How One Lady Went from Guiding at The Birmingham Museum of Arts to Becoming a Fishing Guide on the Alabama Gulf Coast
||What does Captain Kathy Broughton do on her day off? She goes fishing for bull redfish like this one.
By Ben Norman
When many of us think about the typical inshore fishing guide along the Alabama Gulf Coast, images of a “crusty old salt” with an almost magical fish finding ability enters our minds. But one guide, Captain Kathy Broughton, is about as far away from the “crusty old salt” description as one can get. But when it comes to finding fish for clients aboard her boat, The Kitty Wake, she can hang in there with the most experienced guides in the Orange Beach-Gulf Shores inland waters.
Broughton is a slim 56-year-old grandmother of three who looks more like she is in her late 30s. Captain Kathy, as her clients and male counterparts call her, has earned quite a reputation as an inshore fishing guide in the Orange Beach area.
Captain Broughton, who is based out of Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach, says she just simply decided to do what she had always wanted to do-become an inshore fishing guide. “My parents had a place on the Coast when I was young. I developed a love for the sea and fishing at a very early age. But for many years I was busy raising children and doing volunteer work for The Birmingham Botanical Gardens and The Birmingham Museum of Art in my spare time. When the youngest one went off to college I just decided I was going to move to the Coast and become a fishing guide,” said Broughton.
She said she didn’t know how her mother and other family members would react to such a career change at this stage of her life. “ I just went and told my mother what I was going to do. I had no idea how she would respond. Imagine how shocked I was when she said ‘Go for it, I’ve always wanted to be a boat captain myself.’” .
|Captain Broughton holds a nice sheep head caught by Warner Watkins.
Broughton believes her guiding business is doing great because more and more people are discovering the fantastic fishing in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach areas. Clients aboard The Kitty Wake can expect to catch a variety of fish including speckled trout, sheep head, redfish, white trout, bluefish, mackerel, pompano, flounder and other species.
According to Broughton, October and November are excellent months for catching speckled trout and red fish. “Not only is the weather pleasant during these months, the fish are usually very cooperative, too. Specks and reds can be caught in the bays, near the jetties, and along the beach. This time of year you will find good numbers of big redfish from a hundred yards off the beach to three miles out. Just be prepared during this time of year for a variety of weather conditions. In early November you may need a heavy jacket in the morning and be in shirt sleeves by lunch.”
Fishing for specks doesn’t require a lot of specialized equipment, says Broughton. “With the exception of a few artificial baits, popping corks, and terminal live bait rigs, the average bass fishermen is adequately equipped for speck fishing in the bays and inlets along the Gulf Coast. We use the same light rod and reel when fishing for big redfish as we do for other fish, but we respool with thirty pound test line”
Broughton says that contrary to popular belief, specks and reds eat mostly fish. “While they do eat a lot of shrimp, their mainstay is small baitfish such as croakers, small mullet, menhaden and alewives. We still catch a lot of specks on a “popping cork” with live shrimp, though. A popping cork has a concave top section that makes a popping sound when jerked, much like a top water bass popper does. This popping sound simulates the sound made by feeding specks and will attract them to one’s bait. At other times jigs, spoons and artificial shrimp are very productive. We catch a lot of big reds out in the gulf on jigs, also.”
Broughton has a varied client base, but she has established somewhat of a specialty guiding service by guiding youngsters accompanied by one or both parents. “I find that some women feel more comfortable taking youngsters out with a female captain. Sometimes I may have a dad and his daughter and one of her friends book a fishing trip. It just goes back to the old saying ‘girls relate to girls’ in all walks of life and fishing is no exception.”
Although she recommends hiring a guide because they know where the fish are and have larger better-equipped boats, she says visiting fishermen can catch fish from small skiffs and bass boats in the sheltered bays on calm days. But she warns visiting fishermen using their own boat to be especially vigilant for weather changes. “The weather can turn nasty is a matter of minutes down here. Always get a weather report and make sure you have the required safety equipment.”
Broughton makes her living finding fish for clients, but she is also an avid deer hunter. “I spend a lot of December at our hunting camp in Dallas County. We buy all our seed and fertilizer to plant food plots at the Central Alabama Farmers Co-op store in Selma. I even do a lot of my Christmas shopping at the Co-op store. If you are buying a gift for an outdoor person, you won’t have any trouble finding something for them at the Co-op.”
. The fish are biting - give her a call.
Ben Norman is a freelance writer from Highland Home, AL.