<p>About 10 days ago we did a fun trip with the usual members, Devon, Amy, "Uncle" Al, and I. We were meat fishing so we met up at 10 AM and tossed the dock lines. Wreck fishing was about all that Amy wanted to do, no Sailfish, Mackerel, or anything of that nature. Of course, the first stop was for live bait.
We proceeded out to the first wreck site. Drifting live shrimp pegged on a jig, we had a few bites but most all ended in a cut off. Those dreaded Caribbean Spotted Mackerel (Cuda) will eat anything. We did get a couple of good bites but one wrecked us and we thought we had played out the other when the hook straightened. OK, let's go get some Jacks.
I headed for a deep wreck and we started dropping live ones as well as speed jigs. The jigs were working better on the Almaco Jacks, and then Uncle Al brought the first "wreck donkey' aboard.
The lives baits did there trick and all of us kept catching fish until we had enough fun for one day, quitting early.
We did make a stop at the first wreck and tried the jig/shrimp deal one more time. Uncle Al hooked up a monster Blue Runner which attracted a pack of Cuda's, right to the boat, and 2 big Sandbar sharks could be seen cruising the scene about 40' down.
OK… we're done! We only kept 3 around 30 pounds and 2 nice eating sized Almaco. The fish were very clean and filleted out nicely.
Yesterday, we took out our good customers, Skyler Smith, his dad Scott, and Skyler brought along his brother Ryan. He remembered the wreck fishing from last year and wanted to show his brother what strong fish they are. Skyler couldn't describe an Amberjack fight, in Missouri terms so Ryan had to see it to believe it. The agenda was set for AJ's.
The BEAST was tugging at the dock lines. They arrived late and we made the short run to the Hardtail spot. They were there, like a wolf pack in a feeding frenzy. Oh Lord! Averaging 1 ˝ - 2 pounds or better, they were giving them some sport on the 12# spinners. I hoped they were ready for an all day, back breaker outing. I asked if he was sure he didn't want to try for some Ballyhoo and do some slow trolling for Sails, Kings, etc? He was sure! OK, you asked for it.
After collecting about 4 baits, I throttled up and we made our way to Wreck # 1 for a warm up. We tried to drift some shrimp and crabs while working a smaller speed jig. Sklyer caught a small Scamp grouper on the speed jig which was quickly returned to the water. Nothing much doing on the live crusty's so we pulled lines.
Destination #2 was a deep water wreck with a limited relief. Conditions were good and the drift was right. On the first drop we used one of the smaller baits, and speed jigs. Bang! The bait gets whacked and Ryan gets his first try at a "wreck donkey"! Sweat was beading up on the top of his bald head. How's that? He grunts to us, "It pulls better than a 40# grass carp!" Laughter filled the boat! It's only a baby AJ, only weighing about 25 pounds, you might be in trouble when we use the big baits.
Next drift was using the same set up. The speed jig scored a small Almaco and the live bait got the nod for Skyler. A more respectable sized donkey. You might be asking why we call them donkeys. They fit the name perfectly because trying to pull these stubborn fish away from the wreck is like trying to make a donkey go somewhere he doesn't want to go.
We start using the jumbo baits and the size of the fish being caught increase. Scott is next and works a nice averaged sized fish to the boat. So far we are only warming them up on 25-35 pound fish.
We put the speed jigs down since they were not producing. Two live baits on each drift now. Several drifts later and these guys are in heaven. I made a call on the squawker to a friend out of Ocean Reef. He was doing well on the Sails and Kingfish with some Mahi mixed in. I suggested a break to get some live 'Hoo and give them a try but nothing doing, not interested. These 3 guys were enjoying the non stop action, and saying "Uncle" is not in their vocabulary. . We haven't made one drift. OK, you asked for it!
