Fellowship is one reason Jeff Junkin likes fishing. The other, Junkin says, is because it’s relaxing. “I play golf and I hunt, but fishing is more relaxing.”
A native and life-long resident of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Junkin comes from a family of fishermen. His parents and grandparents both enjoyed and taught him how to angle for bass, brim and catfish on the state’s lakes, streams and rivers.
“I grew up hunting, camping and fishing,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed a lot of out-of-door activities with family and friends.”
Junkin got his first taste of off-shore deep-sea fishing when friend and fellow angler, Andy Graham, invited him out. This was some twenty-five years ago.
“We went out about 20 to 30 miles off Orange Beach on Andy’s boat and fished for snapper,” he recalls. “I love it and was hooked.”
Junkin still enjoys freshwater fishing, although marlin and other billfish are his favorite catch now.
“Marlin are a challenge,” he says. “You work hard, first to find them and then from the hook-up to the release. When you’re done, you can say you really accomplished something. There’s a thrill about catching big fish and being out with friends.”
Last year, he caught and released a 750-pound blue marlin when fishing in the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club’s July Open Billfish Tournament.
Junkin, along with Graham, has also fished the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin or ‘Boy Scout’ Tournament out of St. Thomas for the past five years; 2011 will make the 6th. He fishes aboard local charter boat, Mixed Bag, a Luhrs Express 40, with Capt. Rob Richards.
“We come down with our wives for the whole week and make a vacation of it,” he says, about the Boy Scout Tournament. “We’ve never won, but then again, we’ve never been skunked. This is true about most of the tournament’s we’ve fished in.”
Junkin fishes tournaments in the Gulf Coast as well as the Caribbean.
“The fun about tournament fishing is that unless you’re in a tournament, especially here in the Gulf, you wouldn’t have reason to be out on the water for three days at a time. It’s beautiful out at night, sitting there in the cockpit, eating a lightly seared tuna that you just caught,” he explains. “Of course the fun of just going out fun fishing is that you can set your own pace.”
When not tournament fishing, Junkin prefers live bait, whether he’s angling for marlin or smaller fish such as snapper or tuna. “It seems more exciting this way.”
For marlin, he adds, “My preference is to use heavier line because it’s easier to make a quick catch and release and not harm the fish.”
Some of Junkin’s best fishing days have centered on billfish.
For example, 12 years ago he, his then 16-year-old son and friends set out from Orange Beach in the local Memorial Day Weekend fishing tournament.
“Typically in these tournaments we’d go out Friday and come back on Sunday,” he says. “That’s because we’d go out some 150 feet offshore. Well, we were trolling and picked up a 300-pound blue marlin on Saturday. It was a nice fish and my son’s first blue marlin. It took him two hours to fight it. He wanted to give up, but we talked him through it. He was just tickled when he finally released it. Then, a big storm came up and it got rough quickly. We had to hide behind an oil rig to shield ourselves from the wind and waves, but we made it back okay.”
Two years later, Junkin took his son on a high school graduation fishing trip to Costa Rica along with other friends and family.
“We caught 50 sailfish in three days of fishing,” he says. “It was a lot of fun.”
Junkin adds, “My son, Justin, is coming home soon after a year in the army in Afghanistan. The first thing he told me he wants to do is go fishing.”
That shouldn’t be difficult. In a typical year, Junkin tuna fishes from November through January. In February he heads down to the Florida Keys for sailfish, before coming back in March and April to fish for bass out of Tuscaloosa. The saltwater season takes over and lasts throughout the summer until late August or early September, when Junkin turns his attention to fall hunting. Of course, this is all done during his ‘free’ time from his professional career in construction with Amason & Associates, Inc., where he’s known for his talents as a master craftsman.
Over the years, Junkin has fished not only in the Keys, Gulf, St. Thomas and Costa Rica, but also the Bahamas and Cabo San Lucas.
“Someday I’d like to fish up north sometime for blue fin tuna,” Junkin says. “Also, over in Australia for black marlin.”