Working Bottom & Wrecks!

It’s been a while since I wrote a report because the trips have been a bit redundant.  I didn’t want to bore everyone with the same thing over and over.  I have done mostly short day trips and the dolphin haven’t been big enough or plentiful enough to spend much time chasing after them.  I have been keeping my clients busy working and catching wreck donkeys.  I don’t know why the local fishermen thumb their noses at these fish because they’re tough, tackle testing, knuckle busters.  They are delicious to eat when cooked and eaten fresh, although some of them do have some tail worms.  If you simply cut away the meat that has worms in it, you can chow down on the clean pieces.  When clients insist on doing short days, for whatever their reason, they handcuff the charter crew.  We must find fish so that everyone catches a fish and returns with a smile and possibly a filet or two.  Amberjack fit that bill perfectly.

We had a short day trip with Justin, Mark 1, Mark 2, Dan, Jay, and Jeff.  This day was a wreck day because we had 6 people and got a late start.  By the time we caught our bait we had to get some time in wetting lines and getting these guys on some fish.  We ended up catching 12 AJ and 4 very large ‘Cudas.

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Another trip we did was with Rob, Andy, Barry, and Jack,  We spent most of the time working the wrecks and this day the speed jigs outworked the live bait.  We caught a big Jack Crevalle, 5 Amberjack, a Barracuda and a couple of large Bonito.

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We had a friends & family trip with John, Diane (aka Smiley), Missy, Charlie, and Mason.  That trip proved to be a whoop diddy!.  The crew caught several nice AJ’s and Barracuda on live baits and speed jigs.  Charlie caught a nice Black grouper as well.

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During that trip, Smiley also set a new “BEAST” boat record for an Amberjack catch.  Our record stood at 96 pounds and she killed it with a 109.5 pound monster.

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We had another trip with James, Alex, Aldo 1, and Aldo2.  This was a full day and not one of our better days.  It was supposed to be ½ tide when we arrived to catch bait but there was no water moving… no bait. We headed out to 1300’ of water in search of the green rockets but only managed to catch 1 that was bigger than minimum legal size.  I came in and hit the Knuckle Buster wreck and caught 1 AJ missing 4 more. I pulled up and went to the Grunt & Sweat and same there, 1 AJ and 5 misses.  I pulled out and tried once more for some better bait but the current was still dead.  I hauled butt back out for some Permit and we located them, managing to hook one and get a bite on another, but catching neither.  We worked the top with what bait we had and had 2 more top bites and then catching a 20 # Cuda.  This day was more of a lesson in how to get bites without wasting your energy catching the fish.

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We did another fun trip with family and friends down in Key Largo.  They had fun swim fishing for hog fish and Schoolmasters.  We went after some Muttons with the only 3 live Ballyhoo we managed to catch.  We got 3 nice Muttons, 8, 9½,  and 17 pounds.

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Shortly after that fun trip, I got a call from my daughter that, Devon, my mate and son-in-law took a permanent gig on a private yacht in the Bahamas.  I had an upcoming share charter through the website.  I had no mate so I just ran it myself like I used to in past years.  We did alright but once again we had problems locating any sizable Dolphins but I had the guys smiling and sweating on those “Donkeys”.

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With the onset of Cubera season and no more Devon to dive up our lobsters, I had to scramble to make arrangements to get lobster for upcoming trips.  Everything is good and the reports will follow.

Capt. Jim

2 are better than 1

The Harbor Club came down to fish with us for 2 days, once again, but this time with a day off in between.  It was the usual group… Chief (Harbor 1), Yalkin (Harbor 3), Frankie (Harbor 7) and honorary guest Freddie.  This group runs on Yalkin time.  In case you haven’t read other reports about them, Yalkin time means an ETA of 9AM, not a minute sooner!

The BEAST was chomping at the bit as we shoved off on Day 1 ,  We made our usual stops at our bait spots and had the wells full of Runners and Ballyhoo although it was a bit of a tough go.  With the late start and having to take time to catch bait, I had a plan to maximize the short amount of actual fishing time we had.  I had brought a half dozen crabs with me, so I decided to try for some Permit first thing.  Uh, that didn’t work out too well.  I pulled out of there and headed for our Holy Crap wreck to give them a good work out right away.   The first drop and we had a hook up as if the fish new the script.  Chief did his thing on this wreck donkey and we had the skunk off the boat in short order.  We did this in succession with live baits and speed jigs until we had 5 fish caught and the guys threw in the towel.

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I pulled away from the wreck a bit worried about what I was hearing on the radio.  It seemed that everyone was enjoying a boat ride that day and very few were catching anything to write home about.  Well, we’re going to give it our best shot.  I worked the usual areas where we consistently catch fish and nothing much was happening.  Just as I had feared.  I mean to tell you that I couldn’t even catch a dang Barracuda with the primo baits that Devon was using.  We did have a few bites but they were obviously small fish.  Devon even tried downsizing the rigs, to no avail.  We toiled on!  Nothing on the bottom, nothing in the mid depths, and not a darn thing happening on top.  

