We had a couple of back-to-back trips this past week that turned out pretty darn good. The weather blew like crazy last weekend so we postponed one of the trips until the winds and seas calmed down. These are the stories and I’m sticking to them.
Chris, her husband Drew, and their friend Steve arrived at the dock before Devon and I. I think they were a bit anxious! I met Chris a few years ago through a mutual friend and she decided to give us a call and set up this trip. By the time we got underway at 7 AM, they were really amped. We got reacquainted as we headed to our first bait stop.
Arriving at one of my favorite Hardtail holes, Devon explained what and how we were doing this as he put the lines in the water. Like magic, the rods kept bending over and the live well was filling up quickly. We had plenty of H’tails so we made the short run to a Ballyhoo patch. It took about 8-10 minutes of chumming to get the worms to the surface but when they did, it was easy pickings. We had about 2-3 dozen worms in the well when I broke out the Calusa cast net and covered them up. This topped off the bait wells and we were out of there.
We reached the offshore grounds in minutes and Devon put out the normal 5-line spread. I kept looking for anything that would draw my attention and the attention of the fish. The water was clean of any type of debris and we had that dreaded slow trickle of current to the South. 30 minutes into it, I turned around from the helm as Devon was checking on the down rod. I saw a dark shadow in the water. Sailfish! Sailfish on the left flat! The fish raised his sail and turned to eat the bait. I allowed the fish to eat the bait while on free spool a few seconds, tripped the bail, and then handed the rod to Drew. Fish on! The entire crew was excited, including this Captain and his Mate. The fish was strong and made a steady 150-yd run yet never leaving the water. We figured he was a good one and when he turned he began doing the aerial assault. The fish spent more time out of the water, than in it! Another 10 minutes of down & dirty fighting and the fish went airborne again. This time his acrobatic antics were not as lengthy. Meanwhile, Devon had left out 1 flat line bait. Yup! Fish on! This was a nice “lifter” Dolphin and Chris took the rod. She was all over this fish and that was a good thing because Drew’s Sail wasn’t an average fish and he wasn’t quite done. Devon lifted Chris’ Mahi into the boat and we turned our focus back to the Sailfish. One more halfhearted attempt at, in the air, in your face, leaps right at the boat and we were ready to bring the fish aboard for a photo. I estimate the fish to be in the high 50-pound class. Devon had the leader and was reaching for the bill when the leader gave out. Dang! Long battles often wear the leader too thin against their 80-grit sandpaper bill. It was a legal catch though.
We set everything back up and went at it again. We missed 3 bites on the down rod, which definitely appeared to be “snake” Kings. Devon added another hook to the rig and we hooked one up. It was as suspected, a small Kingfish, so we immediately released it.
We bagged the surface fishing for a bit to look for some bigger fish. You guessed it, the Grunt & Sweat. We made several drops but the current was slow and wrong. We did manage to get one good hookup and Steve started working on the fish. You notice that I said started because he handed the rod off to Drew. Just like the trip before them; Steve took the rod over for the end of the fight. After we got the 28# AJ into the boat, like deja vous, we immediately revoked his “Man card” too. We lost about 3 more hook ups and decided to give this up to hunt for some Dorado.
Devon put out our troll rigs and we set out in search of debris. As we reached the 400’ line, I caught glimpses of what appeared to be a weed line. We neared 500’ to find a long weed line with enormous mats, by today’s standards. The weeds were eelgrass with a fair mix of sargassum. I began rummaging down the edges and we picked up another nice “lifter” Dolphin. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a few Sooty Terns working the water. U-turn… sorry Devon! As we passed by a big mat, a couple of rods went down. We missed 2 Dorado but Steve did have one on. Holy slow motion Batman! I never saw anyone crank on a fish as slow as he does. He reminded me of the Walleye fishermen on TV saying it’s a big one and turn the reel handle at 1 rpm. He lost a good lifter. We made a few more passes at the birds and picked up a little Blackfin Tuna.
