I received a call from one of our customers that fished with us last May. “Gimpy”, Ed Conway, wanted to fish a couple of days with us again. He booked Thursday and Saturday. If you remember back to my report from June 1 of this year, Gimpy was the guy who fished 3 days with a cast on his leg. He was minus the cast but still had a slight tell-tale limp.
Thursday arrived and Gimpy was at the dock at 6:30. He brought along a friend from S. Cal. They were beat up from jet lag and staying up all night drinking. Also with them was my favorite of the old group, “Papi” Julio Sr., the 76 year old Viejo from N. Miami. This was going to be fun if nothing else.
The weather forecast was for a passing cool front with a 50% chance of rain and increasing winds from the NNE. We finished prepping at 7 AM and Devon and I unleashed The BEAST from its lair. We exchanged pleasantries and discussed the past trip of a few months earlier. As we idled out through the channel, we noticed acres of mullet being swept by the tides and wind, across the low spots in the jetty. Devon grabbed the cast net and beat it for the casting deck as I positioned The BEAST for a throw. He loaded the net and made a toss. Holy Mullet, Beast-mate! He hit the Mullet Mother-lode! It took both of us to pull the net aboard. Ed and I quickly grabbed the smaller of the baits and put them in the starboard live well, while Devon grabbed a dip net to scoop the bulk of the larger fish back overboard. Mullet slime everywhere! The next 5 minutes were spent cleaning up the boat deck and ourselves.
We had about 50 nice baits in the well already, so I powered up the horses and headed for one of our Hardtail spots. I figured we would top that well off with a few prime Runner baits. We put about 8 Hardtails in the well with the mullet and, once again, I powered up the 300 Zukes and made our way for our favorite Ballyhoo (worm) patch. Arriving there about 20 minutes later we remarked about how it was actually rougher in the Bay than it was outside. Devon put out the chum and cut some bait as the ‘hoo slowly gathered. We quickly put about 2 dozen “hooker” worms into the port live well. The worms kept slithering closer toward the boat and the chum bag, growing less wary as they fed. I wanted to end this last bait gathering process quickly so I grabbed the 10′ Calusa net and loaded it for a toss. With the cockpit clear, I waited a few minutes until the bally’s gathered tight and then let the net rip. I tossed a pancake that crushed ’em! Devon and I pulled the net aboard and quickly loaded the worms into the well. Let’s get out of here and go fishing, Boys!
Arriving on the edge, Devon quickly set out a 4 top side spread with 1 line down. We had no sooner settled down and remarked about all the Frigates and Terns working the water, when the 2 outrigger lines got smashed. Ed grabbed one rod and Bruce the other. Nice! A bull Dolphin and his cow! The guys played them well and we boated, boxed, and iced them down.
As we set out our next spread, the weather front was approaching us and we were having some light rain and the winds were beginning to get up. We hooked up a couple more chubby Dolphin and boxed them as well. This time of year the fish migrating south from their northern summer waters are fat and sassy. I refer to them as “Carolina Dolphin”. Even the well fed “schoolie” sized fish are keepers, making a good meal rather than a sandwich.
The frontal line crept over us but the rain was light to moderate at best. It only lasted, off and on, for about an hour. The winds, however, were getting stronger and turned out of the NE as the front passed us. The 20 knot winds were building the seas to 5′ and the current was running strong into the wind. I had to keep jogging the boat to the NE to keep the lines tight. Bada Bing! The shortest flat line takes off and we are on a fish. Circling deep, we figured we had a Tuna. Sure enough. As the fish made it’s way to the boat we see we have a decent Skipjack Tuna, which we bled out, and iced down immediately.
The d/rigger produced a couple of Kingfish. They were not very lengthy but they were fat and I do mean fat. A couple more dolphin bites and then the downrigger line starts screaming. Papi was waiting for this one. The fish was a good one as Papi takes a light touch approach. Oops! That didn’t work as shortly into the fight the fish is gone. Get ’em next time Papi! That didn’t take long as the deep rod once again pops off. As the fish came closer to the boat it looked like a nice Cobia, at first. Nope! When it came close enough to get a good look at it, we realized we had a small Sharpnose Shark on instead. Can’t win them all.
As the afternoon wound down towards evening the winds were getting stronger and the seas were building to 6 and 7 feet. The BEAST was stable and safe, providing a good fishing platform even under these increasingly adverse conditions. Devon worked a speed jig in an area that we know holds Muttons from time to time. I’m marking fish, Devo! Bam! Fish on! Each of the guys managed to bring aboard a Mutton Snapper, only one of which was better than legal. The other 2 fish were borderline so Devon vented them and sent them back home.
We called it a day since the box was heavy with fish for Gimpy’s squad. They were satisfied, darkness would soon be upon us, and Mother Nature was not going to slack off. I turned The BEAST towards home and she dug in her claws, showing her forte’ to everyone aboard. Running rough water!
Gimpy and his group were supposed to fish with us again on Saturday but the winds were relentless. NOAA was calling for 30 knot winds and 8-10′ seas with a small craft advisory in effect. Considering our “safety first” attitude, the only option for Saturday would’ve been to anchor on the lee side of the islands and fish for sharks. Not exactly what we wanted to do so Ed and I mutually decided to cancel the outing. It’s better to fold than play the hand we were dealt!