One of our best clients, Jon Clement came down again for a “mental health” day. It’s his term for a day on the water, by himself, to unwind from his rat-race travel schedule. Jon is not one for pictures so I will make this short and sweet.
Jon arrived at the normal time and we shoved off aboard The BEAST. We hit the Hardtail spots and gathered some baits quickly then moved out to the patches to see if we could find some Ballyhoo. The ’hoo’s have been few and far between lately. We only managed to catch 18, so we moved on.
The blue water conditions were good with some wave action but not uncomfortable. We caught 2 Bluefish in the 13# class, that were left over from that unusual run we had here earlier. Jon wanted Dolphin, Sailfish, Blackfin, etc, not Bluefish. The fishing was slow but the company was great, as usual. We hit the wrecks for a few minutes to get some pull on the lines. Actually trying for some Permit or Cobia, we only managed to land 2 big AJ’s. Enough! Time moved slowly as did the fishing. We managed to land a nice 10# Blackfin Tuna, a 20# ‘Cuda and right at the end of the day Jon hooked up an energetic Sailfish. This fish was off to the races, with multiple jumps and runs. Before we could clear the lines and get on the fish, it had taken about 250 yards of line. The spool was nearly empty as I got The BEAST turned around. The fish made one last jump, breaking the line. Jon was jet lag tired and called it a day after that. His motto is; even an OK day on the water is better than sitting in the airport between flights.
Our next trip was with my neighbor, Philip and his son Noah. Noah wanted to fish with us again, for his birthday. They arrived with Tommy and Julio in tow. We headed out to hit the bait patches. We caught our baits for the wreck fishing but catching Ballyhoo was tough. A few popped up but they stayed out of cast net range and wouldn't eat the hook baits. I think we caught about 6 or 7 Bally’s in total. Not good!
We ran out to the wrecks with the first stop being for Permit. The seas were too rough to work them properly so we hit Plan B -the “Grunt & Sweat”. We worked the guys out with the baits that we had plenty of. The first line down resulted in a ferocious bite. My little man, Noah, worked the fish and tossed the “Skunk” off the boat.
We kept the wheel of turns rolling, until everyone had a couple of fish. The fish averaged between 25 and 40 pounds.
I pulled the plug on wreck fishing when the reel seat came loose on one rod, broke the butt off another, and hyper-flexed one of my jigging rods which snapped the rod. OK guys, I’m out of AJ rods! We left the wreck and worked the surface for whatever would hit the few baits we had left. 3 large Bonito were caught before the day finished off. Even though the catch that day was not any of the glamorous species, the guys had a good time.
Our good friend Gimpy (Eddie) set up back to back trips which is his 12th and 13th time with us since 2009. This time he brought along 2 of his original crew, Richie and Juls, along with Paulie who came with him on his last trip. Of course, don’t forget Papi the octogenarian who always comes with Gimpy (his right-hand man) with or without his sons, Juls and Richie. They met us at the normal loading time. The BEAST was itching like a flea ridden dog, to get out there. We were off!
Our Hardtail baits came pretty easy and we hit a new patch for some Bally’s. The bait came up but they were finicky as hell and only a few ate the hooks and they were in no way going to come close enough to the boat to get a net on them. This is all too typical for this time of year because we have beat them up repeatedly for the past 6 or 7 months. We had about 10 baits, but during this time of year there are all kinds of other alternatives to make for a good day.
We put out a small 3 up / 1 down spread of live ones and worked the area for a short time. The seas were flat so I didn’t waste a lot of time plodding away at this. I wanted Gimpy and crew on some fish. After an hour or so I had Devon pull the lines and we headed for the “Grunt & Sweat” to get some action going for these guys.
We worked the wreck hard, temporarily tiring the guys out on 6 AJ’s between 30-40 pounds, 2 Almaco Jacks, and 3 big Bonito. All these fish were caught on live baits and Victory speed jigs. Paulie had a ball when he got into the speed jigging.
