Yankee Capts Pulley Ridge 9/5-9/8
This trip, I made sure I was first on the list which resulted in getting my preferred spot at the rail –spot # 8, which is a rear corner position on the port side. Prior to the trip I had made contact via Facebook and another website with 3 other people, 2 of which are avid deep droppers for swords on the east coast as well as Bimini off Nassau. Joe from Face-book, who is a Yankee Capts regular for Mutton Trips, along with Max and Kyle has had some experience on their own as mentioned. Also on this trip were 3 anglers from the Florida Sportfishing Magazine and TV show, Captains Carlos, Mike, and Steve who where a pleasure to meet and fish with and thank you for the jigs and neckerchiefs compliments of Florida Sport Fishing.
I arrived at the boat around 5 PM on 8/5 which left me plenty of time to my gear stored away and have dinner at the Hogfish Grill before departing at 8 PM. As usual Chad was in the cabin checking people in and unlike other trips I have done, this trip just had the feeling of something special. All guest that came into the cabin, greeted each other by exchanging names, handshakes, smiles, and where they came from. You could tell by the smiles that all including myself were finally glad the day had come to get this underway. I should make mention that everyone was extremely polite and courteous during the entire trip. On a special note we did have a female angler onboard, Shannon who came with her husband Scott. I was a little surprised, not because of a female, but her size which was all of about 4’10, maybe 4’11 and about 90 pounds. Just goes to prove good things do come in small packages. More later on Shannon.
Image resized to : 23 % of its original size [ 2592 x 1944 ]
Once underway and everyone was rigged up and ready for our first drift. We had a 12 hour steam in front of us into the Gulf of Mexico, the location of Pulley Ridge. My thoughts were to get some sleep for the first day of fishing since deep dropping can easily tire one out. Easier said than done and I also found out I was not alone being restless, as for me the unknown was that this was my first deep drop trip.
Many were up earlier then when the lights came on in the bunk room, about 45 minutes before our first drop. This would give us some time for some coffee and breakfast from Joe in the galley before we made our way to the rail at first light.
Looking at what many rigs the fishermen were using for this trip, some fished a 2 hook rigs while some stepped it up to 3 hooks which is the legal limit of hook allowed on one person’s fishing outfit We tied 2 pound Rock Cod Sinkers on our rigs as these were recommended type of sinker to use since they do not roll nowhere as much on the bottom when drifting, and the 2 pound size was fine for a while on till the drift picks up (more on type of lead later). When either the wind kicked up or the current came on harder, the drift became quicker which forced some to switch to the 3 pound size for the remainder of the day.
Baits… now this is something to see. I myself use fresh Bonita strips cut about 1 inch wide and 3-5 inches long, trimmed flat to prevent spinning around. You just wanted the bait to lie out without spinning and this was on one hook. The other hook was rigged with a squid (either half or whole) as recommended (remember the K.I.S.S. concept). I will admit that I have had a package of artificial crabs that were so old I figured they would disintegrate once the package was opened, thankfully they stayed intact. My thought where to match what these deep water bottom fish eat and this bait combination did produce one 12 pound Snowy on that hook which made for a good laugh for the 60+ age group that I fished with. Needless to say once the grouper came up I could read people’s minds thinking “I need some of those” but after a few more drops I went back to cut and strip baits which did consistently produce.
As I looked down the rail I saw rods bent and sounds of electric reels going off. Kevin (who BTW is a great guy, good fisherman and just a pleasure to be around) used a power assist electric on a Penn 4/0 Senator which has its own very distinct sound when engaged. Naturally yours truly decided to see how good of a sense of humor Kevin had when I called it a coffee grinder. Kevin smiled and asked me if I wanted regular or decaf. Right then and there I knew I was in good company with about 5 others joining in with some, let’s just say colorful comments.
Around 1 PM people starting taking a break between drifts and the galley filled up keeping Joe busy and making anything that was hot for lunch.
After a small break it was back to the rail and then switching over to 3 pound sinkers. What amazed me was the difference of one pound when fishing this deep which is anywhere from 500 to 900+ feet of water. Just getting to the bottom is a time consuming chore and you have to expect this as at times you will have over 1100 feet of line paid out if not more as the line scopes out and away from the drifting boat.
The bite itself was excellent and normally comes on pretty quickly as gray tiles, golden tiles, queen snapper and yellow edge grouper which was a beautiful looking fish seeing it up close were coming up and over the rail. The yellow edge grouper happens to be one of the prettiest fish you will see and has to be seen in person. As is routine, double and triple headers of these deep drop bottom fish will be coming up and reeling them in by hand was something I have never experienced from the depths that are fished on these special trips. I even worked up a blister on my thumb; yes I had gloves but didn’t have them on at that point…my bad! Live and learn the hard way!
