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Hammer Finally Pulls at Pulley Ridge

In my continuing effort to deplete this world of its population of fish, I have neglected a certain area known as "Pulley Ridge". You might as well rename the place "BFE" because that's exactly where it is. It lays unmolested some 50 miles West of the Dry Tortuga's. While I've known about it for a long time, I'd never actually made the run, nor has anyone else I've known, at least in an open fishermen. Well, that was all about to change. My buddy Gil, who I've written about in the past, was all in. It helps that his boat has lots of fuel capacity with 3 brand new Yamaha 300's. I'd done my research and acquired some numbers that would at least get us in the right area's.

We met down in Key West where once again Gil brought along the latin Teletubby himself "Hector". A jovial young man that simply put could be the only cuban sumo wrestler on the earth. He instantly bragged about the 15 lbs he'd lost since the last time I'd seen him. What he neglected to state was that he'd got food poisoning a few days early from the 14 taco's and 2 burrito's (and a diet coke) he got at Taco Bell.

Accompanying us would be Gil's brother David, Sr. and Alex, who looked like he just walked out of a Bass Pro Shops catalog. His shirt was neatly pressed, his shorts were pleated and his hat still had the metallic sticker on the brim. He even came complete with a brand new pair of pliers on his Guy Harvey belt….a perfect specimen of a fishermen… if you're into gay fishermen.

Rounding out our happy crew of modern day Columbus's was Seth, he's kind of like my traveling mate that doesn't get paid… He's not really a people person but I hoped he'd fit in. Upon meeting at the condo, David said to Seth "You look familiar". The first thing Seth thought of was that drunk night in the gay brothel down in Tijuana… luckily, they knew each other through work, David, being a contractor had bribed Seth to pass him on some inspections, a common occurrence not just in Hialeah but in the City of Miami.

The alarm clock rang at 4:30am and in about 4 seconds I was out the door with an armful of electric reels that could lift up any sea monsters that we encountered. Gil readied the boat while all of us worker ants handed him provisions. Well, all but Hector, he decided that he must have bacon and eggs before we shoved off. We were suppose to be heading West at 5am but Hector, being on Cuban time just had to have one last meal.

Gil idled the boat out of the channel, radar spinning and search light blazing. I'm as blind as a bat at night so I didn't even attempt to look for markers. Once we cleared the harbor it was smooth sailing. We couldn't ask for any nicer weather. We ran for about an hour before the sun finally caught up with us. When it did, Gil pushed the throttles down and ordered the Yamaha's to do their job. We cruised at 42 mph which was perfect for the sea condition. In short order we could see the Dry Tortuga's off our starboard bow (that's the right side for you land lubbers). We chuckled as we knew we had a long way to go. We saw birds diving and weed lines but dolphin was not our intended prey this trip so we just kept running. The closer we got to our first waypoint, the more the anticipation grew. We watched the bottom machine dropping from 200, to 300, then 400, then 500 feet. Pulling the throttles back, the water was cobalt blue. Electric reels were set up in the bow and the stern and rigs were attached.

Dropping to the bottom with a jig would be a pain I thought but I thought to myself "You know, I've never caught a queen snapper on a jig so why not try?" David and Hector manned the electric on the bow while Gil did the stern duty. Now, I don't want to brag……well, actually I do but a certain red head's rod bent over with a fish immediately. The rod bounced and tugged but the deep water fish couldn't do much against the drag except make short bursts. In not so short order, I could see the outline of the fish…550' deep and you've got to be kidding, I caught an amberjack! All that for a reef donkey. He would pay the price for his indecision as I'd already decided to smoke some fish. Within minutes, a couple of snowy grouper were hoisted into the boat, their eye's bugged out of their heads. Soon, the Gilligans in the bow got stuck on the bottom and POW, snapped the 130 lb braid. They neglected to use drag on the reel…. What's that saying ??? "Here's Your Sign".

We had almost no current which sounds real nice but in reality, you want to cover bottom. We moved around and found some fish here, and some fish there. One of the electrics was bouncing pretty good and we were rewarded with a nice queen snapper.

I don't think they taste any better than anything else that you catch out in that deep water but they are so bright orange/red that they really look good in a fish box. Each time we'd drop, we'd catch something. We'd move to different area's thinking that we'd hit the mother load but it was just picking at them here and picking at them there.

A plump yellow edge grouper got to chill with his friends in the cooler.

Moving out to 950', we were hoping for some golden tile fish but we struck out, again, not covering bottom wasn't helping our cause. Hector was eating a turkey sandwich when a couple of dolphin showed up. The last time they'd seen land, it was off the coast of Mexico. They looked lost so we showed them the direction to our fish box as well.

I was taking a 12 oz glow jig and putting a stinger circle hook on it with a strip of tuna belly and was catching fish on every drop. They were suckers for it for sure. Basically, the back of the boat was spanking the front of the boats butt and like I always do, the trash talking was in full swing. I'd say things like "Anytime you losers in the bow want to contribute to the fish box, go right ahead." They finally caught a double of grey tile fish and then a double of snowy's and started acting like they were on a come back. The very next drop, they hooked up to something that was actually pulling drag. They immediately started throwing out challenges "Whoever catches the biggest fish, the others have to buy dinner." They of course did this after they'd hooked a nice fish. Well wouldn't you know it but they too found not an amberjack but it's twin brother, an almaco jack, aka trash fish. Again, I ragged them without mercy. I'd hook up and yell "Boat Bxxch" and Alex would come over and reel grouper after grouper after tilefish to the surface, all by hand. To be honest, we beat the front of the boat like a red headed step child with a hairlip. Every spot we went to, every drop, we'd catch something. It wasn't red hot but it was good fishing. The fish were not big but everything you catch out of that deep water was edible. We even caught some yellow eyed and vermillion snappers which was strange because our hooks were pretty big.