We were ticking off the hours when I hit another good spot.  KaPowey!  The down rod gets slammed and we are on a good fish.  I’m hoping we have a big grouper on but as the minutes passed by it was more apparent that we had a shark on.  This is definitely the year of the shark for us!  Working the boat and tussling with this fish on 30# line for 20 minutes, we finally get the critter to boat side.  It’s a nice one, pushing 6 feet and around 80 pounds.  Not the Hammerhead that the Chief wants to notch off his bucket list, but a good fish anyway.  As Devon leaders the shark over to cut it loose, I leaned over the rail to get some photos.  I noticed that the shark was bowed up, which is not a good thing.  I held the shutter down to get some quick shots and suddenly the shark reacted.  WATCH OUT!!!!

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He made a lunge at me and slammed into the side of the boat, falling back into the water.  Holy Cow!  That was a close one.  Devon reset the lines but the sea was quiet.  The guys called it a day, saving their strength for Day 2.  We tucked everything away and made the run home.

Day 2 and the guys arrived at Yalkin time, as usual.   The BEAST was snarling, ready to exact revenge, so we cut loose her tethers and turned her out.  We hit our bait spots and the baits came much easier that day.  With plenty of baits on board the local fish population in its entirety was our target.  I coaxed the Beast into the blue water and Devon quickly set up our spread.  Starting at Yalkin time or later makes for a short day and we’re not fishing during prime hours.  In other words, just handcuff me and ask me to jump rope.  Concentrating our mission on surface and bottom fish, I omitted wreck fishing from our agenda.  Knowing where we were headed, Devon set his lines accordingly.  15 minutes into it the bottom rod gets bumped and Freddie, cranks up a keeper Mutton Snapper.

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Working the waters deeper and then shallower we were getting some attention from smaller fish and definitely got beat up by Ocean Triggers at one point.  We caught a few Bonito here and there on some of the smaller speed jigs and surface baits.  Noticing a big splash offshore of us, Devon and I kept our eyes peeled.  We got a bite on the down rod and thought it might be a Cobia at first glance.  Uh, not!  It turned out to be a very large Remora.  The bite seemed to be on, so we kept a sharp lookout.  20 minutes later, Devon shouts out, “Sailfish!”  The Sailfish has already eaten, hooked up, and taken to the air!  The Chief is on the rod and working him.  15 minutes into the game and the Chief has his fish boat side.  I tried to get a picture of it in the water but the leader popped off before Devon could bill the fish.  We had a few more bites and things were getting busy.  I heard the faint pop of the line release.  The short rigger was paying out line. Here Freddie, take it!  Freddie climbed on the rod and a nice Sailfish goes airborne!  In and out and all around, working hard and easing up, trying to wear him out without parting the line.  Freddie did what he needed to do with this fish and at the 30 minute mark, his Sailfish was played out.  Devon gently pulled the fish aboard for a quick 30 second photo shoot and then we took 10 minutes time to totally revive this tired fish.  
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We replenished the baits and got back at it again.  I continued to work in the area and the down rod goes off.  Frankie is fighting the fish while we are betting on what this one is… Mutton?  No, too big. Grouper?  No it’s coming up to the surface.  Bonito, Barracuda?  No.  Probably a pesky little Sharpnose shark.  Nope, there it is!  Yes sir, it’s a nice Cobia!  Woohoo!  We’ll take that one for sure!

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Once again all lines are reset and the day is drawing to a close.  I’m hanging close to this area that has been working well for us.  Boomdiddy!  The down rod goes off again.  Here we go with the species betting again as Yalkin takes the position as angler.  This fish is definitely a bottom type, judging by the pull.  A couple minutes later and we see a decent Red Grouper pop to the top.  Dinner!

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Ok.. Day 2 was a great deal better than Day 1 for sure.  We were getting close to quitting time when the down rod gets doubled over again.  This fish got heavy quick.  No betting necessary, this fish is a big shark and we are somewhat under gunned.  Hey, that’s why its called sport fishing, not grocery shopping.  I can’t remember who the lucky angler was, but he got served!  We worked this big dude to the surface and I snapped a quick picture, from a distance this time.  I didn’t want that face full of teeth slamming into my boat like the other did.

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The time drew to a close and we were more than content with the fishing that day.  The Harbor Club reminded themselves that this is the reason why they always book 2 days and now are convinced to keep a lay day in between as well.  Smart move I think.  We buttoned up the boat and I turned her westward.  With all on board in a content state of mind, The BEAST made a leisurely run back to her den!

Father’s day is coming so take a Dad fishing… show your favorite fisherman that you care.

