ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — “The sea is angry today.”
I thought Capt. Mike was just quoting a famous line from Seinfeld. You know the episode, the one where George becomes a marine biologist and pulls the golf ball out of the blow hole of the beached whale.
However, Capt. Mike was serious. Hey, I am a flatlander with no sea legs. I thought maybe it was typical to ride the ocean waves the same way Billy Etbauer rode bucking broncs.
But Capt. Mike said it was the roughest day at sea of the red snapper season. It wasn't supposed to be that way, but the weatherman was wrong. The forecast was for two to three feet waves on Tuesday, but they were at least twice that during most of the trip.
It was going to be one of those days at sea where you kiss the ground when you make it back.
I found out later that we were one of the few fishing charters out of Zeke's Marina on Tuesday morning that didn't turn back because of the choppy waters.
But Capt. Mike had the boat — a 42-foot Gillman — that could get us to the artificial reefs more than 20 miles into the Gulf of Mexico for some deep sea fishing, so we carried on.
My boat captain was Mike Graves, a former construction manager who built hundreds of Walgreen's stores across the country, including in Edmond. But he got tired of that life, moved to Orange Beach, Ala., and bought a salt water fishing boat that he named Unreachable.
It seemed to me like an ominous name, especially during Tuesday's voyage, but after spending a lifetime at someone's beck and call in the corporate world, Capt. Mike was ready to be unreachable, so thus the name.
Four years ago, Capt. Mike moved to Orange Beach permanently and hasn't regretted it a day.
I first vacationed in the Orange Beach and Perdido Key, Fla., area in the late 80s with a high school chum who then lived in New Orleans.
I fell in love with the area on that first trip, mostly because the fishing was so good. We had rented a condo on Perdido Bay and fished off a lighted dock at night, catching tons of speckled trout using shrimp for bait.
At first, we didn't know what we were catching and kept throwing back the specs because they had teeth. We were Okies at sea for the first time. If we couldn't lip ‘em like a bass, we weren't going to eat them.
But then a local who was fishing on the dock witnessed what we were doing and clued us in. “Hey, you want to be keeping those,” he said.
The fishing was so good that when the shrimp ran out and everyone else went to bed, I stayed on the dock and started fishing with a Little Cleo silver spoon that I had used to slay the sandies at Lake Eufaula.
I am very fond of the Little Cleo because it was the lure I was using the first time I experienced the frenzy of sand bass fishing.
At the time, I was just a kid and thought the Little Cleo must be a magic lure because I caught sand bass with it on every cast. Now I know that those sandies might bite a bent fork when schooling, but I still can't help being sentimental about that silver spoon.
I tied on a Little Cleo at 2 a.m. that morning and caught the biggest speckled trout of the night. Maybe it is a magic lure.
But silver spoons would not be the bait of choice for red snapper. That would be squid.
Capt. Mike got us to our destination on Tuesday but it was tough to stand to fish on a rocking deck. We made a few attempts, but the fish had lockjaw and many on the boat were feeling seasick, including me.
So Capt. Mike decided to cut the trip short, refunded everybody's money and headed back to shore. The trip back with the tide was much more enjoyable even though my sister unknowingly poured salt into the wound.
While checking my cellphone on the way back to Zeke's Marina, I found photos of all of the stripers that she and her family had caught at Lake Texoma that morning.
My deep sea fishing adventure would have to wait for the next vacation and hopefully a calmer day on the ocean.
I spent the rest of Tuesday at the beach, catching rays and admiring a fisherman who was wading chest-deep into the surf to catch pompano running in the channel.
The red snapper I had planned to grill for my evening meal instead became a shrimp pizza ordered from Lillian's. Not a bad consolation prize. It really is a sweet, sweet life by the salty sea.
Q&A: David Stewart, owner of Raven Resources
David Stewart, 59, of Edmond is owner of Raven Resources, an oil and gas company in Oklahoma City. He also is part-owner of Zeke's Marina in Orange Beach, Ala., which is home to one of the largest fishing charter businesses on the Gulf of Mexico.
Q: Did you grow up in Oklahoma?
A: I am originally from Meridian, Miss. We moved to Oklahoma in 1997 to open a business, an employee leasing company with a guy I played golf with out of college, Rick Webb. His family owned an independent insurance agency in Oklahoma City. We have been there ever since, raised our kids in Deer Creek schools.
Q: How did you get in the fishing business?
A: It (the employee leasing company) was very successful and in a year and a half we sold it. Then we got into the oil and gas business and took oil and gas money and invested in real estate on the Gulf Coast. That is how we ended up with the marina.
Q: Why buy a marina?
A: The marina was built in 1989. I had a bought a large, sport fishing boat with another guy that was at this marina. The owners of the marina, which was several boat captains and business people, had sold it. After they made the deal with the buyer, they found out the buyer was going to bull doze the marina and build high-rise condos. They came to me and asked me to come into the deal and keep the marina.
Q: Were you familiar with the Orange Beach area before?
A: When I was a kid I came down here a lot. It was a 2½-hour drive (from Meridian, Miss.) We would drive down here Saturday morning and spend the day and go back to Meridian. Then it was just a few two-lane roads, pretty beaches and gorgeous waters.
Q: Is fishing a passion of yours?
A: Not a passion. I enjoy it. It's a passion for oldest son and my wife enjoys it. It gives me the opportunity to be unreachable, to go out on the water and disappear.
Q: Is red snapper the most popular species for anglers at Orange Beach?
A: It would be if we had a longer season. We started what we called the red snapper world championships. This marina is the home of it. But every weekend there is a big-game fishing tournament somewhere up and down the gulf coast. And there are all kinds of inshore fishing. Our inshore guides are basically busy 12 months out of there.
Q: How many Oklahomans do you see at the marina?
A: I've probably seen two dozen groups from Oklahoma the last two weeks.