Fishermen love practical jokes. Whether it’s a way to stave off boredom, the result of being overserved at the bar or just a bunch of overgrown adolescents having a laugh at someone else’s expense, jokes and pranks come with the territory. The best seem to find their way around the world as they pass from mouth to ear, captain to deckhand, owner to angler. Here are just a few from around the docks.
It’s Raining Beans
This is a classic old-school prank that we first started doing about 15 years ago when we were traveling and fishing down in Mexico. It’s harmless and not even that messy, but pretty funny. In the wee hours of the night or early morning, sneak aboard your buddy’s sport-fisher. Carry with you a 5-pound bag of dry beans and pour them neatly in the center of the bridge hardtop. There’s no need to go all the way up to the tower — just make a nice, neat pile of beans near where the radar is mounted. Then slip away.
The next day when your buddy leaves the slip, he’ll be clueless. As he leaves the inlet, first one, then two, then 10 beans start rolling off the top and bouncing into the cockpit. As he really pushes the throttles up, the beans will begin to rain down on the unsuspecting crew below. The first time I did this, it was to a buddy of mine who was leaving from Key West [Florida] and heading over to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It was dark when he left, but as the sun came up, he started hearing these little tink, tink sounds of the beans hitting the cockpit. He was wondering what was going on until he got on plane, and they really started coming down. It’s definitely a good prank for the guy who had a big day yesterday and might have celebrated a little too hard last night. There are a couple cardinal rules for pranks, though: You can’t do anything that could damage the boat, and you can’t mess with the owners or charter guests. You don’t want to belittle anyone — what comes around, goes around. Pretty much everything else is fair game.
— Capt. Ed Thompson
Murphy’s Tomatoes and Free Firewood
Murphy Creef ran a boat called the Dare Devil out of Oregon Inlet. He had a personality that wouldn’t offend a soul, but whatever you had done in the past, he had done it bigger and better. He had an old horse named Thunderbolt, and one day he decided he was going to grow tomatoes using the horse’s manure as fertilizer. He’d tell us on the radio: “Don’t worry about your tomatoes this season, boys. I’m gonna have everyone covered.” He just went on and on about how he was going to grow some great tomatoes this year. Well, Murphy left Oregon Inlet for a week to go fish the Big Rock tournament in Morehead City [North Carolina], so while he was gone, I bought a bunch of little cherry tomatoes and sewed them on all his plants with a needle and some thread. When he got back from the tournament, he asked me to give him a ride to his house and have a beer with him. As we were walking up the driveway, Murphy froze up like a bird dog and says, “Wow, look at all those tomatoes! I told you boys I could grow ’em!” That night, he got so drunk, he made his girlfriend drive to the grocery store in Manteo to buy lettuce to make a salad. He ate those tomatoes for a couple days until he sobered up and realized they were sewn on his plants. To this day, ask Murphy Creef about his tomatoes and he will blush.
Another time, V.P. Brinson was aboard Phideaux out fishing one day and said he was getting a new fireplace, did any of us want a free cord of firewood. I got right back to him and said, “Sure, I’d love some.” Well it turns out the wood was rotten, and V.P. apologized about it. The next day, someone asked about the firewood on the radio, so Hank Beasley from Top Billin got the bright idea to take out an ad in the Sunday newspaper that said, “Free Firewood: Call Capt. V.P. Brinson. After 9 p.m.” Now anyone who’s been around the charter docks knows that we’re all in bed pretty early. Sure enough, the phone starts ringing off the hook every night for a week — all the folks in Dare County wanting free firewood and V.P. just wanting to get some sleep.
— Capt. Butch Cox
Stuart, Florida / Ocean City, Maryland
The Poopy Pig
It was during the Presidential Challenge tournament in Guatemala a few years ago. Hill Dishman from Texas had a prank going back and forth with [Rum Line owner] Jim Turner. Hill owns Allure but was fishing with me on Intensity during the tournament. On the second night, Hill had the Casa Vieja Lodge manager put a goat on Rum Line, which we all thought was pretty funny. The next day, Hill was fishing on my boat, so Jim had somebody put a pig on my boat, locked in the forward head. And basically that pig was not happy — there was pig poop everywhere. The head was a hazardous-waste zone for the day, and the stink permeated throughout the boat. It was incredible.
When I showed up in the morning, I knew something was wrong because everyone on the dock was staring at me. I got on the boat and both my mates were scared. I was standing on the back deck when I heard a noise coming from the head — I knew I was getting the short end of the stick at that point. I asked my mate, “Que es?” He said, “Un cerdo” — a pig. I looked over at Rum Line, and Jim Turner is looking at me with a huge grin on his face. He knew he won that round. A local guy came down with a piece of rope and got the pig wrangled off the boat and up the dock, right past Joan [Vernon, the tournament director] and all the other anglers and observers. I can laugh about it now, but it really wasn’t all that funny at the time. It certainly was a memorable tournament.
