Wednesday Maxx and I drove to Sugarloaf Key, a trip that took over eight hours from our central Florida home. We towed the Mitzi, and launched it upon arrival. Then we relaxed with some old and new friends for a bit.
Thursday we were in the skiff early. We came out of the canal. American Light was staring us in the face, five miles away. Conditions were marginal, southeast at 10-15, but we went straight there. There weren’t any fish we could see there, so we headed out to sea in spite of the thunderhead we could see to the east.
We trolled for about fifteen minutes while I watched the cloud. It was both getting bigger and getting closer. Conditions were at about the limit of the Mitzi as it was, with 3-4 foot waves and a chop to boot. We turned around and headed back to Sugarloaf.
Once we got close to shore I shut down the engine and started poling. Maxx got on the bow with a 12-weight. We went less than 10 minutes before a tarpon appeared, swimming right at us. Maxx made an excellent cast. The fish ignored us completely.
He got two more shots in the next 20 minutes, one more at a single, and one at a string of four. The fish all ignored us and the fly. Then we went back to Mike’s and had lunch.
After lunch the weather cleared so we refueled and headed back to American Light. We got out into 400 or 500 feet of water and headed east. Maxx had a strike on the trolling outfit (my 20 pound spin outfits that I use for tarpon, big jacks, king mackerel, etc.). “Dad! You need to chase him!” Maxx said. Before I could reel in the other line and turn the boat the reel, a 6000 Spheros, was stripped to the spool. The fish was gone with over 250 yards of Power Pro. Dang!
We kept trolling with the one line we had left when suddenly a dolphinfish jumped about four feet into the air about 30 feet in front of us. Maxx’s rod went off and he was hooked up. I grabbed a light spin rod and tossed a CAL jig out and hooked up instantly.
For the next hour or so we had dozens of mahi all around us, attacking anything that moved. Maxx was getting bites on naked jigheads and bare hooks. I got the brilliant idea to get the seven-weight out and we got five or six on fly, once I took the tippet off and just used the butt section of the leader. The fish average 4-6 pounds, and we had mahi for supper!
The next morning we headed back out to blue water. The wind was 5-10 from the southwest, so after getting to the necessary depth we headed west. We trolled for a while and Maxx got a beautiful cero mackerel, and then another. Then he got another bite, and a mahi flew into the air. “Here they come!”
We could see all the fish racing to the boat. I grabbed a handful of cut bait and threw it into the water, then got the fly rod and the camera out. Maxx stuck the rod with the hooked fish in the holder to hold the mahi, and I handed him the fly rod. He fished and I took pictures until I looked into the water and saw a pair of 10-12 pound fish cruising around. I hooked one of them using a CAL jig on the light spin outfit.
That turned out to not be such a brilliant idea as it took almost 30 minutes to get it close enough to gaff. Then Maxx hooked the other one on a jig. It immediately jumped into the boat, still as green as it could be. A 2x2 repeatedly and forcefully applied to the head area finally slowed it down.
By now we had more than enough fish for eating, so we headed to the backcountry to explore there. We had a low outgoing tide. I got up and started poling the flat. Almost immediately Maxx spotted three permit cruising. He tried a tough upwind cast but the fly fell short.
We spotted a couple dozen permit altogether, both tailing and cruising. Maxx tossed a crab fly at many of them but they either fled in terror or ignored us. I haven’t done a lot of permit fishing but I think an orange fly line is a bad idea. Soon we came to a channel.
I let the boat float. We got a very nice drift across since the wind and the current were working against each other. We tossed jigs uptide and worked them back with the current. We got several crevalle in the five pound range, and I got a tasty mutton snapper about 18 inches long. Then I hooked a freight train.
Maxx cranked up the motor and gave chase. I fought the fish for 20 minutes or so and finally tailed a handsome permit, around 15 pound or so. We took a few photos, then released the fish.
On Saturday Ken Shannon and Cindy Kimber joined us. It was too windy for four of us to attempt fishing offshore in the Mitzi, so we headed to the backcountry. We had a high incoming tide, and saw nothing on the flats. Then I saw a hole at the end of an island.
Ken struck first with a fat mangrove snapper that was fooled by a CAL jig. Maxx tossed a Chug Bug and got several small cudas. Soon, though, we floated over a big channel.
Big cudas started following the Chug Bug but wouldn’t eat it. I rigged up a bait hook with wire and impaled a pinfish on it. The 10 pound spin outfit was handed to Maxx, who deployed it in a most appropriate fashion.
ZZZZzzzzZZZzzzzZZZzzz Spuh-LASH! One of those cudas ate the poor pinfish and Maxx had his hands full enough that I had to pursue the fish with the boat. While we were messing around with that cudas a school of a dozen permit swam right past us unmolested. No one was ready to cast to them. We didn’t see another all day.
We fished a while more and did some snorkeling too, and saw quite a few nice lobsters. Altogether it was a beautiful day. Although we got a few more fish, there was nothing of note.
Sunday we headed offshore again. The seas again were 3-4 feet with a chop caused by the 10-15 knot southeast wind. We got three smallish bonitos and missed a strike, bit it was really too rough to be out there and a thunderstorm convinced us to leave. I spent almost three hours cleaning the boat. Then we packed our things in preparation for the return home, which we did yesterday, a long, dull drive home.
It was so nice to fish for aggressive, hungry fish for a change.