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Christmas on the Yankee Capts

Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
                                        Christmas on the Yankee Capts.

Well, once again the jolly old group from Miami’s Tropical Anglers fishing club made the trek down to Key West to join Jolly Saint Greg on his now famous F/V Yankee Capts.  Greg had just got back from Ibiza so he had a great tan and was really relaxed.

Tropical Anglers tries to do this trip on an annual basis and weather is usually the deciding factor as to whether we go or not.  Last year we got blown out and this year the extended forecast was pretty bleak but where there’s a will, there’s a way and mother nature changed her mind and delayed the impending cold front.

Oh but lets back up a week, it seems that a certain member of the Tropical Anglers was feeling a bit  brave and did what very few men have done before… he challenged Hammer to a “Biggest grouper on the dock” contest.  He did this in front of the whole fishing club and those of you that know me, know that I don’t back down to a fight or a challenge.. it’s just my personality.  To sweeten the deal, I said “Buzz, if you really want to put the hurting on me, why don’t we double the bet?”  This of course got our fellow club members egging him on and like a predictable man in his mid 70’s, he took the bait like an amberjack eats a blue runner. Now some would say “Hammer, C’mon, be nice” but remember, even older people have to be taught life lessons too;  The bet was on!

Greg asked us if we could leave earlier and none of us couldn’t change our busy schedules of watching “I love Lucy” reruns so we all met at 10am sharp and started loading the boat.  It was about this time that some of the guys that were invited must’ve not read the Yankee’s website as they showed up with nothing but their tackle.  Greg has recently changed the a/c unit downstairs and you can literally hang beef down there.  They had to run out and buy a pillow and a sleeping bag.  Brizo, Greg’s dog barked with anticipation as we motored by all the shrimp boats tied up to the dock.

We settled in and as usual, guys were rigging their rods with fresh leaders, hooks, jigs, and everything in between.  Russell had just returned from Thailand and had some silly looking things that they called “snapper lures”.  They should’ve called them “Alien Lures” because that’s exactly what they look like.  I didn’t want to hurt Russell’s feelings as he was seriously excited about making his own lures and catching something on them.  He was using everything from rubber skirts to dental floss to little Owner 1/0 hooks that had been snelled onto kevlar cord.  It probably took him 20 minutes to make each one.

Now nobody is going to lie and tell you that the Yankee is fast but Greg had her parting the seas at a blistering 10.4 kts.  Periodically, a lobster line would meet its maker as the two big propellers did their job.

A navy plane decided to scare the living you know what out of us and screamed by us at 600 kts
literally just a couple hundred feet away.  It’s cool to see our tax dollars at work.

Chef Chad made us hot dogs, sausages and kielbasas which we quickly scarfed down.  It wasn’t indicative of his culinary skill but they hit the spot anyways.  We idled past the Marquesas and by nightfall, we were due south of the Dry Tortugas.  Greg”s plotter literally has thousands of marks in all directions from the Tortuga’s, so many that they literally black out part of his screen.  Considering I have a photographic memory, I now have them permanently imbedded in my brain.. If only I had the password to get into my brain..hmmm, maybe the Geek Squad could help me out?

Dinner was pork chops, salad and some veggies.  Chad knows me well enough by now that he doesn’t even put the veggies on my plate.  I ate my chunk of pork and decided to get some shut eye before we arrived at “Halfway Ledge”. 

I must input the fact that we had some pretty good fishermen on the boat.  They weren’t much to look at but most of them had put their fair share of fish in fish boxes.  Buzz, the shutter salesman that challenged me is known to take pictures of other peoples fish and post them as his own.  Heck, two years back, we went to Guatemala and he about knocked someone into the water just to have his picture taken with a bull dolphin.  I was going to have to watch this old guy as I knew he’d be using all of his tricks that he had stuffed into his Depends to beat me.

When the boat finally slowed, I jumped out of my bunk, put my fishing boots on and headed toward the bow.  It was about midnight and the moon was full.  Dale, one of the Yankee’s regulars with 26 trips under his belt had already made his cast with his little noodle slow pitch rod.  While he played with small fish, I wanted nothing but a big grouper.  While there’s nothing wrong with catching mutton snapper, I had to beat Buzz!  I’d brought along some fresh mackerel and 3 bags of octopus.. black groupers can’t resist an octopus and I knew Buzz didn’t have the connections to even obtain them.