Finally it was end of day 1 which many of us hand crankers where glad to see. Captain Greg then anchored up the Yankee Capts in about 200 feet of water for the night. Everyone took their turn for the shower which was a look forward treat at the end of the fishing day. I then went to get a nice hot dinner of salad, meatballs and baked ziti plus desert, and maybe a cold beer or 2 if so desired.
Sunset came upon us so I decided to sneak to the stern using my mutton set up with some fresh goggle eyes while everyone was inside resting and talking. I did my standard mutton rigging and bait prep, dropped the line over in about 5 minutes or so I had my first tickle which resulted in what I call “Angler Error”, for those wanting to be politically correct or really a swing and a miss, there is no swinging for muttons!
Once I did that I realized deep drops and mutton fishing are 2 entirely different worlds. I re-baited and 2 nice muttons come over the rail in about 20 or so minutes. One thing I have to point out is that these muttons coming from the edges of deeper water are not the usual pinkish orange color we normally see. These muttons color are noticeably different with their backs having a deep-deep red, blended into a more pink color on the sides, then the white belly which make it a beautiful looking fish.
Once word got out that fish were being caught, the idea of getting rest for the next fishing day was quickly put aside and a dozen or so people where now at the rail. Bait was a problem though, but thanks to Chad who borrowed a net, we had fresh flying fish that were soon lined up on the deck.
Now this is something not new, but the presentation of the bait was. Normally the flying fish wings are trimmed and split almost “butterflied” really, then sent down…but not in this case. They quickly go from the net, to the deck and then to the hook alive, wings and all which I have never seen before. Needless to say rods starting bending with Blackfin Tuna, jolt head porgies and more muttons coming over the rail and all solid fish, one Blackfin topped the scales at around 22 pound which is very respectable. Then the wind picked up and a temperature drop of about 15-20 degrees turned all our heads and to borrow Captain Greg quote, “About 2:00 AM a heavy squall came through with a gusty winds to 50 knots. The anchor broke loose, the seas came up and it turned into a long hour for me.”
Once that was over we hit the sack and once those lights came on signaling time to get up and do the same routine over again was a rude awakening, for me anyway! The second day the wind kicked up resulting in going up to 4 pounds of sinker weight, which for the hand crankers was not welcome news. I made a few drops but in reality, I knew the old bones where saying no way Jose, so I fished for a short while then took some time off on till I felt a wave of new energy which allowed me to make a few more drops to the deep depths that are normally fished on these grips. Lots of fish were still coming over the rail but it was a lot easier for the electric crowd and those reels where singing all day long.
About 6:00 or so Captain Greg announced this would be that last drop, and all gear was stowed away and put up top so the mates could clean the boat while we all gathered in the cabin. The looks on everyone’s face was all smiles, but at the same time a look of exhaustion and I myself had a small grin showing that the trip was over and the feedback from everyone was that we were completely satisfied with the end results of what we caught. Who wouldn’t be with the amount of fish you catch on this type of trip?
We showered and now got nice and cozy as Joe had prepared a great dinner of pulled pork that was slow roasted all day long, filling the cabin with a great aroma all day, along with rice and black beans which were served with a salad and dessert once again.
Ok I am sure all would like to know what was caught, so once again I am borrowing the list from Capt. Greg’s report which is posted on the Yankee Capts website as well:
“All the usual suspects made it into the coolers Grey Tiles, Golden Tiles, Snowy Groupers, Black Belly Rosefish, Queen Snappers to 13 pounds, Red Snapper, Blackfin tuna, Specked Hind Grouper, Yellow Eye Snapper, Warsaw Grouper, Amberjack, Red Grouper, Scamp Grouper, Yellow Edge Grouper, Vermillion Snapper, Hambone Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Pink Porgy and Jolthead Porgy.”
I should point out that pretty much, 99% of the fish we caught at Pulley Ridge will only come out and along the deeper water in the Gulf of Mexico and for me personally who has done a great deal of fishing in southern Florida over the last few years, I can say you are without question will see a high amount of entirely different fish going into your cooler. With so many different species landed on this trip, whether you caught it or not, it is something experience now seeing these fish when they come up, especially when you are the one catching them! For all the decades I have fished, this was a lifetime fishing experience.
I tried to get a list of all the anglers on the boat who as mentioned, where simply a pleasure to fish with. Everyone was upbeat, worked together through the tangles, talked openly especially for those who have experience in deep drop fishing before and offering that advice to the newbies onboard.
