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Deer Meat Meets the Yankee

I apologize for posting this way but FS server doesn't let me post pics midway through the story.  It takes me over an hour to download it in sections like this.. grrr  

“Hammer, you interested in doing a R & D trip out to Pulley Ridge?”  It was the question I got after answering my phone.  It was Capt. Greg Mercurio from the now famous Yankee Capts. head boat in Key West.  After not fishing for a month, my need to kill was exuding from my landlocked body.  Before he could even give me the dates, I said “I’m in”.  It seemed that every one on the earth was afraid of the Covid 19 flu but to be truthful, this cat isn’t afraid of water.. I was going, pandemic or no pandemic.  I cleared my schedule of the Hooters Calendar girl shoot and It didn’t take long for Greg to round up a crew.  Being that this was NOT going to be a charter, Greg asked me if there was anyone that I could think of that could help promote his business.  I called Joe Biden, he was busy groping some young girls.  I called Hillary Clinton but since she smashed her Blackberry, she’s been real hard to get ahold of.  I even called the suicide prevention hotline and they put me on hold for so long that I just ended up hanging up on them.  Finally, my friend Russell suggested that we might be interested in taking along a youtuber.  Yes, you read that right;  Russell explained that he knew a guy that had ridiculous amounts of followers on his youtube channel.  I thought to myself “Oh great, we’re gonna get some snot nosed punk with a flat brimmed hat with a fresh chrome sticker on it rapping the whole day.  Boy was I wrong.  His name was Robert Arrington and after speaking to him on the phone, he agreed to come on the trip providing his 2 cameramen could come and document everything.  Greg agreed and the trip was set for the very next Monday.

I did a little research and found that Robert’s youtube channel had a little over 2.2 million subscribers…No, that’s not a typo.  Don’t believe me? Go to youtube.com and type in “Deer Meat for Dinner”. The guys got more of a following than Moses. You see, Robert’s schtick is to tell you how to catch a fish, catch it, clean it and cook it, all in one episode.  Strangely enough, I’d actually seen one of his earlier shows where he’d caught an amberjack, cleaned it, rolled it in olive oil then sweetened it with both black and white sesame seeds and I’m not going to lie, it looked really delicious. 

Early Monday morning, I’d loaded up my truck with all my gear, as I was pulling out of my driveway, my wife was just returning from her anti Covid bike ride.  Like always, she wanted a quickie before I left but this love machine had to be in Key West and she would simply have to wait for me to return to get some of the Hammer’s world famous loving.  She knows fishing comes first!                                                                                             


  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,031 Officer
    I had to figure some way to get through the security check point in Key Largo as Monroe County was closed to visitors.  Now get this, Robert and his crew were going to fly into Key West and that was perfectly OK but you’re not allowed to actually drive into the Keys unless you live there.. duh.  It didn’t really matter because it’s not exactly hard to outsmart the little trolls at the bridge.  I could tell you how I do it but I might lose my top secret clearance from the government so I can’t.

    Arriving at the boat right on time, we loaded all our rods, coolers, bait and provisions. On a normal trip, the mates were strictly prohibited from fishing but this wasn’t your normal trip, the mates were basically no different than anyone else.  The goal was research and development which basically meant that there were no guaranty’s because Greg wanted to find some new area’s.  Muslims like virgins when they die;  I like virgin waters when I’m alive.  The trash talking between two of the mates, Tony, Josh and I started almost immediately.  While they are very good mates, they’d be up against the Muhammed Ali of trash talking.. basically, the two young men were completely outclassed.  Leyland, the senior mate knew not to get involved.  He’d been going stir crazy and just wanted to get off the dock so he didn’t take any of the bait out put out like the younger two did.

    There were two other characters on the boat, Joe T, a senior member of Key West’s finest that it’s rumored, sings for tips in a barbershop quartet on the corner of Duval and 8th street.  I’ve heard him sing and lets just say that Jimmy Buffet has nothing to worry about.

