It is what it is!
<p>Last Friday I was down at the dock doing some maintenance and prepping The BEAST for our trip on Saturday. The day was sunny with a very light breeze and pleasant temperatures in the 80's. By evening some cloud cover had moved in. Saturday morning Devon and I arrived at the dock to find 20 knot winds. As daylight broke we saw gray skies that threatened rain. What's with this? I thought the forecast was for this front to push through overnight and winds of 13-18 knots. Well… It is what it is!
Matt and Ryan Briggle arrived at the dock with their Dad, Jack, and Uncle Forest. Forest told me that he was the photographer on the first photo shoot in which World Cat used The BEAST. That was 1999. Small world, huh? I told Forest that he was going to experience, first hand, what the catamaran hype was all about.
I fired up The BEAST and we headed off into the gloom. Our first agenda was to stop for a few Hardtail baits. We hit 2 spots and all we could find were a couple of cupcakes, very small Blue Runners. I pushed the juice to the outboards and off we go for some Ballyhoo. The reef area was choppy with solid 3 footers but we never slowed down. I realized that the wind was bucking the currents so our favorite ballyhoo spot was not possible. I turned the wheel south toward another good spot. We arrived a few minutes later and set out a chum block. We spent a good while finally caught about 3 or 4 Bally's. No more in sight anywhere. I'm not waiting this one out! Reel 'em in boys and let's head farther south and more inshore. Reaching that spot, I freshened the chum pot and waited what seemed like an agonizing eternity. The 'hoo had finally found the scent and were coming up in good numbers. Unfortunately, the Moon Jellies were coming in large groups with each passing wave. The guys were picking off the 'hoo with hook and line as the ballyhoo were dipping and diving to dodge the jellyfish. I was itching to get a net on them. They were in good numbers behind the boat but so were the moons. If I toss the net and get a few jellies in it, they will fry the baits as we gather the net. I loaded the net as Devon kept a visual on the bait and jellies. When we had a group of 'hoo in range and clear of the jellies, he gave me the green light. I pancaked the Calusa net and we hauled in about 3 dozen baits. Teamwork paid off. We caught a few more on the hook and then bagged the bait ritual to head offshore.
Our starting point looked like a blue water washing machine with 5' waves. The winds seemed to be increasing and the clouds were getting heavy with moisture. Devon and I opted for a 3 up and 1 down set on this blustery day. We had 2 bites on the top rods but when we retrieved the lines we found the telltale mackerel bite. Our next bite resulted in a hook up for Matt. He worked the small fish in and as we expected it was a nice Cero Mackerel. A light rain began to fall. It wasn't enough to get out the rain gear but it was just enough to be annoying. We missed another couple of bites and these baits came back in looking more like some sort of tuna bite. Finally the left rigger pops off and we have a solid fish ripping line off the reel. I was anticipating a Sailfish to go airborne but it didn't happen. This fish wanted to stay deeper so I began bringing the boat around so Ryan could fight the fish off the bow quarter. Suddenly the line went limp. Ryan didn't make a mistake, no slack line. When he brought the bait back to the boat, it appeared we had a tuna bite again. The problem was that the hook had turned and went back through the bait. This left only the point of the hook visible and obviously the hook never passed the barb. That's a tough break. We spent another half hour with nothing happening. I suggested we try some wreck fishing with the speed jigs. Matt and Ryan agreed because they wanted to see our speed jigging techniques.
As we pulled up on the chosen wreck the wind was blowing in excess of 25 knots. The wind push on the boat was defeating the current which allowed me to keep the boat in good position with little drift. We dropped 2 lines. Devon was working one rod, showing Ryan the rhythm. Matt, on the other rod, was doing a pretty good job of mimicking Devon's style. Ryan was watching Devon when the jig gets hit and Devon passes the rod over to Ryan. A few seconds later, Matt's jig gets whacked too! The Briggle Brothers were on a double and working their fish toward the surface. At the snap of your fingers, Matt;s fish is gone. Judging by the cut off hook and scraped up leader, it was a dang shark! Ryan brought his fish up and it was a fine specimen of a Yellow Jack. Nothing was marking on the sonar so after a few more drops with nothing happening, I suggested we try something else. Before Devon and I could get everything squared away to move on, I got the WORD! "Let's head in." Ryan said. It's only 1:15 and I tried to get them to hang on until the major feed time or at least until we set lines and chummed out all the live bait we had left. Ryan had been fighting off seas sickness for a good bit and everyone in his crew had forgotten to bring rain gear, except Forest. The conditions had taken their toll on my guys and turning green was definitely not on Ryan's agenda. They passed on my suggestions.
I pointed The BEAST toward home and grabbed a handful of throttles. We arrived as the rain began coming down now, light but steady. I realized that no one had taken a single picture. None of us wanted to pull out our cameras, in the rain, to take pictures of this stellar catch. At this point in time I think we were all really glad that we had come in early. Matt and Ryan said they had a good time learning some of our techniques and they wanted to do it again. I explained to them that my experience has shown that a cloudy, low pressure pre-frontal condition has always seemed to be slow fishing. We give 100% effort and can control most everything but we can't control the weather. It is what it is!
I'm not the kind of Captain that only reports on my good trips. However… Writing reports about our less productive trips is definitely not my favorite item on the "Things to do" list. Thankfully these trips don't happen very often!
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.