This past weekend was something to remember. Ed booked Thursday for Julio Sr. (76) and himself while they awaited the arrival of Julio Jr., Rich, and David, arriving Friday night from New York. They had Saturday and Sunday booked for all of them. Ed had recently been in a very bad auto accident and despite the doctors orders, came to fish, anyway
Ed and Julio Sr.(Papi), were anxious and arrived at the dock before we did on. We loaded the boat, secured all gear, and cast off the lines. We struck out on Hardtails so we proceeded to the bait patch for some Ballyhoo. Arriving to find another boat with a chum line already going, we went to another patch. We struggled there, until we finally got them up close enough to net, then motored offshore. The weather was beautiful, with 2’ seas, and a distinct blue/green edge right on the drop off. This should be a good day!
We no sooner got our baits out and we get bit on the left rigger by a nice cow Dolphin. The smaller bull, struck the long flat line. Ed was on the cow and as Devon was handing the rod to “Papi”, the bull charged under the boat finding the prop edge. The line cut and the arrogant bull spent the next 3-4 minutes jumping around the boat with the leader dangling from his lips as if he were laughing at us. Ed, with a full leg cast from mid thigh to his ankle, did a good job and landed his nice 28# fish.
Devon reset our spread. Not much later and we had another cow Dolphin invade the spread and “Papi” is hooked up. He did his thing like the seasoned veteran he is. The fish came up to the boat lit up. Several more minutes passed and we boated the nice 20# cow.
I worked the boat deeper toward the “Grunt & Sweat” wreck and we once again got bit by a pair of chubby school Dolphin. The guys managed to catch 1 of the 2. While working this area Devon dropped a speed jig and put the guys on a couple of AJ’s. “Papi’s” fish weighed in at 25 pounds and Ed’s was a nice 42 pounder.
We continued to work hard in this area and scored another chubster Dolphin and a large Bonito. The downrigger missed several small Kingfish and then it fired off. Ed brought a 15# Caribbean Spotted Mackerel (Barracuda) to boatside for a release. Since we were running low on bait we decided to see if we could hunt up some Permit. Conditions were not good and the fish were not cooperating. I decided to try trolling some small baits for the remainder of the day. The day finished on a high note with a pair of Blackfin Tuna, 10# and 6# respectively.
I turned The BEAST toward home. Since we were fishing again on Saturday and Sunday, I stopped to try for some Hardtails. They were very cooperative this time and in short order we had about 20 in the live well which we penned up for Saturday.
Saturday started off with nice skies. To the west was a hint of what was to come. Ed, and “Papi” arrived with Julio Jr. (Jules), Rich and David, in tow. Jules and Rich were beaming with this chance to enjoy the weekend, fishing with their old man, and vice versa with “Papi”. We loaded everyone aboard, and secured their essentials in the dry storage. We untied The BEAST and we’re off, as we discussed the game plan for the day. WE picked up a few more Hardtails on the way out and then blasted for the Bally patch. The clouds began building as we made our bait for the day.
I arrived on the color change, not nearly as prominent and farther out. Devon set out our spread. The time ticked away slowly and the fishing equally slow. Fishing the surface was tedious and we were blanking out. The approaching frontal system had the fish in lock jaw mode. I decided to do the wrecks and see if the Jacks would play with us. Well, the skies began getting angry as they approached us. To make things worse, having already done a quick repair job on a spinning reel earlier, our 2 bottom rods stripped the gears in the reels and the drag blew up on one of the speed jig reels. What the H? Devon broke out the bent butt planer rod and also rigged the remaining speed jig rod for bottom fishing. What luck? We did catch smaller 25-30 pound class Amberjack one after another until the squall line got too close. We pulled lines and made a run for a weather window in the radar. OOPS! It closed up quickly and the rains and strong winds came. We slowed and began trolling in the rain with the bow to the wind. Monitoring the radar I found an area to slip through and out of the squalls. The weather tamed down and we once again went back to the wreck. Nothing happening! It had shut down! OK! Let’s go try this obscure wreck I have, and see if they want to play. Yes they did! We caught and lost fish and ground tackle until we only had a dozen big baits left. With overcast skies, Devon tried to talk the guys into doing some more surface live baiting, for the Sails, Dolphin, Tuna, etc. They opted to continue battling the AJ’s.
