It hadn't even been a couple of days since we got back from a "month on the other side" when I found myself half awake at 2 AM shaking, cold sweat beading all over my body, and images of fat fish-like shapes with yellow streaks haunting me. That episode repeated itself several times for the ensuing week. I had the bug. So I knew I had to go back to finish some unfinished business off Lucaya.
So I started looking at the weather to find a good window, and pinging a few buddies to put a small crew together. Two weeks after getting back, I find myself heading back. This time, the crew consisted of Travis (isla21) and Chris (cmart104). We met up at my house around 6:30 AM on Wednesday (7/25), loaded up the boat and cleared the Boynton inlet at 7:30 AM.
Since we had never fished together before, I had to ask two questions:
- are both of you comfortable on the gaff or uncomfortable with any duties? All good was the reply.
- you know the deal with the bananas right? You're not allowed to touch them, until I say so. All good again.
With the basics covered, I put the throttles down heading to West End to clear at OBB. The seas made for a very comfortable crossing. We made it in 1 hour and 45 minutes perfect for clearing at 9:15 AM and topping off the gas tank. We left OBB at around 10:15 AM heading down to Freeport. I had made reservations at Sunrise (http://sunriseresortandmarina.com/) with the beautiful Ta'Shar, and I wanted to go to the marina during the daylight to check it out, since I didn't know if the channel was well marked (it is) and I heard it can be a bit skinny at low tide (no problem). Let me take a minute and tell you that Sunrise is an awesome place for what they proclaim it to be. Clean, friendly, helpful... I had inquired about the gas dock (Knowles) across the water to see what time they opened in the morning (8 AM) and that wasn't early enough for me. So Mr. Knowles sent his son over that evening at 8 PM so I can fuel up and be ready to go whenever I wanted the next morning. The security is awesome. I left 8 sets of Internationals in the rod holders overnight. Ms. Bean was super friendly at check-in. And the beautiful Ta'Shar even met us at our slip when we got back from fishing that evening.
Ok so back to fishing... we tied up at Sunrise, checked in, dumped our bags in our rooms, and had a bite to eat. I had brought some cold cuts for sandwiches. It was noon time and hot, and I knew not much would be biting at this time; but we were itching to wet some lines so we untied and left around 1 PM. At least we'd get out there, find where the birds were hanging out, and be in place for the PM bite. Well we found the birds. They were moving fast and very skittish. No fish busting. We managed only two skippies. We must have chased 20 flocks and put over 120 miles on the water. We headed back to Sunrise around 7:45 PM with our tails between our legs.
I knew we were all inexperienced at this fishery. Neither Travis nor Chris had done it before. I had done it only once with a guide a few weeks before and caught one yellowfin. But how hard can it be, and I'm a quick learner
So that evening, we rinsed down the boat, fired up the grill for some angus hot dogs and hot chili. Had a beer or two, puffed on a cigar, and called it a night. We got up the next morning at 6 AM with newfound hope and excitement. We untied and took off around 6:30 AM. 20 miles south, we found the first flock of birds. I'd troll around them, just to figure out if they were moving, if there were fish busting, and whether we should break out the chunk bags... I had set up 9 rods for this trip. Two 30s and two 50s for trolling. I put cedar plugs on the 30s way back. The 50s were rigged with Ballyhood Top Gun yellowfin tuna lures just behind the wash. I also had 2 other 50s and 2 80s to use while chunking and 1 8000-class spinner for the same.
We chased 5 different flocks that morning. The 5th (another 10 miles SE) looked more promising with birds actively working, circling, diving, and staying around. After a blackfin on Chris's cedar plug, the short Top Gun lure on Travis's side gets nailed. I've caught big skippies and blackfins before, but this was a freight train. I called YFT. Travis is tight. Chris and I pull the other 3 lines out. Travis brings it to the boat but he was still deep. Chris was the designated gaff man. I was behind the wheel spinning the boat around for the next 15 minutes until the fish surfaced. Chris sinks the gaff. I jump into the cockpit to help him pull it over the gunwale, and then the screaming, shouting and high fives erupt. POP goes Travis's cherry!
This spot looks good the birds are still around although we had moved off them a bit while fighting the first tuna. I put us back close to the birds, and instruct the crew to put away the trolling gear and to start chunking. We also started dumping some live pilchards and soon enough we spot yellowfins around the boat. The spinner gets bent. Then the 50 is screaming. I grab the spinner. Chris takes the 50. We quickly realize that we are hooked up to the same fish as our lines are moving in the same direction. So we begin an olympics-worthy 20-minute session of synchronized pumping and reeling The fish didn't really sound like a tuna would but I figured it may be because we have him smiling down there with a hook at each side of the mouth. Then we see it. A big shark. Put away the gaff Travis and grab the cutters.
We let Sharkie go and he probably went off to lick his wounds somewhere far since we didn't see him again. Another rod is tight in no time, and it was my turn again to whip a big boy. It didn't take me long to subdue him and for Chris to sink the gaff again.
Chris was up next. He hooks up to a BIG boy. 35 minutes later, heat exhaustion sets in so we transfered the rod over to Travis who brings it up to the 150-ft leader but the 60-lb fluoro gave in.
We start chunking again, and I start pulling the line off the 50. With about 20 feet of line out, I noticed a loop in the line so I attempt to take that out, when the line starts pulling fast with my index finger stuck in the loop I screamed like a little girl. I freed my finger out and told Travis to teach that fish a lesson Travis brings it to the boat and Chris again sinks the gaff. I had been icing my finger so I was feeling much better to club the cr@p out of him
BTW - the finger is fine and healing nicely!
It was about 11 AM. We had 3 nice fish in the box and had accomplished what we came to do. We pointed the boat straight to Boynton 93+ miles away and cleared the inlet at about 2 PM. The crew did a great job cleaning the boat while I cleaned (and ate right off the cleaning table) the fish.
The fresh sashimi that night and the next day was awesome. :full
It was a great trip with good friends and beautiful fishing. While the bite was not as hot as it had been the last few weeks or months (not sure if the SW wind had anything to do with it), we got it done. And best of all, the three of us, with not much experience fishing for yellowfin, successfully brought plenty of meat home without the help of any guides.
Enjoy this video of our adventure. I didn't cut too much as I wanted the crew to enjoy the memories. Thanks again Travis and Chris for being a great crew!!!