Wrestling with ‘a reef donkey’ - First time is a big time for one Texan; other anglers fight flipper

Joe Hawkins of Dallas, Texas shows off a 30-pound “reef donkey” or amberjack he caught last year aboard the Sure Lure.

Whether it's beginner’s luck or not, more times than not, first-time anglers catch the biggest fish on a boat. Such was the case Wednesday aboard the Sure Lure with Capt. Donnie Dineen.

First-time Gulf fisherman Joe Hawkins of Dallas, Texas, hauled in about a 30-pound amberjack. Hawkins said the fish pulled pretty hard.

"They don't call them reef donkeys for nothing," said deckhand Rusty Gilbert. The amberjack got the nickname reef donkey because it hangs around reefs, and it's stubborn like a donkey.

Anyhow, prior to Wednesday, the largest thing Hawkins had caught was a catfish, not even a quarter of the size of his amberjack.

The Texas group also pulled in several mingo, white snapper and a few triggerfish.

Capt. Greg Marler on the Gentle Winds came in with a pile of mingo, white snapper, a few triggerfish and porgies.

"We should have had twice as much," said Capt. Marler. "Flipper ate us up today."

Marler said they were fishing about 20 miles out.

Texas anglers on the Un Reel with Capt. Phillip Blackburn rode down a couple of reef donkeys, along with a couple of barracuda, gag grouper, black snapper, several mingo and a few triggerfish.

"We were targeting amberjack first," said Blackburn. He and his group were fishing about 18 miles out. The biggest reef donkey they put on the racks weighed about 45 pounds. And the crew from Texas was ready to go again.

Capt. Ron Whitfield and his anglers from Texas and Louisiana came in on the Anticipation with a nice catch. They had a couple of triggerfish, some big mingo and pogeys.

"Fishing is still good, but you have to work for them," the deckhand said.

Milwaukee anglers on the Only Way with Capt. Curt Gwin pulled in three king mackerel, mingo, white snapper and one big eye snapper. The big eye, looks just like a red snapper, but it has a mighty big eye. Plus its body is way smaller than a red snapper.

Texas, Arkansas and North Carolina anglers on the Checkmate 2 with Capt. George Eller came in with a load of mahi mahi, a few triggerfish and mingo. As a matter of fact they had 38 mahi mahi. Deckhand Lanny Combs said they saw a floating log and he dropped a line, using cut squid for bait, and hauled in the mahi. "We were pulling them in two at a time," Combs said.

Shortly after that, I found myself flat on my rear on a painting of a yellowfin tuna. Thankfully an angler was nearby to help me back to my feet. Fair warning to watch your footing: The green fish mural at HarborWalk marina gets slippery when wet.

The party boat Swoop with Capt. Matt Wheeler at the helm came in with a small king mackerel, triggerfish and several mingo. They had 40 people fishing for the day.

Capt. John Tenore of the Dawn Patrol and crew tried their hand on the bay side. Fishing with croakers and greenies, they pulled in eight redfish, four speckled trout that measured more than 20 inches, one grouper and a flounder.

Fishing is good, just don't let the reef donkey win out.

See you on the docks.