To put it mildly, fishing stunk and I wasn’t about to stay up all night to see if it got any better.  I once again headed to my bunk down in the gallows below deck.  I’ve slept in morgues that were warmer.  Thank God I brought a good sleeping bag and my pillow because it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep.  At 5am, Dale said “Hey Hammer, the bite is going pretty good”.  Like most sleeping people, I decided to stay in my cozy bunk and not get up.  That ended up being a mistake because the guys that stayed up flat out spanked the mutton snapper.. all on bait.  The jiggers on the bow caught a few but there really wasn’t too much of a comparison.  At night, fish feed by smell and the guy that did the best had finger mullet that he’d butterflied out. 

In the morning, I once again donned by fishing attire and made my way out only to see people fighting fish.. in the daylight.. I’d slept in.. grrr.

I went to the bow and grabbed my jigging rod that I had a 6 oz. buck tail rigged up to.  I cut an octopus in half and sent it down to the bottom some 220’ below.  It wasn’t down there 2 minutes when I felt it get eaten.  The bait was directly below the boat, I had it on my heaviest rod with the heaviest braid.  I reeled down and stuck the fish with a sharp jolt upward.  The reaction was instantaneous.  The fish made a few fast runs, then stopped.  There was nothing I could do except hold on.  I knew the fish had rocked me up and there’s no red grouper that could do what this fish just did.  I “twanged” the line trying to irritate the fish and then I put the reel in free spool.  I was trying to make the grouper think that he’d got rid of the stinging sensation in his mouth.  To make a long story short, I ended up breaking the fish off as I couldn’t expect Greg to circle back around to let me work the fish any longer than I already had.  I’m sure Buzz was relieved.


  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
    It was about this time that Buzz caught a grouper.  Luckily, the fish was only 16” long and Buzz had to release it.  Shortly thereafter, I released one about the same size.  On the very next drop, I reeled in my jig only to find a tiny little grouper attached to my hook.  This little grouper could not have been more than 4” but it was a strawberry grouper and there’s NO size limit on them so I had the mate staple my number “19” on the fishes cheek.  Upon seeing this, Buzz just about blew out his false teeth saying “NO NO NO” but the rules were very clear that the fish had to be a legal fish and this fish, while being very small was very legal in a BIG way.

    I had no idea if I would catch another grouper or if Buzz would catch another grouper but I did know that if I won our contest with a 4” grouper, he’d go to his grave with me ragging on him.  Heck, I would have mounted that thing, put it on a plaque with the two $100 bills glued on each side of it!

    In a short time, all of that didn’t matter because the bite really took off.  Our mates were being beckoned from the bow to stern and everywhere in between. I started catching fish on the bow and I’m sure Buzz was doing the same.  Every time that someone in the bow would catch a nice grouper, I’d tell the mate to tell Buzz that I’d caught it, just to mess with his head.

    We’d make long drifts and it was rare when at least somebody wasn’t fighting a fish. Our targets were snappers and groupers but porgies, margates, kingfish, squirrelfish, slippery ****, tuna, bonito, sharks, barracuda’s and mahi were all caught as by catch.

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
    Usually, the jigs or the bait will out produce the other but on this trip it really didn’t matter what you were using, you were catching fish.  Everyone had smiles.  At one point, Chris decided to drop a chicken rig that consisted of two hooks.  Josh, one of the mates that I’d nicknamed “Coffee Mate” on the last trip because he didn’t know how to make a pot of coffee, told him “You won’t catch anything on that”… Well, 30 seconds later Chris’ rod was bent over double.. not with just one fish but TWO keeper red groupers.. Ah, it’s nice to prove the youngsters that they don’t know everything.

    As nightfall approached, I knew I had Buzz beat as I had some nice sized red grouper.  I figured he’d stay up and catch some muttons but I wasn’t about to do that to my body so after catching a black fin tuna, I hit the sack.  Noel and Russell, the two night owls decided to pull an all nighter.. ugh.

    The next morning, we were greeted by a stiff westerly wind, not exactly what we wanted but when given lemons, make lemonade.  Noel had caught a really nice dog snapper that looked to weigh at least 20 lbs.  It was his first and he was proud as a peacock.

