Unsettled Weather...

Our good customer, Jon, flew in from Atlanta for his 3rd trip this year!  I can’t begin to count how many times he has fished with us since we first met in 1998 but we welcome his every visit. He always comes by himself for these “mental health” days and there is never any pressure to produce fish.  He just wanted to get on the water, relax, troll a few baits, and catching some fish just makes it that much better.

As I headed toward the boat on Wednesday morning, the skies opened up.  Devon was fighting his way to the Marina in a torrential downpour.  I checked the radar on my phone and it looked like a small hurricane, pretty grim for a 7 AM takeoff.  I called Jon and him to take his time.  He stopped to grab some breakfast and arrived about 7:45.  We all gathered and hung out under the T-top checking our radar apps every 10 minutes.  Around 8:30 we decided to go sit in our cars for a bit.  Devon and I jumped in his truck and monitored the radar.  At 9:08 we saw a weather break where the thunder-boomers had dissipated to the East.  That is where we were heading for the day.   It looked like we had a good chance to get this trip done.  We climbed on The BEAST and motored out to catch a few quick baits in case we needed to toss a live bait at some big fish.  We got about 8 or 9 baits and headed out through the cut.

There were light winds but the outer reef line had some big water rolling in.  The seas were nice leisurely 4’ rollers.  We made our way out to an area that I had a gut feeling about.  We hadn’t fished very long when  we picked up a pair of Dolphin(fish).  One was definitely over the legal size but the second fish was clearly not.  Devon unhooked it and pitched it overboard.  We worked our way around the area.  Ka-Pow!  A fish hit the larger rig on the sub surface “hope & prayer” long line.  It’s pulling like a heavier fish when Jon grabs hold of the rod.  For all of the show this fish put on in the beginning, it didn’t take Jon long to take the fight out of this fish.  When the fish came to the stern we were surprised to see a small Silky Shark of about 3 ½ feet.  Devon pulled it aboard and had to work for a few minutes to get this hook out.  The hook is out, a quick release, and we got back at it.

The action slowed down for about 45 minutes.  We got a couple of swing and misses as we covered water, and the conversation was good.  Here comes that feeling again.  The water just didn’t look right to me.  I turned The BEAST and began looking for better water.  There was nothing, not a weed, not a board, not a stick, not even a piece of paper floating anywhere.  I was telling Jon that some of our biggest Dolphin come out in the middle of nowhere, just like this.  Another 10 minutes passed and... Ba-Boom!  The right rigger line is screaming out!  Whatever this is it’s a nice one.  Woohoo!  The fish leaps from the water and it is plain to everyone aboard that this is a nice Cow.  Devon is clearing the other rods and I quickly pin a live bait on a big spinner.  I pitched the bait into the vicinity of that cow in case there is a Bull running with her, but once again it’s another Cow running solo.   One is better than none!  Jon works the fish to the port side and Devon has the 5” steel ready.  He snatches back on the gaff and lifts her into the boat.  Jon is not one for photos but he was glad to pose with this one.  Devon scaled the fish and it pulled the Boga grip down to 29.5 pound... WTH, let’s just call it 30.

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Of course, before we put out the lines we went through the congratulatory phase.  Why not?  Everything went perfectly, by the book, a well oiled machine, not the usual nervous fire drill.  The lines went out again.  Time passed and we were in a desert now.  We did find scattered weeds with some big mats but down in the water we could see Moon Jellies everywhere under the weeds.  No self respecting fish would be taking his chances dodging the hoards of those stinging things.  We passed some time as Jon told us of his elephant hunt in Africa and the leopard hunt he had scheduled in the spring.  Hunting stories were the topic for a good while.  Devon said, “Jon, something just tripped the down rod, it’s not big but it is a fish.”  Jon cranks the fish in easily, because it is only a little 5 pound Caribbean Spotted Mackerel.

I worked in to shallower waters and the Bonito found us.  The first pair were better sized in the 15 pound range.  We didn’t go too far when they found us again but this was a school of 10 pounders.  I think we caught 5 out of 8 or 10.  Jon said “Let’s get out of here!”   I ran SE and we found a weed line with  plenty of flotsam in it but there were no fish.  We worked it for a while longer and then we all decided to pull the plug since it was getting pretty late in the evening.  We tightened up the boat and I pointed The BEAST toward the barn and pushed the throttles down.  It wasn’t a banner day but it was a good day, with good company, and 1 very good fish for sure.  The total tally for the day was 3 Dolphin, 1 Silky Shark, 1 Barracuda, and 5 Bonito.  Not too shabby for an unsettled day in August!

Capt. Jim

"Nasty" Night!

Tuesday night we had a Cubera trip reserved for Marty and our friend CL from North Carolina.  Unfortunately they had to cancel.  We hadn’t rebooked that night so I called Devon and he rounded up my 2 daughters Missy and Amy.  Of course we invited my buddy, Uncle Al as well.  This trip was going to be a fun trip with no pressure to perform, just a leisurely stroll to Nastyville.

