By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
The 127-pound, 12-ounce amberjack that reigned atop the Alabama state records for 38 years was landed before Brian Andrews was born.
Marcus Kennedy of Mobile, who caught the big amberjack on June 19, 1981, will see the last of his state records fall on Friday, August 23, when Andrews’ 132-pound, 12.8-ounce fish takes its place after the record certification process is complete.
Andrews was aboard Capt. Bobby Walker’s Summer Breeze II soon after the amberjack season in the Gulf of Mexico kicked back in on August 1 a few weeks ago.
Walker, who has been fishing the Gulf as a captain or deck hand for 50 years, went to a special amberjack (AJ) spot and his anglers started to hook nice fish.
“I couldn’t have had a better angler,” Walker said of Andrews, who hails from Citronelle. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. He was a big, strong, strapping guy. You talk about a guy working on a fish, he could do it.”
The 37-year-old Andrews was no neophyte angler. He had previously owned his own private Gulf boat and had some experience fishing offshore. He said the trip on Summer Breeze II started out in rough seas but turned into a nice day for fishing. After catching a few beeliners on two-hook rigs, the anglers got down to serious business at the amberjack holes.
When Andrews hooked up, he wasn’t sure what was on the other end of the line. He had caught a 70-pound amberjack earlier in his fishing career, but this one was different.
“I was trying to be positive, but several people were telling me it was a shark,” Andrews said. “He was pulling like a shark, but you never know. He made at least three big runs. It took at least 30 minutes to get him in. When he makes a run, all you can do is hold the rod and watch him go. When he starts peeling drag, you just hold on. When he stops peeling drag, you have to start taking some of the line back.”
The main thing the boat captain was worried about was the number of sharks that were hanging out in the same vicinity as the AJs.
“We had caught so many big bull sharks,” Walker said “I was hoping to goodness it wasn’t a shark. We had already caught two or three good jacks off that hole and broke off a couple. I was just hoping we weren’t wasting time reeling up a big shark.
“I hollered down to Paul (Resmondo), my deck hand, to let me know when he could see the fish and tell what it was. He said, ‘Bobby, he looks like he’s 40 feet down, but I can tell you it’s an AJ, and he looks huge.’”
When Andrews finally reeled the big fish to the surface, the deck hands gaffed the fish and struggled to get it into the boat.
“When that fish hit the deck, his mouth flopped open, and I said he looked like he could swallow a basketball,” Walker said. “His head was huge. I told them I’d lay money that the fish was at least 100. I didn’t think any more about it.”
Andrews said it was time for a break after the fish was finally on the deck and the deck hands were in charge.
“We admired him for a few minutes.” Andrews said. “We took a few pictures and got him on ice. I went inside for some AC (air conditioning) after that. After about 45 minutes, I was ready to catch another one. It took me a little while to recoup.”
The boat came back in and docked at Zeke’s Marina. Walker was busy squaring away the boat for the next trip when he heard something that got his attention.
“Then I heard people hollering and raising Cain and wondered what was going on,” he said. “They had hauled the fish up on the scales. When I saw it, I said, ‘Whoa.’ Tom Ard looked at me and said, Bobby, you’ve got a state record.”