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
    Tony was up in the front of the boat and all I could hear was cursing.  Seems he’d just tied on a new fancy $20 jig and a barracuda decided to make an early meal of it.  Tony’s a staunch Trump supporter and feels that all politicians are truly honest people with good intentions….. NOT!  In other words, if you want to **** him off, just say something nice about Trump.. he’ll take the bait.  Anyways, after tying on another jig, you guessed it, he got cut off again.  Everyone around him was catching fish and he had to once again go rig.  The straw that broke the camels back was when he finally got back up to the pulpit, on his first cast, he got stuck on the bottom.  It’s a good thing that Greg doesn’t allow hand guns on the boat because I think that Tony would have ended it right then and there.  Tony use to be a mate on a charter boat so at least he was good at tying knots. lol

    Every time Dale would catch a fish, he’d pull out his little scale and weigh it, why I have no idea.  Dales the kind of guy that will literally walk around the boat and tell everyone and I mean everyone what he just caught and how he was bouncing his jig.  Even Greg’s dog Brizo would put her paws over her ears so she wouldn’t have to listen to his endless jabbering.

    It was about this time that I heard that Buzz was fighting a nice fish.  I, being the nice guy that I am wanted to go back to the stern and give him some words of encouragement that might cause him to lose his fish.. hey, this was a competition and anything I could do to LEGALLY win, I’d do.  Luck would be on Buzz’s side and he landed a very large red grouper..OUCH, that hurt.  While I’d caught a lot more than Buzz, I knew that fish was probably bigger than anything I had in the box.  Back to the bow I went, more determined than ever. 

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
    I jigged till my left arm hurt and I caught fish but I just couldn’t seem to hook a really big grouper.  Tom caught a scamp grouper that was bigger than anything on the boat which is completely strange as scamps don’t usually get that big but leave it to Tom to catch a dinosaur.  Unfortunately, nobody took a picture of it.

    Russell continued beating up on the groupers with his new invention

    I knew that time was getting late.. I just needed ONE fish, one fish that would beat Buzz but all I could catch we average sized red groupers and a few mutton snappers.  And then it happened; Hammers luck stuck deep into the jaw of a thick fish.  I knew it had some shoulders on it but would it be big enough to beat the Buzzards fish?  The fish fought for it’s life but modern technology caused it’s demise and Lyndon politely stuck a gaff in it’s cheek and hoisted it over the gunwale and promptly stapled number 19 to it’s gill plate.  It was a fatty but it didn’t have a lot of length so I knew it was going to be close.  I told Lyndon to NOT tell Buzz about it as I wanted Buzz to feel he had the victory in the bag.  I knew that Buzz was already counting his prize money in his head.

    Tony, went on a catching spree.  After his nuclear meltdown. The fish gods must have felt sorry for his little liberal **** and decided to let some stupid fish bite his lure.  He was catching fish on every drop and finally hooked something that was really giving him a tussle.  Turns out it was an african pompano, the largest he’d ever caught.  His previous frown was turned upside down.  Heck, I don’t even think Trumps impeachment could have caused Tony to smile that much.

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
    Greg gave us the 30 minute warning, the wind was now blowing about 20 kts but luckily for us, we’d have it at our tail the whole way back.  Everyone had their baits in the water, their jigs bouncing and their rods bent but as with every trip, the “Reel Em Up” order was given.

    We all secured our tackle and straightened up our gear.  There wasn’t an unhappy passenger on the boat.  We all met in the salon and talked about the ones that got away and bragged about the ones that didn’t.  I sat next to Buzz and told him “I think you got it”.  He didn’t take the bait this time, he just said “It’s gonna be close” and we left it at that.  Some guys celebrated with a beer, some guys had a smuggled in adult beverage and some guys just sat back and took it easy.

    We docked around midnight but most of us just stayed in our bunks until the 5am wake up call.

    We all formed a semi circle with our coolers and the mates would call out numbers.  When your number was called, you’d repeat the number and raise your hand, the mates would bring you your fish and toss it in your cooler.  The whole process took about a half an hour and right at the end, the mate said “19”.  I raised my hand and my largest grouper was put in my cooler.  I looked over at Buzz and just smiled.. he did not.