Capt. Jim

Yes Indeed!

We had our good friends from Indiana come down to hit some of this spring time fishing.  Chris Kelly, her husband Drew, Mason, and “PoPo” Steve arrived at the dock for a 2 day adventure.  Yes, any time you get on The BEAST with Devon and I, it is an adventure.  We all were glad to see each other again, for sure!  We pulled the leashes off The BEAST and turned that puppy out.  We did our usual run to get some Hardtails and then blasted out to the worm hole to get some Ballyworms.  The bait was not the easiest catch we’ve had but an extra 15-30 minutes and we had enough for the day.

We made the short run out to the edge and set up shop.  Devon got the spread out and within 4 minutes the down rod sounded off.  Drew was on deck so he grabbed the rod.  It was a stout fish and we were hoping it wasn’t one of those “Caribbean Spotted Mackerel” again.  He fought the fish for about 5 minutes when we saw color down there.  Dang!  Sure enough it was a big Barracuda.  I can’t imagine what others are talking about when they tell me that they are getting scarce.  I can’t hardly keep them off my baits at times.  The good thing about them is most of my clients are mesmerized by the ferocious temperament and intimidating appearance of these fish.

We didn’t have time for any pictures and barely got the fish back in the water when we had a rigger line go down hard!  Dolphin!  It’s a nice cow!  Chris took the spinner and began doing some work on the fish.  Bull on the flat!  No, he spit the bait.  Chris kept focused on her lady mahi.  3 minutes later and the cows partner is back in the spread terrorizing the 2 baits we left out.  He took the short line and ripped it right off the hook and then pounded the longer bait.  Hooked up!  Well, let’s not cheer yet, because it only lasted about 30 seconds and he managed to come loose again.  We cleared the empty lines and kept our  attention turned toward the nice cow that is definitely hooked up solid.  Uh, yeah, Devon and I kept glancing to see if the Bull had come back. He didn’t.  Chris was getting her butt handed to her by this Dolphin.  She was growing a bit weary but she hung in there and brought this big girl up to Devon.  Whack!  Devon puts the cold steel to her and she comes aboard.  Nice fish, Chris!

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After the picture shoot we cleaned up the deck and got back to business.  I worked in and out and noticed that Chris was acting a bit sick.  She has never been sea sick on the boat before, so our guess wasn’t sea sickness but rather an adrenaline rush.  15 minutes passed and she was having some strange symptoms so Drew asked if we could take her in.  Of course, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It ended up being a very short day but we did have some good Mahi filets for them.

Drew and the guys arrived the next day.  He told me that Chris was staying behind because she was still a bit under the weather and didn’t want to aggravate the condition.  We headed out to collect our daily baits.  Hardtails came easily but the worms were quite reluctant.  We managed to coax them in and get enough on the hooks and then I nailed them with a pancake Calusa net.  Off we go to the wild blue yonder.  Yes, an Air Force vet!

I pulled up a bit deeper than we normally start, trying to locate some of those nice Dolphin.  The spread went out and within 10 minutes we had the down rod singing.  Mason jumped on the rod and the fish was giving him a tussle.  He had his hands full but he worked the fish like a pro.  There’s color!  Really?  Take a guess what it could’ve been.  Yes sir… a Barracuda!

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After resetting the lines I worked in closer along the deeper edge.  I was intent on watching the water and the sonar.  Nothing was happening on the top and the Kingfish weren’t eating the down rod.  I started marking some good blips on the sonar, closer to the bottom.  I asked Devon to drop one down there and see what happens.  Bam! The rod bends and “PoPo” Steve takes it.  This fish is smaller and fighting like a snapper.  This fish gave up and soon Devon whooped “Mutton!  Not a big’un but a good’un!”

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I love it when a plan comes together.  We kept seeing good marks in the area so I worked it.  Drop down and let the bait dance.  Bada Bing!  The rod goes slack and then doubles over.  Drew takes this one and it is a better fish.  We’re thinking another Mutton but this would be much bigger than the last.  Well it wasn’t a Mutton at all but a nice Black Grouper instead.  Yowser!

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This place is on fire!  Devon resets the deep line and we noticed that this is the only bite in town.  Nothing whatsoever was happening on the top.  Devon finds another frisky bait and down it goes.  This is Mason’s turn and it doesn’t take too awful long when the rod doubles over again.  Once again it is good fish and we are thinking it might be another Grouper.  Mason says it was fighting hard but he worked it like a master.  Color up!  Well gag me with a shovel as a nice Gag Grouper slides to the surface.

