up by the boat and let him flop around a little. Sure enough, he had a friend who hurried up to try to help -- or to feed with him. I'm not sure what they think that flopping around is all about. At any rate, I threw in a line and hooked the 2nd one also. We brought them both in, but they were so small in comparison to the first one that we didn't even take any photos of them.

Between the big one and the two smaller ones, we had plenty of fish to eat Wednesday night, plus plenty more to take home for later.

That night, Bruce deep-fried some fish in his special batter, made onion rings, French Fries, and Hush Puppies galore! Quite a meal!
About 3 PM or so, Buckner decided that the sky looked too threatening, so suggested we head in. We finished off the last sandwich, trolled on in to Jupiter Inlet, and didn't catch any more fish. When we got back to the dock, we cleaned the fish, fed the discarded parts to the Pelicans eagerly awaiting a handout, then pulled out the boat and headed back toward the park. We had just gotten on U.S. 1 and started back when the first raindrops hit. We had sure timed that exactly right! It sprinkled from then on, all through supper, and well into the night. Luckily, it was only a sprinkle early on, so Bruce was able to cook out under the RV's awning, with a little protection provided by some umbrellas that Buckner and I held out from time to time. All in all things worked great!

After supper, the rain really started coming down. It probably rained until about 8 or 9. We were all tired and the rain was beating on the roof of the RV, so we all turned in rather early. According to the weather forecast, Friday was going to be a much worse day, so we'd already decided we'd head home in the morning. After a day like Thursday and that great fish, going out again to fight the surf , wind, and rain didn't make much sense.

Our trip home was fairly uneventful, other than the fact that I-95 was closed about half-way back to Rockledge. I guess if we'd been watching the news in the morning, we'd have known about it. Seems a gas truck turned over and they'd had the road closed since 4 AM. After and extra hour or two of wandering around the parallel highways, we finally got home, cleaned up the boat, unloaded the RV, and they headed back to South Carolina at about 1 PM. Got home about 10, I believe. Great trip, great camping, great fishing, and great times with old friends. We're all looking forward to our next trip, when the temperatures are slightly warmer and fishing is slightly more productive.
Oops! Almost forgot! We took another fishing trip of sorts back in November and had some photos to show. I mentioned it in my November newsletter, but didn't include any photos since the newsletter doesn't ever have photos. Below is the excerpt from the newsletter, plus the photos.

November Travel: None - Went fishing a couple of weeks ago, but didn't take the RV. Weather was so dicey that we just stayed at our house and drove down to Sebastian Inlet. First day, caught 5 really nice dolphin (Mahi-Mahi) and second day, brought in the largest Sailfish that Buckner says he's ever seen. Was somewhere around 8 feet!
Now, that photo above, that's a great view of a Sailfish, but that's not the one we caught ... hahaha .. .gotcha. If you thought it was, then you obviously didn't pay attention back in Chapter 67, when I showed the Buckner Board that Joyce made. That above is the board that we use to clean the fish on.

To continue from the newsletter -- Took some photos, but none really spectacular. Got him right up next to the boat, he looked distainfully at us, shook his beak and slipped the hook, then slowly slipped back into the depths of the Atlantic. Almost a religious experience!

Below are the real photos I got -- not much, for sure. If you click on them to see the larger version, you'll note a little bit of the beak to verify that it was a Sail. Other than that, you'll  just have to take our word for it -- it was a biggie!
Thinking about it, I'll say that I probably enjoyed this recent trip more than the November trip, despite the lack of numerous fish. As I probably said in an earlier chapter, I think I actually enjoy the RVing, eating Bruce's great fried delicacies, and spending time with friends than I do the actual fishing. I'll bet Buckner and Bruce certainly wouldn't agree with that! They're fisherman from the word GO! I'm just an RVer who has a friend with a boat and is willing to guide me to some fish now and then. Fishing beats work, catching fish beats fishing, but I think eating them beats both ... and, if I'm in the RV while doing it, that beats all of it.

On the other hand, I'm glad to be back in the comfort of home, with staying up as late as I want to, sleeping as long as I want to, and getting on the internet whenever I decide to, so I guess it's all good ...
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70. Fish of the Day!