“Steer Away” – Miss Judy Charters

A woman holding a large fish on a boat.

“Steer Away” a fishing story

by Miss Judy

Back in the late fifties, I remember my father telling me about the abundance of Spanish mackerel that we had in our area. In fact, during this time they basically covered most of the nearshore surface waters around Tybee Roads. (Better known as the Savannah Shipping Channel) According to daddy, this unbelievable phenomenon took place during the very warm month of August. In fact, I do remember going out and fishing for them. I really can’t remember a time that we didn’t load all of the coolers. I also can’t remember what we did with all of the fish. I guess we ate some and gave the others away. I do remember that we had lots of customers that loved to charter his big boat during this time. That’s how it was back in the old days.

My father always told me that the Spanish mackerel really don’t start pushing the small baitfish up to surface until after around August 9. I have seen them schooling on the surface a lot before this time. However, they really do seem to stay longer after the first of August. There was this other information that he shared with me. He told me that the boats that were traveling to the south during this time experience quite a few problems. My ear perked up with that statement. According to my father, there was so many Spanish mackerel schooling on the surface that boats traveling over 15 knots were scared to run through the schools. I know I had to look a little puzzled when he made this statement. The reason wasn’t because of the surface schooling mackerel. It was because of what was feeding in and around the schools that had yachtsmen so very upset. When traveling on the water you would be surprised how fast news travels. A Statement on the VHF radio goes a long way. There were several reports of boats hitting all sorts of large objects while powering through the schools. Normally when you hit something with a boat the impact forces the object to the surface. It might not stay there long, but most of the time you at least get a good look at it. However, according to the information received these objects weren’t logs or boards. Daddy said it could have been anything from a large shark, floating turtle, to a dolphin (mammal).

After hearing this story and being a small child my imagination soared. In my mind here’s exactly what I pictured. The sharks were searching with large fins up. Their mouths were fully lined with white smiling teeth. Hanging out were numerous heads and tails of Spanish mackerel. As far as the turtles I pictured them floating on their backs with napkin out and a balanced paper plate. Now for the dolphin and Spanish mackerel. I figured they were just playing a continuous game of catch with the fish. In other words a “SPANISH MACKEREL TOSS!”

I know there aren’t as many fish as there were back in the old days. However, I have a habit of always when running fast to steer away from any type of surface schooling fish. Now you know the rest of the story!

Captain Judy Helmey Miss Judy Charters Savannah, Georgia

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