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The guys were having fun but just as we were really getting excited the tide went slack and so did the bite.  I didn’t waste a lot of time plugging away at this so we pulled up and headed for the nearby Grunt & Sweat wreck.  I wanted to keep the guys busy until we had tidal flow again.  Devon was set up and dropped the first bait for Drew.  KaPow!  The rod doubles over and the tip almost touches the water which is a feat in itself on a World Cat (high sides).  Drew muscles the fish up and it is a good 40+ pound AJ.  We dropped 2 more times to get Mason and Steve a wreck donkey too.  Not a problem.  Mason got a nice 30+ lb’er and Steve got a big pile of fish muscle that tipped the 60# mark.

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They had enough just catching 1 each so Devon put up the big gun and broke out the smaller stuff again, I went back to where we had left off before we took the guys out to sweat them up.  The tide was moving again and we set up there.  The day was wearing thin but we had some time to work it.  Peck, peck, got ‘em.  Not much of a fight for Steve but it was definitely a fish.  You don’t see this too often but we managed to hook up an Ocean Trigger aka “Tally”.  The fish weren’t quite as active as before but I noticed some marks and relayed the info to Devon so he could adjust.  BOOM!  The rod bends over and almost stays in place,  Do we have bottom?  No, it’s moving but it is strong on our light tackle.  OK, we’re guessing small shark, reef AJ, Yellow Jack.  I start maneuvering the boat to move the fish and it works.  Drew is putting as much as he can on the light rod with only 30# test line.  This goes on for about 10 minutes and by the short lunges we have crossed off the previous 3 guesses and narrowed it down to a Monster Mutton or a Good Grouper.  We finally see color and Devon shouts, “Nice Black!”  Yes sir, yes sir indeed!  We’ll take that!

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Everyone is happy and we reset the lines for the final hoorah!  We were working our way up the edge, about to call it a day, when a Sailfish started free jumping toward the boat.  75 yards… jump… 50 yards… another jump… and Devon pins on a Ballyhoo to pitch at him.  The Sail jumped again at 25 yards and Devon makes a cast in front of him.  Bust!  The fish sounds down and we never see it again.  We dumped the leftover baits and nothing happens.  Hey, you can’t win ‘em all… but you never win if you don’t try!

With a heavy fish box and a lot of fish cleaning ahead of us, we stuck a fork in this trip.  Everyone was extremely happy with their day.  The smiles were rampant.  I turned The BEAST westward and made the run back to the barn.  A good day!

Capt. Jim

Wreckage with a Bonus!

Jose wanted to take his kids fishing so he gave us a call.  He arrived at the dock with Jason, Nicole, and Matthew in tow.  We loaded them aboard and I fired up the 300 Zukes.  Devon and I turned The BEAST out for a good day of fishing, hopefully.

Since the wrecks have come to life, we loaded up on Hardtails and then shot out to the patches to get some of our favorite baits, Ballyhoo.  The “worms” were a bit slow coming up but when they did they ate the hooks readily.  After we had several dozen in the wells, I broke out the big Calusa cast net and made a toss or two.  The wells were blacked out and we had more than enough bait for the day.  We made our way out to the drop off.

The first thing I like to do is work an area that holds fish although the predominate bite is Barracuda.  Many local fisherman have labeled them as trash fish.  Not me!  They bite good and fight good, especially when you are into the “big’uns”!  Most of my customer’s mouths fall open with awe when they see the size of these fish and the impressive dentures they possess.  If I’m running by the area, we will always try and get a few of them to warm up the crew and get the skunk off the boat.  This is exactly what we did that day but with a surprise thrown in.  We picked up a smaller ‘Cuda for Matthew.  Suddenly, the the top line took a hit.  Jose jumped on the rod and the fish dogged him deep which generally means a tuna type fish.  As Jose worked the fish and gained line, we began to see color and chanted… No Bonito! No Bonito! No Bonito!  Wow, that must’ve worked because Devon shouted that he saw gold.  A nice 15# Blackfin broke the surface and Devon put the steel to him.

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We worked the area for a bit longer with nothing much going on, only a few bite offs.  Let’s tire these kids out, Dad too, shall we?  I decided to make a run to the “Knucklebuster” wreck.  It earned that nickname because the fish pin the anglers knuckles to the gunwales.  Most of our anglers fight these bruisers out of “Rodney” the rod holder.  It didn’t take too long to make the short run and Devon had the gear and lines ready to go when we got there.  On the first drop the big rod doubles over and Jose climbs on top of it.  He is amazed at the power in those deep wreck donkeys.  Devon flops a nice fish over the side and onto the deck!  Everybody took turns catching the average sized Amberjack and we lost several fish to some very large ‘Cudas.  Devon had to put some heavy trace wire in front of the hook to eliminate the cut off problem.  I always get a laugh as I watch people fight the fish from Rodney and still have to double fist the crank handle. They have no idea what it’s like, until it’s their turn.

