Fish Post

Tidelines – November 14, 2019

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Capt. Dave Gardner and the head boat Vonda Kay now have a new home at the Carolina Beach docks, recently moving from the Motts Channel Seafood docks, and while that wasn’t the only change for this year’s Fish Post Day on the Vonda Kay (the trip went as planned on the first attempt at a date, which almost never happens), most everything else about our day with Capt. Dave Gardner and crew felt familiar.

Roughly 30 people—a balance of Fish Post employees, family, and friends—met just before 7:00 am to head offshore for a day of bottom fishing. Grouper is always the target species whenever we’re on the Vonda Kay, but our crowd was also hopeful for stringers of sea bass, grunts, and any other species that can potentially come up from the deep whenever you’re offshore.

The galley menu, always put together with love by resident chef JK, welcomed everyone to relax and enjoy the ride out to our first drop. I opted for the S.O.B., a steak and onion (and egg and cheese) burrito, and then gave in to peer pressure to celebrate the navigation of the Carolina Beach Inlet with a breakfast beer.

Our first drop was some live bottom in about 75’ of water. On this late-October day, there still hadn’t been any cigar minnows in town to buy, so everyone wanting to drop big baits had brought along Boston mackerel and Spanish sardines. Everyone, that is, but JK. JK, who allows himself to quickly get in some drops while the grill is quiet, sent down a dead pinfish with a “zombie” shrimp.

The “zombie” shrimp got their name because, as explained, “they came back from the dead.” From what I could gather in the cryptic inside joke, these large, odd-looking shrimp had been discovered in some forgotten corner of some forgotten freezer, and now they were on JK’s hook on the ocean floor.

JK’s pinfish/“zombie” shrimp brought over the rails our first keeper gag of the day, and a grouper in the box got everyone excited, as we all seemed to try even harder on being the next to accomplish the target species.

My wife Leslie, fishing next to JK, smartly allowed JK to set her up with the pinfish/“zombie” combo, and sure enough, she was the second to bring up a keeper gag (which also turned out to be the big fish of the day and the pot winner).

Unfortunately, the “zombie” shrimp weren’t automatic for everyone. There was a big bag of them out for anyone to grab, and after two grouper, several of us tried tipping our own cut bait with them. They apparently didn’t work for anyone else, but fortunately, a number of anglers on our trip didn’t need a “zombie” to pull up their own gags.

And when you have a flounder closure, of course someone on the boat is going to catch a nice one. Austin landed an estimated 4 lb. flatfish. A handful of people started to debate whether or not we could keep it and eat it on the boat, since we were in federal waters, but before the conversation got any legs, the captain came into the circle, grabbed the fish, and threw it back overboard.

Pictured are (l-r) Rick, Tom, Leslie, Tommy, and JJ–some of the anglers that managed to bring up the target species on the 2019 Fish Post Day on the Vonda Kay.

Back at the docks, everyone grabbed their fish and quickly said their goodbyes, because a full day of bottom fishing can be a tiring day.

Katelyn and Rosa, the two full-time Fish Post employees on the trip, most likely headed home to finish what they started in the Vonda Kay cabin—some more sleep.

Rachel, who writes tournament articles for Fish Post, and her roommate Corey were headed home to host Corey’s birthday party at their house. They are both in the restaurant/bar business, so the party was predicted to last until about 4:00 am, despite their slightly sunburned faces and tired eyes.

Eric added value to his presence on the guest list by informing Dave on plans to dredge Topsail Inlet and the channels behind Topsail (Eric works in the dredging industry and had knowledge that apparently hadn’t been made public yet), but Austin lost value—two years ago Austin had allowed friends to affix a remora to his back, but this year the remora-stuck-to-the-body didn’t happen, and that definitely decreased his worth.

Weigh Master John Metzger always brings a handful of his rugby buddies on the trip, and while I don’t know what the rugby guys had planned for the rest of Friday night, my guess would be a quiet night at home playing board games and searching through Pinterest for clever holiday ideas.

Tommy went home with his second-ever gag grouper, proving that his first one a couple of years ago wasn’t a fluke, and Bryan won the award for landing the most species that can’t be kept, logging an American red, a rudderfish, and an almaco jack.

Capt. Dave Gardner and the 72’ head boat Vonda Kay will be offering full day bottom fishing trips until the end of the year. The two days they schedule each week for these trips are Thursdays and Saturdays, but you can also do like Fisherman’s Post and book the entire head boat for a private-party trip. Give Dave a call at (910) 545-3474, or go online to

The green water following Dorian has now completely cleaned up, and fishing the blue water has been consistently producing. East trips, like ours, have been doing better with sea bass and grunts, but when Dave heads more south, they’ve seen more beeliners and pink snappers.

Whether Dave decides to head east or more south, be sure to ask him at the start of the day to take you to the good spots first. Just don’t ask him while you’re eating a banana, though. You’ll want to keep the bananas hidden.

The crew of the 2019 Fish Post Day on the Vonda Kay show off a number of gags and assorted stringers of (predominantly) sea bass and grunts. They were fishing in 75-85′ of water out of Carolina Beach, the new home of the Vonda Kay.