My buddy, Uncle Al, was out on his boat and radioed to let us know he found plenty of nice schoolie Mahi on a good weed line in 700’. Since we had enough of the wreck fish it was unanimous to head out to see if we could troll up some of these fish too. We found good weeds in 600’ and began hunting with a 4 spread of Rattle Jets. It didn’t take long. Bam, Pow, KaBoom, Kerplooey, on and on. We never trolled more than 10 minutes before we got another knockdown. We lost one decent fish in the small “gaffer” class. The bite slowed down around quitting time and we called it a good day with 17 Mahi in the box. I turned the bow toward the barn and goosed the 600 ponies up to cruise. I looked around the boat and there was not one face without a smile on it!
Day 2 with the Gimpster... Where are they? They finally arrived around 8 AM and The BEAST was snarling at them as they dragged their butts aboard. Got lost? (Chuckling) Yeah! You’re staying 12 minutes from the Marina. The Beast roared to life as we headed out to do the bait thing again. We collected a few more Hardtails, just in case the worms didn‘t bite. Almost exactly as the day before except 12 Ballyhoo this time. Ugh!
There was almost no current that day, only a trickle to the North and I do mean a trickle. The seas were calmer than the day before. We shot straight offshore to see if there was anymore of those Mahi around. The weeds were there but they were scattered with only a scant few small mats and very little Sargasso, mostly grass. We worked at it for a while and caught 4 Mahi. We changed up to take advantage of the slow current trying for some Mutton Snapper. We trolled almost all the way in to our Mutton spot, picking up a couple of Bonito on the way.
The current was moving to the north at 1/3 knot. I hoped that it was enough current for a bottom bite. The first drift was slow, like dropping bottom on a sliding anchor. Bada-Bing We hooked up and as the fish approached the boat I saw pink! Yes sir, yes sir!
Several more drops, caught a Sand Tile and then another Mutton. A few more drops and another Sand Tile and yet another Mutton. Oh, this is nice. While dropping the area, Juls and Paulie were working the jigs. Umph! Juls is hooked up on the jig and it is a really nice Yellow Jack.
I kept working the area when Paulie got hooked up to a fish on the jig. What the hell is that? When the fish reaches boat side it was a 3’ Cornet fish. It was beautiful, bright green with iridescent blue spots all over it. Guess what? No one thought to take a picture of it. We’re too intent on another Mutton and... Hoot, there it is, that’s #4.
While we were doing these slow drifts I put out a live “horse” Ballyhoo on top. Devon yells “SAILFISH”! Since my 80 year old friend, Papi, was going to take this fish I was going to hook him up for him. I fed the fish and the line started moving off fast so I flipped the bail and started reeling when the Sail went airborne. He was tail walking to the boat and he wasn’t stopping. The fish covered 75’ in less than 2 seconds. I was reeling like a madman with no time to give Papi the rod. The line was about to come tight and I leaned toward Papi to hand him the rod. In a split second, only 10’ away, the Sail digs into the water and makes a hard left turn. One beat of his tail and it taps the line. Pop! Done deal! The whole ordeal took less than 3 seconds.
The current stopped and so did the Mutton bite. I decided to hit another spot to see if there was any current there. Good, it was still moving there at about 1/2 knot. We made a drop and got bit off. Next drop, hooked up and there’s the color. Nice! It’s a good 13# Gag Grouper.
Next drop and we were snagged up. I grabbed the line to see if I could free it up. It felt like the weight was a pendulum between the line and the hook. Suddenly the line pulled back twice! It’s a fish! He kept coming like dead weight and as it reaches the surface it was a Sandbar Shark every inch of 9 feet and 250-275 in weight. A massive but lethargic fish, until his nose touched the boat. Splash! One swipe of his tail and everyone leaning over to see, was wet. The line parted and he was gone.
We buttoned up the boat and called it a day. Everyone was happy, happy, happy! For some reason, Gimpy never has a lackluster trip with us. When he and his buds come down from New York, he brings along some good MoJo! But hey... They still talk funny!