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We worked “Ol’ Knucklebuster” with live bait and speed jigs until the kids tapped out, refusing to take another turn on the rods.  They caught 5 or 6 AJ’s and 3 or 4 ballistic sized Barracuda.  That was my original intention, to wear them out by catching, not bore them with fishing.  I love it when a plan comes together!  I gave Devon the nod and he packed away the wreck gear and I throttled up to make a quick run to another area.  When we arrived, Devon set up camp for some surface biters.  Everything was looking perfect.  I idled around the area and we had the occasional bite on the down rod.  Little macs!   Suddenly Devon is screaming “Sailfish!  Sailfish on the rigger!”  Intimidated by the wreck donkeys, none of the worn out kids wanted to take the rod.  Jose positioned the rod and set in for the battle.  This was a good fish with weightlifter shoulders, a worthy opponent on 20# spinning gear.  The fight put Jose on his guard for almost 30 minutes, but the reward was well worth it.

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After the photo op we released the fish and watched him swim away.  We reset lines and 20 minutes later we had another fire drill.  A Sailfish rose to the short flat line and whacked the bait, tripping the line.  Before anyone could get on the rod, the fish was gone.  You can’t win them all.  I stayed in the hot zone and the clocked ticked off 35 minutes.  Pow!  The left rigger got nailed and as Jose was yelling for the boys to come get it I noticed another Sail working the right rigger.  Bam!  Jose jumped on the first fish and Nicole stepped up to the plate on the second fish.  While they were only minutes into those fish, the long flat line gets walloped by a big Kingfish.  The Kingfish strike didn’t last long as the razor blades in his mouth severed the fluoro leader like a scalpel.  The lines are all cleared and the dynamic duo of Sailfish are dancing all over the water.  I was happy that for the major part of this dual duel, the fish stayed together.  Towards the end of the ruckus they split up and Jose had to manhandle his fish without the support of the boat.  We had to pick one fish to focus on and he wanted his daughter to get her fish.  Jose did a great job putting pressure on and off, when needed, to keep his fish at bay while we brought Nicole’s fish to a release.  There was no time for us to pull her Sail aboard for a photo, so I snapped a quick shot of it in the water at boat side.

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With Nicole’s Sailfish released now, we could put all of our attention on getting Jose’s fish to the boat.  The fish was getting tired and 5 or 10 minutes later we had him along side.  Devon pulled the fish aboard and got both Jose and Nicole in the picture.  After the photo, Devon gently lowered the fish into the water and we idled along for 5 minutes until the fish was fully revived.  The Sailfish began kicking his tail rhythmically and Devon let go of his bill.  Beautiful job, everyone!

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The crew was thoroughly whipped now so we packed up everything and buttoned down for the ride.  I turned the bow toward home and put the coals to the burners.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying up front as we cruised our way in, but the smiles radiating from all 4 of them spoke volumes!

Capt. Jim

Cuda Slob!

Rjon and Steve were in town and decided to fish a “short” day with us.  They arrived at the scheduled time and we untied The BEAST.  We headed out for a Hardtail spot and caught about a ½ dozen baits there and then made the run to the patches for our Ballyhoo.  Devon put out a block of chum and we had no trouble getting the worms to come up.  We caught plenty for the day and then turned the bow east and made the short run out to the blue water.

We hit the blue and Devon put out a 3 up / 1 down spread.  The bite was a bit on the mediocre side.  We missed one bite on the down rod and then Rjon hooked up a monster Barracuda.  This fish was a great match for our light tackle and Rjon fought it for about 15-20 minutes before it gave in and came to the boat.  Wow!  That was one of the biggest “Cuda slobs I’ve caught in a long time.  We put it on the Boga Grip and it sunk the springs to the 35 pound marker.

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I made a critical error in judgment when I made another pass with fresh bait to see if there was anything else down there.  Uh, Yeah!  This time the line got very heavy and for over an hour I watched Steve, then Rjon and even Devon, take turns on the rod.  All 3 were grunting and working up a lather of sweat.  The fish would give up a yard or two of line and then take back 3.  Sometimes it would let them feel like they had it beat, allowing them to take in 25 or 30 yards of line, only to have the fish make a good run that stripped all that and more.  This fish was doing whatever it wanted.  I tried to use the boat to walk it into shallower water and I thought it was working.  The fish turned around and headed back offshore towing my 33’ World Cat along with it.  Finally Devon and I conferred and told the guys that it was probably a huge shark and we were way under-gunned.  We could continue this fight and burn up the clock on their short day or just break it off.  After 1 hour and 15 minutes the unanimous decision was to break it off.

We reset the lines and worked away from the area.  We missed a couple of downrigger bites and then finally connected with a Cero Mackerel.  We kept working the area and their thoughts were stirring about heading in.  They were excited but very tired from that long battle with the mystery fish.  We held off their thoughts of leaving for the remaining 45 minutes.  Devon dumped the bait wells and almost as if planned, a “snooter” rose from down below and took one of the baits.  I think it was Steve who took the rod and by the time he got the bail flipped, line tight, and the rod flexing. The Sailfish jumped high in the air and the hook went flying.  Dang it!

