As some of you know, I like to dive. This Saturday was looking ideal, so I put the word out. Couple of maybes that by Thursday afternoon turned to nos. But my buddy Mike and his wife Michelle were game, so I grabbed my rookie neighbor Mark (first trip) and we headed out of Vilano.
After floating the cast net with pogies on the second cast just north of the cut at Vilano, we spent the next 40 minutes untangling the hopeless mess I made trying to bring in a 12' net jammed full of pogies. I couldn't get it over the rail, so I tried to dump some out, but didn't get nearly enough out. So it goes. At least we had bait.
We ran out to Standish, because that was the most comfortable way to run. Mike had heard that the wind and swell combo had brought cooler water in and there were reports of schools of cobia at the top on nearshore wrecks, so that was the target. We fished Standish for a little while and got nothing to speak of but a barracuda. Busto. So, I plunked in Taylor, since Mike wanted to get some bees and trigger. Out we went on a fairly wet ride with the south wind blowing spray over the starboard side on every bounce. But the Sailfish handles it really well, but for the spray. (side note - does anyone have experience with Smart Rails, the pvc rails you put along the chine to knock down spray?)
At Taylor, the depth finder was absolutely lit up. After fishing a while with no real results, I decided to jump in. I keep my fins on the boat and had brought may speargun in case we did happen on a school of cobia. I really want to take one on a spear. In the water were some barracuda hanging around the boat (standard), about 5 bull sharks cruising around, totally chill, not paying me much attention but no cobia in attendance. I looked down and thought I saw bottom 40 feet down before I realized it was an absolutely massive school of spadefish along with rainbow runners and a couple of red snapper. After a few minutes I saw what I thought was an African pompano on a shark but realized it was a jack crevalle. There was a large school of 15-20-pound jacks below the shark. Take about activity!
I wound up taking a spadefish with the gun, but nothing else legal to shoot. There were over a dozen 15-lb class red snapper at 20' below the boat, but it's not July 9, so, had to just wave at them.
We ran in to Dorothy Louise at around 12:30 and around 1:30, I was starting to look toward the western sky and thinking it would be good to get off the water when the bottom rod, a knocker rig with a pogey, went off. It wasn't a violent take, but the rod bent and it was clearly on. Michelle grabbed the rod and started working it. It seemed kinda sharky at first because there was that indifference you get from large sharks until they get mad. After a minute or two, the fish took off on a good run - clearly a faster vibration than a big shark but not the high frequency of a king or bonita. This was probably a big snapper, statistically speaking.
She got it up to ten feet or so and the broad brown outline cruised by the boat. Yes, they look kind of like a shark, but I knew it was the target - a slob of a cobia. Well, you know how they do - it saw the boat and took off. It took at least ten more passes before Mike got a gaff in it, only to have it spin off and run again. Five more passes and he brought it home. I bled and gutted it and got it on ice. Then it was time to head in. The skies over St. Augustine were threatening and we had more than accomplished the mission. The fish weighed out at 39.5 lbs on the scales at Vilano and measure just over 48" at the fork. Without a doubt, the biggest cobia I've seen.
I took one rib section last night and seasoned with adobo seasoning and lemon pepper and grilled it on about 375 for about 15 minutes until it was done. Unbelievably good. I might actually section the ribs like pork chops next time and try it that way. I grilled the collar, too, and pulled nearly a pound of meat off of that. That'll be tacos.
What a great trip. Thanks to Mike, Michelle, and Mark for making the trip, as I would have been stuck working at the house if they hadn't.
“Everyone behaves badly--given the chance.”
― Ernest Hemingway
DESTROYING FISHERMEN AND THEIR COMMUNITIES SINCE 1976
Oh, and there have been a couple of threads on spray rails (non recently) on the Sailfish Boat Owner's Forum...