— Capt. Mike Sheeder
Casa Vieja Lodge, Guatemala
We were down in Isla Mujeres for sailfish season three or four years ago, and one of our dock partners was Capt. Dennis Endee on A-Salt-Weapon. We thought Dennis might have been sandbagging us a little on his catch numbers, so I hired a mariachi band to follow him around after he got back one day. It was pretty funny, so the next day, I hired the same band, and they’re waiting for him to get back. As he’s backing the boat into the slip, they’re belting out mariachi music, trumpets blaring, drums — the whole 9 yards. They even follow Dennis around after he gets off the boat. He gives them some money to go away, but the band thinks it’s a tip and plays even louder and longer than before.
Another time in Isla, I was mating for Kenny Lohr on Cop Out. We got a bite on the flat line, so I’m standing there anticipating a bite from another fish. All of a sudden, a wall of cold water hits me from behind and almost knocked me off my feet. They had passed a 5-gallon bucket of water up to the bridge and dumped it on me. You’d be surprised how much force that water has when it falls from the bridge to the cockpit.
We used to do quite a few little pranks on the docks in North Carolina. Capt. V.P. Brinson used to be one of the first ones to the dock every morning, and he’d be up on the bridge smoking a cigarette, just hanging out. I jumped on my boat one morning and started getting everything ready — I would use the underside of the fish-box lid as a cutting board for my chum — and when I opened the fish box, a damn rooster came flying out and nearly scared me to death. V.P. just laughed and lit another cigarette. That was a good one. Randy Turner was a captain from Hatteras who was famous for his rubber snake. He would tie it to the inside of the door in his car or under the bait-box lid with some monofilament so when you opened it, you would be greeted by this darn flying rubber snake. We also used to go up on the hardtop with some 80-pound-leader material and tie people’s outriggers together. When you go to lay them down in the morning after getting offshore, you can’t figure out why they’re both stuck together up there. There’s a bunch of them, but just a lot of little fun things like that.
— Capt. Fin Gaddy
Oregon Inlet, North Carolina
Hans Schvittel and the Secret Channel
Back when I started on the charter docks in Miami about 25 years ago, we had one day where we were trolling way out in the deep and hooked four white marlin at once. We caught only one of them, but we didn’t see too many whites back then, so it was pretty unusual. My buddy Jimbo Thomas [captain of the charter boat Thomas Flyer] got wind of our catch and decided to have a little fun with me.
I was getting ready to leave on a half-day charter trip the next day when the dockside phone rang (this was way before we all had cellphones), so I pulled the boat back in the slip, threw on one dock line, hopped off and answered the phone, hoping that it might be another charter group. The person on the other end of the line started talking about how they were coming down to Miami from someplace up north and wanted to go deep-sea fishing, just asking a million questions and rambling on. Then they asked if we could catch any white marlin on our trip. I said, ‘Sure, as a matter of fact, we caught one yesterday!’ He went on asking about how many people he could bring, and I said six. In a thick German accent, he said: “Vell den, put me down for me, my wife and my girlfriend. My name is Hans. Hans Schvittel.” Turns out that it was Jimbo Thomas on the phone and about five other charter captains listening to the call, and they were all just rolling with laughter. It’s been 25 years and those guys still ask me if I ever hear from my old buddy Hans Schvittel to go white marlin fishing.
Another time, they got together and talked about the secret channel on the VHF radio. We’d all be out fishing and one would say, “OK, go to the secret channel.” It drove me nuts! So finally Jimbo takes me aside one day and says: “You’ve finally earned it. I’m going to give you the secret channel. The secret is: There is no secret channel.” They had been going on and on about this for weeks.
— Capt. Quenton Dieterle
There were always some practical jokes going around, sometimes for a couple months at a time. You have to remember that back then, you’d have a bunch of boats down in Mexico with at least two guys on each one who were traveling away from home, so there was always something going on. Iguanas were big in Mexico. The local kids used to catch the iguanas for pets, and it was pretty common to go back to the boat and find one in the microwave. But the tarantulas were probably the worst. Sometimes you’d hear a mate screaming first thing in the morning — someone had put a tarantula in his bait box. We were coming home from dinner one night, and Mike Butler was driving this tiny little Geo Tracker. It was pitch-black outside. I was sitting up front, and Luke Crenshaw and Cujo Brinkmeyer were in the back. Mike saw a tarantula in the road, so I jumped out and tried to catch it between two Solo cups. It took me a few minutes to catch it because it was jumping around, but the guys were all watching me like I was crazy. I finally caught the tarantula and got back in the Tracker with that spider — those two big guys bailed out of the back in about a half-second.
— Capt. Kevin Deerman