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Yankee Capts 12/28-30 3 Day Mutton Marathon

Just got back home to the Jolly Roger Travel Park this morning at about 5AM, from a much awaited three day Yankee Captains fish-a-rama. Yup, you heard me right, 5AM. Randy and I decided to clean our two coolers of fish before settling back into our normal campground routine. Luckily, the new Dunkin Donuts coffee shop in Marathon was open on our way through, so we had extra large mugs of coffee and sugar donuts to guarantee our eyes stayed open for the fish cleaning. Wait a minute.... I forgot a few details....

Way, way back on Thursday, as we were heading in the general direction of Key West, Randy completely ran out of present time fishing stories and once again broke house rules and started talking about ice fishing in Wyoming. After noticing a similar pattern of events earlier, always leading to thrilling ice event conversations, I now realize when he is in dire need of a new fishing fix. Pushing the speed limit and only stopping briefly at the Tackle Box in Marathon for shrimp and Cujoe sales for thirty pounds of lead and a new anchor, I shook my head several times trying to dislodge that tormenting image of frozen fish coming out of a hole cut in the water. At least waiting around gabbing with other fishing addicts about past Yankee Captains adventures was warm, if not less exaggerated.

Three hours into the cruise to the Tortugas, I roamed the deck in anticipation, while Lyndon manned the wheelhouse and Captain Greg, I assumed, was sleeping soundly in a nearby bunk. As I pulled my best fishing rod from it's holder in the front storage racks, it was stuck, so I gave a mighty heave to remove it. Horror of all horrors, it let go quickly and the ten ounce lead weight near the rod tip pounded off the wheelhouse wall, where the captains were, with a mighty and reverberating tha-****..ang..ang. On a metal boat, sound travels at the speed of light. Tap the bow gently with a hammer, you hear it everywhere on the boat, just as loud as where you hit it. Capt Greg very much enjoys his shut eye time and equally as much hates lead weights bouncing off the walls near his head. In my panic, I shoved my rod in the nearest holder and with visions of being set adrift in a lifeboat, ran for the closest door yelling only.. "Randy did it." Ice fishing story payback time came quickly and unexpectedly.

The weather and waves were calm and perfectly fishable. The fish were acting like fish, they ate when they were hungry and ignored us when they weren't. That being said, I'll ignore the times they weren't hungry and tell you about when they were. Only a few muttons came aboard on the first few stops, yellowtails were abundant but not large enough to get my attention. I landed a couple porgies and patiently waited my turn at the big boys. Randy and I fished the pulpit, and Caesar, Kieran and other regulars were close by. The baits of choice ranged from speedos to goggle eyes, ballyhoo, squid and bonito. Randy, only on his second such adventure, hooked and landed a decent mutton, while others came up around us. My first mutton, a twelve pounder, was caught on a speedo head, which are not so easily consumed by the voracious yellow tails. After dark on Friday, I thought I'd try a new technique and threaded a large, headless shrimp onto a one ounce lead jig head. Using a light spinning rod with 20 pound mono and thirty pound flurocarbon leader, I repeatedly wafted my bait down into the hoard of largish yellow tails and time after time pulled fleshy tails from 120 feet of water, filling my bucket and calming my nerves. AHHHH!

Just out of sight in the darkened water beyond the stadium lighting, I thought I saw unwavelike silver motions and pointed it out to Ceasar as I lofted my shrimp jig towards the shapes. Ceasar and others followed suit, and whammo, we were all hooked up on thirty inch mahis, whipping and shaking like, well, like mahis. Dozens of them swarmed our baits and several were landed before they moved on.
Early on Saturday, I think in 160 feet of water, I again tried my shrimp on a jig, wondering if muttons like people food. Yellowtails were cooperating and soon something big was refusing to come to the surface. My drag was not super tight, only twenty pound line separated me from reaching into my early pottie mouth training and after a see saw battle, I was astonished to see a twelve pound mutton snapper floating, exhausted, at the surface. WOW!!!

I dropped back down a few times for yellowtails and had a good one on and halfway to home, when something big inhaled it and headed for the bottom. I held on for dear life and coaxed it to stop. "Wait a minute", I thought, "This feels like an amberjack, a hard pulling, not very smart, yellowtail inhaling reef donkey." Been here before, landed a five footer, satisfied my impulse to have my *** kicked and back re-aligned by a fish, but here I was again with only twenty pound line. Josh leaned on the rail beside me and we counted the number of times it ran to bottom screaming line off my small Penn "battle" reel. After five runs, a confused and exhausted amber jack floated at the surface, not quite sure why it had been so hard to swim to the bottom. After saving the innards for mutton bait, it weighed in at ninteen pounds!

A newish fisherman, who will remain nameless, came up beside me on the pulpit and asked a bit of advice. I am not the best mutton fisherman by a long stretch, nor will I probably ever be, but I know a few basics and love to help others get a fishing fix. So I coached him a bit. He let his line slip away to bottom, then leaving the bail in the unlocked position, fed line out as the motion of the boat and current demanded. I cautioned him to resist the urge to jerk when he got a small bite, instead waiting till the initial nibbling and tasting were over and the big fish swallowed his meal and swam off, running several feet from the spool. Glenn, oops, was ever so eager to strike and finally after a good run off, I said, "Reel like crazy and don't stop!" He complied and the fight was on! After a few minutes of head shaking, arm twisting action, we concluded he was stuck on bottom. End of lesson one. Glenn departed the pulpit.

Well the AJ guts got me a seventeen pound mutton. We fished deep water up to 250 feet all Saturday afternoon, pulling up yelloweyes, huge beeliners and too many red snappers to mention. As the rain and wind approached ahead of the cold front, the bite was non stop in 220 feet. By eight PM, the brief but teeming rain had ended, the wind picked up and the few of us raingear clad, diehard fools still on deck came to the conclusion that the bite had stopped. Capt Greg drove us to shallower water to fish, which netted us a total of two sharks and a crab and I retired for the evening. Next thing I know, the cabin lights are on, we're at the dock, it's 4 AM and there are a lot of satisfied customers claiming their prizes, very happy with the continuous good service from the Yankee Captains mates and gally staff. The rest of the story is at the top of the page. And no, Randy did not have to row a lifeboat back from the Tortugas.

Thanks for reading!

Janice and I are off to Nova Scotia to see our kids and three grand sons for a few days. After a couple ice fishing trips (never) we'll be back in time for seven of us from the Jolly Roger to take the mid January Yankee Capts trip. Hope to see you then!



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