We hooked up at the dock at 3 PM, checked all of the running lights, and paid a visit to the fuel dock to drop $300 worth of petrol into The BEAST.  We moseyed out into the Bay then I throttled up the ponies and let The BEAST run.  We arrived at a likely spot to start catching lobster.  Devon and Uncle Al slid into the water.  They were fighting a strong outgoing tide, 2-4’ seas, and an entire platoon of Moon Jellyfish.  They were doing fairly well on the bug collecting when Al said his legs had enough of the Jellies and shortly thereafter, Devon couldn’t clear his one ear.  No problems, no pressure, it’s family having fun!  11 bugs should do us fine.  There was some heavy rain moving in on us so I made a dash toward Cubera City to outrun the rain.

We arrived in the area and while I drifted around getting an idea of what was going on in the water, Devon rigged the terminal tackle for the main show.  Missy grabbed a small speed jig and made a cast toward a Sooty Tern working the water.   There he is!  She is hooked up, first cast and first fish of the evening turns out to be a chunky Bonito.  Amy, Missy, and Uncle Al continue working the speed jigs and Al gets the bump.  He’s working another tuna-type fish when suddenly the door gets slammed on him.  He can’t move this fish and then it begins to move.  Everyone was saying he must’ve hooked into a garage door.  After another 10 minutes of grunting, huffing, and puffing, the leader parts.  Al thinks the original catch had been eaten by a big shark.  We dropped down a couple of Mullet that we netted in the Marina earlier.  We got a swing and a miss on the mullet.  The mullet came up with fang marks in it.  OK. Let’s get after our target species.

It wasn’t dark yet but we went ahead and dropped a bug down.   Everything is perfect, light current at 1 knot and I could work the boat and keep that drift down to .1 or .2 knots, that’s lobster walking speed.  The only thing that wasn’t absolutely perfect were the 2-4’ seas but that’s nothing The BEAST can’t handle comfortably.  On about the 3rd drift we lose one rig to the bottom but I have found the drift line.  Next drop and we get a bite but it doesn’t hook up.  The bait came up split in two pieces.  Next drop and, Bam!  Missy jumps on the rod and gets to feel the real  power these fish have.  She was just telling us how she worked out her guns at the gym that morning to get ready for this moment.  She brings the fish in and it’s just a baby, a 20 pounder.

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Amy is on deck for the next drift and once again the rod doubles over.  That didn’t take long.  Devon yells out, “They’re chewin’!“ Amy works the fish and it isn’t coming easy.  Several minutes later and Amy out muscles this fish.   This Nasty fish is pushing well into the higher 30’s possibly a 40 pound marker.

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We make another drift and nothing happens but as Devon is dragging the bait back to the top to set up again, it gets nailed.  This time the carapace was gone and we have the tail left. Uncle Al is set up for the next drift and we get a strike.  Bada Bing!  Al gives this fish the business and the fish is giving the business back to Al.  Uncle Al wins this fight and we have another 30ish pound fish.

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Every drift after that resulted in a good hit and Devon’s turn ends up being a bust.  He is snake bit!  He was getting frustrated and after a few missed strikes, he relinquishes the rod.  Next drift and SLAM... We scream for Missy and she jumps on the doubled over rod .  This is a good fish and it is making Missy‘s arms sore.  Maybe she shouldn‘t have worked out at the gym and saved her strength for these fish.  After a good time she gets the fish to the boat and this one is a bruiser, pulling the pin on the scale down to exactly 50 pounds.

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We talked Devon into trying it again and he loses another fish.  Now the snide comments and little jokes are aimed at him and flowing freely.  We started out with 11 baits and lost 2 to hangs up.  We’re out of bait, but wait, we still have that tail
that we tossed into the back of the cockpit.  Down it goes and thump... thump... Boom!  Fish on!  Devon was determined to get this one to the boat and everything worked out for him this time.  A nice fish in the high 20 pound range, reaches the boat.

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Ok, now we are completely out of bait, except for some live mullet.  Should we try them?  The general vote comes up no since the clock is approaching midnight. We packed it in and cruised on home in the  bright moonlight.  Technically we had 10 bites out of 9 baits and caught 5 fish which is not too shabby for a quick fun run.  This was a nice quick family trip and we had a great time.  Pictures speak a thousand words... Listen to this...

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Capt. Jim

Breakdown Comeback!

On our last outing in May I had a bit of a problem.  As I slowly powered on the throttles to come home, something came loose in the starboard engine...  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...  We lost thrust.  What the heck?  As I walked back toward the stern to check out the problem, the overheat alarm came on.  Shut her down!  Well it’s not the lower unit, we definitely have a driveshaft problem because the water pump isn’t turning.  Oh Boy!  We limped in on the port engine at about 8-10 knots, taking us 2 hours to get back to the slip.  Well, that was a crap way to end an enjoyable day with good company.