    John, the final member of the selected crew was a retired Navy rescue diver that could talk the paint off a wall.  Unlike Joe, this would be his first trip on the Yankee Capts. so he was stoked.

    The mighty Yankee cruised out and turned west at the blazing speed on 10 kts.  I’d learned to just ignore the slow speed because after going almost a month without being on the water it was time to just soak in the fact that millions of people throughout the entire US were stuck in their homes under this God awful quarantine.

    The seas were calm and we all sat in the salon getting acquainted and swapping stories of fish and good times we’d all had on the water.  Robert had lots of stories but what I was really interested in was how exactly he made money from doing these youtube video’s.  I think it’s fair to say that I’m not exactly up to the times when it comes to social media.  I use Facebook and that’s about it.  If you’re reading this right now, you’re either on my email list or you’re reading it on Facebook.  I don’t do Instagram, I don’t hashtag, I don’t do anything.. I’m just old school I guess.  Heck, I think I’m doing good just sending pictures over my phone!

    Anyways, getting back to the youtube stuff.  Robert has fine tuned this stuff where he makes a very good living out of it.  He’s taken what many people would love to do and turned it into a career.  I thought the more subscribers you have, the more money you make but that’s not at all what it’s all about, it’s about the number of minutes that people watch your video’s.  If you have a million subscribers that watch your 20 minute video’s, you have 20 million minutes of potential advertising and Google, the company that owns Youtube pays you for that ability to advertise to your fan base.  While Robert does have some sponsors, he doesn’t “****” out the products.  The products he uses on his shows are products that he actually believes in which is nice.  Unlike a Saturday morning fishing show that will tout any product that the manufacturer is willing to pay for.  In other words, he’s more like most of us, we use the products that we think will actually work.  He’s no Bubba Blade knife hawker.

    We went up NW Channel and had the Gulf of Mexico to ourselves.  The sun set on the bow of the Yankee and most of us made our way to the dungeon below to get some sleep.  At 1:45am, the big engines were put in neutral.  I jumped out of my bunk and grabbed my jigging rod.  Most people that fish at night on the Yankee choose to fish with bait but there’s something about fooling a fish that makes me happy.  It’s not very often that the Yankee stops and people aren’t hanging over the sides but since this trip had a different type of clientele, the rail was basically a ghost town.  It didn’t take long for Robert to catch a giant margate.  His film crew recorded it all.  There were no second takes, it was as it happened.  I caught a red grouper and a mutton snapper and returned to my bunk as I knew the upcoming day would be long

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,031 Officer
    I awoke with the sun just starting to paint the sky.  In general, this is the best time to be on the rail for a good mutton bite and that’s exactly what happened.  The few people that were up, were catching muttons and red groupers on a steady basis.  Again, unlike most trips where the mates have to staple the anglers number to the gill plate, on this trip it was different.  Greg had stipulated that the majority of the fish was going to be donated to the needy in Key West which was fine by me.  The mates, while technically not on duty still gaffed and transported muttons and red groupers to the Yankee’s waiting fish boxes.

    It was time to make a run to the deep water.  Everyone that wanted to troll for wahoo put out their favorite lure.  After a few barracuda false alarms, Joe hooked a fish that took off pretty good.  One of the videographers said “I’ve never been on a boat that actually landed a wahoo, I’m just bad luck”.  Well, his luck changed as a 40 lb wahoo met the sharp steel of a Yankee gaff.

    To reward us, Joe cooked us all up a breakfast burrito that, while not much to look at, was delicious.

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,031 Officer
    The sea was void of grass so it made the wahoo trolling easy.  The problem was that the wahoo’s were not there…Capt Greg told me to tell everyone that we’d be starting out in 475’ of water and to ready their gear.  Now here’s where you get to see who actually read the website on what to bring. Robert and his crew had electric reels, the problem was that they were also used to catch swordfish.  Hooker Electrics are great reels but WAY overkill for what we were doing.  I on the other hand, used a Banax 500.  It was lightweight and perfect for this application. I readied a large jig with a curly tail.  It didn’t take long until   the onslaught began.  On every drop a yelloweye’d snapper, a vermillion or a scamp grouper would fall victim to our baits.  We’d drift over the drop off and everyone that had a bait on the bottom would be met with a bent rod. 

