The Reef Donkey-My Scout 18 Foot Sportfisher with 100 HP Yamaha Four-Stroke sporting her new Fishmaster Folding T-Top
There is a legend behind the madness of how my boat got its name. Many of you probably know that a reef donkey is slang for a greater amberjack, a reef-dwelling fish known for its tenacity, strength and all-around bad temperament. I had never heard the term used at the time the legend was born. If you are ever lucky enough to tangle with one of these brutes, you will understand how that name came to be attached to this giant fish.
While fishing with Captain Jason Phillips of Phillips Brothers Charters in my boat I was fortunate enough to hook and land a 70 pound cobia (not an amberjack). Upon landing this once-in-a-lifetime catch, he proclaimed it a "Reef Donkey" due to the fight it put up. It stuck me as a very funny phrase that ended up giving me enough reason to attach it to the old girl.
The photo to the left is of the original Reef Donkey cobia that kicked my behind. I was too tired to even think about lifting it up like he did. Jason weighs about 190 pounds, so that should give you some idea about how big this fish was.
My older brother, Alvin, is an old, washed-up and retired football coach and principal who now makes a living writing outdoor articles for several area and state newspapers and other publications. He also writes football history books for high schools in the state of Georgia. I think he missed his calling and maybe he should have gone into sports/outdoor journalism. After telling him my story about landing the beast, he wrote the following article which has appeared in several publications around the state. I hope to include many more of his highly interesting and sometimes humorous fishing adventures.
Landing the Great Reef
My brother Alan Richardson of
slick passing fame (basketball) and smooth fielding stardom (baseball) is also
a fisherman of considerable skill. Proof
of this statement was once again verified this summer when he caught a real
life reef donkey off the waters of Matanzas Inlet, Florida
(Yep a reef donkey).
Now even if you are a
knowledgeable fisherman in your own right you may quite understandably ask what
sort of creature this might be. If you
have wet a hook in salt water you realize that beasts defying description are
often caught. In the local vernacular peculiar
to those who fish in the ocean, a reef donkey is a particularly substantial and
ornery critter that, when hooked will turn your legs to jelly and reduce your
arms to trembling appendages before it comes over the boat gunwale. If an explanation in Latin is more to your
liking the fish might otherwise be referred to as a Submarinus gluteus maximus
(roughly translating as a water dwelling, big behinded fish). That translation is not exactly literal and
takes into consideration that this is a family newspaper.
Let me give you some of the
particulars. While trolling a Mann’s Stretch
30 Plus plug over an offshore reef, Alan was alerted to the fact that his ultra
strong rod was suddenly bent double and the drag was screaming for mercy. At first he could not loosen the pole from
its placement in the rod holder but once that was accomplished he began to
fight the thrashing monster on the other end.
After fifteen minutes of hand to hand combat Alan began to feel the
onset of jelly legs and upper extremity discomfort. At this point he calmly squealed to his
fishing partner to strap on his fighting belt and hold him from behind lest he be dragged into the
sea. Alas, the belt designed to keep him
in the boat was wrapped around him in a peculiar and uncomfortable manner further
complicating the matter.
At this point in the tussle
Alan’s partner, Jason Phillips, made a decision to crank up the boat and chase the fish since
Alan obviously was not going to be able to get it in before nightfall. In the mean time the fish broke water several
times leaping out of the sea and further convincing the guys that it was from a
direct lineage with Moby Dick. At the
twenty five minute mark the fish finally began to tire (although Alan was past
the tired stage and had lapsed into a near comatose state). Jason began the final phase of the
conflict by attempting to gaff the fatigued, but still green fish. Green is another vocabulary term fishermen use
that denotes the quarry is not yet ready to be plucked out of the water lest it
tear up the interior of the vessel.
fish still had obvious issues with being landed. After several vain attempts to stick the fish
they finally got it gaffed only to discover it was too heavy and active to
actually get over the side. After much
pulling, grunting and further sweating the fish came over the side only to
begin fighting anew inside the boat. It
tore up tackle boxes and coolers venting its frustrations at being lifted out
of the ocean. One last problem had to be
confronted before victory could be declared.