    As with every trip, there is a pool for the biggest fish.  On this trip, the pool was separated into two categories, the largest snapper and the largest grouper.  Noels big dog was without question the largest snapper caught but there were lots of big red grouper.  I picked out what I thought was my largest and put it on the T scale.  The scale doesn’t tell you how much it weighs, it tells you which fish is heavier.  If your side dips lower than the other side, then your fish is heavier.  I had 5 large groupers so I made sure that my entry was in fact my largest.  Dale, who thought he had the largest grouper then entire trip brought his to the scale only to suffer defeat from mine.  A couple other guys did the same with the same results.  Then it was Buzz’s turn.  His fish was big and I knew it was going to be REALLY close.  We literally had everyones attention.  When his fish was put up against mine, it bobbed the scale in his favor only to return to a slightly higher angle than mine.  Buzz pushed his fish down hoping for a miracle and no miracle was granted… I’d beat him probably by no m ore than an ounce or two!  Buzz hadn’t been so disappointed since the day his viagra prescription was lost.  He’d poked the bear and the bear poked back.

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
    My victory was short lived as Tom brought over his giant scamp grouper and it proved to be the largest grouper.  Believe it or not, I didn’t care.. I’d already won my money!!! I made Buzz sign the two $100 bills just to add insult to injury but that’s just the kind of guy I am.  At the club meeting the following Tuesday night he had to pay up and take his beating like a man.. an old man.

    We all grabbed some fish for a group shot and thanked our mates for their good service.  Tropical Anglers will be coming back next  December for sure.

    On the drive back to Miami, I noticed a few billboards so I snapped a pic and sent them to Buzz.  For some unknown reason, he didn’t respond.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    Hammer... HO HO HO

  • jmac7469jmac7469 Posts: 159 Deckhand
    Great write up. Awesome trip.
  • Jack HexterJack Hexter New Port RicheyPosts: 5,124 Moderator
    Good trip and write-up Rob
  • conchydongconchydong Pompano BeachPosts: 8,464 Admiral
    Glad you are back with your  great humorous reports. It's been a while.

    “Everyone behaves badly--given the chance.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
    I still write stories about my adventures but submitting them to FS is a real pain.  I have a program that I use and I just drop pics into the story, resize them to whatever I want and it will move the verbiage to literally wrap around my photo's.  With FS, I pasted the story and it instantly said I was 10200 words over my limit.  So, I have to take 1/6 of the story, input it, add the pics, press enter and keep doing so until I'm done.  It takes me over an hour to do so and to be perfectly honest I don't like wasting that much of my time, especially when it comes out all chopped up.  FS needs to get their webmaster to fix the problem.  I use "Pages" to do my stories and I send them out to a couple thousand people at the click of my mouse.  IMO, FS has really gone down as they let some of their moderators (not all) act like they were some type of royalty.  Everyone knows FS is not exactly breaking any sales records and you would think that they'd want to do everything possible to those of us that posted regularly.  In reality, it was just the opposite.  Having moderators like "Gary C" that thought they were above the rules.. big mistake.  Not sure what's going to happen with FS but if you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough.

  • chronicbreakchronicbreak Posts: 1,146 Officer
    You are a great story teller!

    so how do we get to read the write ups that don’t make it to F.S.?
    National Marine Fisheries Service
  • You are a great story teller!

    so how do we get to read the write ups that don’t make it to F.S.?

    I miss the old days with write ups like yours and Liti's.
    Funny stuff which is sorely missing from FS nowadays.
  • LiveLineLiveLine Wakulla County, FloridaPosts: 2,018 Captain
    Great story.  Thanks for sharing
  • benwah22benwah22 Posts: 239 Deckhand
    Nice job Hammer - wonder what got you rocked up...
    Instagram:  @mrbennyortiz
    Slow Pitch Jigger
    Occasional Fish Catcher
  • Cast_N_BlastCast_N_Blast JaxPosts: 1,437 Officer
    One of the best things I've ever read on these forums! Thank you for sharing!
  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,029 Officer
    If you PM me your email address', I'll put you on my story list.  NOTE to FS.. I do NOT have anything financial to gain out of these stories, they are merely stories of my travels and fishing trips around the world.  Some of the things in my stories are NOT allowable on this forum as they are adult related.  I am not trying to steer your readers away from FS
  • islandhopperislandhopper summerland Posts: 91 Deckhand
    Great read, thanks for sharing.
  • FshAddictFshAddict Posts: 51 Deckhand
    Nice read, like I was there. Thanks for sharing
  • pjepje Orlando , FlPosts: 768 Officer
    Thanks for posting Rob 
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