A very good customer of mine, Jon from Atlanta, booked an all day trip with us to acclimate his kids to offshore fishing. Jon has fished with me well over 50 times dating back as far as 1998. I’ve fished with his wife, Melissa, a time or two but this was the first time I ever met the children. I remember when the kids were born and now Ryan is 11 and Caroline is 8. I must be getting old! His plan was to see how the kids could handle the blue water scenario before he took them to Costa Rica in April.
Jon, and his squad, joined us at the dock at our usual 7 AM start time. Devon unleashed the snarling BEAST and we made our way to our favorite spots to collect some bait. We began with the kids yanking on some Blue Runners and they had a ball. The bait came easy. When had more than enough, we pulled up lines and made way for another reef patch to grab some worms. The chum bag went over and shortly thereafter our targets began to arrive. The Ballyhoo were hungry and we hook & lined a dozen or so quickly. The worms got stupid and came closer to the boat with each passing minute. The next thing they knew, a 10’ Calusa cast net was hitting the water on top of them. We had plenty of bait so Devon and I made the boat ready for the day.
We made the short run offshore. As I settled The BEAST down, Devon and Jon spotted some Sooty Terns working another ¼ mile out. By the path and pattern of the birds we knew we had some sort of Tuna working so we hurriedly put out small plastics to troll through them. Bingo! The first fish were some small Bonito and the kids were already having fun. This happened again on the next set, like looking in a mirror. Devon asked if he should put down a deep rod since we were in these bait sized Bonito. I nodded yes. I swung around and closed in on the birds yet again. Bam! The next fish up was a decent football Blackfin Tuna. Sashimi Brudda!
I stayed on the birds and kept working this school. Devon thought he heard the down rod chirp so he retrieved the bait and realized his suspicion. We missed that one. We were hoping to stay in the action and collect some more of those Blackies. We got nailed again but this time it was a larger Bonito. The long rigger tripped and we were into another fish. We had another Tuna on but this one was a Skipjack. This is classic, the mixed Tuna bag.
We reset the lines again and as I was bearing down on the birds the deep rod sounded off. No missed bite here, this was a decent fish. We worked the fish by keeping pressure on it both with the rod and the boat. As the fish neared we could see the blue-black stripes of an Ono, El Tigre, or as we call it, Wahoo! The Wahoo wasn’t a big fish but it was a good fish weighing in around 18-20 pounds.
We continued to stay on these birds catching small Bonito and keeping the kids busy. The down rod sounded off again and we were thinking another Wahoo. Not a Wahoo this time, it was a Kingfish instead. The fish had quit fighting about ½ of the way to the boat and we feared it was only going to be a piece of fish on the hook. Surprisingly, the fish was complete, with nothing missing. Well that’s not quite true. On the left side it was apparent that either a very large Wahoo or Smoker King had tried to make this 11-pound Kingfish its lunch. Look at the size of that bite! I wanted the fish that wanted that fish!
We kept finding and working this school of small Bonito hoping for another big bite on the down rod. We missed 1 more bite down below and picked up a small Barracuda on top. I decided to give the kids a rest and do some live baiting especially since we saw a free jumper Sailfish while we were busy catching fish earlier. Jon agreed.
We set up the live bait spread, 4 up and 1 down. Things got slower but we still had a missed strike or two on the rod below. This is a good thing because it also teaches patience to the children. Caroline was a busy little bee on the boat during this slow down though. Man, can that girl talk. She became my best friend. Hold that thought we just got a bite! The down rod was tugging and we were excited. The Hardtail we sent down had obviously attracted a visitor. The fish came up and we were surprised to see this large Caribbean Spotted Mackerel in an area that we hardly ever catch them. Devon held the 20-pound Barracuda up for a photo op with the kids and then released it.
The action was definitely slower than the morning hours but it was steady. The Moon Jellies were everywhere, which undoubtedly had an effect on the surface bite. Caroline was having conversation with me and anyone else who would listen. Too funny! That girl is socially oriented. She got interrupted as a small school of peanut Dolphin harassed the bait. We managed to catch one of these little guys. A few minutes later the down rod popped off again and this was another decent Kingfish that pushed the scales up to the 13-pound marker.
Slightly passed 3 PM, Jon and Melissa were having a pow-wow in the cockpit. Thunderstorms are growing to our East and moving toward shore so they decided that it was best to head in. Not a problem and a wise decision. It is best to have the kids leave while still wanting more. Devon and I buttoned up the boat and then headed for the house. We had a potpourri of fish in the fish box. We tallied the day at 1 Blackfin, 1 Skipjack, 12+ Bonito (lost count), 1 Wahoo, 2 Kingfish, 2 Barracuda, and 1 Dolphin. That was a fun day in anybody’s book.
When we arrived at the Marina channel, I had a good time getting to know Ryan and Caroline better. As Devon cleaned and bagged the catch, Caroline hung out at the boat with me as I cleaned up. We said our goodbyes and I told Jon that I bet the kids, particularly Caroline, wouldn’t make it to the hotel. He laughed! 15 minutes after he left, I got a text with this picture embedded in it.
That is what it’s all about. Paying it forward! Take the time, in this rat race we call life, to take your kids fishing. It’s an excellent way to spend quality time together. You will love it and they will love you for it!!!