    Periodically we’d catch toro’s or small tilefish but in general, every fish we caught was perfect for the dinner plate.  Greg would purposely never drift over the same area twice.  He’d make his notes of what was caught and move on to another area.

    Queen snappers, for whatever reason, tend to frequent the shallow waters of Pulley Ridge.  In the Bahamas, you catch them in depths not shallower than 1000’ but out at Pulley, we catch them as shallow as 375’ making them very sought after by those of us that like to jig.  Others don’t care about anything other than the fact that they make great table fare.

    About this point in time, it was truly ridiculous, it didn’t matter what bait you had or what way you presented it, if you hit the bottom, you had a fish.  Tilefish, groupers, snappers of every variety.  I caught two fish on one jig and two minutes later someone bested me by catching 3 fish on a single jig.

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,031 Officer
    If you were looking for challenging fishing, this was definitely not your cup of tea.  The fish were committing suicide.. it was awesome.  People always ask me “Hammer, what’s your favorite fish to catch?”  I tell them “The dumb ones.”

    Greg would never strip an area, he’d just say “Reel em up, let’s make a move’.  There’s an old saying “Never leave fish to find fish”.  Well, we left fish and found even more.  A school of mahi made the mistake of hanging out and buck tail jigs and poppers caused their demise.  These fish obviously had never seen a boat before because they were simply voracious.  It was all the mates could do to keep up with us all the while the film crew was getting footage.

    Greg said “You guys want to go fish a wreck for warsaw’s?”  The answer took about 1/2 a second.  We once again motored north trailing wahoo lures behind us.  One of the rods bent over with a wahoo trying to head to Mexico but on this occasion, he got lucky and shook the hook some 20’ from the boat.  Fishing was so good that we didn’t even care.

    It was late in the day when we got to the wreck.  It was an old freighter that lay some 400’ below us.  The surface was alive with bait, bonitos and blackfin tunas.  The guys that dropped baits were greeted by amberjack and some of those amberjack met up with the man in the grey suit.
    The only female on the trip caught a beautiful kitty mitchell grouper.  Her boyfriend caught a tuna.

    It was about this time that all hell broke loose, at least if you like surface action.  We could see tuna’s crashing baits and someone decided to throw a popper… KABLOOM!  John was throwing one of his surface plugs and couldn’t make a cast without hooking up.  After 6 tuna’s he cried uncle.  Roberts camera man had the drone flying above the melee and documented the carnage.  The cameraman would zoom in on a popper and literally get shots of the tuna’s crashing it.  It was so calm and the sunset was so orange that it literally was surreal. Well, reality set in when John made a long cast and his braid just so happened to meet up with the propellors of the drone.  Yep, a one in a million cast sent the $2500 drone into the water.  While I don’t know Robert very well, his body language told the story.  He was more concerned over the footage than the loss of the drone.  Since it was tangled up in the braid, John reeled it in.  They washed it the best they could with fresh water and put it into a bag of rice.  I’m no electronics expert but I think it’s safe to say that the drone is toast.

    Robert cooked up some skirt steaks that were OUT OF THIS WORLD.  He marinated it in sesame oil and a thai ginger dressing that was out of this world.. I was really beginning to like this guy.

    Chad, the normal Yankee’s chef was not on this trip but trust me, we didn’t suffer one bit.  This carnivore was in heaven!

    That night, I bet we set a record for the absolute least amount of people that actually fished.  We’d caught a boat load of fish and we still had two days to go

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,031 Officer
    When the sun broke the horizon, we once again caught some more red groupers and some more muttons.  A shark decided to take a healthy bite out of one of our fish so Greg decided to make a long run in hopes for some giant queen snappers. Greg has enough sophisticated electronics on the boat to rival NASA.  He took a gamble and made the long run.  When we got there, we were greeted by a loop current that made it virtually impossible to fish.  It was the only “bad call” Greg made the whole trip.  An hour and a half later, we were back at the slaying.

