Sportfishing is one of Andy Graham’s favorite pastimes. “I enjoy being out on the beautiful ocean – in God’s creation with God’s creatures – having a good time with friends and family.”
A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Graham started fishing literally in his backyard. The family lived on a 70-acre lake full of bass and crappie. Family vacations in the 1960s and 1970s were spent in Clearwater, Florida.
“We’d go out on one of those old-style head boats, where you’d have 40 to 50 people on a 70- to 80-foot boat and fish for red snapper and black grouper,” he says.
What captivated Graham about fishing, and kept him out on the water rather than on the soccer or football fields, he says, “is that I enjoyed it. I was good at it because I’d done it almost my entire life and had developed a skill set for different species. Plus, I was lucky and always caught a lot of fish.”
Graham attended the University of Alabama on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and majored in accounting. After graduation, he was stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“Living there, I was right on the coast and right in the heart of fishing,” he says. “We’d fish for everything from red fish to speckled trout, king mackerel, snapper, grouper and amberjack. We’d go offshore 50 to 60 miles and fish off the oil platforms. Not a lot of people go out there, but those platforms are an enormous attraction to fish. Sometimes, we’d spend three days at a time out there in a 26-foot boat.”
In the late 1970s, Graham moved back to Tuscaloosa to work with his father in the family plumbing business. He took over company’s helm in 1981, and at the same time, moved up to a 32-foot Scottie Craft that he kept at Dauphin Island.
“We’d fish every weekend and every tournament,” he says. “One of the most popular was the Dauphin Island Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. The concentration was on bottom fishing and I was very successful in this tournament for a number of years.”
Graham bought a 44-foot Luhrs in the mid-1990s, which he named Yellowfin, and still owns today and keeps in Orange Beach.
“The bigger boat allowed us to venture even further into the blue water for blue marlin and sailfish,” he says. “We could reach the ‘nipple’ area off Pensacola and Desoto Canyon.”
One of Grahams two favorite fishing tournaments in this area are the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club’s Memorial and Labor Day events.
Graham started fishing further afield in 1997 when he visited St. Thomas to angle.
“I booked charters for tournaments like the ‘Boy Scout’ (USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin) with the local guys like Mixed Bag,” says Graham. “I’ve always caught blue marlin when fishing off St. Thomas. I’ve been most successful dragging plastic for marlin or teaser fishing with pitch baits. The thrill of the bite is incredible.”
Graham also enjoys fishing for other types of billfish during the 100 or so days a year he puts a rod in his hand.
“We go to Islamorada in the Keys for sailfish in the winter,” he says. “I also work with Boy Scouts in the Keys each summer, taking them out and teaching them how to fish. Both of my sons were Eagle Scouts.”
Graham has fished for striped marlin and sailfish in Hawaii and Cabo San Lucas and for everything from blue marlin and sailfish to tuna, wahoo and dorado in Costa Rica.
“Someday I’d like to fish for black marlin off the Great Barrier Reef,” he says. “The Seychelles is another place I’d like to fish, as well as the Galapagos now that it’s open.”
One of Graham’s best story happened last summer during a trip with five friends to Venice, Louisiana.
“We caught over 1400 pounds of fish, mostly bonito, amberjack and kingfish - we were busy catching fish from the time the bait went in the water at sun-up until dark-thirty. That was a great day,” says Graham.
When Graham isn’t fishing he’s hunting in the West for mule deer and elk. His two recreational passions come together at Christmastime.
“My son and I spend three days cooking up wild game and fish we’ve frozen like snapper and grouper. Nothing is pre-prepared or processed. We make all the sauces from scratch. No two dishes are cooked the same way. For example, there’s grilled tuna and sautéed snapper, each with their own seasonings. We invite over 250 family, friends and customers for the feast on the Monday prior to Christmas,” he says. “It’s been a tradition we’ve enjoyed for 15 years and we’ll do it again this year.”