AJ's at last

Good news to report on two fronts. The Pin Fish seem to be making a comeback from the Red Tide and most important Bob Harbison is back! Since this weekend’s trip was a full moon 44 hour that leaves the dock at 10:00 AM I didn’t have much time to get some nice Pins so I gambled they might be back in the inter-coastal waters. I am happy to report I caught about 40 fat ones in about 1.5 hours. Once I got to the dock and saw my ole friend Bob sitting in his usual spot it brought joy to my heart as I shouted out “Howdy Bob”. Pins & Bob’s back all is right with the world.

Also happy to report the Kingfish bite is on. While trolling at least three were caught and twice that many hooked. Several Bonita came over the rail as well. Overall the weather was perfect except for a brief squall line it was sunny and the seas 2’ or less. Capt. Bryon informed us we would start before sun down targeting Red Grouper and then move to Mangrove Snapper once darkness fell. Side note: it has always fascinated me how different species of fish prefer certain types of bottom even in the same general area. Red Grouper hold best in patches of hard bottom and pot holes. On que we picked up a smattering of Red Grouper and even a few Goozers. The Capt. announced he had a good anchor heading so it was time to move to some nice ledges he felt held the promise of Goozers. Side note” anchoring a boat consistently in changing conditions is a bigger challenge than it might appear. More on this later.

From the start the bite was hot. The only challenge was the way they were biting. Mangos bite in several ways and this time they were what I call sitting on the bait. Not sure what triggers them to bite this way but it can be a challenge. I’ll try and describe; instead off popping or nibbling on the bait you just feel a certain tension on the line almost like they are holding it in their mouth or sitting on it. When this happens by the time you feel the bite (if you feel it at all) it is usually too late. You crank and either there is nothing there are you think you have him only to do what I call turn one over. This type of bite can be frustrating especially if there are a lot of Porgies and Vermillion on the attack. Two general solutions for this. One is to switch to live bait which has its own challenges and the other is to do what my friend Danny says wind just before they bite. I know this sounds crazy but it is not far from the truth. It takes quite a bit of practice to feel that tension I talked about so until you get it down every so often just give a few quick cranks. If no fish is on simply let the bait back down and repeat. Over time you will be able to easily tell if you have bait still on the hook. There is no substitute for experience but I hope my sharing will speed up the process. Message me and we can continue the conversation or if you see me out there I’ll help any way I can.

Throughout most of the night good size Mangrove Snapper were coming up. The biggest I saw was an 8.5 slob I caught on a large Threadfin. I talk a lot but get real quiet when I hook into a big one. One of my friends Leo says you can tell when he’s got a nice one on as he leans over the rail in silence. I read a Facebook post form Hubbard’s that said 75% of the boat limited out and I’d say that rings true. Just before sun rise the Kingfish bite took off. Any one flat lining got hooked up. The problem was that since we’d been fishing all night many had gone to bed and those hardy souls still up were no doubt tired. Still quite a few came up and one angler got his 4 fish two day limit. A couple nice Blackfin Tuna came up as well. (Tip: If you’re going on a multi-day trip make sure you plan to fish all night if possible as this is the best overall bite in most water under 300’) Remember if you want to catch the fish of your dreams you have to be willing to fish while others are dreaming.

The day bite was solid except the anchoring conditions were tough. This was due to not enough wind to hold a heading. When the current was slack it meant the boat was drifting around the anchor. This makes it hard to stay over productive spots. The Captain got creative and put us over larger spots to compensate but without wind and current there is only so much you can do. Fortunately this is a rare occurrence and in our case once the current picked up this was resolved. Side note: If you are fishing and get hung in the anchor rope please inform the crew and not just break our cut your line as someone has to pull that anchor and a rope full of hooks can be a problem.

The AJ bite was the best I’ve seen this year with a large number of keepers. I caught one that came in just over 46 LBs. There was one over 50 and you guessed it not in the Jackpot. The average keeper was in the 30 LB. range. After I got my limit I decided to see if I could help someone else. I put down a large Pinfish and waited. Soon I had that familiar run and cranked down on what I knew instantly was a keeper. I called on a lovely young lady from the ATL and she did a yeomen’s job of cranking in an AJ that tipped the scales at 35 LBS. While winding it in she said “This is harder than having a baby” to which I said I’ll have to take your word on that. I think she is hooked on fishing now.

All afternoon and until we left right at sun down I saw some of the best, biggest and most consistent Vermillion action I’ve seen. Well over 100 two to three pound and some even larger came over the rail. I must have heard at least 20x someone exclaim “That’s the biggest Bee liner I’ve ever seen” Side note: People say Vermillion are soft and can’t be frozen and thus must be eaten fresh. Though I agree fresh can’t be beat there is a way to freeze them. Instead of filleting them scale, gut and cut off the head and tail. Growing up this is how we always did our freshwater pan fish. They taste great this way. My gal is from the Bahamas and she knows fish. She loves to do Bee Liners and Porgies this way either deep fried or steamed.
Want to give a shout out to my friend Joe May as I hadn’t seen him in a while and he was leaving on the all-day just as we were coming in. Hope you slayed them! Next going on an extended trip down South. Can’t wait.
See you out there!


  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 10,889 AG
    For some reason when we were down in the Keys my son was the only one catching Mangos. They bit just as you described, sitting on the bait. I'd turn around to see him cranking on the reel, rod tip pointed right at the water, i always thought he had snagged something, then he lifts up the rod tip and he's got a 15" mango on . Not sure what he was doing but he was the only one catching that day.
    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 3,444 Captain
    See why I noted in my latest report, ‘Picture Florida PERFECT,’
    joining us as a fishing consultant, Mr. John Martin. John is just about as good as it gets. His vast knowledge and experience can help even the seasoned angler.

    “I called on a lovely young lady from the ATL and she did a yeomen’s job of cranking in an AJ that tipped the scales at 35 LBS. While winding it in she said “This is harder than having a baby” to which I said I’ll have to take your word on that. I think she is hooked on fishing now.”
    Thanks John! I missed that one. Bob
  • TennesseeDaveTennesseeDave Posts: 308 Deckhand
    Great report! Are either you John or Bob going on the 63hr trip this Thursday?
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 3,444 Captain
    Both! Hope to see you there. Dave, it's been way too long.
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