Training the new night captain!
He was having a few concerns about training her to locate schools of hungry mutton snappers, so he called in a favor from his long time friend, Capt Matt. Yes, THE one and only mutton magician, made a special appearance, as night time training officer for Capt Brizo, on the three day trip April 1st. I had planned to be on that one, with Randy and Phil, a friend from Carolina, on his second annual Yankee Capts trip. But the wind forecast was more than some of us were up to and Phil and I decided to hold off till the April 4th weekend trip and Randy headed home to the frozen wastelands of the north. Had I known Capt Matt was going to be on board, training Capt Brizo, no wind would have kept me home.
Apparently, the training went well and on the last night, Capt Matt turned the helm over to Brizo and she put them on a massive school of hungry muttons that fed for hours, much to the delight of all fisher people on board. I got a chance to interview her, just before departure on Friday night. She was stretched out on a picnic table, catching a few rays, while Capt Greg attended to new arrivals and other paperwork. She told me that the key thing Capt Matt taught her was a big secret, but let me in on it anyway.
The idea is, that just before muttons are ready to feed, they fart a lot, to put it politely. So Capt Matt brought a few bottles of condensed mutton fart gas with him and put Brizo on the scent. Rewarding her every time she properly identified the "just about to be hungry" mutton smell got fantastic results and she was soon ready for action. Well, the results speak for themselves. On that one spot she helped find, I think they caught five or seven tub totes full! Quite a record. Well done Capt Matt, on a great job training Capt Brizo. Sorry I missed you! Hmmmm, why not come back now and then and check up on your trainee??? Just saying..
So hearing that the trip I cancelled was a success and that I missed Matt, threw me off a bit, but the weather looked spectacular. I felt like I was in the zone, locked in and ready to put my less than productive season of mutton mauling behind me. Phil and I took up position mid way on the port side. Glen was stern-ward to my left and the pretty half of a honeymoon couple was to his left.
My friend, Phil, arrived a couple weeks ago and after a successful trip last year, he had caught his first mutton, I upped the training curve to see if he could take the pressure. As we slowed for the first stop, I went through all the normal details with him of lead, leader, knots, bait size and hooking, dropping to the bottom, not allowing the lead to move, AT ALL! and struck him right where it hurts the most. I looked him in the eye and said, "Phil, there is only one more thing you have to do to be successful and I don't know if you can do it.." He looked back at me, possibly trying to hold back the tears and asked, "I have to be patient?" I nodded and left him to his tormented dilemma and dropped my bait to the bottom.
All of my pent up excitement paid off and in minutes, I was hooked up with a very upset, shallow water mutton. He took me toward the stern and the mate led me to a position between Glenn, the oldest fisherman on the boat and the newlywed, prettiest fisher person on the boat (sorry Beizo, you are pretty but in a different way...) As my top shot came into view, I was tempted to say I was between a rose and a thorn, but fearing a slap on the face, or a punch to the petoogies, or both, I focused on my fishing and soon had the first mutton on the boat. At about ten pounds, I was elated.
Things at the bow looked very empty. All of the pulpit spots were booked, or so I thought, but aside from Caesar, Packie and Mike, it was almost empty, so I moved forward and heaved my second bait. Quite often, I catch the first mutton on the whole boat, then have a long wait for my second. Surprise!, I hooked up and soon had number two mutton, for the boat, on the deck, slightly smaller than my first. This was unheard of,,,, barely an hour into the trip and two muttons. That thought completely screwed my invincibility. Here it was, 7 or 8 AM and it would be nearly 18 loooonnnnng hours before I would catch another one.
I went about business as usual, fishing, resting while we moved, conserving energy for the stops and watching almost every one else pull in muttons. Greg hit a hot daytime bite and all the guys were hooking up slobs, but me! Caesar had a few, the witty Packie, with his Irish twang, was smiling and muttering comical one liners, Mike the aviator was teaming up with Lyndon to defame me and my fellow Canadians and all I could muster was a medium size porgie. Oh, and my trainee, Phil, had the most patient look on his face as he pulled in a big grouper, then a mutton, then another mutton and as his third mutton was running all over the bottom, east and north of Fort Jefferson, dragging his fresh goggle eye behind it, I lost it!