The guys had a dinner meeting that night so they called it a ‘wrap” and we packed up the BEAST.  I fed some gas to the ponies and we made a smooth run back to the barn.  To me this was nothing special to write about.  If you had heard Rjon and Steve talking about that big Cuda and the epic 1¼ fight by the unseen critter from hell, you would know to the contrary that they were extremely happy.

Capt. Jim

Sail'ing into Spring!

Fishing has picked up a good bit since my last report.  We are fast approaching our spring season.

Morrie and his son-in-law joined us for a trip.  We loaded them aboard and off we went to collect bait.  The bait catching ritual was a bit slow but we gathered enough to do the day and then blasted out to the blue water.  The day was gorgeous again and I was hoping it wasn’t too beautiful.  We didn’t want another slow day.

Devon set up our spread, running 1 down and 3 up.  I moved around the area slowly and it wasn’t long before we had a taker on the rigger line.  Bam… and another.  We had a Dolphin bite going and the guys were doing their thing.  We boxed the first one and then Morrie brought up his “heavy lifter” cow.

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Devon reset the spread and we moved around the area for another 30 minutes or so when the down rod sounded off.  This fish was nothing spectacular, probably a ‘Cuda.  But hey, a tug on the line is what we came for and any fish that can fill that bill is welcomed.  As suspected, it was a “Caribbean Spotted Mackerel”.  My anglers actually love catching these fish because they pull hard, and have some very impressive dentures.

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We were set up once again. 20 minutes or so passed and another group of “Dollies” came through.  We collected a couple more of them.  We boxed the fish and decided to take a photo of the freshest one.  Nice picture when suddenly the fish flipped his tail.  I heard a thump and then a splash.  Release?  No… bad grip!  I guess he didn’t want to eat that one.  He got a ribbing the rest of the day for that slip up.

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We had several more cut offs and missed hook ups from the little Macks that have been hanging in the area.  It definitely kept Devon busy.  We were winding down on the clock when Devon yelled… “Sail up on the flat line!”  Hooked up!  This fish wasn’t going to come easy.  We fought him for well over 30 minutes and finally got him to the boat where Devon could get a hold of the bill.  Photo op!

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We called it a day as we were well over time and the guys were very happy with the catch.  The actual catch tally was 5 Dolphin, 1 Barracuda, and released a nice Sailfish.  The laughter continued all the way back and during the filet session, about the Dolphin that slipped his grip and became a release.  Who am I kidding? The comments continued until he got into the car.  I’m sure Morrie (father-in-law) will bring it up for some time to come.  Too funny!

The next trip we had was with Andre and his group.  3 of the 4 guys have fished with us before and knew the drill.  We made our way out to the worm hole.  Devon set out the chum and we waited for the worms to show up.  Tides and winds were a bit opposite so it was a tough go but we managed to get enough bait after a while.  Here we go!

We arrived offshore at our starting point and set up a nice spread.  We have had some unseasonably calm waters on our scheduled trips lately.  I idled the livies around the area looking for “the spot” where the fish were.  As Devon always tells me… they are where you find them!  Ka-Boom!  The downrigger gets hammered and it is a giant bull Dolphin.  We found them!  The fish is so strong he is simply ripping line off the drag.  All we could do is hang on!  The fish finally stopped his run and banged a U-turn.  I yelled “REEL!” as I pushed the throttles down trying to help the angler stay tight.  The rod tip goes slack and the hook starts flopping across the water.  Bull-hockey!  We tried hard to stay tight but that fish had our number.  They don’t get that big by being stupid.

We had several more missed strikes, darn “Snake” Mackerel, and caught a few big ‘Cudas.  We stayed pretty busy and the day was passing quickly.  The short rigger popped off and Devon put Jesse on the rod.  He did the drop back and hook up perfectly.  Sailfish on… Yeah Buddy!  This fish went nuts for about 30 seconds and then dropped into the depths taking Jesses “down & dirty” for the remainder of the fight.  It wasn’t a pretty fight, but it was a pretty long fight.  We were on this fish for over 45 minutes when we finally got a closer look at it.  We realized why it was such a tough guy.  During one of the jumps it must have spit the hook but re-hooked itself in the top of the head.  That hook placement makes the fight similar to pulling a huge diving plug through the water.  We finally raised him up and got the release.

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Look at those smiles!  You can’t explain the feeling you get after catching/releasing one of these critters, even if you were just watching.  They are awesome fish!  The rest of the day was relatively uneventful after that.  We turned The BEAST toward the western horizon and hauled it home.

Want to join in during this spring break?