The BEAST was broken for almost 2 months.  She blew a driven gear and driveshaft on the starboard motor.  I had trips lined up and my back was against the wall so I called a “certified” Suzuki mechanic, in Miami, to repair it.  While they had it in the shop, I wanted them to change the driven gear on the port side also, and all filters, seals, water pumps, etc on both motors.  Basically I wanted both engines brought up to as optimum condition as possible.  She sat torn apart for almost 3 weeks with little work done until I finally got fed up, having lost all of the scheduled trips.  I went to the shop and blew a gasket.  They started working on it and gave it back to me 5 days later with a $6300 bill, saying it was complete.  I put her back in the water and the starboard motor with the original problem would barely run.  The port motor that had no problems before, was now overheating at idle.  2 more weeks of “change this...change that” and nothing was any better.  I finally contacted another mechanic who within hours of having the boat, pulled the powerhead again and diagnosed the problem.  The original mechanic had one camshaft chain out of time by one tooth.  They retimed the camshaft and ordered the gaskets to reinstall the powerhead.  While waiting they found the overheat problem on the port motor.  When the first mechanic reinstalled the lower unit the water supply tube wasn’t aligned properly and crimped the tube in half.  Yep... The first shop was “Suzuki certified” all right, more like a bad joke.  The new mechanic had me back in service within 7 days but it cost me another pile of money to fix what the first guy screwed up.

Finally in service I made a quick run with Billy Cox to do an ash spreading.  He was extremely patient and had postponed his trip week after week, waiting on The BEAST to come back in service.  We finally got it done for Billy, having a nice run out to the depths of the gulfstream and releasing his loved ones.

We just went out for a ¾ day with John, Eddie and Nick, from the UK.  These Brits had a tremendous time just catching Hardtails for bait.  You don’t know how many times we’ve heard that.  They had already caught their biggest fish ever.  The bait was a bit slow so after we collected about 15, we headed out for the blue water.

My plan was to probably troll a bit to see what we could locate.  Unlike others who run around all day looking for debris etc.  I learned from an “old salt” about a hundred years ago that, “You aren’t fishing without bait in the water.”  That made perfect sense to me and I follow that philosophy most of the time.  Think about how many fish you have run over, while looking for fish?   I have caught many nice Dolphin(fish)  in wide open blue water.  OK!  I was thinking we would probably need to get out into 1000-1200’ depths to catch some Dolphin(fish).  As I was running in that direction, an overwhelming urge came over me to stop and fish here.  That same old man taught me to trust my gut feelings, so I powered down and told Devon to set the spread out.  We were fishing well short of my initial depths.  Bump!  We have a peanut Dolphin on.  Normally there are several other duplicate fish swimming with smaller fish like this.  Not this time!  We got the fish aboard and true to August, the fish is about 19 inches.  Devon tossed the fish back in to grow up.

Devon throws the spread out there again and in a short time we get another knockdown.  Oh, Bruddah!  This is a good’un man.  Several good jumps and we see that this fish was a real nice August fish.  Matter of fact, anything over “schoolie” size is a nice one in August.  Nick worked the fish and the fish worked Nick.  This is the cow so while Nick worked on the fish, about 10 or 15 minutes, we looked for the bull.  There is no bull in sight so we have Nick present the fish boat side.  Devon takes the gaff shot and stones the fish.  Yes Sir!  That’s a good fish as it pulls the scale down to the 19 pound mark.  We are happy with this fish and all I could think of is what size bull could have been riding shotgun with this cow.  I’m glad I trusted my instincts!

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We worked the area for a while longer but nothing much was happening so I made way for the Back Breaker wreck.  If these guys thought that the Hardtails were fun, wait until they get a load of what’s to come.  We had some winds and rain coming through now and the drifts were sporadic.  After the uncertain weather passed we had good drifts but the current was cranking at almost 4 knots.  We broke off the first 2 bites on the first drops.  Settling down into a good rhythm, we hooked one after another on almost every drift.

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The guys were ready to tap out and it was almost time to call the trip.  Everyone was mesmerized by the Barracuda that had mauled a few of their Hardtails at the bait spot, so I suggested that we go catch one.  We were running out of time but I figured, what the heck, let’s show them the business end on these fish.   We hit our favorite wreck where these Caribbean Spotted Mackerel tend to pile up.  3 attempts, 3 hookups, and Eddied catches a nice specimen of about 25 lb.  They were in awe of the dental work that these fish carry.  We packed up The BEAST and boogied for the barn.

It’s that time of year and Devon and I would love to break The BEAST’s  boat record on Cubera Snapper.

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Jorge Marquez’s group set the record at 76¼ pounds a few years ago.  He continues to return with us every year trying to best that catch.  We have our sights set on an 80+ pounder.  Catching these largest of the snapper species is a pile of fun.  If it is something you may want to do, I know the boat for you to try it on.

Capt. Jim