Here is my best guess of who was on this trip and I hope I got everyone; Myself, Joe, Kevin (the coffee maker), Ross from Scotland…yes Scotland! Captains Carlos, Mike, and Steve from the Florida Sportfishing magazine and TV Show. Rick and Rich was father and son also seasoned veterans of the Yankee Capts for over 15 years, Max and Kyle the people who do deep drops in Bimini, Dave who was quiet as a church mouse, but a die heart at the rail, Josh, Scott and Fritz who fished the pulpit, Joe who is a private chef and flew in from Ohio and lastly as promise Scott and Shannon our female angler who IMHO was a true trooper, can fish with anyone and has a super personality.
Lastly of course and most important is Captain Greg, Captain Lyndon, mates Chad and Jake who worked their butts off to get the tangles free and get people back in the water ASAP. Kudos guys and simply put “well done” and all of us thank you for your efforts! And of course Joe in the galley who made sure the food was good and hot, the coffee pot going (no not Kevin’s) but the big Yankee Captains coffee pot.
Finally I should mention that I did see one person who had just brought along the wrong type of gear. Captain Greg who is always keeping an eagle eye on what is going on deck, got him a 2 speed reel from inside the wheelhouse, put it on one of his heavier rods, re rigged him and showed him the proper way to make up a rig. He then explained the do’s and don’ts before he got him back in the water. What can be called the “magic-touch from the captain”; this fellow immediately started pulling fish. The reason I mention this is that it was all done very quietly, so that it would not embarrass the person or the gear he had brought along. The purpose, and it is something Captain Greg has emphasized in running the Yankee Capts for over 25 years up in New England and in Key West is that the fishermen who get this low-key hands on education about proper fishing techniques and rigging, eventually fishes as well as anyone else on the boat.
Max writing his report on another site:
Trip was pretty sick, broke both level winds on both electrics the first day, but still used the hell out of them. The Miya Epoch level wind was broken due to operator error, however, the Banax Kaigen level wind just broke on its own, and that’s a whole separate post. Ended up with a mess of Blueline Tiles, Golden Tiles, and Groupers. LP non-flashing lights or no lights worked better in shallower (<500) feet, strobes worked better on the Goldens. Squid was the bait of choice in the shallower water; deeper water seemed to be more productive with cut bait. Had a bit of a wind which made everyone scope out a lot, the manual guys had to keep letting line out to hold bottom while the electric guys could use heavier weight to keep things straighter up and down so there were a few tangles but nothing more than the mates could handle in under a minute. We filled a 125 and a 160 yeti coolers with fish and had room for a few 8 lb. bags of ice. I think an electric is the way to go on this trip. If most of the fishing was done in less than 500 feet, I could see a manual being easier, but the fact is that a lot of these fish hang out down deep and it is tough cranking in 3 lbs. of weight by hand. I'm sure Bill will have plenty more to add to this, I am tired, happy, and hungry, and the room is still rocking back and forth.”
Now down to the serious part, rigging, tackle, hook size and baits along with bait presentation.
Rods: For the novice (as I used) an 8 foot Shakespeare Ugly Stick BWB 1120-8' for about $75.00 and worked just fine. For someone who is going to do this type of trip and want something that is more in tune with doing this one is now being developed specifically for deep drops which I heard a rumor and will have the Yankee Capts. Logo on it: “Reel Seat Custom Tile Fish Rods” also in the recommended 8 foot length.
Here is a link for the rods itself made in the USA, designed by Dave from the Reel Seet who fish for tiles at least once a week up north.
Reels: Now this is where it can get a little crazy. A conventional 2 speed reel that is recommended is the Okuma Makaira MK-15IISEa. Yes Okuma which has in recent years, upgraded their product as other well-known reel tackle companies like Penn, Diawa and a few others. If I didn’t see one being used right next to me as mentioned earlier, I would have my doubts also. This was the reel that Captain Greg loaned to Joe to make life a lot easier when in low gear.
Single Speed Reels: I used was the Penn Baja which has a gear ratio of 4:25-1 and has plenty of line capacity I did see a Shimano Tyrno 2 speed used the high speed being 6:25-1 and low gear of 2-1, which I was told was just bit slow but easier for the retrieve just takes longer. Due the depths that will be fished in the Pulley Ridge area, two speed reels are preferred since you get both the high speed gear to take in line quickly, but also the lower gear to pull some hard charging big fish off from the bottom. For those who use a single speed reel, looks for a gear ratio of 4-1 and reels such as were made by Newell in the 500 and 600 series size will give you an idea of a lightweight but workable single speed reel.
Electric Reels: Diawa does produces a great product which is now the most popular electric reel seen on these deep drop trips. Some may find it a little on the expensive side but the positives will outweigh the added cost of purchasing this brand of electric reel. I just like to point out you have several options. The work horse was the “Diawa Tacome Bull 1000” not only have I seen this reel on this deep drop trip, but I also saw it used while doing a commercial grouper trip while in North Carolina. The easiest way to explain it is that this reel simply is a “pulling machine.” In fact the Captain in NC has used it on steady bases for over 2 years without any problems. If it were my personal preference to purchase an electric reel, this would be my choice for several reasons which is made up of dependability, size to weight and easy operation.
