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Kuwaiti Kingfish: Adventure & Friendship Aboard an Army Vessel at Sea
Guy Harvey Outpost is all about adventure travel. As the saying goes: The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is “Attitude.” In honor of Patriots’ Day on September 11th we thought we would share a fishing adventure from Austin Capers & his pals on the US Army Vessel Lt. General William Bunker.
Austin grew up on the waters of Jupiter, Florida. Fishing was such an important part of his life he became a commercial fisherman and was fishing right up until he joined the Army in 2004. Six months after finishing training he volunteered for a deployment on the United States Army Vessel Lt. Gen William Bunker at Kuwait Naval Base.
Austin and his ship mates arrived in Kuwait mid-May just in time for summer to crank up. Their mission was to upload battle damaged equipment and transport it to various countries on the Persian Gulf to be fixed or replaced.
On an early mission to Bahrain they found several Okuma rods and reels that had been donated by the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) years before. The guys tried to fish them but the line was shot and they had little or no tackle. Austin’s Dad went to pals at Fishing Headquarters in Jupiter to round up some gear. Most of us think of Mom’s baked goods when we think of “Care Packages” from home. Austin’s was full of enough Ande mono to re-spool three rods, heavy mono leaders, a planer and assorted trolling rigs.
Also on board was Mickey Swoyer, a fisherman and “A character”, from the Outer Banks area in North Carolina, who shared Austin’s love for fishing. The Lt General William Bunker is a 274 foot, flat bottom, landing craft with bow and stern ramps for “Roll On – Roll Off” loading. Picture trolling out of a tuna-tower.
On their down time, the two started trying different combinations of trolling rigs, including a couple of Wahoo rigs Mr. Capers sent. The best working rig ended up being a simple pink skirt with a double rigged 6-0 hook set. “We were amazed how they loved that pink skirt!” Attempts to use the planer at cruising speed proved dangerous. “It flew out of the water like a Polaris missile.”
To hear Austin tell it, “The stern of this vessel sits about 20-30 feet off the water so we had to let a ridiculous amount of line out.” The boat cruised at 9-11 knots which ended up working perfectly. “After we started catching fish our skipper gave us a hand help radio so that every time we hooked up we could yell “Fish ON!!!” into the radio and he would stop the boat. It was awesome! We caught 6 to 10 kings and an assortment of other strange looking sea creatures. We lost a massive one at the pilot door that was much bigger than the one pictured here. It was a huge morale booster for the entire 30 man crew.”
Austin went on to spend four more years on active duty including a 15 month deployment to Iraq. Today he is back in Jupiter with his family. Mickey has relocated to Daytona Beach with his family and the guys are hoping for a reunion soon.
Thank you Austin, Mickey and all who serve our country.