I lost count of the fish for the day but the guys were happy. With only 3 Hardtails left in the well, we headed for home but opted to NOT fish for tomorrows bait in this crappy weather.
Sunday’s forecast was for better weather. We agreed to leave an hour early and the guys showed up a half hour late. Jules was about to cancel the trip and opt for Plan B as we looked in the horizon to see another weather line stretching up our way from the Keys. The wind had picked up dramatically, preceding the line. The others persuaded him to give it a go. The morning sun should burn off the clouds and if the forecast was correct, we’d have good weather offshore. It was and we did!
We hit the bait patch and the ‘hoo were at the boat before the chum bag went out. We spent about 20 minutes collecting some Speedo’s and then I tossed the Calusa net twice and we had a bunch of baits.
Offshore the water was blue and the seas had calmed. As Devon was setting out the 3rd line, it got picked up. He flipped the bail and it was FISH ON! Rich grabs the rod and a cow Dolphin catches some air! Several minutes pass by and the fish feels the steel and we have 20#’s of Mahi in the fish box.
The sun breaks through the haze, and the grins are ear from ear, now. I’m hanging in this area and the downrigger gets the nod. Dave works a “snake” Kingfish to the boat. Funny… the big Dude catches the small fish! We missed several more bites on the down rod.
Ed (Gimpy) was telling Devon that it would top off his trip if he could catch a Sailfish. The words were only seconds from his lips when Devon sees a Sailfish come up on the 20’ flat line. GAME ON! Gimpy “rod hogs” everyone out of the way. 5, then 10 minutes pass, about a half dozen aerial maneuvers, and this fish is nowhere near ready. 15, then 20 minutes pass, several more acrobatic displays, and some fancy boat maneuvering. 25, then 30 minutes and a 2 more futile attempts to get free, and we have him boatside for the tag & photos. This fish was the strongest and most energetic fish we’ve had this season. Devon lowers the fish into the water and with the utmost respect we tow the fish boatside for over 5 minutes until this warrior is fully revived and kicking his tail to go.
Devon resets the lines and in 5 minutes we have another Sail up on the rigger line. FISH ON! Wait! There’s one on the flat line too. DOUBLE!! Jules takes the rigger line and Rich is on the flat line but tries, in vain, to get “Papi” to take it. In the interim he allows too much slack and, poof, like magic it is gone. Gotta stay tight on ’em boys! Down to one and this one gives up the fight in about 10 minutes. WOW! Look how beat up this Sail is. He has fought some battles before. His Sail is split in 2 places and they aren‘t fresh.
As the afternoon progresses, the seas get flat and the sun is bright. The fishing slows down and Devon gets going on the speed jig. A few casts and as he works it up, I hear the normal grunting sounds from Devon, as the speed jig hooks up…Uhhhh! He hands the rod to “Papi” and he works hard on the fish. At 76 years old, his determination outdid his stamina and we put the lip stick in a nice 21 # Gag grouper. As the shutters snap, “Papi” wears a proud face for his boys!
A little while later and I hear Devon grunt again. Good one! Rich works the rod and remarks that this is as tough as the AJ’s. Devon and I are guessing big Bonito and hoping Blackfin! As we see color the gold hue is evident and “whoop, there it is”, we have a Blackie! 20#’s of Sashimi hit’s the deck.
A pair of large Cuda, 27# and 20#, end the day and this weekend excursion comes to a close. I point the bow towards the west and head for home. The guys sat up front, discussing the weekend. Plenty of jokes and razzing went on and the guys could dish it out and take it as well. I must say, other than that crazy accent, they’re a good bunch of guys with a great sense of humor. It was like fishing with friends.