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skinnywater 04-07-2010 06:29 AM

Operation Still Waters, DRUM!
This is a trip of a different kind. Through networking with SaltyShores Fishing and Outdoor Photography, Blog, Travel, Boating, Tackle reviews I meet Dale Snead with Operation Still Waters. Operation Still Waters recognizes the healing properties of fishing and being on the water. They aim to provide that experience to those who have been wounded serving as Military, Law Enforcement, or Firefighter.

We were the first to be able to help get someone out for Operation Still Waters. Gerry and His father met us at the house around 8am, and we loaded up the boat and headed up to St Pete. Waiting for the tide to change we had breakfast at a local dive, Skyway Jacks. If you haven't been there yet it is amazing. Cash only, get the meatloaf and eggs. More food than you can eat, and perfect for the almost food induced coma energy rush perfect for fishing.

We made it to the ramp around 930ish and dunk the bay boat. before we backed down the ramp my Pa realized that the Ball lock was not tightened down on the trailer tongue. We made it all the way from Bradenton, to St Pete including the Skyway without it popping off, LUCKY! We dunk the boat and get on our way My Pa, Bret Williams a local FireMedic for Sarasota County, Gerry and his father, and myself.

We hopped up on plane and ran to the staging area for the fish at the tide turn. As we were making our way around the Sandbar to the spot we ran right over them! We came of plane and I made a short cast to the fish, and hooked up. Passed the rod off and Gerry was in for a rude surprise. Even on heavy tackle these drum will give you a run for your money. After a good little fight we got it boat side for a pic.

When we hit the school they were sub 6ft of water. After we hooked that one the school took off running and we lost sight of it. So we had to get back to work and find them again. It didn't take long before we met up with another boat that was pushing them along. Within 15 minutes we hooked up on another fish. Bret with his biggest black drum.

After that fish was landed we were found. 2 boats became 7 in the blink of an eye. There were a couple guide boats in the 24ft range that were going Tit for tat on cutting each other off with 3ft of clearance making it not fun, or safe to stay on these fish. They were being pushed and pressured hard. We picked up and started looking for our own school of unpressured fish.

We ran for 6 miles and didn't find anything and we started to weigh our options. No way that there was only one school of those fish. We had seen over 2,000 fish within the past week. We start working our way to the Skyway. We found a boat with something popping out in front that looked like a school of Mackerel eating on top. We will take it! As we approach the boat the water out in front turns brown like the plague. DRUM! The other boat had found his own school, and was putting the hurting on them! Unpressured fish in 8-15ft of water TAILING on the surface.

I casted a couple of rods out and it was instant hook-ups! Rod bending action for all. Gerry and his Pa had a double in the boat in short order.

After that Gerry's Pa got a little hair, and decided to throw the light tackle at them, St. Croix Premier 8-15lb, Penn reel w/8lb PowerPro, 25lb leader, 1/4 Mission Fishin Jig Head, DOA GoldRush Paddle Tail. Two cast later he stuck one! He put the hurting on the fish for a good 25-30 minutes. Getting tired he wasn't watching his step and fell in the deck! I was casting another rod off the bow and caught the action out of the corner of my eye. Bret was quick to respond to help him out and I grabbed the rod from him so he could get up. Then it happened. Another one ate on the rod that I was casting! I set the hook and held on, rod in each hand hooked up on 40+lb drum! Bret took over on the heavy rod and I was determined to land this fish that took out Gerry's Pa. About 15 minutes later I got it boat side. It was a Wale! We had to get a picture of this fish! Bret and Charles getting it done. Charles couldn't hold him! Easily over 50lbs of fish! He took a long break after that one.

After that the school got even more tightly packed. I snapped a couple pics while I still could. If any other boats saw this we would have been had. They go another 50ft out each side of the frame, and Surface to Bottom. 3 tailing, with one hooked up in lower left.

We stopped taking pictures. It was interfering with fishing. We were doubled and tripled the whole time. After we ran out of the 7 dozen Shrimp we started throwing artificials and the bite kept on! Taking pictures of the fish would have been counter productive. I was having to unhook fish, make cast, drive the boat, unhook fish, unhook another fish, make a cast, drive boat, lol.

Then it happened. Gerry hooked up with his big fish of the day. By now Gerry had the fighting the fish down and had this one to the boat in short order. It was the a very healthy 50+lber!

Another boat showed up in the mix and was helping us coral the fish away from the Zoo. There fish kept coming unbuttoned at the side of the boat. I told them if they got a double in I would get a pic for them. I got a couple, but this is the best one. Right after this the gentleman on the left started yelling at me, "I can't hold him any longer!" and he dropped the fish over the side of the boat. Both in the 45lb range.

My Pa decided to get in the madness and got this double in short order.

After we put a couple more in the boat everyone started taking 5 minute breaks after there fish, and declining hand-offs on hooked fish. So we called it a day a little before 4pm and headed back to the ramp.

My Pa pulled the boat onto the trailer and I clipped it into the winch. He ran it to about 1ft from the roller and let me crank it the rest of the way in. I got it close enough to put the chain on it so we could get in on flat land. Once up the ramp I went to pull the boat the rest of the way up to the roller and SNAP! Winch Strap broke just below the double stitch of the clip. Lucky #2 or some good Karma, either way I am not complaining! Cut it off and retied a knot so we could make it home.

Later that afternoon I got an email from Gerry and Dale Snead about the trip. Short story about Gerry and the trip!

On that fateful day of September 11, 2001 Gerry Crews was in rural Florida suveying when he heard news of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. Before the second plane hit, he was already on the phone with recruiters. The Navy veteran had stepped up again to serve his country, this time with the Florida National Guard. After a short refresher at Camp Blanding and Fort Stewart the 30 or so volunteers were put into the Third Infantry Division and were on their way to Iraq, Once there, Crews was a forward observer and saw action from North Iraq to Ramadi and Bagdad. During one of the firefights the thought occurred to him that day was his birthday, he had just turned 45. Some time after that their compound came under attack. Being off duty he grabbed his body armor and his kevlar and ran to the fight. During this particular fight Crews tore up his knee yet stayed "in country" until the job was done. Once stateside, he required a couple surgeries on his knee and is yet in need of another. His time in the Army was over.

Upon returning home he discovered life as he had left it had changed. It is all too common for many returning home. Things were tough for him but through is faith, family and friends he now has a new lease on life.

Bruce and his son Richard Traugott were one of the first to offer to do "anything necessary" for Operation Still Waters to help get Vets, LEO or Firefighters on the water and offered to take out Gerry and his father Charles (Poppa) Crews for a day on the water since Gerry had to sell his boat some time ago.

After a little work on scheduling, today was the day to get out on the water. Both Gerry and "Poppa" had sore arms from the number and size of the black drum they fought today. "Poppa" said that he never would have dreamed they they would catch and release "over 400 pounds of fish". Throughout the trip there were multiple hookups and the number of fish caught was forgotten in all the excitement.
The pictures tell the full story.
Gerry wanted to be assured that his personal grattitude was relayed to Bruce, Richard and Brett and OSW.
Much grattitude to Bruce and to Richard for their willingness to help and providing a lifetime memory for one worthy vet and friend Gerry and his dad "Poppa" Crews.

It was also found out after the trip that Charles "Poppa" Crews has terminal Lung Cancer. Making this trip even more meaningful to everyone involved. Great time had by all!

-Richard Traugott
[email protected]

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