My brother Alan Richardson of slick passing fame (basketball) and smooth fielding stardom (baseball) is also a fisherman of considerable skill.
Proof of this statement was once again verified this summer when he caught a real life reef donkey off the waters of St. Augustine, Fla.
Yep a reef donkey.
Now, even if you are a knowledgeable fisherman in your own right, you may quite understandably ask what sort of creature this might be. If you have wet a hook in salt water, you realize that beasts defying description are often caught.
In the local vernacular peculiar to those who fish in the ocean, a reef donkey is a particularly substantial and ornery critter that, when hooked, will turn your legs to jelly and reduce your arms to trembling appendages before it comes over the boat gunwale.
If an explanation in Latin is more to your liking, the fish might otherwise be referred to as a submarinus gluteus maximus (roughly translating as a water dwelling, big behinded fish).
That translation is not exactly literal and takes into consideration that this is a family newspaper.
Let me give you some of the particulars.
While trolling a Mann’s Stretch 30 Plus plug over an offshore reef, Alan was alerted to the fact that his ultra strong rod was suddenly bent double and the drag was screaming for mercy.
At first he could not loosen the pole from its placement in the rod holder, but once that was accomplished he began to fight the thrashing monster on the other end.
After 15 minutes of hand-to-hand combat, Alan began to feel the onset of jelly legs and upper extremity discomfort. At this point he calmly squealed to his fishing partner to strap him in the fighting chair lest he be dragged into the sea.
Alas, the belt designed to keep him in the boat was wrapped around him in a peculiar and uncomfortable manner further complicating the matter.
At this point in the tussle, Alan’s partner made a decision to crank up the boat and chase the fish since Alan obviously was not going to be able to get it in before nightfall.
In the meantime, the fish broke water several times leaping out of the sea and further convincing the guys that it was from a direct lineage with Moby Dick. At the 25-minute mark, the fish finally began to tire (although Alan was past the tired stage and had lapsed into a near comatose state). Alan’s partner began the final phase of the conflict by attempting to gaff the fatigued, but still green fish.
Green is another vocabulary term fishermen use that denotes the quarry is not yet ready to be plucked out of the water lest it tear up the interior of the vessel. This fish still had obvious issues with being landed.
After several vain attempts to stick the fish, they finally got it gaffed, only to discover it was too heavy and active to actually get over the side. After much pulling, grunting and further sweating, the fish came over the side only to begin fighting anew inside the boat.
It tore up tackle boxes and coolers venting its frustrations at being lifted out of the ocean. One last problem had to be confronted before victory could be declared. The fish was too big to go in the cooler. It was a 70-pound Cobia that measured 52 inches in length, and it had to be doubled over in order to be stuffed in the cooler. Once that job was completed Alan gave his partner a low five since he could not raise his arms high enough for a high five.
The great Reef Donkey had been conquered.
(As a side note, the world record Cobia was caught in 1985 at Shark’s Bay off Western Australia and weighed 135 pounds, 9ounces. I have not been able to contact any local fishermen in Australia to find out what nickname was given to that fish).
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at email@example.com.