Saturday was a welcomed relief. We have had some incredibly intense winds for the past week or so. The winds had finally begun to lay back towards the end of last week. Roberto Lopez, a local from the SW Kendall area, wanted to treat his son, Roberto Lopez, to a fishing trip for his excellent academic scores. Little Roberto is 14 and a freshman at Coral Reef High School. The weather looked good so we booked the date.
We all met at the dock a little early and the two Roberto’s hung back while Devon and I loaded and prepped the boat. Everything ready, we told the double R’s to come aboard. Devon directed them to the dry storage for their personal bags and the iced cooler for their food and drinks. The Suzuki’s were purring as I guided the big “Cat” out of the slip. I discussed the normal routine and possible expectations for the day as we idled, like a herd of turtles, down the manatee zoned channel.
I throttled up on the 600 ponies and The BEAST let out a growl as we came up on plane. At cruise speed she went back to purring and I pointed her toward one of our favorite Hardtail spots. We stopped there and picked up a dozen or so baits before we headed out for some Ballyhoo. You can never have too much bait and it’s not a bad thing to have different types as well. Once again I ponied up and headed for the ‘hoo patches. Arriving there about 15 minutes later, Devon set out the chum bag and cut some bait. The Bally’s were slow in getting up to the chum but once they crawled into sight they were eager feeders. We caught several dozen on hooks and put them in the other live well. Getting more stupid by the minute, the 10’ Calusa net made short work of a couple dozen worms that had gotten too comfortable while feeding. We quickly dispatched them into the Hardtail well. Off we go into the wild blue yonder!
Arriving on the grounds, after the short run, we found the seas to be about 1-2′ with a residual ground swell of 3′ or so. The skies were blue, the winds were NW at about 10-12 knots, and there was only a trickle of current to the north. Man, what a beautiful day! Devon quickly put out the usual spread of 4 up and 1 down. Little R told us he had never caught a Dolphin and really wanted to catch one. OK. Last trip we had several and this time of year it is not unlikely to encounter them. Well? the morning began painfully slow. Triggerfish (Ocean Tally) were tearing up the baits if I got in too close to the edge, and we had several misses on the down rod. There were 10 -15 boats in the area and the radio was buzzing. Captains were asking each other if it was happening for them. The answers were so very predictable. “Haven’t seen a thing other than Triggers”. Oh Boy, this is just great! As we approached the noon hour we had used up a bunch of baits with only one Trigger on the hook. A few other boats had an occasional Kingfish and there was one boat that had 2 or 3 Dolphin. One or two boats have seen a Sailfish pop up here and there with only a scant couple of these fish being hooked up. Slow! Slow! Slow!
I was beginning to remind myself that we hadn’t had this much trouble catching fish, in a long time. Too long to even remember! Was this going to be the day I paid my dues for all of our past successes? Man, I sure hope not! Devon broke out our lunch and he remarks that eating a sandwich is always a sure fired way to get a hook up. I hope so! We were half way through eating lunch when I made a turn up current and noticed something on the rigger. Crap! It’s another Trigger! Suddenly Devon yells, “SAILFISH!!! Sailfish on the short flat line!” It’s a small one that is having trouble catching the bait! Devon grabs the rod and free lines the bait back until the fish picks it up. He hands the rod to Little Roberto and tells him to engage and begin reeling until the circle hook finds its mark. Good job! We’re hooked up, Boys! As I reposition the boat, I hear the long rigger pop off then begin free spooling line. Big Roberto! We got another fish going here! Same drill. Engage and reel until the line comes tight. Bada Bing! That’s a DOUBLE!!!!!! The second fish is a good one. Little R has his fish close to the boat and I see that Big R’s fish is screaming line and heading offshore. A minute later and the line is down to less than a third of the spool. I told Devon we had to get after the second fish, NOW! He quickly leaders and unhooks the small 10# Sailfish for Little R on his first ever “Snooter”! I turned the bow towards the other fish and pushed the throttles up a bit to help gain back some of the line. The fish is jumping way out there in front of another boat. Nice fish! After we regained the majority of the line, Big R stayed in control of the fight. This one was an active fish, with many acrobatic moves. Roberto maneuvered the fish boat side and Devon grabbed the leader. That’s a catch, guys! I tried to place a tag but the fish wouldn’t give me a good, clean shot. He made a short strong run pulling the leader out of Devon’s hand, but Big R led him back to the boat. Once again, Devon has the leader and tries to maneuver him for the tag. POP, goes the leader! No tag but definitely a catch. Pretty work, Double R’s!!!
The boat that was offshore of me, hailed us on the squawk box. As it turns out it was a friend of mine, Al Gonzales, who was also hooked up on a fish. He said he was heading in after they boated his fish so we made plans to transfer his bait over to us. The water is still too warm and the worms are soft. They don’t last as good as when the water is chilly. Not to mention that we had spent most of the morning feeding our worms to the Triggerfish. As we waited for Al to get his fish, our down rod goes off. Little R works the rod and Devon puts the steel to a “snake” Kingfish.
Al moves in and passes his bait over to us, then blasts off to go home and watch the football game. Thanks again, Al! The Sailfish bite was smoldering but the Double R’s would rather get Little R a Dolphin catch since that would be another “first” for him. Not a problem? I’ll up the odds and meander out into some deeper water. The down rod pops off and Little R catches an 18-20 pound Barracuda or better known on the BEAST as a Caribbean Spotted Mackerel. Sounds more glamorous, no?
Things slowed for us again as we had worked much farther north. The radio chatter was telling of the Sailfish bite heating up again, down south. We pulled the lines and made a run for it. Setting up and still looking, more for Dolphin than anything else, it never hurts to place yourself in an active area. We continued on searching for our elusive Dorado. As time passes we find ourselves north again. I had another area in mind and as we pulled into the area, the down rod goes crazy. Little R climbs onto the rod and the fish takes him for a ride. Wow! If this is a Kingfish, it’s a nice one! 7-8 minutes later we see color and it is long with a lot of silver flash. It’s one of two could be’s! It could be a King or it could be a Cuda. As Little R gains line and gets it up towards the surface we see the latter is the case. Oh my God! That is a grande’, Dude! Devon hand lifts the fish aboard and if it wasn’t for the teeth and lack of USN markings I would’ve thought he just grabbed a torpedo! Every bit of 40+ pounds of muscle and teeth! Nice job, Little R!
With the departure time upon us, I asked Devon to dump the baits. Let’s see if we can make something happen, a last hoorah, if you will. The down rod goes off again and once again, Little R grabs it. This fish felt stronger than the last so hopefully we have something better this time. Nope! Up comes another Caribbean Spotted Mackerel. Although it seemed tougher than the last one it wasn’t quite as long and about 10 pounds shy in weight too. Oh well? what would you expect a Coral Reef High School student to catch more of? Ironically? Barracudas of course! After all, it is their school mascot!
As I turned the bow of The BEAST toward the barn we see a Sailfish free jumping about 150 feet in front of us. No story here. We dumped all the bait, remember! We cruised in and Big Roberto remarked that we tried our best to get the young one a Dolphin. He said that It just means he’s going to have to keep his grades up so they can come back after one, again!
By the way? The holiday season is fast approaching. Think about it! A fishing charter for that special someone, could be that unforgettable gift you’ve been searching for.