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Yankee Captains Pully Ridge, So Much Fun It Hurts

My biggest excitement this summer, was booking my spot on the Yankee Captains for the winter, deep water trips. Being 2500 miles away from most of the fishing fun for seven months, keeps me reading reports and counting the days till my first trip. Well, the day finally came and my first Pulley Ridge trip is now in the books.
Watching the long range wind and weather reports as trip day nears, is always a bit tense and this one was no different. Maybe it will be a go, maybe the trip will cancel. My assessment kept changing, right up till Alana, wonder woman from the YC office, called and said the trip was ON! It looked like we would probably get in at least some deep dropping and lots of shallower water drifting, in 200-300 feet.
Bit by bit, little by little, over the past couple of weeks, my gear had been dusted off, lines changed, spare leaders tied and finally I was rolling past the now familiar hurricane wreckage that still lines much of US1. The sobering reality is, that this destroyed property belonged to people, families and those people had dreams and had worked hard to be here. I guess that many of those dreams are still alive and there is still lots of hope, with every truck load of debris moved out.
Lots of familiar faces on the boat this trip. A light load of about 15 fishermen promised lots of elbow room at the rail. I was to fish on the pulpit, next to An, a friend I had met on the very first Pulley Ridge trip a few years ago. Other regulars, Bob and Ivan were fishing mid ship and Dudley was closer to the stern. Soon we were off, with a steady, following wind helping our progress.
Sometimes there are huge schools of ballyhoo at the surface on the trip out and this was one of those times. They explode at the surface, going off in all directions in the wake, as the bow plows through. I awoke to find a smiling Ivan dipping them with my net and quickly joined in the fun. One of us dipped, the other shook the hoos into a bucket, two big kids, in the middle of the ocean, in the middle of the night, grinning from ear to ear. If you can position the net to barely skim the surface, (which is much easier to say than it is to do) they pretty much jump into the net. With aching arms and a half bucket of fresh bait, we now had good reason to sleep.
Lots of waves and a stiff breeze greeted us as the boat slowed to start fishing. The crew deployed a huge sea anchor from the stern that resembles a huge tent being dragged backwards through the water, slowing the speed quite nicely.*
Only a few seconds after dropping a jig to bottom, a big red grouper, a fire truck, fell victim to a nearby rail mate and was the first catch of the day. Several of us caught sand tilefish, better known as slippery **** and I chunked one up for bait and deboned it, knowing that it sometimes can work really well. I think I caught five muttons and a grouper using it, three on the same piece of bait. It was effective in that area, but I was slow to realize that when we moved to another area, fish didn't seem to find it tasty. We weren't catching the slippery **** there and they weren't on the menu. I changed to goggle eyes and started catching again.
The wind let up a bit but never laid down so we could deep drop.
Jigs and bait were both working and though the bite was a bit spotty, the quality was very good. I got hooked up to a big fish and allowed him to peel line off, resisting the urge to put my thumb on the spool to try to slow him. I got him turned and was slowly winning him toward the surface. I knew from the fight, this was a big grouper, maybe the pool winner.*
Dudley had a big black grouper in the box, the biggest claim for the pool money so far, but all I wanted was to land this fish. The fish was moving dangerously close to other fishing lines and I finally accepted that I would have to make the dash to the stern in order to fight him. I passed my rod around a gaff and he turned and ran, making a last ditch effort at survival, touched another line and popped off, swimming free. All part of the game.
An was jigging pretty much the entire trip and was getting hits like crazy. A wide variety of species were attacking that elusive, twitching piece of pink metal. He was on fire, working a flutter jig near bottom! He hooked what was very likely a big shark and tried to raise it to get a look at it. After a long fight, the shark won. But the groupers and snappers were still falling victim until he once again hooked something big.
He thought it was another big shark, but the way it was shaking it's head and trying to bull dog it's way to bottom, I wasn't so sure. We joked back and forth as he strained with his spinning rod to gain line on the beast, An was still convinced it was a shark. Well, if it's a shark, why not cut the line I teased, but he wanted to see it. Well, before long the pool winning 39 pound fish was on deck; and An's shark turned out to be a black grouper!
There is so much more to say, but now the sun is rising and I have stuff to do. Everyone seemed happy at the dock, lot's of fish in the coolers and memories galore. Chad's food was stupendous, the mates are a great bunch, very helpful and Greg made me rethink my strategy for tying my coolers on my trailer hitch tray. He simply said, "Remember Cameron, If you can't tie a knot, tie a lot."
I got home safely with my 14 muttons and 5 groupers, Dudley claimed 19 muttons and was giving away groupers, the pictures are the proof and fish is on the dinner menu. Believe me, there is a lot of soreness that goes with all the fun, but aside from a few aches and stiffness nothing broke. An, who jigged the whole trip, said he had no feeling in his arm.* (but kept on jigging)
Well, the weather looks good on Monday, so I guess I'm heading to Pulley Ridge again! How about you?
Cameron

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