<p>I have 2 trips to report on with the last just getting in before this rain and bad weather consumed us. As I'm writing this the rains are torrential and we have up to 10" of rainfall in parts of Miami. THIS… is the dry season???
My wife planned an evening for us and I told her that as soon as she bought tickets to attend, I would get a charter call. You guessed it. Joe Abood called to ask about a trip for that same day and it was the only day he could fish. I couldn't refuse him so we agreed on doing a ¾ day. We would get some good fishing time in and I could, with some hurry up, still make my date with my wife.
Joe and his friends, Doug, Duane, and Tommy, met us at the dock at the normal 7 AM shove off. Devon removed the tethers and I awakened The BEAST. We made the run to one of our Blue Runner spots and quickly picked up some of those Kingfish candies. I powered up and pushed the cruise up an extra couple hundred rpm's. We arrived at the Bally patch and the worms came up quickly. We got a good share of hookers, so I tossed the net. The 10' Calusa net did the trick and the bait process was complete.
We made the short run to the "edge" and put out our spread. The seas were nice at 1-3 feet and everything was in order. Bang! That didn't take long as Joe was hooked up to a smoker. The line was peeling off the reel and then it was over, just that fast. Cut off the hook. That was obviously a Kingfish. They continued the man rotation, losing fish after fish. Joe even had a Sailfish hooked up and only got 1 jump before it said "I'm out of here!" OK… What's with the Palm Beach releases, guys?
Duane finally figured it out and kept a nice "snake" Kingfish pinned on. The fish hit the box and we were on the boards.
We had another fish come into the spread and Duane was hooked up again. Wait.. How did that happen? We're out of rotation. It was really Tommy's turn but he was calling his friend Ralph as he leaned over the rail. Duane took Tommy's turn and brought in a respectable Dolphin to add to their grocery cart.
The day progressed with a few more, missed strikes, lost fish, and Tommy chumming the water. We fell into a lull for about an hour or two. The next bite got us jump started as Joe brought another "snake" King aboard.
After Joe's fish, the last hour was a non stop bite on the downrigger. We caught and boated 2 Cobia that didn't quite make the size limit, missed a few more bites and then Doug caught another Kingfish.
Time ran out and reluctantly we had to leave an active bite. This was bitter sweet as the day saw lots of action and leaving during the bite was not what any of us wanted… EXCEPT Tommy. He never had a chance to feel good enough to even catch a fish. He hung in there and didn't complain, but he sure did count the minutes. He was more than happy that the trip was over.
Yesterday I met Harry and Al at the dock, once again at 7 AM. This trip was supposedly to try and catch some "horse" Ballyhoo for a Bluefin Tuna trip that Harry intended on taking in January. I brought along some of my normal tackle just in case we wanted to go offshore and have some fun too.
We loaded up and cut The BEAST loose. We bee-lined it for a Bally patch that I call Horse 'hoo. If the conditions are right, it is slam full of very large Ballyhoo. The conditions were marginal and it took exceptionally long to get the worms to show up. We caught a few large 'hoos but it wasn't productive enough to waste anymore than 1 block of chum. I set my sights for Bait Central and we made the short run to this patch. The bait came up quickly and we were loading the wells. We made 3 or 4 net throws and had more than enough bait to fish the rest of the day. We had plenty for Al to take home and brine up for trolling baits as well. Unfortunately we didn't succeed in catching the "horses" that Harry wanted.
We headed offshore to have some fun. East winds at 10-12 knots and 2-3' seas greeted us. We put out the normal Beast spread and within minutes Harry was hooked up to a decent Dolphin. As we tried to unhook the fish it decided to go ballistic. Anyone who has ever had this privilege, knows what a mess they can make. We had to break out the wash down hose and clean up the boat before we could continue fishing.
Al was working his speed jig methodically from time to time. He caught a nice sized Bonito and Skipjack Tuna. The down rigger was eerily silent. Not a Kingfish, nothing even touching the live baits sent down below. I started noticing the sonar marking large amounts of fish in 138 feet of water. Zingoweee!!! The d/rigger set at 70 feet, pops off and the drag takes a couple of short but strong runs. I throw the rod under my arm in my redneck bottom fishing style. This fish was amping it for the bottom but I kept the heat on it. I got it away from the bottom but it wanted to stay under the boat. I knew it wasn't a Kingfish and Harry was thinking 'Cuda. It's got the rod thump of the infamous Caribbean Spotted Mackerel, but I don't think so. There's color! The silhouette wasn't long and silvery, it was rather short. A few more feet and I yelled, "Are you believing this? It's a Mutton!" We hoisted the 10# Mutton Snapper over the side and into the fish box. Al was already thinking, crab stuffing!
We were still buzzing about catching this Mutton 60' off the bottom, when the left long rigger pops the clip. Harry free spooled the fish for a few seconds and then flipped the bail. Now he's off to the races and a Sailfish peeks his head out of the water. The fight stayed down and dirty as the fish never surfaced or did any of the notorious aerial feats. After a fair amount of time and 3 laps around the boat, the fish comes to the surface at the boat. He seems to be wrapped up somehow. On the second pass I grab the leader and was walking him to the boat for a release when suddenly the whole deal just came loose. Hook and all the leader still intact… it just came loose. Hey, it makes the release a whole lot easier on us and the fish, right?
Now, the birds that were a little annoying late in the morning, were becoming desperate to eat as the winds and seas began to grow. Good Lord they can be
frustrating, especially the Gannets. The Royal Terns were picking up the baits and even a few of the sharp eyed Frigates were getting in on it. We continued dealing with the birds while we caught a few more Bonito and 3 or 4 dink Dolphin. Several times we had to pick up all the baits and drift, until the birds left us. Then we would go into stealth mode as we put the baits out again. In between all this other action, we had another Sailfish pop up, but he was just doing some window shopping. We finally got a Kingfish bite on the down rigger and I reeled it in and boxed it for Al's smoker.
Our nerves were near the breaking point. Every time a bait twitched or moved from a predator fish, the birds would come in on a strafing run like a Kamikaze pilot at Pearl Harbor. We hooked 3 of the Boobies and 2 Terns. We did find out that circle hooks are conservation oriented for the birds as well as the fish. By the way… What is the limit on them? I think it's 3 of each per boat. JUST KIDDING!!! We finally had enough and picked everything up and ran 4 miles north to try and finish the day. Hopefully we would leave the birds behind. Did it work, you ask? No… hell no! We were still being pestered by 4 or 5 Terns up there and finally caught #3. After catching a Barracuda on the down rod and reaching our patience level with the birds, we called it a day. I pointed the nose of The BEAST towards the barn and made tracks for home.
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.