Monday, February 13, 2017

Fishing with Curt Whiticar by Ernest Lyons

Early Labor Day morning I went out commercial fishing with Curtis Whiticar on the “Howdee”, a small charter craft which used to belong to DeWitt Upthegrove in West Palm Beach.

The “Howdee”  has caught her share of sailfish, but when sport fishing went the way of many other non-war essentials a couple of years ago, Capt. A. A. Whiticar, Curtis father, bought her and refitted the craft for the more serious business of hauling in mackerel and bluefish. She furnished a great many thousand pounds of seafood by the hook and line method during the emergency-and is still doing it.

The trip started out right with a rare human   element-consideration   for   the other fellow. As we eased down a narrow channel past a moored houseboat, Capt. Curtis slowed her down to a crawl. “Has it   shoale here?”   I   asked “No,”   he replied. Im just keeping our wake from rocking  that  houseboat. You  can  put that down in my book as one of the top reasons why Curtis Whiticar is one of the ace charter captains of the Martin County fleet

Easing out the inlet in a grey dawn, we saw ugly rain squalls north and south, but edged between them to the northeast-and soon  had  four stout  hanlines trailing, with two 3 ½ Drones on outriggers and a couple of feathers astern

Before  had  time  to  get  my  gloves  on those  hand  lines  went  into  action,  and soon there were three big king mackerel, four blue runners, a jack, a small Spanish mackerel and about a 15 pound barracudthreshing  and  flailing  in  the fish box. Although the clouds grew more menacing,  we  continued  on  oucourse, and about six miles offshore Curtis unerringly   located   a   small   red   buoy which he had placetmark hidden reef

“Here it is, he said. Ill get the grouper lines ready while you stow the trolling gear.” 

He idled the “Howdee down and a small dolphin  struck  as  I  brought  in  a  stern line. While it was still threshing in the box one of the outriggers bowed-and  Curtis said “Get your gloves on for this fellow.” 

I really needed him them. What a fish! If you don’t believe it, try hauling in a 30- pound amberjack man to man. While I was still breathing harfrom this exertion; he said-“and heres another. I am now thoroughly convinced that the only thing harder to haul in than a 30- pound amberjack is a 35-pounder which was next on the bill of fare

Meanwhile it was getting rougher. The squall hit and we  were  enveloped  in cloudof rain.  That is-we thought we were. Before we came in we were to know what real rain could look like

Finally the sea flattened, and over went the grouper lines, baited with chunks of blue runner. “I find, said Capt. Curtis delicately, that the novice sometimes has difficulty in this deep water reef fishing. He fails to pull fast and hard enough to take the belly out of the line and set the hook.” 

“Yeah, thats so, I agreed, feeling sorrfor the poor novices

There must be some other reason. Curtis haule in   fou big   grouper   an a beautiful 13-pound red snapper while all I did was feed em bait with my feeble jerks  at  thhand  line.  What  a  fellow needs in that sort of fishing is six-foot arms

All this time it had been raining intermittently, and the sea got to kicking up more and more, so we called it a day and  started  in.  Myself,  Ill  bhonest about it, if Id been at the helm I wouldn’t have known which way to go. Six miles offshor in    rain   squall I   would probably have headed for the Bahamas

We  saw  some  beautiful sights  going  in. Veering winds created a hillocky cross- chop with considerable ground swell-and the flying fishes showered like little silver birds ahead of us. Once we saw a great hammerhead shark lolling on his side just ahead of our bow and it rained. A 10- pound king mackerel whanged onto an outrigger-and I insisted on dangling him overside two or three times   until Capt. Curtis kindly took him away from me

And  it  rained.  It  rained  like  it  used  to rain.  It  rained  in  solid  wall,  anthe little “Howdee rode through the squalls without a sight of land unerringly to the inlet mouth. Going in over the bar an 8- pound cobia latched on a Drone, and he was still kicking when we got inside the river

I had a wonderful time. Just the memory of  hauling  in  that  last  35-pound amberjack was something. Of course, Capt. Whiticar, all alone one time, using an   ordinary   han linebrough to boatside from the reef bottom and landed a jew fish which weighed 265 pounds, dressed with head and tail cut off. Hes modest about it, not with a rope or shark hook-but with an ordinary tarred hand line

Back at Salerno, we unloaded our edible catch at Banks Shelton’s fish house, and the   barracud an amberjack  at   the shark house, and were soon under cover again in the Whiticar boathouse at Port Sewall, where Capt. Curtis showed me the initial work on a 34-footer charter craft he is building  with his own hands for use in sailfishing. I hope sometime to have the pleasure of going out in it with  him-and know that I will enjoy myself just as thoroughly as I did Monday on that trim little sea boat, the “Howdee.

Stuart News ~ 1945 - E.L.