Offshore 7/19+20 "the Dark Night"
As the weekend approached we made plans to leave Friday after work. We knew that it would be a pitch black night with the moon setting at the same time as the sun, but hoped that the so-called minor/minor would produce a hot bite.
Started to load the boat a bit before 6 and discovered an electrical gremlin in the boat. After about 20 minutes of fretting and diagnosing we determined that it was unlikely to present a safety issue, so we decided to design some work around solutions and head out. As we cleared the Venice jetty and headed offshore so did the storm over Charlotte Harbor. So now we had an electrical issue and weather? Great. But everyone kept a positive attitude and we headed for our overnight destination in 180 feet.
We arrived just as the last bit of light disappeared and set the anchor in the pitch dark. My first try was off the mark and it took only a few minutes of fishing to confirm that fact. Everyone did a great job helping to safely pull and redeploy and we were on the hook at our intended spot.
The current made it a bit of a challenge to find the right set up, but once we had the weight and bait combo dialed in we had a steady supply of mangroves, flag YT and fat bee-liners coming over the side. Meanwhile, Bob left the light tackle snapper fishing to everyone else and concentrated on dropping big baits to the bottom. After a few big bites that ended with pulled hooks, he dropped a plate-sized pin fish and it was game on. 10 minutes later the fish starts to show in the halo of light under the boat …. “someone get over here and gaff my big gag, no my big mutton, holy crap stick that PARGO!!!” And with that we had a big, toothy, mean looking Cubera on the deck and Bob (now known as Pargo Bob) was the happiest fisherman in the Gulf.
Then, as we were about to start the series of shifts over night the electrical gremlin departed from the boat like nothing was wrong. And, the storms that followed us out from Charlotte Harbor dissipated and left us with a black starry sky. Suddenly we were feeling like the luckiest boat in the Gulf.
Fishing was OK all night long and we contined to drop snapper in the box. And, our luck continued with storms moving north and south of us confirming that we were the luckiest boat in the Gulf.
We needed to be back at the dock by noon, so we pulled anchor at first light and headed for a couple bottom spots. First stop – singles, doubles, triples, everyone hooked up. Red Grouper all over the deck. After a few drops we decided that we had hit the spot hard enough and headed for stop #2. Same thing as stop #1 - red grouper sacrificing themselves for anything dead or alive and gags going crazy for anything metal. Truly a remarkable bite.
Then Mike’s jig gets wacked and he is tight to a big gag …. Wait … why is that gag running? And coming up? Holy crap …. Big wahoo. Clear the decks and hit the throttles. It did not take long for him get the fish under “control” – only two trips around the entire boat. But, hooking and landing a wahoo are two different things. Now Col. Jim is the member of the crew best known for his ability to sleep anywhere and at anytime and Mike looks over and sees him dosing off while leaning on the gaff. “Jim, are you SURE you are going to stick this fish?” As the fish comes boat side Jim summons his inner Marine and scoops it out of the water like he was using the pick gaff on a 22” red group. One final point, it was a great team effort to land the fish, but Mike’s angling was pretty stud. We all refer to his jigging set up as the “Barbie Rod” – I think the line from one of our 50s weighs more than the entire set up. But, with a short rod, unforgiving braid and jig tied to mono that fish came to the boat. High five all around and suddenly everyone was talking about sashimi and all the other great ways to enjoy fresh wahoo.
So, its 930 am we have our limit of grouper (gags and reds), a bunch of snapper, Almaco, a Cubera and a 50 lb ‘hoo. Time to button up and head for the barn.
We had great sea conditions the entire trip and then hit confused conditions with 40 to go. At that time I was feeling pretty fortunate and happy to have a great boat under my feet, but even happier to have a bunch of good friends (albeit now pretty smelly ones) to fill it.
Some notes if you are headed out … Reds were eating anything dead although squid produced smaller fish and gags ate anything made of metal. Pelagic trolling is impossible right now with broken weed everywhere. We were all set up to troll at first light and did not even try.
Tight lines - Anzuelo. Here's a couple quick photos.
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