Capt. Jim

Sometimes the bug!

The past several weeks have been beautiful days for a boat ride but hard for the captain and crew.  We have seen days with slow tides and no current and if we did have a current it was moving to the south at a trickle.  Not optimum conditions but you take what you are given and carry on.

Ron and Dick came with us for a ¾ day trip with their grandsons in tow.  We made our way out to the Hardtail areas but they were nowhere to be found, so we made the run to the ballyhoo patches.  The tide was dead and that is all I heard on the radio.  Everyone was having trouble as nothing was flowing across the inside reefs.  We hung at the patch for 30 minutes and finally pulled the chum bag.  We were going to go “all in” and made our way out to the edge in hopes that there would be some current moving along the deeper reefs.  The winds were nonexistent and  the chum was barely moving,  Yeah… sinking right under the boat.  Thankfully the winds picked up to about 8 knots and swung the boat and the slight wave action helped wash some of the chum away from the stern.  The worms started to show up but it was a slow process.  We finally had enough baits to head out for the rest of this short day.

Having kids and grandkids of my own, the one thing I know is that you have to keep their attention.  That means you must try to keep them as busy as possible catching fish.  My first stop was to get them hooked up on anything and I knew just what would do that and where to go to do it.  Devon put 3 lines on top and dropped one down.  The blue water current was barely trickling to the north.  I made a few rounds in the area when the down rod kicked off.  This was not a big fish but it would satisfy one of the boys for now.  He did a real good job with little assistance and the fish made it up to the boat,  A small Barracuda!

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Ok.  Let’s see if we can do this 2 more times.  We set up again and the procedure worked out with each of the other 2 boys getting a ‘Cuda.  They weren’t monsters but they did get bigger, on cue, as each of the older boys took their turn.

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Each boy had a fish fight under their belts, so I spread out the search pattern in that area.  The current had all but stopped now and the bite followed suit.  15 minutes of this and we couldn’t even buy a Cuda bite.  I had Devon pull the lines and I made a 10 mile run in search of some moving water.  I found an area that had about a half knot current so we set up there.  Oh boy, what a difference moving water makes.  We managed to catch 2 Kingfish quickly and missed several other small fish strikes on the down rod.

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The action was much better in this area.  We had a good Kingfish on the line and suddenly he got much heavier and then he lost weight a few seconds later.  We reeled up a very nice Kingfish head.  Devon reset and 5  minutes after the line goes back down we get hooked up again.  This time we caught the Kingfish bandit.  A nice 4 ½’ Silky shark with a fat belly.  My guess is he had about 10 pounds of our Kingfish in him.  We released the fish to digest his meal.  We were running out of time and the men were ready to get these happy kids back to their Moms.  I told Devon to dump what bait was left in the wells.  I slowly motored around the freebies and we got a taker on the rigger line.  Sail?  Nope… it’s staying down and circling.  It was a large Bonito, aka Bonehead!  Devon released the fish unharmed and we buttoned up The BEAST.  It was not a premier day fish wise, but we kept 3 kids busy for most of the time.

The next trip was another ¾ day with Dan, Dave, Jake & Terry.  Conditions hadn’t changed very much except we did manage to get about 4 Hardtails before we went to the worm hole.  Again… the tides were not hardly moving but we did have an easy breeze and a light chop on the waters.  It took about 30 minutes for the ballyhoo to show up but when they did we got a couple dozen “hookers” and I tossed the net to load the other well with a couple dozen “netters”.  Off we go into the wild blue yonder!  Yep… I did 4 years in the Air Force!

Of course, the conditions are not a whole lot better this day compared to the previous trip.  Devon put out our normal spread and a half hour passes.  Oh Boy!  I’m thinking… Here we go again!  I absolutely hate these sort of days.  I really want to put my guys on fish too!  Bam!  The down rod gets the nod.  This is a decent fish and it doesn’t take long until we see the telltale signs of a Caribbean Spotted Mackerel.  C’mon, you know by now that we call them by that nickname on The BEAST.

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That was the only bite we had for some time to come.  I changed up areas and Devon kept fresh baits out.  Suddenly the action started picking up however it was a multitude of small Kingfish and Cero Mackerel.  We did manage to pick up yet another Barracuda that was worthy of a picture.

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The guys got another shark on this day, a 3‘ Sharpnose.  Our shining moment was when we dumped our wells at the end of this short day and had a Sailfish come up and eat.  We did everything right from letting him take it and cranking down to hook up.  He was taking line and on his first jump he suddenly came unpinned.  CRAP!  I guess it was not meant to be.  Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.  I guess it was time for us to pay our dues and eat a big piece of that nasty “Humble Pie”.

It so amazes me, how hard it is to write reports about these less than glamorous trips, but I refuse to only write about the good ones.  It’s even more amazing how Devon and I consider these days slow even though we catch fish.  Sometimes the conditions just make the fishing hard, definitely not a lack of effort!  I promise we’ll do better!