    On every drop, we would catch something. Scamp groupers, yellow edge groupers, tile fish, queens, yellow eyes, vermillion… the list went on and on. 
    Fishing was so good that even Capt Greg came out of the wheel house to see if he himself could remember how to catch a fish.. and he did. BTW, this is the only known picture of Greg actually fishing in the past 25 years.

    I know it’s going to sound crazy coming from me, the most blood thirsty fisherman alive, but we were feeling kind of guilty with the amount of fish that we were catching.  We weren’t anywhere near our legal limit but we had plenty of fish to help the needy and plenty of fish to take home so we all banded together and said “Greg, we’re done”.  We’d filled two giant fish boxes to the brim and there really wasn’t a reason to keep going.  I can’t even imagine the number of fish that would have been caught if we’d had 20 fishermen on the boat.  Greg was OK with coming in a day early.  Robert put some ribs on the grill as an appetizer and made scamp grouper sashimi with some type of crazy sauce.  It was as good as anything I’d had in any sushi bar. With Greg’s dog Brizo watching attentively, I cooked up some Picanya, twice baked potatoes with a Caesar salad so we stuffed our faces as we made the long trek back to Key West.

    I’ve been on the Yankee a number of times but this trip wasn’t just epic, it was different, it was just like friends going fishing.  No pressure, no worries, just fishing and catching.  In total, we amassed 25 species of fish.
    If you’d like to see the video’s that were shot on the trip, you can go to youtube and search “Deer Meat For Dinner”.  He does a really good job and a pleasure to fish with.

    Stay safe everyone,


  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,031 Officer
    Again, I apologize but when I write my stories, I input the pics as they happen, I just can't upload my whole stories with pics as they're too long and this website won't accept that much print.  Thanks again to Greg on the Yankee Capts for allowing us to get out of the house and catch some fish.

  • One DropOne Drop Posts: 396 Deckhand
  • RealdeepRealdeep Posts: 362 Deckhand
    I always enjoy reading your posts Hammer,  funny and entertaining as hell. I've been following Robert's channel for a long time. Cool dude that knows how to hunt and fish.
  • mike_smike_s Posts: 447 Deckhand
    Excellent report as usual.  Sounds like a fun trip.
  • MangroveMarkMangroveMark Oak HillPosts: 467 Deckhand
    Thanks Rob, your stories are always the best! Is your book available yet?
  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,031 Officer
    My book isn't about fishing so much as it's about the stupid things I've done and unfortunately, there's a lot of them.  It's all in my computer but no, it's not ready.  Parts of me want to share it to the world and parts of me say "Don't tell anyone how stupid you were".

  • Mackeral SnatcherMackeral Snatcher Posts: 12,359 AG
    Another awesome read.
  • JWTJWT Posts: 788 Officer
    nice narrative Rob! glad to see you are still hurting them!!

  • Jack HexterJack Hexter New Port RicheyPosts: 5,372 Moderator
    Great write up Rob

  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,031 Officer
    Weren't you suppose to be there Jack?

  • CountryBumpkinCountryBumpkin Fla. Piney WoodsPosts: 1,892 Captain
    Reef Bandit said:BTW, this is the only known picture of Greg actually fishing in the past 25 years.

    You lose it already? Forget to post it?
    They say memory is the 2nd thing you lose. :)
  • UfhalbertUfhalbert Posts: 33 Deckhand
    My book isn't about fishing so much as it's about the stupid things I've done and unfortunately, there's a lot of them.  It's all in my computer but no, it's not ready.  Parts of me want to share it to the world and parts of me say "Don't tell anyone how stupid you were".

    It would be more enjoyable with the stupid stuff included.  Make it happen Hammer.
  • Jack HexterJack Hexter New Port RicheyPosts: 5,372 Moderator
    edited May 2020 #19
    Weren't you suppose to be there Jack?

    Never got a call, and with my personal situation right now, could not have made it.  Check your e-mail
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