In a few hours we had the coffin box stuffed. We could've kept catching fish but we had plenty and lord knows I didn't want to have to clean them all. We positioned ourselves in the bean bags and Gil brought the boat up to 59 mph. We had right at a 3 hour run back to the marina… that's over 150 miles for those of you that were never good at math. Hector played some type of cuban music just to annoy me which it did.

We pulled into the marina just before dark, we unloaded the fish to do the famed "kill shot". You know, that's the picture you take on the dock to show all your friends what great white hunters you think you are.

We ate at the Famous Hogfish Bar and Grill, two margarita's later and I was ready for bed.

Now, most of the time I'd say this is where the story ends but I, being of NO sound mind decided to go back to the Tortuga's the next morning with my buddy Still and his buddy Will. Seth was invited but he said he was too sore. I called him a name that starts with a "P" and it wasn't petunia. Gil would run his boat back to Islamorada where he and his crew would clean the fish.

The next morning I was at Still's boat at 6am. The plan was to run down to the Tortuga's, cast net some bait and then continue to some offshore wrecks where I'd throw chum in on top of the wreck and then throw live pilchards to get the fish all frenzied up. Well, in theory that works really well but in reality, there were no pilchards at the fort. We'd have to make do with what we had. Oh, I forgot to say. Will picked up a waitress and invited her to go out in the boat with us. She was thin and had all of her teeth which is definitely not the norm for Will. I was worried that she might get sick but she had a good tan and a bikini so if she did, at least I could watch her bent over heaving her guts out. She looked rode hard and put away wet a few times but she was still better to look at than Will without a shirt on. She did have some dirty feet though.

Still had the boat filled with fuel but just in case, I checked anyways. Sure enough, the marina had neglected to fill the boat. That would've been pretty embarrassing running out of gas on the way out to the Tortuga's. We waited for the marina to open and quickly put $1800 of the liquid gold into the boat. I'm not use to leaving after daylight but that's what we did. We made our way past the Marquesas where we could see old cuban chugs laying up on the flats… new democrats I call them. An hour and a half later I pulled the throttles back and readied the cast net. Now, I'll have you know that I was just there two weeks ago and the pilchards were so thick you could walk on them. Well, someone else must've walked on my pilchards because there wasn't a single one to be found. grrrrrr Oh well, when given lemons, make lemonade and that's what we did.

I typed in a number to a wreck that I thought for sure would hold some big critters for my two spear fishing buddies to put shafts into. Marking the wreck I threw in a few handfuls of sand ball mixed with chum. They looked like comets heading down toward the wreck some 160' below. The two Jacque Cousteau wannabe's slid in the water, spear guns ready. Still's fins breached the surface as he made his way down. A minute later he came up with a 5 lb mangrove snapper shot perfectly… IN THE meat. I don't think his free diving coach ever told him "Shoot it in the head". Either way, we had our first blood on the boat.

While they were busy shooting snapper, I dropped a jig down so our little Tortuga queen could catch her first amberjack and that's exactly what happened. She said she'd caught a nurse shark once with her ex boyfriend so she had the "reel down and lift up" thing down. She actually did pretty good. I motored around and dragged the two divers back to the wreck, and repeated the process. This time, little miss independent wanted to hook the fish and land it herself. Sure enough, she did it. A 40 lb amberjack was boated.

Time to go to another wreck. Running to the North, there is a wreck that still has oil leaking out of it, even after 30 years! When you get near the wreck, your fish finder lights up with all the fish. My divers slid in the water and we repeated the process. This time, there were yellowtails and mangroves that came to the surface. Still saw a wahoo down at about 80' but couldn't quite get to it to squeeze the trigger. Will was chasing a school of african pompano's. Every time I'd throw a sand ball, one of the divers would shoot a fish. Rain showers surrounded us so we'd get that pre shower smell every once in a while with 20 mph winds that lasted for 10 minutes, then mirror calm again.

The boys were having fun. I wanted them to at least shoot a big AJ but being late August, they were not around, at least on the surface. We moved to one of the Navy towers and tied up. Again, the snappers were feeding in the chum line. I could see a big school of permit swimming around below the boat. Still was readying his float line when Will said through his snorkel "I got one, I got one". I'm thinking to myself, "Well, if you got one, where is it"? In short order it shook off the shaft…. LOSER.
I watched Still angle down and saw the silver flash, his buoy bobbed like a popping cork. He handed me the buoy and I hand lined the big permit to the boat. Now, let me interject here before anyone out there says "YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO SHOOT PERMIT". They are perfectly legal to shoot in federal waters.

Nature was calling for our boat princess so I said "Just jump in". She did but after seeing all the barracuda's, she got stage fright and couldn't go. The boys shot a few more fish and Will executed another big permit after losing one to a big shark.

Since they'd forgot our lunch and we were 65 miles into the gulf, we decided to call it a day and run on back. By the end of the trip, I'd covered over 500 miles by water and another 300 miles by land in just over 3 days. Getting older has it's drawbacks; finding people that can keep up to me is getting harder and harder.

I drove home early the next morning and my wife was making me breakfast. She's good like that.

Till Next Time,



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