<p>Wind, wind, and more wind! That was the theme for The BEAST on her last 2 trips. The winds were howling from the East at consistent 22-25 knots. This produces stacked up water at a close interval. Thankfully we run a 33' World Cat that eats them up and provides a safe and stabile platform to fish from.
Our first trip was with Charlie and his buddies, Yalkin, Frank, and Wally. They call themselves the Harbor Club but we call them the Banana crew. You might recall them if you remember last years report and picture of them all eating a banana on the way out through the channel. They were supposed to arrive at 7-ish but knowing Yalkin, it would be more like 8 AM. He didn't let us down, as they arrived minutes before 8.
We loaded them up, stowed their gear, and took the reins off The BEAST. We made the run to find some Hardtails. The second spot produced an adequate supply. Now off to find some live Ballyhoo. This actually turned out to be an effort. The Ballyhoo have been finicky to say the least. We've had no problems raising them but getting them to bite the hair hooks has been the test. Getting them within net range is even harder. They tend to get very wary late in the season. We managed to get a dozen or so and we headed off to the blue water.
Our first stop was to see if we could catch some Permit on a wreck. We moved back and forth while looking for them from the deck and on the sonar. We ended up soaking 2 crabs with no bites. On to plan B.
Plan B was to do some live baiting around the vicinity, trying for some Blackfin, Kingfish, Dolphin, and Sails. The time dragged on! Nothing was working and the radio chatter was filled with the word "SLOW". Suddenly the down rigger line starts to sing. Ok, we might be on the boards here! Up comes a Barracuda. Not quite what we had in mind, but it's action. We kept working the water and got a visual of a fish on the surface. As we approached, the fish turned out to be a Hammerhead. The shark wouldn't let us get close enough to try and pitch him one of our live baits and finally disappeared. The whole time we had 5 baits in the water as well. Nothing! We caught 3 more of those dreaded Caribbean Spotted Mackerel and we threw one in the fish box for bait because the guys were suggesting, to maybe do some shark fishing. I suggested to do some Jack fishing on the wrecks because we knew that wouldn't be a long process to get them busy. All agreed.
We ponied up The BEAST and in short order we were casing the wreck. Oh yeah, they're there! Several drops and we were on them like fleas on a hound dog. The guys were getting a work out now. Several drifts in and everyone has a good 30-35 pound fish under their belt. When Yalkin's turn comes around again, he pulls out his Accurate 665 on one of those high tech rods that he brought along. They are amazing how those rods and reels look like one you would go Bass fishing with, but it can pull a car off the ocean floor. We dropped the largest bait we had on his rod. BOOM! He is on! Yalkin is working the fish and it is another good one. He had to fight this fish in low gear for the entire fight. After about 35-40 minutes we see color. It's another Donkey Kong! Devon gaffs the fish and both of pull it aboard. The guys are amazed at the size of this critter. The fish weighed in at 82.5 pounds.
After 8-10 of these fish, big seas, relentless winds, coupled with the factor that they didn't get into town until late, and they called it a day. Even though the fishing was slow for our target species, we always have a good time fishing with the "Banana Crew"!
Our next trip was a � day with Fernando, his son Nick, Todd, and his son Zack. They met us at the dock and the wind was blowing hard out of the East, once again. NOAA was forecasting for 3-5 foot seas. Can't a guy get a break! Fernando and Nick are from Boca Raton, Todd and Zach are from New Jersey. Fernando wanted to show his friends a good time regardless of the forecast. All aboard, and Devon cut loose The BEAST.
We blasted off to our Hardtail spot. Not a bite. No worries! We went to our trusted spot and nothing doing! Uh oh! We tried one more spot with the same results. Not good! Off we go in hopes that the Ballyhoo would be on the feed. This was another lesson in humility as they came up but wouldn't feed. They never got closer than 50' from the boat. I wasn't a collegiate shot putter, so throwing the 18 pound cast net that far was totally out of the question. We are spending too much time and this is a short day. Catch some of those Yellowtail and drop down for some Pig Grunts to use for bait. We filled the well with the bigger 'Tails and a few Grunts to go along with the only 2 Ballyhoo we caught. OK. At worst we have some baits to drop on the wrecks and we already had crab on board. Off we go to make the best of this situation.
Our first stop was to see if we could find some Permit. The seas were every bit of 4-5 feet and getting a visual on the Permit was not to be. Nothing was hitting the speed jigs either. This is not good. Let's try some live baiting for a bit. Devon put out the 'hoo and we dropped a Yellowtail down. I meandered about trying to get some action going. Devon is working a speed jig and I hear his telltale grunt as it hooks up. He hands the rod off to Zach. This is taking a bit of time, what is it? Maybe a Blackfin or Bonito? While the fish is working him over, a small pack of "schoolie" Dolphin come into the spread. Devon baits them up and now everyone is hooked up. They're small, but over the legal size limit. One by one, we picked off the little Dollies. One flipped off at the boat, but the other 4 were dispatched to the fish box. Zach gets his fish to the boat and it is a 25 pound AJ. Go figure!
With Dolphin in the area I decided to put out a spread and try trolling for some Dolphin, Tuna, or Wahoo. This might help Nick out too, as he is hanging over the side calling his buddy Ralph. I told him that Facebook might be a better way to reach his buddy. We hooked up and Zach got the call on this fish. In short order a Bonito is on the boat.
The word on the radio that morning was a few Sails being caught but generally slow. Let's hit the deep wreck and get these kids, especially "Sick" Nick, on some bruiser fish. As usual, the fish didn't let us down. A 20 pound Bluefish was the largest fish Todd and Zach had caught, so shock and awe were the key words for them. Todd is no little guy but he was amazed at the power of these fish. No monsters, but all averaging around 30-35 pounds.
The afternoon got going and our time was running short. The radio was telling of a good Sailfish bite, but we had no decent baits to try it. Let's try for some Permit one more time, it's on our way in. The seas over the wreck were getting big with some 6 and 7 footers coming through. This attempt proved better. I located the fish on the sonar and Devon got a visual on a them too. We dropped our baits and I felt a pick up. BOOM! Fernando is hooked up. A few strong runs and suddenly the fish races to the surface. The fish now is heavy as it goes down. Pop, the line parts. Sharked! I have the line on the fish and we make a few more drifts. We get another bite and Zach is on the line. Once again the fish races to the surface and leaps out of the water. Cobia! I can't recall ever seeing one jump.
We made a few more drifts and Devon spotted a tailing Sail, but before he could get a bait to it, it turned invisible! Next drift and we had another hook up. This fish took Fernando to the wreck and was gone! I got carried away as usual and went way past time. We packed it up and turned the bow for the barn. Although the lack of bait was an issue, we tallied, 5 Dolphin, 5 Amberjack, a Bonito, a Cobia, and 0 for 2 on Permit.
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.