We threw in the towel when we ran out of weeds and headed back in to try for fish on the edge again. Nothing happening, not even when we chummed all the live wells out. Not true! The Frigates and Terns had a good supper. Drew gave me the word so Devon and I buttoned up the boat.
We had a lot of fun and made fun of slow motion Steve. We lost many fish but I did manage to get a picture of the crew with all of their fish that got away!
The following day we had a trip with Adrian and her husband Ted. The day started out as any other except that we were greeted with a gorgeous sunrise.
Everything was business as usual on the way out, other than I changed up on the bait patches. The results were almost equal as well except that we didn’t need as much bait since this was only a ¾ day. Next step is to get our sterns offshore and start fishing.
The weeds from the day before were scattered all about and unworkable. A quick search for clean water and we ended up working south of where we were the day before. The current was about the same, light to the South. Ugh! We put out our spread and made a few maneuvers when Devon pointed out some Frigates on the deck about ¾ of a mile south and moving north. I took a 45 angle toward them but left the throttles at idle so I wouldn’t spook whatever it was. Several minutes later and the birds were almost on us when they took a course change to swing into our bait spread. BOOM! The down rod lights up as the right rigger gets blasted. The fish on the rigger was a nice “gaffer” and the other was larger which was obvious as it took to the sky. Nice! We have a set of Dolphin, the Bull and Cow, Mr & Ms Mahi! Minutes of sure mayhem ensued with lines crossed and Ted & Adrian going around the boat in a weaving motion. This over and under angling continued until we got the Bull close enough. Devon threw the big steel hook over top of him and with one pull, stoned him dead! Good job Devo, that fish never even quivered on the deck. We now turned our attention to Adrian and the Cow. Adrian did a great job and so did Devon when he put the steel to this fish as well. Good job all the way around the boat. That was textbook Dolphin fishing right there! We scaled the fish and confirmed that we had a 16-pound Cow and a 20-pound Bull. That is a great way to start the day!
We worked the area for a good bit more. That’s enough! Nothing else wanted to come out and play so we will go hunting at you guessed it, the Grunt & Sweat! This is as much fun for Devon and I as it is for the crew. We love to see their faces as they realize the power of these fish for the first time. Upon arrival, we noticed a Frigate getting lower and then he dives down to the water. When I got into position, Devon pitched a bait in front of the bird. Nothing! As Devon reeled in the bait he noticed a fish following it. He stopped the bait and the fish made a small circle and ate the bait. Shark on, Ted! Yep, we had a 3’ Silky shark. We released this small fish. When we arrived at the wreck the story gets short. A South current and nothing biting on the speed jigs or the live Hardtails. We did manage to catch a small Scamp Grouper on a small Hardtail. Ted said he had never seen a Barracuda and wanted to catch one. OK… I know just the place to catch them. We abandoned the wreck and headed off to the spot I had in mind. We ran north to this spot where we found the same current but only at a trickle. While we were hunting for this ‘Cuda, Devon pitched a very small speed jig and hooked up, handing the small 15-pound rod to Ted. Ted had a match on this tackle and a few minutes later he boated a nice Yellow Jack.
I can’t believe that we are having trouble trying to catch a ‘Cuda. We finally got the bite on the down rod and the apparent headshake on the rod tells us it is the target species. A few minutes later this small version of our Caribbean Spotted Mackerel breaks the surface. Devon hands the fish aboard and Ted gets his photo with a Barracuda.
Even though it was past quitting time we sidled in closer to the edge to dump the wells and see if the live chum could spark up a Sailfish or another Mahi. After a long wait working around the area, all we saw were Frigates feeding on our chummed baits. More than an hour past our dock arrival time, we threw in the towel, secured the gear, and I turned The BEAST toward home.
Fall is coming! The bait is getting thick and the fall Dolphin run is beginning. The numbers of Sailfish are not far behind. This is the time of year that I like with cooler temperatures and jumping Sailfish. It doesn’t get much better than that in S. Florida.