This past weekend we did 3 trips. 2 of our trips were children 13 and under. The seas were favorable for good fishing (3-4′) but the not for all people involved.
Day 1 we met Shawn and Matt at the dock, loaded everyone aboard, and unleashed The BEAST. We made our way across the Bay and out to the south bait patches. The bait took its time showing up and were finicky to say the least. We struggled but finally managed to catch enough for the day, although an hour later than usual. These bait fish are getting wary of the big white thing in the water because of the daily fishing they get during the season. I powered up and made the short run to the “edge”. As I pulled back on the throttles, Devon began setting out our usual spread.
The Kingfish were on fire for the first 30 minutes. We missed a few bites on the downrigger but then caught 3 decent fish in the 10# range. Things went stale for a while and we couldn’t even buy a bite on any of the jigs. Then suddenly we see a green/yellow flash by the short flat line and a nice young Bull Dolphin eats the bait. Matt jumped on the rod and after a few jumps and what seemed to be a prolonged broadside fight, Matt led the Bull to the steel and we boxed the fish.
Devon reset the baits and we spent the next hour searching with no results. “Lines in! Let’s go do some bottom fishing.” The currents were slow and inline with the winds so I could jog the boat in place and as if on a sky hook, remain almost stationary. This allowed the baits to stay in the strike zone much longer. The first strike was an African Pompano complete with 3 feet of trailers on all it dorsal rays. What a beauty! The second drift attempt resulted in a small Barracuda. We made several more drifts and the next bite was a double. About halfway up, one rod got very heavy and then very light. You guessed it. We boated a nice Mutton Snapper and a nice Mutton Snapper head! OK! Time to move on!
As the clock wound down we worked the edge trying to collect a Sailfish for our duo. The remainder of the day was uneventful and as the old saying goes, “What will be, will be.” On the way in I ran to some of the other bait patches to check on available bait to see if we could expedite the bait catching process for the next trips.
Day 2 was a trip I scheduled with my neighbor, Phillip Delgado, who was taking his son Noah on a trip for his 9th birthday. Along with them were Phillip’s daughter Megan (12), and Noah’s “bestest” buddy, Connor (9)! I was taken aback by the fact that Noah, when asked what he wanted to do for his birthday, told his Dad that he wanted to fish with Jim.
We shoved off and headed out for bait, as usual. This time we went to one of the other areas that we had scouted out the day before. The bait came up good and though the tides and wind were bucking each other, the kids managed to catch plenty of “primo” hooker bait for the day. I tossed my Calusa net and pulled up a couple dozen “netters” to round off the live wells. I fired up the Zukes and we made our way to the edge.
In the first 5-10 minutes of fishing, a Sailfish rose to the short flat line and Noah was hooked up to his first Sailfish ever. He fought it like a seasoned veteran and after about 10 minutes of fight and aeiral acrobatics, we had the fish boatside for the tag, photo op, and release. At 9 years and 1 day, Noah completed his first Sailfish, catch and release. Good job, little buddy!
As we jogged around in the 3-4′ seas, Connor began feeling it and laid down on the bean bag. Megan and Noah caught several Kingfish before Megan began to feel the effects of the oceans motion.
Now we’ve lost 2 of our anglers and they’ve both lost their breakfast. While both Megan and Connor are laid out in the bean bags, Noah is steadily watching the down rigger rod. He knew that this rod gets most of the action and wouldn’t move more than 2′ from it. Whoop, there it is! Noah was on it in a flash and this fish was a bit stronger than the Kingfish he had wrestled up to this point. As the fight finally reaches the point of seeing color we are not sure whether he has a Cobia or a Shark. A few more cranks and we see the fish is a small shark. Noah has no care at this point because he is all into this fishing thing.
After a while Noah lets me know he would like to try for and African or a Mutton, so, off we go to give it a shot. Arriving on our favorite bottom location, I am disappointed to find a strong current with the winds blowing the same direction, affecting the drift even more so. The first drift or 2 were uneventful, not even a bump. We made another and I tried to power into the current a bit, but it twisted the boat’s drift out of shape, and I abandoned that idea. We made a few more drifts trying valiantly to keep the 32oz weights on or at least near the bottom, and our only return was a small Barracuda. We gave up on the bottom fishing
The time is running short so we put out a quick spread for the last 20-30 minutes and the baits immediately get covered up with chubby Dolphin. We had 3 hooked up and Megan, Noah and Phillip (Dad) on the rods. Megan lost her fish at the boat and Noah’s fish flipped off the jig as I tried to lift it over the rail. Sorry, Buddy! Dad’s fish was the only one that made it into the fish box.
I guess a picture does say a 1000 words. Even the ones that were sick had smiles on their face. Hmmm? Was it because of the fish we caught or the fact that we were headed for dry land? I know that Noah would still be fishing if we were out there. This is one kid that, in the future, will be writing his own fishing reports. He is ate up with fishing, just like the crew of The BEAST.
Day 3 was a half day trip with Will and Will Jr. We turned out The BEAST and ran a faster cruise across the Bay for the bait patch. We knew we didn’t need so many baits for a half day, and that was a good thing. Arriving at the bait patch we found the bait to be staying well clear of us. Long casts and some little tricks were necessary to boat enough baits. Twice they came up close enough to get a net on and I did. Off to the blue water!
As we worked around the area we noticed quickly that the down rod was noticeably silent. This is our “go to” action getter, just not today or at least, not yet! We did have a school of heavier, lifter Dolphin come in and we picked off a pair of them.
Finally the down rod sounds off! Little Will climbs on the rod and manages to wrangle a nice Kingfish to the boat. Devon and I are still shaking our heads about the lack of noise this rod produced on that day.
Time is getting short, unfortunately, so we made our way to a spot that is always good for a bite of some sort. As I arrived, my sonar lights up like a Christmas tree and we make a few passes around these fish. The down rod gets the nod and it is a good run and then it falls silent to pulled hooks. We reset and make a few more passes before cutting our losses and calling it a day. Devon starts working a speed jig through the blips on the sonar screen. BAM! FISH ON! Big Will takes the rod and the fish is off to the races. 2 strong runs and Devon and I are believing we are into an Amberjack. A few minutes later and it appears to have gotten hung up in structure. No, wait! The GPS is showing that we are moving, not stationary. Work him, put the power to the fish! A few short power pumps and the fish is once again moving upwards toward the boat but Will is still in a fight. As color begins to show, it appears to be a moderately sized Jack. No, wait! Devon and I lean over the rail and he yells out “African!” “That is a garbage can lid, if I’ve ever seen one!” I yelled back. We collect ourselves and go into boating mode and promptly deck the fish. Will has just caught a beautiful 30# African Pompano specimen.
Wow! We pulled the rabbit out of the hat on that one. Although this half day trip had a low fish catch by numbers, we were abuzz about the quality. I pointed The BEAST for the barn, and on the trip home there was a constant chatter about this catch. Pretty work, guys!