Fish Post

Tidelines – October 12, 2017

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Early proof that this wasn’t your typical head boat fishing trip was handed to me just after we broke plane of the Masonboro jetties in the form of a “Good Morning, Deer” breakfast burrito and a Bloody Mary.

Proof wasn’t needed, of course, as this was the ninth year of the annual “Fish Post Day on the Vonda Kay,” and I was already well accustomed with the many reasons why this is easily one of our favorite fishing trips of the year.

There are plenty of constants each year—J.K.’s (the galley chef’s) impressive menu, the hospitality and attentiveness of the mates, the deadpan humor of Dave (our captain) who has no sense of humor about a banana, etc. The guest list, however, changes each year, and that ever-evolving cast of characters is what truly gives this annual bottom fishing trip its personality and identity.

Thank you, Austin Campbell, for offering your bare back to see if we could get a large remora to stick. Our second attempt confirmed the results of the first—this particular remora was too big and heavy to hang unassisted, but it was able to leave behind a couple of hand-sized hickey mementos.

Thank you, Jen Young and Kerri “Guns” Crocker, for keeping alive the tradition of female arm wrestling. In my opinion every fishing trip is better when two women are locked in battle and you can cheer on your favorite to win (hint: the nickname gives away the winner).

Thank you, Nick Miller, for being the first to take off your shirt and free oh so much of yourself for the world to see.

Thank you, Scott Wallen, for making everyone else look better by being that guy—that guy that clogged the toilet so bad that it took about 15 minutes of tactical engineering to solve.

Condolences, Joe Pihlblad, for being a different, more sympathetic version of that guy—that guy that started getting seasick before we got past the sea buoy. I applaud your efforts to eat something (failing), drink something (failing), and fish through it (failing). Next year I say you go again but go with the patch, and then no way will you get sick again.

Congratulations, Tommy Cockerham, on bringing home your first gag grouper. This was Tommy’s fifth year in a row making the trip, and while his end-of-the-day stringer has always been heavy (except for maybe that first year when he was the different, more sensitive, Joe Pihlblad version of that guy), landing a prize grouper eluded him. Not this trip, though. Sure, we had to measure the fish closely to make sure (double sure) it met the 25” minimum, but the fish did measure, and now Tommy is officially in the Vonda Kay Grouper Club.

Thank you, Billy Thorpe, for your underwhelming display of fortitude. The day of our trip was also Billy’s birthday, and the goal was set for him to drink one beer with each person on the trip. I think he made it through two people. I thank him because his weak drinking efforts made me remember and miss Max Gaspeny, Billy’s polar opposite on the Vonda Kay.

Thank you, Jeter Allred, for bringing your electric reels on board. Since the “Fish Post Day on the Vonda Kay” big fish pot excludes electric reels, that near-19 lb. gag grouper that Jeter brought up a few moments into our first drop couldn’t be a contender.

Thank you, Kathy Allred, for being everyone’s best friend on the boat. Since I know I won’t always have you on board to take care of me, I will be sure moving forward to always pack my own baby wipes, sunglass wipes, and salt tablets. The perfectly-aged venison, though, is going to be much harder to solve on my own.

Congratulations, Leslie Hurley, my beautiful wife that looks even more attractive when she’s fighting a nice gag out of the rocks below. It was exciting having you be the first non-electric angler to put a potential money fish in the box.


Leslie Hurley with the 13 lb. 6 oz. gag grouper that almost won the big fish pot on the annual “Fish Post Day on the Vonda Kay.”


Let me also thank you, Leslie Hurley, for catching a grouper that, despite being longer than my gag, somehow came up just one ounce shy, allowing me to be the big fish pot winner. While I enjoyed being handed an envelope of cash at the end of the day, what was most valuable about our close finish was that it showed me who my true friends were, and apparently my true friends are no one. There wasn’t one person on that boat rooting for my fish to win.

Finally, thank you, Capt. Dave Gardner, for the friendship. I hope you can tell how much I always enjoy our time together. Hopefully this Tidelines article reaches people and they decide to head offshore with you to land some big fish and create memories of their own. Hopefully I’m a good ambassador and successfully convey to people why they should go fishing with you.



Dave’s 72’ “Vonda Kay” is docked beside Motts Channel Seafood on Wrightsville Beach. You can visit him online at or call him at (910) 555-3474, as he will continue to run both half day and full day trips until the end of the year. You may also want to ask him about the type of trip Fisherman’s Post does every fall—book the entire head boat for a private party charter.

I can guarantee Dave and his crew will work hard to get you on a good bite, but I can’t promise that he won’t collude against you in the big fish pot if you’re up against an attractive woman.