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Return to the Gwailia, Trip #2 Part 1

Alrighty, here it is, the final Cobia 296 Florida fishing report for May.  We went 3 for 3 for making it to the middle grounds so far this year, all in one month.   May can be an excellent month because the cold fronts have stopped and the monsoons have not yet started.  Cy, his brother Reggie, Scott Keeports, the "Bob and Jeff Show" and I headed out to take another day of abuse from Florida reef donkeys (Amber Jacks for any snowflake types out there).  Unlike on shore with all the thunderstorms, the weather was calm and we expeditiously caught a load of pinfish north of Anclote Key and departed for the 75 mile run to the Gawlia wreck.  In May, every thing is open except for two fish.  So you might say, how good can that be?  Well, the two fish that are closed are American Red Snappers and Gag Groupers, which of course are my two favorite fish to target and eat.  Well after the 2.5 hour ride, we arrived to the target.   There was already a 30 something foot Grady White walk around with twin Gen 1 Yamaha F250's.  The boat was drifting over the wreck and all on board appeared to be hooked up.  The Jacks and sharks where riled.  We anchored and got close enough to the wreck, or it really didn't matter actually because the jacks and sharks where coming up to us.  We tried to see what was on the bottom by dropping thread fin.  It was the same as always: American red snapper.   Below is a picture of Jeff holding a snapper that was mauled by a goliath.  Jeff was the "chosen one" twice this trip, having to deal with goliath groupers on at least two occasions.    Unless you are using a construction crane, you really don't want to mess with 300 to 500 lbs of Grouper swinging a 4 foot wide tail.   Jeff got his punishment and paid the price to both wrist, arms, back and spirits.  See the discolored, mauled snapper below. 

It is not only the goliaths that can put a hurting on your arms and back, but also the donkeys.  Attached is a video of Cy and Reggie getting their butts handed to them by either a mull of an AJ or a fast goliath. 

Here are two action clips of Scotty laying the heat on a jack.  Albeit his 1st hook-up ended in tackle failure when the Jack actually removed the hook from the lure by pulling the o-ring apart.  Scotty got this AJ on a top water plug.  If you have not caught an AJ on top water, you are missing an incredible fishing experiences. 

But the third time was charm for Scotty.  Call Scotty if you need to buy a house, he is good realtor, but still quite new to donkey wrestling. 

While on the wreck, we had to deal with sharks.  You will see Cy handling a typical brown reef shark.  Notice how Cy respects the teeth.  After limiting out on AJ on the Gawlia, we cried uncle and decided to go about 7 miles SW to a ledge I wanted to check out in the center of the middle grounds. We anchored up right on top of the high side of the ledge.  The ledge dropped down about 25 feet.  Bob got a nice 29 inch Gag grouper we had to throw back.  We caught more red snapper, but at least we could catch fish we could keep.  This spot was loaded with both Scamp Grouper and Bar Jacks, both of which are very good eating.   All the Red Grouper where shorts this trip.  Not sure what we are doing wrong not to get a keeper red grouper. Or maybe it is just fishing.   Most of the scamps were 14-15.5 inches, however we did manage to bring in at least 6 keeper scamps and al the blue bolt pogies and Bar Jacks we cared for.  The ALmaco or Bar jack bite was the best we ever experienced the the ticket was squid on chicken rigs.  In fact we caught mango snapper on squid and believe me when I say that does not happen often, but then again that is just the special magic of the middle grounds. We also had two new records set for my boat with Bob's big flag yellow tail snapper and Jeff's big trigger fish.  And yes, we were able to keep some triggers fish as they were still in-season. 

The catch of the day was Bob's big cobia.  Cy had 1st crack at it, but Cy pulled the hook.  

At the end of the day, we had a huge boat load of fish, so much fish that Bob the filet master had no hope of making a dent in.  Also worth noting was as soon as we got back, Bob found out his oldest son was just admitted to the hospital for emergency gall blander removal surgery.  We lift up a pray for the young man's speedy recovery. 

A lesson learned for this trip is to "stick with the original plan" if there is a forecast uptick in breeze. The original plan was to head back between 3 and 4 because there was a forecasted up-tick in wind in early evening.   But because the crew were still having a ball whaling away landing fish, I just did not keep to my plan.  The plan to leave NLT than 4 was to be back by 8 pm so as to avoid the evening on-shore easterly sea breeze.  We pulled up anchor at 6.  Well, that breeze did come into being and our last third of the trip 25 miles in was a little bumpy.  We were heading straight into a 15 knot breeze with seas building to 3-4 feet.  Our speed was reduced to 37mph to 18 by the time we were 10 miles out.   But the big Cobia 296 with her 60' degree bow entry and high freeboard got us through.  So, next time, if there is going to be an evening breeze, I am not going to stay out and make every one take 2-hours of unnecessary beatings.  Also, the days are getting longer and the sun is rising sooner.  Time for a 0600 marina roll call vice 0700. 

So what's up next.  After some Memorial Day trip to the North Carolina Outer banks for Memorial Day weekend, it is finally Gag Grouper and Red Snapper season.  With summer, the seas will be calmer, but the t-storms will be more numerous, so weather watching will remain the key.  Earlier starts are a must.  

Enjoy the pictures,

Cobia Ken,

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