Devon picked out one of the biggest baits in the well and sent it down. BAM! Fish on! The rods bent over and Skyler can do little with this fish. The line begins to run out and a minute later it is over. The fish made it to the wreck. That was a big one! Devon reties a new leader as I reposition on the same drift line. OK, let her rip! He sends down the biggest bait as I send the other line down. We pass over the wreck and on the backside, the jumbo bait gets nervous. BOOM! The rod is bent over almost to the waterline and Skyler fights to remove it from the rod holder. It's on! This is a good one boys! Skyler manages to keep the fish from reaching the wreck. Knuckle buster! Several times, the fish pins his hands to the gunwales. 600 ft from the wreck and we breath a bit easier. 10, 20, 30 minutes into the fight and this fish doesn't even know it's hooked. The line on the reel appears like he is still only 20' off the bottom. Keep the pressure on him! Devon and I are watching the rod tip and it appears to be heavy, no action. Now we're not so sure we have an AJ but are betting it could be a big shark. Possibly a Sandbar, or big Hammerhead? 40 minutes and he is gaining some line. 50 minutes and the fish is beginning to tire from the relentless pressure. We're beginning to think shark with each passing minute. 60 minutes and over a mile from the hook up. We have color about 100' down. It's BIG! It's not a shark! 25 feet and OMG! As it rolls over we see that it's DONKEY KONG! Devon drops the smaller gaff and in 2 seconds has the big meat hook. I leader the fish to him, and he sticks it. It takes both of us to pull this monster over the gunwale. The fish hits the deck with a resounding THUD! We all stare at this fish and estimate her to be 100 pounds. Look! There, hanging in the fishes mouth, is the hook and the other half of the leader we just lost on the last drift! After we calmed down, we realized that we had over estimated the weight. The fish ONLY weighed 96 pounds!!!!!! Skyler's fish had dramatically broken The BEAST's boat record of 80 pounds.
Now, I asked once more if they wanted to try for something else as it would be tough to top that fish! NOPE! These guys were having way too much fun! I motored toward our drift line when I saw another boat ahead. He was on a "floater". We approached slowly and there was a 40' telephone pole adrift in the water. We pitched some small speed jigs and nothing. There were only 2 or 3 "micro" Dolphin, hanging around. The floater was was encrusted with barnacles, yet there were no Bar Jacks, Tripletail, or other fish. We quickly dropped a live bait down on a stinger rig for a Wahoo. No one home! Devon remarked "Imagine finding that pole, with the boat hull or motors, as we are running around in the dark, Sword fishing!" That is not something I want to think about
We made a few more drifts on the wreck but business was slowing down. We actually made a drift that didn't get a bite so I suggested spending the last 2 hours on the Grunt & Sweat wreck to see if they were hungry. The group agreed as Ryan has yet to catch a fish over 30 pounds. So off we go!
This wreck has a bit more structure and we tend to get wrecked more often. The fish weren't marking well but once again we get bit on each drift. Scott gets wrecked by a good fish. Next pass and he hooks up again. This time he posts up a 55 pounder. You got to be kidding me! There is the hook, leader, and several feet of our Power Pro that we just lost on the last drift! What are the chances of that happening, twice in the same day?
Next drift and the rod bends over. Ryan is on a nice fish and uses finesse to bring the fish up. That is a polite way to say he is muscle tired and has slowed down a bit. We have color and Ryan, finally, has a respectable 38 pound fish.
I know we used about 3 dozen baits, got wrecked by about half a dozen, and caught about 15 big fish. All were vented and released except one. We called it a day and I turned the bow toward home. The cruise is short, chattering about the "Big'un" in the box. We get The BEAST leashed up to the dock and it takes Skyler and Devon to get the big fish up on the cock. One more photo before the fish goes to the cleaning table.
We really enjoyed fishing with the Smith's as they are good people with a great sense of humor. We joked all day, with Ryan being the main focus. The easy attitude of this group helped make it a very memorable trip. Of course a good fish bite, never hurts!
By the way… to those who talk down the Amberjack. That 96 was cleaner than most of the Red Grouper I've seen and it produced some large, quality filets! If you don't believe me, that's cool, leave them for us!
About The Author: Captain Jim Barlett
Company: Beast Fishing Charters
Area Reporting: Miami & upper Key Largo, , Florida
Bio: Beast Fishing Charters is an offshore, light tackle, live bait, fishing charter. Capt. Jim has been fishing South Florida waters for over 35 years. The BEAST is a 2007 WorldCat 330TE, powered by twin 300 Suzuki's and is a stable, comfortable, center console. Capt. Jim specializes in, but is not limited to, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Dolphin. Wreck fishing and bottom dropping are also on the menu.