We had trips Friday and Saturday on Father’s Day weekend. Friday was with our good customer Jon (frequent flyer) and Saturday was with the Muniz group. Both days were extremely hot and the seas were flat.
On Friday Jon and his friend met up with Devon and I, at 6 AM, since he had an early flight home to Atlanta that evening. Jon had orders from his boss (wife) to bring home fish since they had a Father’s Day gathering on Sunday. He wanted Dolphin or Tuna. OK! Hopefully the fish got the memo.
We left the slip and made our way straight to the Ballyhoo patches. We pulled them up in less than 5 minutes but when I say they were finicky, that is an understatement. We collected as many as we could, along with some speedos, without spending the whole morning working for bait. I took a heading for the edge and we set up shop! Not a breath of wind blowing, and the ambient temperature was already uncomfortable. I made my way about the area and absolutely nothing was stirring on this flat sea. I made a choice to run out and look for something interesting to fish. I saw some scattered weeds and dropped some trolling lines. After some long miles and out to 1200′ we found a few Sooty’s working. I closed the gap and got in front of them. BAM! Dolphin on! Jon worked the chubby schoolie to the boat and it was respectable enough to put in the fish box. A single? What’s up with that? We got back on the remaining 2 birds and down goes another rod! Once again we have a schoolie with no followers. Hmmmm! I made a few more passes and realized the birds were working small baitfish under the weeds and not the school sized stragglers hanging around. One more pass and the down rod goes off. Wahoo? Big Dolphin? Nope! Another schoolie takes to the surface and once again he was alone. Good grief, this is some slow fishing. We worked the birds for a while and finally gave up on them. Suddenly I hear Jon ask his friend, “What are you doing?” He is taking his underwear off! As he cleans up and pulls his shorts on commando style, he tells Jon, “Never trust a fart!” HE HAD A SHART (fart with leakage)! We laughed until our sides hurt and tears flowed!
With the morning gone and only 3 school Dolphin and a shart, we decided that maybe some Mutton Snapper would oblige us. As we were pulling lines, the down rod trips and we have a small fish on. What the heck? A 3 pound Barracuda comes to the surface and we know for sure now, that we are heading in for some bottom fishing, for sure! I pushed down the throttles and the wind gave us a bit of relief, cooling us down for a few minutes. I pulled the reins on the 600 ponies as we reached out spot. Little current, about 1/4 knot, and things are not looking much better here. We made a few drops and managed to jig up an Almaco Jack which we released. Several more drifts and we get another Caribbean Spotted Mackerel (Cuda) but a much larger specimen this time. We worked the area hard and at last, we got to see pink, as a decent Mutton comes to the top.
I pulled the plug on the bottom dropping as time was running out. Devon set up the lines to live bait the edge for the remaining time. Devon was working a speed jig, as usual, and I heard the “grunt” as he hands off the rod to Jon. As we see color we realize it is a Blackfin Tuna. Not big, but not a football either, more like a rugby ball. That was the topper for the day as we ran out of time.
As The BEAST headed home we told Jon that coming on a mission for certain species (groceries) usually leads to a slow day and too much Guinness on an empty stomach can also lead to a ventral faux pas. This is a common fact!
Saturday Will Muniz, his wife Heather, her brother Austin and their friend Dustin joined us at the dock at 7 AM and we headed out. They are all Redfish and back country fisherman from Ft. Myers and wanted to try out some offshore fishing. Miami and The BEAST were their choice. We asked them what they would like to do and they told us they had no preference. Good, we’ll put you on fish! Our first stop for some Hardtails was uneventful so we went to spot #2. Ahhhh, much better, as we filled the starboard live well in short order. I turned the power up and headed for some Ballyhoo to round out the port well. Nothing happening at 2 different spots. We couldn’t raise a single one! OK! We’ll play the hand that is dealt to us and go with what we got, plenty of Runners and a half dozen crabs. Our first stop was to see if we could catch a Permit. The seas were calm but a good wind ripple was present and the water clarity was not good at all. We only gave this a fleeting attempt and bagged out for the Grunt & Sweat wreck. I knew these guys would appreciate a big Amberjack. We arrived to find almost no current again as the day before. Oh Boy! We need a magician! After a few drifts and no takers, not even a bite on a speed jig, we contemplated hunting Dolphin. Trouble was there were 2 tournaments going on and everyone out there was hunting Dolphin. One more shot! We headed for a deeper wreck, hoping to find more current. We arrive to find just that and a good drift! OK. Let ’em rip!
We dropped one live bait down and Devon taught Dustin and Will his method for speed jigging. I’ve got to hand it to them, they picked it up quickly. The first takers turned out to be back to back Boneheads (Bonito) but the very large kind. We had hoped they were Blackfins but not quite. We caught 4 in a row with the last fish getting bit in half by a Cuda that followed it right to the boat. We gave him the rest of his meal.
The next takers were a troop of Almaco Jack on the jigs and the live bait. The Amberjack woke up from all the commotion and finally joined in. Will felt the power of these fish as he hooked one up on the speed jig.
Heather was hooked up too! I’m not sure who had who the fish or Heather! She is a gamer though. She never gave up, never passed the rod off, and worked her fish to the surface with steady resolve. Kinda! The fish had to put some doubt in her a half dozen times.
The speed jigs kept ripping and the live bait kept getting eaten, time after time. Will was on a break and Devon was working the jig and bada boom a solid hook as he passes it off to Dustin. The depth of the bite and the give and take of this circular fight, let us know it was another tuna type. Was this another big Bonito? NOT! We finally see color and it’s a Blackie and headed for the cold steel. Whoot there it is! Austin is on the boards with a good 18# Blackfin Tuna.
A few more drifts and the live bait gets the nod. Austin takes this one after only a short rest. It’s a Donkey for sure! I thought we were going to lose Austin over the side as the fish took his chest to the gunnel several times. Like his sister, he was a gamer with plenty of fight in his slight frame. It took some time but he brought that wreck donkey to the surface and it’s a whopping 50 pounder, almost half of Austin’s weight. That was fun to watch. Yes, the fish is hanging from our T-top rigging? Austin only wishes he could one hand press that much.
We packed it up at the wreck and headed offshore to look for some Dolphin. We relearned the lesson, don’t leave fish to find fish! After some long, hot, time spent searching and only finding a micro-Cuda, we headed back in to try some Muttons. Nothing happening there, the current was stagnant. I called that attempt a swing and a miss and had Devon pack it up for the run back to the deep wreck as time is slowly closing out on us.
Arriving at the deep wreck we see the only conditions that had changed there was the wind direction. Good current! We went after them again. This time they were not quite as cooperative but we still managed to catch them. Dustin, who was never at a loss for words, announces that he has a lock on the Almaco’s. He sure caught his fair share of them.
I had Devon pull the lines as the fat lady starts humming and we made one last ditch effort to try for a Permit again. The water was no better that afternoon than it was in the morning so we gave it up and pointed the bow west toward the barn.
I must say that Devon and I cracked on Dustin a lot throughout the day. He was just too easy, if you know what I mean. A great sport, with a great sense of humor, and about 12 or so, Heinekin! I think we all had a good time. We stayed busy most of the day with a total of 4 Bonito, 6-8 Amberjack (30-50#’s) 8-10 Almaco’s (Dustin’s forte’), an 18# Blackfin (sashimi), and a micro-Cuda (not worthy). I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut there were some tired people in Ft. Myers on Fathers Day!