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