Capt. Jim

Thinking it out!

Adam, Dan, and Alden came down to escape the frozen tundra and soak up some warm S. Florida sun.  They were doing a 3/4 day and possibly extending it to a full day.  We loaded them aboard and I fired up The BEAST.  We pushed slowly into the Bay and made our run out to the Worm Hole, one of our favorite spots for bait.  We grabbed some bait in pretty good time and headed out to the blue water.

Arriving on the edge, things looked OK but not good.  It is what it is my friend. I found some good water and Devon put out a small spread, 3 on top and 1 down.  We bumped around the area and suddenly the down rod got a visitor.  A good thump but our visitor took what he wanted and left the rest.  By the looks of his calling card, it was a ‘Cuda.  Strike one!  We worked the area, north and south of the bite, but nothing was happening.  This lull was dragging on with unbearable monotony.  I hate when the fish stop feeding.  It makes us look bad!  What’s a crew supposed to do but struggle through it?  Not… Enough of this!  I decided to make a major move and Devon reeled them in.

I pulled up just a bit outside of the destination and Devon reset the lines quickly.  We hadn’t gotten very far when, Zzzzzzzzzz, the down rod blasts off.  Dan jumps on the rod and he is on a good fish.  I’m thinking Kingfish until halfway through the fight I start to see the telltale thump of the rod.  Dan works the fish up and as I suspected we have a big “Caribbean Spotted Mackerel” aka Barracuda.

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We released that fish and reset the down rod.  I approached my area and the closer I got the thicker the scattered weeds became.  Devon never gripes, he just works the pit tirelessly.  We couldn’t efficiently work the area so I pulled offshore of the weeds in deeper water than I like to fish.  The down rod gets another bump and we have a small Kingfish hooked and quickly into the boat.  The fishing was slow out there and I knew I had to get inside the weeds.  Figuring that the tide was moving out, I made a move to go into the weeds and see if I could clear them at my spot.  I apologized to Devon as everything got weeded up.  “No problem.” he said.  We got across the weeds to find that, indeed, the winds and tide had cleaned my house.  We weren’t in there long and we had already picked up 3 Cero Macks, small ‘Cuda, and a small Blackfin. We missed about a half dozen down bites and we knew why by the size of these Kings and Cero’s that were all over the area.

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We were already over time about an hour and I asked if they wanted to turn the ¾ into a full day.  I got a unanimous “Hell Yeah!”  We continued to work the place for another 30 minutes or so and I made a silent decision to slowly work the edges of this area.  At 4:15 a Sailfish makes an appearance on the short center line.  We were feeding him when both of the rigger lines popped off.  I got a guy on each rod and Devon and I start yelling “Go, Go, GO! Come tight on ’em!”  We have us a triple Boyeee!  The fish are being somewhat manageable by hanging in the same general area.  The guys are commenting on how strong they are as one or the other has line peeling off the reel.  I looked forward and saw Alden playing with the drag.  NOOOOO!  One more jump and snap goes his line.  I always ask, why do you do that?  The answer is always… It was taking line.  Uh huh!  That’s what it is designed to do.  Let the fish take, instead of break, the line!  And so ends the lesson, Grasshopper!  Down to 2 fish and the guys are doing a good job.  Adam gets his fish to the boat and Devon gets him in the corner for a photo op.  I told Dan to play his fish easy while we get Adam‘s photo.

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Photo, a clean release, and we turn our attention back to Dan who is doing a very good job of just wearing down his fish.  The Sail makes a half hearted run and Dan brings him back to the boat.  Devon grabs the bill and we repeat the previous process for Dan’s photo.

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That’s a done deal!  2 out of 3 on Sailfish is pretty good, not quite as good as 3 for 3 though.  With 15 minutes of time left, Alden was thinking he wouldn’t get another shot at a good fish.  I signaled Devon to dump the few leftover baits in the wells.  I was trying my best to stay in the midst of the few fish swimming about when the rigger line pops off.  Here we go!  Alden comes tight on the fish and everyone is thinking it might be his Sail.  Devon and I realized that this was probably a Tuna.  Minutes tick away and Alden keeps his hands clear of the drag knob this time.  We see color and it is black and gold.  He has a nice Blackie!  Devon puts the steel to his fish and he is proud of his 14# Blackfin.

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The fish was immediately bled and tossed in the ice.  Pretty work, Boys!  Devon hit the wash down while I pulled in the riggers.  I turned the nose of the Beast toward the west and kicked the spurs.  She caught scent of home and galloped  into the sunset.  I proved to myself, once again, that you have to stay alert, be patient, and think things out when conditions are less than optimum.  What a great day!  Smiles were rampant on The BEAST.

Capt. Jim