Memorial weekend Tortugas(first time)

I have fished in key west growing up my whole life and never made the trip out to Dry Tourtugas. So a few friends and coworkers of mine decided to plan a trip out for the holiday weekend. We left friday morning after loading up on bait, fuel, and ice. Stoped at the Sub wreck, caught a alamaco jack, and a large, what i thought was, a big grunt...but was informed it was a margate. It was the First ive ever caught. After that we went onto the reef to try spearfishing and load up on some live ballyhoo. not much luck spearing but got a good amound of hoo.

Once we arived to the park we anchored up, put the chum bag over and started to fish for yellotail and threw a bait to the bottom. Picked up some nice YT, and a few short red grouper. Then the sharks came in thick and shut down the YT. We headed into the fort and called it a day, set up camp, explored the fort and made dinner out of the Margate i had caught. I decided to sleep on the boat without a tent and that proved to be a big mistake.. it poured that night, haha. ended up sleeping down in the head of my boat to hide from the weather. Worst night of camping ive had in a while...

Day 2(sat).

We didnt have to much luck bottom fishing and we really didnt know where to go. We bounched around to a few different spots and finally on the south end of the park we found a nice school of Yellowtails, got a few flags... biggest ive ever caught before, so that was cool. Pulled up a good amount of grouper but all just shy of 20 inches.

Day 3(sun)

Tired of camping, Frustrated we hadnt caught a single mutton or keeper grouper, we were all in the mood to head back. Luckly we were given a tip from a fellow angler on the island to not bother with the anchor, chum, or what the sounder was showing and fish the east end of park... and it paid off big time. Within 45min we pulled in 4 keeper reds, 3 nice mutton snapper and to large porgys. After we ran out of our fresh ballyhoo we opened a pack of frozen ones we bought at marina... the bite STOPED... funny how fresh bait makes all the differcnce in the world. We had filled our only cooler left with ice so we were happy and called it a day and headed back to Key west.

All and all a great trip and a learning expericence. We never fished in water deeper then 80 ft and i understand a lot of guys go much deeper for the mutton so next time i go i want to give that a shot. Usually in Key west im fishing for mutton in 150+ plus anyhow...


  • mtbrider85mtbrider85 Posts: 341 Deckhand
  • jakedgejakedge Posts: 1,303 Officer
    Nice report and terrific pics. You were right about the fish. The white margate is the largest member of the grunt family. And good eats too.
  • snooknUSMCsnooknUSMC Posts: 113 Officer
    Awesome report
  • Got TA GoGot TA Go Posts: 2,608 Captain
    Nice catchin! :beer


    Hero's Don't Wear Capes....They Wear Dog Tags.
  • GarboGarbo Posts: 1,262 Officer

    Great Report.

  • triplenettriplenet Posts: 747 Officer
    Great report.... Thanks...

    We are heading down June 11th .... Cant wait....
    Gause Built 26
  • PhishingPhanaticPhishingPhanatic Posts: 454 Deckhand
    Thanks for the report. Was that croc at the Fort?!
  • bballcabballca Posts: 14 Greenhorn
    Nice report!! Some good eats I see!!
  • dwarddward Posts: 30 Deckhand
    We made our first trip to the Fort from Marco too.....but we arrived Monday afternoon/evening. As I just bought a 2006 new to me 36 Contender I quite honestly was more concerned with shaking down the boat and determining fuel burn and operating issues. We came around the west side of the Tortugas bank and caught a few snapper and grouper and then got on to some schoolie dolphin which were a blast catching. We got into the Fort well before dark and did our site seeing and snorkeling and then overnighted in the same spot you were.

    Tues morning we didn't have any numbers so we decided to hit the shrimp boats for Tuna as we were heading north to get home anyway. We ended up having blast catching Blackfin....but honestly we wore our arms off trying to get through the bonita. If we didn't catch 50 bonita trying to get to the Blackfin I'd be surprised. We also stopped at the W tower (tower had W painted on it) just north of the fort and again wore arms out on amberjack and Goliaths. The blackfins were about 25-30 lbs and after marinating and grilling some last night I think it's about the best fish I've had!

    We headed north around 1:30 and got home quickly as we were cruising with the wind and seas. Actually travelling down on Monday was a lot more work as we were into a stout southwest breeze and 2-occasional 5s. I will say we caught more huge fish than I ever remember....but next time I'd like to target more grouper and snapper while at the fort.

    I logged a bit over 300 miles on the Garmin and we averaged just over 1mpg.....which was what I expected given the work getting down and the load on the boat. We had 6 guys with full wells and ice. All in all a great time and looking forward to getting down again. We swung aroung the east side of the park on the way home and I thought about drifting west of Pulaski.......but we wanted to get to the shrimpers as early as we could. Sounds like you guys were over that way when when you got the fish.

    Sure is a big area down that way!!! I'll try to post some pics, but I think all of our stuff was on a Go Pro.

    Cheers - Dan
  • duke6543duke6543 Posts: 336 Deckhand
    Great report. Nice pictures. Just curious about pic three, was that taken out at the fort?
  • mtbrider85mtbrider85 Posts: 341 Deckhand
    thanks for the kind words everyone. For the saltwatercrocodile, that was at the Fort. I thought it was a little cliche to see my first croc in a mote around a fort(seems appropriate). According to the ranger that was the smaller one(5ft) and there is a 7-8ft one that hangs out in the mote also.
  • duke6543duke6543 Posts: 336 Deckhand
    Thanks for the response. I would have never thought of a croc that far out. Makes me think twice about wanting to jump out and snorkel around the fort.
  • mtbrider85mtbrider85 Posts: 341 Deckhand
    Dward- sounds like you guys did welll! It is definatly a learning experience fishing and camping. We got very similar gas milage(1 mpg/ 200gallons total). I saw the shrip boats and contemplated pulling up behind them. Looks like it paid off for you. I think next time im going to do a little more of what you did. It would have been nice getting some mahi but from everything ive been reading the bite has been really hit or miss.
  • Reef BanditReef Bandit Posts: 1,005 Officer
    Gee, I wonder who that handsome fellow angler that told you about drifting could have been?

    Glad you did well.


    ps. I didn't know there was another croc down there. The 7-8' has been there for 5 years. One researcher said that it is a Brazilian Croc, not a Florida Croc. It was originally seen on East Key, then at Bird Key where it would lay out on the flat.
  • HawkboatHawkboat Posts: 1,030 Officer
    Nice report and I agree with Jake those margates are a good meal. Congrats on the first one..still looking for mine.
    Capt Bill
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