Skip to main content
Home Keys General Fishing & The Outdoors

My final Yankee Capts trip of our 2012-2013 winter ...or not???

Hello folks!

Things are getting a bit fuzzy in my mind, so I think I'd better belch a brain bubble out to report on the latest Tortugas adventures. Starting March 22, I spent eleven of the next fourteen days on the Yankee Capts, fishing or travelling to or from the Dry Tortugas. Three trips in a row that close together was pushing it and I'm happy to report that I'm still in one piece, at least physically. How much fun is one guy allowed to have? Quite a bit I guess, as long as it is good clean fun and my chiropractor gives me a twist in the right direction between trips!

I've already reported on trip number one, so I'll move to March 27/ three day mutton marathon. Oh Oh, mind is fuzzy on the details already, getting confused with the grouper opener. I recall that I fully intended to rest up on this trip, so I would have lots of pep for the giant grouper I would manhandle later in the week, but I still only managed five hours of shut eye during the fishing time. Phil, a friend I met last year this time sent along generous quantities of venison jerky, sausage and baloney to tantalize the crew with and my snack cooler was a popular place. I kept a constant eye on it and promised that Phil planned to bring more when he, Randy and I came back for the grouper opener.
Very strong current and a bright full moon made fishing conditions less than perfect. Even so, my cooler had four or five nice fat muttons and the usual assortment of porgies, yellowtails and the "ones that got away" in it after the fish toss at the dock.

Back home at the Jolly Roger RV park, many of our friends had departed for their summer homes and only a few were left to man the fish processing line. A fileter, a de-****, a porgie person and a bagger all helped make short work of the catch, though when several of us are back from a trip, there can be as many as six or eight helping at the fish cleaning station. Our catch usually draw a crowd of interested onlookers and other envious fishermen and before you know it, some of them are booked for future Yankee Capts adventures.
So after I had a good nights sleep and a bit of bait gathering, Randy, Phil and I headed for Stock Island with every intention of catching muttons and groupers. Phil had his venison tidbits and my wife, Janice, had made a big pot of of chili to send along, so we had lots of help at the dock to unload our gear. Geez, the chicken soup last trip didn't last till we got away from the dock! I heard one crew member lament that it was all gone and he didn't get any, but I have it on good authority that he had at least two bowls before the chicken soup pirrahnas were through their feeding frenzy.

It was good to see a few familiar faces including Cesar at the dock, and since story telling is a big part of our pre trip ritual, I prompted him to tell one that I know must be true, about a 376 pound halibut he caught in Alaska. How do I know it's true? Because I've heard the story several times and the fish hasn't grown an ounce!

The weather was looking great, the moon was waning and the fish cooperated off and on all trip. I got off to a great start, boarding a nice grouper and mutton, each about twelve pounds, on one of the first stops. Kyle, our new mate, gaffed both fish first try and went on a run of 15 first try head shots with the gaff. Impressive work! I added another big mutton and a couple small ones, before my luck ran out and the world of tangles and troubles took over. I went a full day, standing at the rail, not really up, not really down, unable to snap out of the dry spell.
Cesar and Randy had been totally humiliated on their previous trip, neither had caught a mutton or much of anything else and were desperate to avenge their standing as mutton catchers, but both soon had smiles as groupers and snappers hit their baits. Even our new recruit, Phil, and a long time northern YC fisherman, Jerry, had produced fish. After hearing, "Make sure you don't bounce your lead on the bottom." four hundred and fifteen times, I guess they believed us. Simple stuff, but it works!

I only had mild attention on whether Randy had more muttons than I did, but it didn't help my condition knowing that he had added a nice 17 plus pound black grouper to his catch. I hooked up on a massive fish that felt like a non shark event and with our mate Kyle leading the way, clearing a huge number of fishermen and idle rods out of the way, made it to the stern and hoped to fight and land a mammoth, pool winning black grouper. Not so. It took off across the stern, with Kyle and I in hot pursuit, then back toward the bow. All of my knots, line and other gear held, but something had to give up and it wasn't the fish. My hook straightened and my prize was gone.

So we moved to deeper water and when Capt Greg announced 220 feet, I knew the party was about to change. Cesar hooked up first and soon a submarine like mutton floated up and joined the crowd of oohing! onlookers on deck. I got tangled in a shark event, then snarled again by a guy who promised he wouldn't tangle us as if we let him cast from the pulpit, before finally getting a bait down and pulling up a nice scamp grouper.

I'm not sure if it was that stop or at 230 feet. I'm not sure if he told me he was sweetening his bait with amberjack roe or not. I don't know how he continued to fish after filleting the top of his finger with Cesar's floppy fillet knife, or how he could see after losing his glasses. But I knew the game was over when I kept hearing "Randy, you got another one!" behind me. Five times in a row, Randy dropped a chunk of enhanced speedo into a school of small but hungry muttons and widened the gap between our catch numbers. Hopeless!!! I trained the SOB and here he was, trouncing me for the second time in three trips.

Flying fish totally attacked the YC in numbers that must be a record. As far as you could see into the dark, they flipped and flew, schools of big ones, then small ones. Several nets were dipped, providing hundreds of delicious baits for all. In one scoop I netted about eight small flyers! I gave away dozens and we used the rest. The big ones were more elusive and for some reason the muttons were not as voracious for them as expected, but toward the end of the trip, while Randy was sleeping, I netted a big one, cut it, dropped it, fresher than fresh and less than a half a minute later nailed a fifteen pound mutton. Maybe I could rally while the giant slept and mount a streak that would launch me into the lead. Next stop six huge muttons came aboard, Cesar had one, maybe two, Mark, on the pulpit with me, had one as well, but none took my bait. I netted another fresh flyer and got another healthy, flopping reward at the next stop, a fourteen pounder.

On the last stop of my last trip, all remaining hope faded as big yellowtails insisted the game be changed. As the sun rose, I knew it was all over but the tears and excuses. An impressive catch of about twenty totes, including lots of groupers, got tossed into waiting coolers at the dock. Cesar and Randy were at the top of the leader board, but there were a lot of smiling faces, including Phil, our newby, with three muttons.

At the cleaning table Randy counted fifteen muttons, I counted eight, then another with my number appeared, somehow hidden under Randy's fish. I plead no contest, even though my fish were bigger, Randy wins the fish count on the grouper opener.

So after a sixteen hour sleep and with more than enough time to pack for northern destinations, my wife insisted that I stop pacing about in the motor home and book one last and final trip to mutton land. (best wife in the world!) And I did! Oh and Randy, if you are up to the adventure, you are welcome to come along, but I fully understand if you want to sit at home and grin!



Sign In or Register to comment.
Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.


Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now