Sunday we had a trip with Dan Young and his friends Jeremy, Jim and Rob. They wanted to do a ¾ day trip and expressed the desire to catch a Sailfish as one of their main targets. Since it is getting dark about an hour later these days we discussed doing it as a late morning to dark trip. Doing it that way would improve the chances of catching one during the “witching hour” rather than pulling lines and heading home in the middle of the afternoon. They were all for that idea. Devon and I were also, since it upped our odds of producing a Sailfish and also allowed us to sleep in.
The group met us at the dock at 10:15 and we hustled them aboard and prepared to cast off. The BEAST was growling like a rabid dog, unhappy about the break we had in the streak of successive trips with a Sailfish catch. Devon and I unleashed her and she took us out though the channels well worn path, while we got to know everybody. I have to admit that the one thing that I truly love about charter fishing is meeting people from all over the US and other countries! I throttled up the 600 Suzuki horses and it was all I could do to keep The BEAST in cruise mode. We were intent on a mission of redemption for this trip!
Our first stop was to try and locate some Hardtails! It was not going to happen on this day. We worked the area and found nothing. The water gin clear and we could’ve seen them if they were there and, they weren’t. Oh great, not the start I was hoping for. I powered up again and raised my cruise speed a bit more as we made our way out to the Ballyhoo patch. We arrived on calm seas with light north winds and deployed the chum. The tide was 2 ½ hours from low, yet the chum was barely flowing. This is not good! After about 10 minutes the Ballyhoo began showing up but were hanging back and finicky. I was afraid we might have this trouble with our late start. Couple that with the fact that these poor guys were not quite getting the hang of Ballyhoo fishing. One guy was catching most of them but too slow to suit us. Finally they came in close enough to drop a net and I took a shot since we only had about 12-15 hookers in the live well. My 10′ Calusa opened up and covered the group closest to the boat. Wow! I’m feeling less pressure now. About 10 minutes later and the boys added a few more hookers to the well and I had another shot on the hoo’s, a bit farther out, but I decided to take it. I tossed the net to my limits and it opened in a beautiful pancake. As I began to retrieve the net the silver flashes let us know we would be on our way offshore in a few minutes.
As we headed offshore, I knew that the Mayors Cup Sailfish tournament was still going on and all I could think of was all those kites taking up acres of water and having to jockey for productive positions. The tournaments southern boundary was Careysfort Light which encompasses my favorite fishing area. I was mesmerized to find that the area was almost empty with only the usual 10 or so boats out there. I found out today it was because the BIG bite was up north this weekend.
We quickly set out our spread and began to “Do work”! First up was a nice fat Cero Mack on the down rod. The Down rod was not on fire Sunday but we managed to catch 4 more Kingfish and missed 4 bites also. We released the 2 short “Snakes”, and kept the 2 legals with the largest being only 10 pounds. The fishing was a bit slow which can be attributed to absolutely 0 current in the area. We were obviously the most active boat in the immediate area but the radio was silent and no Sailfish were sighted. This being the case we opted to drop the wreck a few times to see if we could get something to bite down deep even with the lack of current.
We arrived for the bottom drop and I told Devon to do the normal 1 line test drop while I set my drift. No current whatsoever! We were moved slowly out of the zone only by the light breeze. I motored back over to the start point and gave Devon the nod and he dropped the 2 lines. The first drift was uneventful. Pull ’em up! I adjusted a bit and again gave the nod. We fired down 2 baits and a minute goes by and the back rod gets thumped. As Dan is bringing it up, it gets a major jolt. Something just ate his bite! As we get it up close to the surface, we realize it’s a dang ‘Cuda that engulfed the fish and hook. With only 50# leader showing out of his mouth, the leader cuts as Devon is trying to lean over to lift it aboard. We wanted to see what it was that we had on initially, but he was gone in a flash with the evidence. Let’s try that drift again. This time Rob gets the pull on the front rod and we have a fish coming up. That’s what we wanted! A nice 7# Pinkie (Mutton Snapper) comes aboard.
About 4:45 now and we hear a boat to the north about a mile, radio that he had a double up. Then my friend Al on Better Dayz relays to me that he had a single Sail up and jumped it off. I turned to the guys and asked if they wanted to try for that Sailfish since the bite could be sparking up a bit. Initially they wanted to keep dropping for Muttons but Devon convinced them that this is why we came out late, to maximize our chances of catching a Sailfish during the “witching hour”. They decided to go for it. Al remarks about a huge bait ball of sardines passing by him. We set out our baits and got into Sailfish mode. Almost an hour goes by and I see the bait ball moving north towards us. Knowing full well that these concentrations of bait hold predatory fish around and below them, I made a point of staying in close proximity to this school of hor d’ourves. 15 minutes before sunset and Devon yells out, “Fish on the flat line!” As Jeremy grabs the rod the right rigger goes off. Devon tells Jeremy to “Wind tight and get on him!” Devon comes tight on the rigger line and passes it off to Rob. DOUBLE!!!! Dan is so excited he is screaming “Wooohoo’s” as he runs to the cockpit to watch. The pair of Sailfish go airborne as if they are synchronized?then again, a second time. Another “Woohoo” from Dan, then Jeremy’s fish charges toward the boat and he can’t get up the slack in time. The fish comes unpinned and just that quick, we are down to one. Crap! Rob is tight on his fish and I get him to move forward as I put the bow of The BEAST on the tail of the fish. A few more minutes and we have the fish boatside for an attempt to tag. The fish is waddling and not giving me a good dart shot, then takes off again on a half hearted run. We get it back to the boat and I get the tag in. Devon grabs the bill and removes the hook. We pulled the fish aboard for a photo op of Rob’s first Sail. We put the fish back overboard and I bumped the throttles in gear as Devon climbed into the splash well to pull the fish upright until it revived well enough for a good release. Devon sent him on his way, wearing his new, bright red tag!
The BEAST was satisfied! Vindicated! The earlier growls had turned into a “cat”- like purr as I pointed her nose toward the barn! Rob was in awe of the power that our offshore fish have. He remarked that he wants to have a mount made of his first ever Sailfish. You see, Rob is from England and until Sunday his biggest fish was a 2-3 pound freshwater trout. Congratulations Rob! After all these years, I still know how you feel!