Fishing with Passion

Fellow Fishermen and Fisherwomen,
My name is John Martin and I love and live to fish. I’ve done it both as hobby and as a business and the one constant is I bring passion to it whether I’m catching bait, commercial fishing or recreational. In fact it is such a passion of mine that many people have asked me to share my experience in the form of a blog so I thought I’d give it a try.
First a brief history. I grew up in North Central Florida in a little town called Hawthorne. My earliest memories are fishing the abundant lakes in our area with my Dad. One day a mentor of mine asked me if I wanted to try Deep Sea fishing and I jumped at the chance. We went on a boat out of St. Augustine and as luck would have it we hit a Cobia run. I have three distinct memories, one, I never saw so many tangles, two, I caught the biggest fish I’d ever seen, three, freshwater fishing would never be the same and I wanted to go back as soon as we docked. I guess that’s more than three but fisherman have always had trouble counting.
I starting going almost every weekend and if possible during the week. On one of my trips I met a man that told me down in the Tampa area there was a boat that went out all weekend. I had to try it and it turned out there was such a boat and I booked on it. That boat turned out to be run by a true legend Captain Wilson Hubbard. We went to the FL Middle Grounds and boy was I forever hooked. I started going on as many trips as I could and eventually moved to St. Pete and fished literally all the time. In fact I went on the maiden voyage of the FL Fisherman II.
I eventually got my own Grouper Boat (in fact I had two) and I commercial fished for about ten years until my partner died and I sold the boats. I got totally out of the business and basically quit fishing but never stopped thinking about it. I knew if I ever went once I’d be hooked again. About three years ago I was in a store and saw a fellow about my age in a wheelchair. I didn’t know the man nor did I speak with him but couldn’t shake the feeling that might be me one day. That very day I went to my office and made a reservation on Hubbard’s next trip and since then I’ve made most of the “over nighters”
Much has changed in the fishing world since I first started (mostly regulations) but one thing hasn’t, my love for fishing. My plan is to fish as much and as hard as I can until I can’t do it anymore. With this in mind I want to share my passion with you with the goal helping you catch more and fish more.
This weekend the wind that seemed relentless finally let up enough to get off shore. I’ve only been once since Thanksgiving so to say I was “Jonesing” is an understatement. As we were leaving at 10:00 AM I got an early start leaving my home at 3:00 AM. Did I mention I moved back to Hawthorne and it takes me 3 hours to get to John’s Pass? No distance is to far my passion/addiction. I like to catch my own bait when I can for two reasons, I like the freshest bait possible and I just like doing it. Normally I start at the Skyway but due to time and wind not to mention cold I hit a spot along the Inter-coastal. (Perhaps in the future I’ll share it with you.) Pin Fish bit pretty good and in no time I had about thirty nice size ones. I still bought three dozen at the dock as I was out of time and I like to take a minimum of fifty. For most folks three dozen is enough but I’m even passionate about Pin Fish.
Along with about forty fellow travelers we loaded up our gear and headed for battle. I like to troll on the way out and normally do pretty well. Catching Spanish Mackerel close to shore followed by Bonita and Kings but the trolling action was slow to nonexistent. I chalk this up to the cold churned up water with all the wind we’ve had. I spent my time rigging up and talking of past action with hope for the future. As I am considered a regular many folks seek me out to talk about the last time they saw me and to seek a few pointers. After jawing it was time for a nap and dreams of things to come.
We started fishing around 8:00 PM and Capt. Garrick said we were starting on a wreck that should produce Mangos. He asked us to only “fire down” dead bait so as not to get Amber Jacks jacked and scare the Goozers. Tip: “when in doubt listen to your Captain” I was using boat supplied Threadfin and on my first bait I got slammed by a 15 lb Gag. I cranked him up and released it. I quickly re-rigged and shot down another dead bait. Tip: If you catch a decent size fish that puts a lot of tension on your rig, take the time to re-tie your knots. This may seem like overkill but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people lose nice fish after catching one or being hung in the bottom due to strained or damaged rigs.
On my third bait I got slammed by what I knew was a nice Snapper turned out to be an 8.7 lbs. Mango that held on to be the Jackpot fish. For about 20 minutes the Mango bite was on. And most were above average in size. We eventually swung of and had to re-anchor. I caught 6 or 7 before this and most people had at least two. After we set up on it again we caught more Snapper but not the same as before. Still I ended up with 10 or so before we left.
I mentioned Mangos we caught on the wreck but now let me tell you about the Gags. As I said I caught the first Gag but certainly not the last. I was fishing spot 10 right on the starboard corner and looking down the side and the stern I saw rods and fishermen doubled up everywhere. Judging by the hollering from the other side it was obvious the bite was on. I think before we left that wreck there were at least twice as many Gags caught as fishermen. Will (first mate) walked by me a cracked that with as many Gags caught he would have thought I’d have more than one. I told him I was trying for Mangos not catch and release Gags. Well I don’t know if it was the fish Gods or my competitive spirit but I promptly caught seven straight Gags. In all we must have released at least 80 Gags off that one spot. This would continue all trip and the mates said the boat released well over 100 Gags this trip. Question; how do Gags know the season is closed? This bodes well for the future of both the fishery and my chances of snagging a few of these when the season opens?
One of my great pleasures is watching someone hook and catch their first Gag. It is usually by far the biggest fish they’ve ever caught and certainly one of the strongest. I never get tired of seeing that childlike joy and I feel the same way even though I’ve caught thousands. Now that we warmed up on Gags it was time to pursue some Amber Jacks. Unfortunately we pursued more than we caught be we did land a few. In fairness these trips usually land numerous keepers and often some monster Jacks but with the combination of the new regs 34” and the bad weather the bigger Jacks weren’t around. We did land a few keepers with the biggest being around 23 lbs. I personally caught at least six with the biggest 2” short. You should see the look on peoples face when they are hollering gaffe, gaffe only to be told the fish is not of legal size.
We hit numerous spots looking for Jacks, Red Grouper, Mangrove Snapper and various reef species but no matter where we went the Gags wouldn’t leave us alone. I caught a dozen, three were in the 20 lbs class, all were keepers and most were at least 12 lbs. The biggest I saw was a Rusty Belly in the 40 lbs class. There were only a handful of keeper Red Grouper caught with the largest being around 12 lbs. I heard the all and half day are getting them.
In all I had just short of my limit on Mangos at 18, I also had a decent amount of B-Liners. Porgies and Bar Jacks. After not being able to fish for two months I was grateful to be back on the water and praying the weather will be right next week. I hope you enjoy the blog and I am open to suggestions.
All Pictures by Bob Harbison


Sign In or Register to comment.