The fish was too big to go in the cooler. It was a 70 pound Cobia that measured 52
inches in length and it had to be doubled over in order to be stuffed in the
cooler. Once that job was completed Alan
gave his partner a low five since he could not raise his arms high enough for a
high five. The great Reef Donkey had
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!
That's how the Legend of the Reef Donkey was born.
(As a side note the world
record Cobia was caught in 1985 at Shark’s Bay off Western Australia and weighed 135 pounds and
nine ounces. I have not been able to
contact any local fishermen in Australia
to find out what nickname was given to that fish).
I (Coach Alan) also wanted to include a crazy poem that I wrote for our Christmas gathering in 2008. We have a long-standing tradition at our family get-together where some of us will make fun of other members of the family. The Flight of the Reef Donkey is a historical account of one of our first 8 man fishing trips to Lanark Village, FL.
Richardson Christmas-2008 or Flight of the Reef Donkey
By Coach R. Alan Richardson
Twas the week before Christmas, the farmhouse was
Not a creature was stirring, not even old Jack.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
I hope it’s not leaking, I patched it, I swear.
The grandkids were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of superheroes danced in their heads.
With Kathy in her kerchief and Grant in his cape.
He jumped out the window, his head’s got a scrape.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our beds to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
The tractor’s in flames, it’s nothing but ash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen dew,
Old Grandpa was watching the whole grandkid crew,
When, what to my wondering eyes should I see,
But Taylor and Andi, they’ve crashed in a tree.
With Lucy and Lindsey away at their schools,
No longer a slave to Big Daddy’s rules,
It’s Tech over Georgia, Lindsey does say,
The Jackets have waited so long for this day.
Brett with his license, Dad’s truck is in tow,
And Sheryl gives lessons on what he should know,
Laura with smoker and griller so grand,
While Alvin with TV and clicker in hand.
But Alvin and Terry were moping around,
No saltwater fishing anywhere to be found.
When, on the horizon oh, what did appear,
A miniature Reef Donkey, with much fishing gear.
With a little old driver, so skinny and bald,
It must be the Scout and this made them enthralled.
The Yamaha 4-stroke was quiet and swift,
Coach whistled, and shouted, as he put it in drift.
Now Bratcher, Now Bennie, now Dewey and Ben
On Terry, On Taylor, On Alvin, and then,
To the big town of Lanark they all did embark,
Where locals are drunk from dusk until dark.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard from the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
The Reef Donkey neying and braying his call,
Now fish away, fish away, fish away all.
The GPS purring, TE with his map,
And Bennie with homemade light on his cap.
They headed to sea with green X-Raps in hand,
And Bratcher so close our boat he might ram.
Grandpa with Zebco, Alvin with hat,
Vienna sausages, beanie weanies with fat.
Dog Island was destined to be their last stand,
If only a big one old Grandpa could land.
Their eyes-how they twinkled, their wrinkles how
SP 90 was needed to not look like a cherry.
The wind was a howlin’, the sea was insane,
They screamed and they yelled at the hemorrhoidal
The fish started biting and it was a sight,
At the schools of great grouper and fish they did
But TE was marred, and mad as a fox,
When his Redfish was too big to be put in the box.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old fish,
But TE could only have had this one wish.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know that he wanted that fish dead.
He spoke not a word and went straight to his work,
Of cleaning those fish where mosquitoes do lurk.
And laying his finger inside of his nose,
A buggar the size of a Gulp Shrimp arose.
They were covered in blood from their head to their
And their clothes were all tarnished from squirrel
Where bluefish and mackerel have been on attack,
A bundle of trout they had flung in their sack.
Robert sprang to his boat, to his team gave a
We’ll come back next year for some more big old
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of
I’m not sleeping with Bennie or you’re in for a