First off, I wanted to say that coming onboard with such an awesome organization has been the experience of a lifetime. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be where I am now working with the Jose Wejebe Memorial Foundation, it has definitely been a dream come true for me. Getting to help others who have had life altering challenges forced upon them and giving them a time to, not forget, but to “chill” and take away some of the stresses that they have to deal with on a frequent basis and get them on the water and show them the fun and excitement of these new experiences is amazing.
I am originally from Ocean Springs, Mississippi and grew up watching Jose and the Spanish Fly TV show throughout my life and loved how Jose gave more than he got and his teachings of fishing were also life lessons for some of us, so when I caught wind that the Foundation was cranking up, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to be involved. Krissy and I had talked and met a few times and I volunteered to work both Ft Lauderdale and Miami boat shows representing the Foundation. After the Miami show, fellow volunteer and good friend Brian Dale and I were invited to come down to the Keys for a bit with Krissy and Dave her fiancé. Needless to say, it was only a matter of a month or so before I was down here in the Keys full time to help work with the Foundation. It has been one heck of a ride to say the least.
I now mate on an 80′ sport fishing boat “Easy Rider” out of Key West and got a call from Krissy one day in July asking if we would work with the Jose Wejebe Memorial Foundation as they were granting a wish for a young man named Scott Alberts in August. I then checked our schedule and set the dates of 8/6/14-8/7/14 so everything seemed to work out perfectly for us to make this happen. Being that this was my first time to really participate heavily in what the Foundation is doing with Make-a-Wish. Helping bring children and young adults out to learn about fishing, and get a chance to land the fish of a lifetime… I was extremely excited to say the least. What a lot of us fishermen take for granted is most others do not have the luxury of being able to venture out on the water and see what all the world has to offer on the oceans on a daily routine as we do. When I was able to share that same feeling I get with Scott and his family it was really one of the most heart-warming feelings I have ever encountered.
When I first met Scott and his parents Diane and Brian Alberts at the airport on Saturday afternoon I could tell by their personalities and excitement that they were a great family and just awesome people on their own, and I was ecstatic to get them on the water! I do not think I could have been any more amped up for a fishing trip. We got them safe and sound to their epic room at the Key West Harbor Yacht Club (awesome view) and got some ideas of what all types of fishing Scott wanted to get into. Looking for some barracuda, shark, maybe some dolphin and billfish if possible, and then some snapper and grouper action in the mix.
Day one on the water, captain of Easy Rider, Rob Harris, and myself make final preps for the group’s arrival (bait, food, ice, etc). Krissy, Dave, Scott, Diane and Brian all show up about the same time around 8:45 am at the boat in Oceanside Marina. With the weather not fully cooperating with us we decide to go out along the edge of the reef for some bottom fishing first instead of attempting the offshore seen. We get out around American Shoal and anchor up and get our chum line going first thing. It couldn’t have been five minutes before we had our first fish on, a massive yellowtail snapper in the boat weighing in at about 5lbs. Thinking that it was just luck for the first fish we didn’t let it go to our heads, but as the hour progressed we caught several more yellowtail snapper of that same size! Ending up with the smallest of the fish in the box being 4lbs, which is a nice fish!
As we were snapper fishing Scott had it set in his mind he wanted something bigger. So we rigged up a bottom rig, baited it up and sent it down to the floor. Diane and Brian continued to sling snapper in the boat one after the other as Scott patiently waited for the opportune moment to arrive for a possible grouper or shark to give him a run for his money. After about 20 minutes passed HOOKED UP!! Scott’s rod is doubled over as we all gaze over the gunnel waiting on the mystery fish to show itself. Finally Scott had worn the fish out enough to start making ground that we caught a glimpse of a massive nurse shark. We got it up to the boat and were amazed that the 30lbs leader hauled this beast to the surface. By the time we released it I think Scott was almost more relieved than the shark!
As the current slacked Diane and Krissy were on a mission for the yellowtails again. Being able to get the bait deeper quickly, Diane and Krissy tag-teamed another nice nurse shark on 12lbs spinning tackle managing to haul it up from 100’+!
By 3:00 pm or so the rain started to push in, we then decided to come off the hook and call it a day. We took the yellowtail to Key West Harbor Yacht Club and they fixed it up great for us as our first day of fishing came to a close.
Day two on the water, 8:30 am, we wanted to go look for some bigger fish so we headed out to southwest channel in hopes of accomplishing our goal. We had heard over the VHF that guys ahead of us had luck with some dolphin, sails, and a blue marlin within the morning hours. We had our spread ready and put lines in as we got to deeper waters. We pulled baits for about 45 minutes and had a nice mahi slam our flat line and Scott was up and ready! We got that one in the box and proceeded to land a few more that morning.
By mid afternoon the wind had died off and the current had slacked so needless to say the bite was tough. We all wanted to get Scott tangled in with a billfish but from the looks of things we just couldn’t promise anything. The day was nearing the close and we were about 5 minutes from lines in and pop, line out of the port outside rigger. We look back and there it is, nice sail on rippin’ drag! Scott’s in the harness and strapped in within seconds. The fish is putting on an epic show for everyone on the boat, greyhounding back to back! The excitement on Scott’s face was indescribable honestly, at that moment I do not think that any of us fishing that day could have imagined a better place to be. The fish was out a couple hundred yards and took a turn back at us and we just couldn’t cover the slack in time so it came unbuttoned. But man what an awesome experience!! Was a perfect closure for our trip.
As we were headed back in to the dock Scott and I were hanging out in the cockpit going over the passed couple of days fishing, life, and all other subjects in between, we made a trade of trophies so to say. Scott was very appreciative and was attempting to give some gratuity for everything which wasn’t gonna happen. So we decided to take the dollar bill and he wrote his name, date and first sail hooked on it in exchange I gave him the bill rashed leader that his fish had been hooked on. Just the look on Scott’s face and the talk we had during those brief few moments was one of the highlights of the day. Needless to say it was one of my most enjoyable fishing trips to date.
What has become a tradition is we have a “By for now” dinner at the Square Grouper. If you’ve never been go! Suggestions…the rib eye was Jose’s favorite.
It’s a great feeling to know that what the Jose Wejebe Memorial Foundation has done over the last couple of years has touched so many lives and how we strive to pass on Jose’s love for fishing and being out on the water is appreciated in a huge way. We hope to do tremendous things here with the Foundation and work hard in the future to make dreams come true.