Line and Shock leader: it was recommended to me to use the Daiwa Saltiga Boat Braid Line SAB-B55 55LB PE-4. I got mine on E-bay from Deep Angler;
Daiwa Saltiga Boat Braid Line SAB-B55 55LB PE-4, 1800m Metered Fishing Line came run up and over 200 dollars for the bulk size spool but they do come in smaller spools for about $40.00 a spool. My feeling is that is much better to have the extra line on board just in case of break offs or if the line gets frayed. Having your own bulk spool of line allows you to be at the ready at any time during the trip to quickly re-spool the reel if you lose a good deal of line.
Now the shock leader: I used a 75 foot shock leader of 60 pounds, which now after a conversation with Dave owner of “The Reel Seet” http://www.reelseat.com/cart/default.asp I realized that I could readjust and shorten this mono top shot length. The best thing to do is use about 30-35 feet of 50-60 pound test, no need to go any higher, the 30-35 feet will provide the stretch that you need when using braid. Dave feels that anything longer defeats the purpose of using braid for deep dropping since braid has a smaller diameter and thus helps reduce the scope of line and the bowing of line which happens in the current. Dave and I spent a good 30 minutes on the phone discussing this along with sinker type.
Sinker Type: Rock Cod Sinkers are the ONLY way to go for many reasons. I again realize that they can be expensive to purchase and has only one application which is deep drop fishing. I purchased mine through the Grateful Lead Sinker Company as many did also on previous trips and this one also.
I have read that stacking egg sinkers on top of your bottom weight will help keep you down on the bottom. Through further discussions with Dave, nothing could further from the truth. What in effects happens when you start adding egg sinkers to your rig, the stacking increases the surface area of lead on the bottom. As a result with the combination of both the speed of the current and the drift, increases the resistance or displacement against your line and rig forcing you to let out more line to hold bottom.
I saw this personally on board and the result was not pretty at all. It resulted in some severe tangles, some as far as 20-25 feet away and picking up additional lines in the tangle, sometimes up to 4 or 5 lines mixed in. The same can be said for doubling or tripling up bank sinkers off the loop on the bottom of your rig. The proper way is use one sinker that keeps you down and out instead of going sideways to the rear or forward. Yes, I know that can be a huge expense for lead but in reality you have certain amount of time to fish and having your rig holding the bottom will give you the highest probability of success on these deep drop trips. My personal feeling is that you want to be in the water, not have the mates spending precious times untangling, cutting and the splicing and re-rigging lines. The longer it takes to re-rig, the less amount of time your rig is not in the fish catching zone. After all, due to the outlay in tackle and the cost of these special trips, everyone wants to be justly rewarded with a decent catch for the 3 day bag limit
Last but not least is the rig itself. The (Florida) law allows you a 3 hook setup. I myself chose to use a 2 hook setup, simply because with the grey tiles you can get 2 or 3 at a time. I should mention that you will see not only a grey on one hook, but as in my case, I did have a 3-4 pound grey tile along with a 12 pound snowy grouper on the same rig. Depending on the spots that Captain Greg will be fishing, it is not uncommon to catch two different species at one time on your rig. The preferred hook size can be either a 6/0 or 7/0 in line circle hook rigged with 80 pound leader material.
Getting back to the reels you may purchase which is normally the most expensive piece of tackle you may purchase, coming up from 600 or more feet of water can be real work…. rewarding yes, but still work and try to make sure that you have the proper tackle that does not wear you down during the trip. If where to do this again and fish manually, I would use the double hook setup. When fishing with an electric reel, I would switch over to the 3 hook setup
One additional item you may also use especially when using braided line, a pair of gloves to keep your thumb from getting cut up. There are a number of different types which you can find on online commercial and recreational fishing tackle retailers which you can wear when working with braid.
In closing I hope that this gives you a better perspective on deep drop fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Granted this was my first deep drop trip and I am nowhere near an expert. These are just the observations I made along with receiving advice from a few more experienced fishermen who normally do this type of fishing. Dave at the “REEL SEET”, was more than willing to pass along good as solid information as you can find concerning the tackle and techniques when fishing in the deep on a party boat. As he told me, he hopes that whatever tips he passes along to fishermen will not only make your deep drop trip successful, but also in spending more time at the rail in hopes of creating a life time memory.
Best of luck to all who head out with Captain Greg and Crew on the Yankee Capts future trips and I am sure you will not be disappointed.