Doubled up on the Al-Le

TINA HARBUCK
The Cox brothers, David, left, and Paul, say fishing "is it." For David, who mans the deck, his job is to help customers catch fish, while Paul as captain has to find the fish.

Not to worry, you're not seeing double when you board the Al-Le. The captain and deckhand are twins.

Paul Cox, the elder by 2 minutes, is the captain while David his identical twin is the first mate.

Although some folks do a double take, Paul said the fact they are twins is not what gets peoples attention. "They can't believe we are so young and running a boat. But they seem to like it."

Paul and David, 22, of Fort Walton Beach have been fishing all their lives. However, Paul may be the youngest captain on the docks along Destin harbor right now.

"I've been working on these boats for about five years," Paul said. He's worked along side captains such as Steve Land, Buddy Godwin and Brian Kelley.

"I've worked here and there on different boats," Paul said as a deckhand. "I've learned from some of the best."

But when Preston Dumas, owner of the Miss Sandy and now the Al-Le, offered to pay for him to get his captains license last year, Paul jumped at the chance.

"Ever since I was a little kid this is what I wanted to do — just fish. But I figured I'd be running a boat at some point … work my way up to that," Paul said. That time came this year.

The 42-foot Bertram was tagged the Al-Le when they got it.

"They were thinking about changing it, but they said it was bad luck to change the name of a boat, so we figured we better leave it the same," Paul said.

Learning to run the boat, "really wasn't hard. I took right to it," Paul said.

"But it is a lot more stressful. Catching the fish when you're on them is different than having to find them. Finding them is hard. You've got a lot more pressure from all different angles," Paul said.

As for David, his job is to work the deck.

"Oh yeah, I'd rather run the deck than be a captain," David said.

"You get to fish and get dirty … it's no fun up there," he said just after he cleaned up the days catch of mackerel.

David's first deckhand job was along side his brother Paul aboard the Miss Sandy.

"He showed me some stuff, but not everything," David said with a smile on his face. "I had a pretty good idea what to do."

After the Miss Sandy, David worked on the Miss Nautica, the Screamn Drag and with Capt. Daniel Pike on the Inshore Angler.

David says he likes trolling and bottom fishing and catching snapper, grouper, mackerel and wahoo.

"These days it's the customers that make me happy and watching them catch fish — because I've caught a bunch of fish. But here (on the deck) it's about making the customer happy and to catch fish," David said.

"I like all fishing," Paul said. "I don't care if they are little ones or big ones, I like it all."

However, he did say, "Offshore fishing is good stuff."

Paul's personal favorite is cobia fishing. "It's all sight fishing. You've got to see them first then you have to make them bite. That's the fun part to me … watching them eat the bait."

The biggest fish Paul has ever caught was a 100-plus pound tarpon. However, this year they pulled in a tiger shark on the Al-Le that weighed about 400 pounds. "That was a good one," Paul said.

And like his brother, David's biggest fish was a tarpon just over 100 pounds. "In the last two or three years, I've caught about five."

Fishing is it for the Cox brothers.

"I couldn't do anything else," David said. "This is it … gotta be on a boat out there," he said pointing to the Gulf. "I couldn't work in an office."

"Once you get hooked on it, it's hard to go back to work in a restaurant or anything like that," Paul said, noting he used to wash dishes in a restaurant and did boat detailing before getting his first mate job on the Miss Sandy.

"It's just being out there on the water. It's a different world out there," Paul said. "Sometimes I can't believe they pay me to do this.

"I think we'll be fishing until they tell us we can't," Paul said.