This past Friday we met Chuck and the boys, Mike, Justin and Gerry at the dock. 7 AM rolls around early and they were a tad bit late but who’s counting? Devon and I were ready and waiting and as soon as we got them loaded we unleashed The BEAST for this ¾ day trip. As we headed into the Bay, the winds were coming from the E at about 10-15 knots. We quickly hit a couple of Hardtail spots and got a dozen or so baits. OK. Let’s go see if we can get some ‘hoos real quick. I put the whip to the 600 ponies and we were up and cruising the reefs.
Holy crap! The reefs look like split pea soup as we made our way to the bait patch. This isn’t good. We sat there for about 20 minutes and nothing came up. I mean nothing, not even the Bermuda Chubs. I gave Devon the word and he pulled the chum so we could make a run further south. We pulled up to the next patch and it wasn’t any better. We don’t have enough time to waste trying another spot even if the bait came up in 5 minutes. I made the call to go with what we had. We had already quizzed them and it seemed that they were used to catching largemouth bass in the sweet water. What we had in store for them was just a bit stronger fish than even the respectable trophy 12 lb’er they spoke of. OK… Here we go!
As we ran off the edge a 2-3 foot sea with an occasional small 4 footer greeted us. I noticed that the water was stained and on the green side of the color spectrum. This is not a problem when you are going to wrestle some arm bustin’, back breakin’, Amberjacks. I figured we would warm them up for an hour or so before we went after something else. The first drift is always a trial set to see how and where we are drifting. While Devon readied a live bait rod to drop I tossed a speed jig and gave it a whirl. Boom…Fish on! Before I could hand the rod off the fish became unpinned. Devon grabbed the other jig rod and gave it a go. Bada Bing! We put Mike on the rod to see if all that working out at the gym worked for him. He learned quickly that these fish are tough and fight you all the way to the top.
Now I have my set & drift information I needed to work the wreck properly and moved back downstream to a starting point. This drift missed the mark by enough that we missed the bulk of the fish but Devon once again scored on a speed jig. Chuck took his turn on the rod and about halfway through the fight to the surface he passed the rod off to Justin.
I made a slight adjustment to my starting line and noticed that we had lost Gerry. He must’ve missed his buddy Ralph because he called out for him a few times while hanging over the rail. This time Devon dropped a jumbo Hardtail down to the bottom and sent a jig over the side as well. You guessed it. Double! Chuck and Mike got another workout on this pair.
We gave it another drift with the same setup. Devon had shown Justin how to work the jig so he could feel the strike as well. Both rods got whacked and they were into another brutal match. The fish were fighting for freedom and the guys were fighting to stay aboard the boat. True to form both of the live bait rods produced the largest fish. We vented and released 5 of the 6 fish, keeping 1 for them to enjoy fresh that night. A lot of people scoff at eating AJ’s but if eaten fresh they are delicious.
We pulled off the wreck and ran to another area to set up for some different fish. The seas had quieted down to 2 feet and comfortable now. We put 2 baits out on the surface and Devon dropped one on the down rod. The water was somewhat blue but still stained up. Bap! The down rod lights off and Gerry, who came back to life during the run, grabs the rod. He’s working the fish but it doesn’t take long to realize that we have a snaggletooth Cuda and not a very large one. That’s all right. The guys haven’t caught any of these species before, so it is all-good. We would rather be busy catching fish than dragging baits.
I worked the area in and out. The tide was rolling off the edge and forming a ridiculously incredible color break, due to the super-moon. I meandered into the area figuring the predators would like this as much as I did. I noticed the color break was crowding out deeper as I slowly paralleled it. It was approaching our favorite Permit area and I just happened to have stopped at F&F Bait that morning and picked up a few crabs. I told Devon to pull the baits in and get the jigs ready. They are there but they are down about 80 feet. Devon, as always, read what I was thinking and already had a jig and crab ready to go. He handed me the rod and I set the crab adrift while he readies the other rod. A minute or so goes by and I feel the pickup. I engaged the reel and raised the rod. Oomph! Fish on! I passed the rod off to Mike and the fish put the power to him. We tried everything but couldn’t turn this barnburner and in less than a minute he made his way to an obstruction and popped us off. We set up for another run at them and this time we hooked Justin up. I was determined to land this critter so I turned The BEAST toward the dirty water and managed to drag him passed the color break. This fish is ours! Sure enough, the trick worked. Although the fish fought Justin valiantly, we had him now and he was a nugget, an oversized garbage can lid that weighed 32 pounds. We snapped a few quick photos and put this beauty back in the water to swim away.
We gave it a couple more attempts with 2 more takers. One of which hooked up but gained his freedom before I could pull him into the color change. Then the dirty water got too far offshore and covered our area. This caused the bite to turn off like as if someone threw a light switch.
We pulled lines again and made another run north where we set out our spread for Sails, Mahi or whatever. We putted around slowly with the live bait. Devon grabbed a small speed jig on a light rod and worked it for a few casts. The rod comes tight and we are hooked up. Add a Bonito to the species count for the day. We continued working the baits when a Sailfish popped up in the spread. He followed the bait for a minute or so and then disappeared into the depths. Window shopper. The guys are tired, we are out of time, and Gerry has had enough ocean for one day. As we are pulling in our last bait a Sail comes tailing behind the boat heading for the edge. Too late!
We got everything stowed away and made the run back to the barn. It was a short day but we had a very fishy day and stayed busy for most of it. It’s always nice to go catchin’ instead of fishin’!