Patient Phil was standing there, rod tip convulsing, braced against the rail, seemingly waiting for the mutton to swim to the surface. He was five people away from me and not trying to be a dork or anything, I yelled,"Phil, you gotta reel, pull that puppy off the bottom, reel REEL REEL!!!!!!!" He did. And soon he had every new-by on the port side asking for advice and I was proud, because I had told him everything I could without overwhelming him and now he was ahead of me, but I was still more proud than concerned about Cameron's catching curse. I was a bit concerned that my stay in Florida is near it's end and having given away all of my fish thus far, my take home freezer is empty.
So as night time approached, I went upstairs to retrieve my dip net and passed Billy, the new mate, who was frantically trying to staple an anglers identification number to the gill plate of a freshly caught mutton. He was racking on the stapler, trying to get one to stick, wasted staples flying through the air, like spent machine gun shells. His ire was almost visible as he tussled with the stapler, flopping fish not helping a bit, obviously perturbed. With several people in hearing range, including the other mates, I said simply,"Oh, they gave you the dull staples." and took off on my way. Of course, I was joking, but the other mates came after me laughing like fools, as for Billy, that was the perfect solution for all of his problems, those other basscatchers had set him up,, DULL STAPLES!!!!!
Midnight came and went and following my advice to Phil, I was patient. The bite was slow, so it wasn't just me. Capt Greg was getting a bit frustrated with the new night captain. Apparently Brizo hasn't recognized his authority yet and isn't fully focused on her job. Greg said that every time he tries to get a few minutes sleep, she chews and licks his toes. It sounds like there is a bit too much fun in the wheel house and not enough fishing...
So at about two AM, Greg unleashed his secret weapon and brought Brizo out to sniff at the night air. I knew what was up when she started to yip and yap a bit and Capt Greg spun the boat around. This was IT, battle time. Mutton gas permeated the air, only to be detected by Capt Brizo, wonder mutt.
I wasn't the first one hooked up, or maybe I was, but SLOB muttons, 12-15 pounds, 30 inches long, were soon crowding our fishing space, flopping and flipping, wondering what went wrong with their feeding frenzy, probably never having seen a hook before. I had caught three or four very fresh flying fish and had another three or four dozen frozen ones from my last trip. It was textbook. Cast, fifteen second wait, bite, run off, reel quickly, a frantic run off, by a shallow water mutton, head shaking battle then a well placed gaff and another was on deck. I caught a few then got stuck on bottom, lost my lead, hook and leader, grabbed my back up rod, hooked up again. Others were catching muttons, others were catching sharks. My friends were cheering me on as I cast over and over to the same sweet spot, first fresh fliers, then frozen, same results. I gave one to Caesar and baited up, waiting for him to fight and land his instant success, when a huge hammerhead shark swiftly inhaled his 15 pound snapper, only a few feet from the surface and in plain view, instantly hooked up on a very pissed off Caesar's line and hardly caring when he wrenched on it hard enough to break the line. I was a bit worried that sharks would ruin my fun, but I hooked up again and again without losing one. I was zoned in on what I was doing, ignoring the possibility that I might overflow my cooler, or the questions about how many I had caught.
Mike the aviator and I had a running joke about Canada and the metric system on the go and how that entered into my fishing luck, I'll never know. All I can figure is that everyone else was fishing in 110 feet and I was in 110 meters....
I passed a few fliers around and some met with success, others with sharks or bottom. There were scores of fresh fliers flitting about the entire time and it was tempting to try to dip net a few, but I knew I didn't dare stop, even for a moment. This was my first experience with being impervious, in the zone, on the muttons, being compared to Jarvis. WOW!!!! What a thrill. Caesar caught 6 at that stop, I really didn't know how many I caught, some said ten or more.
The bite slowed, even for my seemingly entrancing, frozen fliers and I was close to my dip net so I scooped a dozen little ones and a big one, gave most of the little ones away and jammed half of the big flier on a hook. One last throw to a now very quiet sweet spot, a thirty second wait and yes, there is still at least one hefty mutton waiting for a fresh flying fish, then it was time to move.
That was it, Capt Brizo went back to sleep, her duty done and the night bite went back to yellow tails and grunts. No more mutton farts tingling her nostrils on this trip.
At the dock, I tried to count and manage my cooler space at the same time. Tired and confused, I ran out of fingers and space and came up with twenty muttons total. Minus the two at the start, that means in the two hours on the fart bubble hole, I caught 15 muttons, all over ten pounds, most between twelve and fifteen.
I will take that all day every day till they carry my tired and bleeding body to my bunk.
My last trip of the year is Thursday night and I'm hoping Capt Brizo has a bit more stamina this time and can take the helm for a few more hours.
What a rush!!!!