Trip Report: North Carolina
by Chuck Bunce
November 2001... The image of Levy, spread-eagled and manacled, nose-down on the airport carpet was beginning to look like a real possibility. Things had looked pretty promising to this point but it was clear that the National Guardsman with the M-16 was not going to let us carry our fishing rods on the plane and Mark was not happy. Several loud comments from Levy on the order of "Yeah, like these are really Dangerous Weapons", and "I am not going to go back and check this shit now", had put the Guardsmen in a heightened state of agitation and other security types were converging on the scene. I considered letting this scene play out but really didn't want to miss our flight to meet Bart in Raleigh. So, once again, I pulled Mark back from the abyss and convinced him that although his cause was just, the battle wasn't winnable and would probably result in missing our shot at Karolina Kingfish.
We had procrastinated in setting our fall excursion but a warm front had been pushed up by a hurricane in the Gulf and the weather was beautiful. We were bound for Sunset Beach, NC, on the NC/SC border where Bart and his family vacationed in the summer. As you come South down the East coast past the Outer Banks to a point at Cape Fear, the coastline takes a hard right turn and runs due west for a couple hundred miles. The ocean floor on this shelf is littered with wrecks, many from the civil war, which makes for good habitat for King Mackerel or Kingfish, said to be both good fighters and good eaters. An irresistible combination to the Idiot Sportsmen.
We were to meet Bart at the Raleigh airport. One would think that this would be a simple matter for seasoned travelers at a non-major airport. The IS, however, will make things interesting. Bart was nowhere to be found at the gate or at Baggage Claim and Mark was not happy (a pattern is developing). After several unkind comments about Bart's abilities, parentage, ethnicity, etc, we figured out what airport page phones are for and made contact. We were finally on the home stretch ride down to the coast and our rendezvous with Kingfish destiny.
We rolled into town mid-afternoon and found ourselves, once again in a deserted, off-season resort town. Bart had secured a nice place for us bayside within a block of the beach for surf fishing and a dock on the bay that we could stagger down to for late night party fishing. For offshore we had booked a charter with Capt. Fred David on his beautiful 40 ft. Luhrs Open Sportfisherman, FOLLOW ME (www.followmecharters.com). We had all the bases covered. With this setup the only excuse for not catching fish would be incompetence (GULP). We even had the World Series, which was scheduled late this year after 9/11.
After a great seafood dinner at one of the few open restaurants in Sunset Beach, we retired to our lair for some night bay fishing off the dock. Our dinner had included enough alcohol to cause us not to notice the first wave of Noseeums. Within 15 minutes, however, we were being penetrated at the rate of several hundred bites per minute and opted to delay our assault on the Carolina fishery until morning.
The next morning we had rallied sufficiently to meet Capt. Fred at the boat at first light. The FOLLOW ME was a thing of beauty. When we cleared the backwater and headed out to open ocean and the Capt. put the boat on autopilot as he put the fishing gear together, we sprang forward through the swells with an exhilarating motion. I checked the map Fred had displayed on his console and he pointed out civil war wrecks as we watched on the fish finder. We were bound for a place where the U.S had dumped WW2 Landing Craft and created an artificial reef where we intended to troll artificial Ballyhoo lures.
Upon reaching our objective and commencing our trolling, Mark determined that one of the lines was fouled and started winching the line in to fix. He seemed to be having difficulty with the equipment and, in an exasperated and semi-irritated fashion, asked the Captain for a hand. When Fred observed the situation he informed Mark that the line was "fine except for the fish on the other end of it. Get busy bringing it in before you lose it". This, in typical IS fashion, became our first Karolina Kingfish. Of course any respectable fisherman would have been embarrassed by the less than impeccable circumstances of this catch. Mark, on the other hand, commenced to posture and crow in an obnoxious display of boorish behavior, repeatedly opening the icebox and announcing his catch to all hands. His actions had placed him in close proximity to the winch on the other side of the boat, which promptly jumped to life with another fish. Undeterred by fishing etiquette, Mark grabbed the handle and winches in the next King. His ensuing behavior was insufferable.
Bart and I were subjected to Mark's harangue to the point that I observed Capt. Fred make a subtle gesture to Bart indicating action on one of the trolling rods. Bart grabbed the rod and proceeded to land his first King. On the rod the Kingfish gives a much more respectable fight and Bart was proud. So proud, in fact that he joined with Mark to point out my failings as a Kingfisher in a mean-spirited, obnoxious assault. Unfortunately the action slowed at this point, forcing me to endure this for another hour. Finally another rod jumped to life. I wrestled the rod from Mark's hands and proceeded to play and land a good fighting King. All were in the 17 to 20 pound range and fought a little like a small tuna. On anything lighter than offshore tackle these boys would have been all we could handle. I will admit that I pointed out to Mark the sport fishing merits of landing these fish on rod and reel rather than the winch. Bart was forced to agree that Mark's catches were very suspect for this reason.
The action stalled at this point and after another hour of trolling we determined that the four we had would feed us, Fred, and the entire off-season population of Sunset Beach, so we ran back in. Fred filleted the catch after the obligatory IS photo op and we headed back for a well-earned nap. Another good day on the water.
That evening we baked and broiled enough Kingfish fillet to more than quench our ravenous appetites. We even experimented, unsuccessfully, with Kingfish fingers ("Fings-O-King") appetizers. We pronounced it better than Redfish but nowhere near Rockfish, Flounder, Grouper or even Tuna. Oh well, on to the next one.
The hurricane was coming north pushing weather in front of it and conditions were changing rapidly. The next morning was nice but the wind had come up big time. We spent the day fishing from shore, dock and in the surf, to no avail. Even the skilled IS occasionally come up empty. The highlight of the day was the final World Series game, which was as interesting as any baseball game we had seen in years.
This excursion was laid-back, restful, and successful. To those IS fans who are eager for more of the action-packed, sex and violence of IS adventures previously reported, we don't apologize. You can't expect us to provide the sort of raw-edged vicarious thrills we have historically delivered every time. You will have to look forward to our report from next summer - The IdiotSportsmen Do Alaska.
I leave you for now with a parting image. On the return trip through the Raleigh airport I breezed through security and realized that Mark was not right behind me. I went back to discover that he had been selected "at random", and pulled aside for a complete security screening. He was standing rigidly, arms outstretched, legs apart, mouth clenched, eyes irate, as one security guard violated his body with the hand-held metal detector while another picked through his underwear in his carry on baggage. I must report that I took great pleasure in witnessing this scene and Mark was not happy.
Don't miss the Carolina Photo Album.