Yankee Capts. Charter: The Dominator, Frequent Fish Finesser!‏
The Florida Keys are unique in that there are dozens and dozens of species available to wrestle. To master them all would take a lifetime, a very enjoyable lifetime at that! The Master we were able to watch this week was Dominic, AKA, The Dominator! He instantly comes across as a helpful, intensely interested guy and on this trip he was key, in that he also brought the bait! He is also Capt. Brizo's go to guy, as he is training her to stand watch at night. She carefully observers him from the upper deck and counts the various fish caught. She's in training to be the chief steak grilling, taste tester, as well as the second in command, during lifeboat drills and safety meetings. Standing guard at the top of the stairs, nobody makes it to the top, without a face wash, nose cleaning and ear slurping. Beware, but keep one hand on the rail!
The wind was a bit brisk, at our 10 AM departure, but stayed in line for most of the trip, no surprises. For me, this trip was my final for the year and a chance to top off my own freezer for the long summer. I managed a less than average catch, with seven small to mid size muttons, two decent red groupers and a few other fish and probably could have mustered up a better catch, if I hadn't ignored a nick in my leader during a hot grouper bite. Dominic had just landed a 25 pound black, another like it was caught at the stern and a beautiful yellow fin grouper was decked beside me. Other big reds were coming up, when my big boy bit. I set up on him, had him moving up and my line parted, right at the nick! Instantly, Dominic sternly reprimanded me, "Your line broke at that nick you were just looking at. Didn't it?" Caught me! Don't ever even THINK about dropping a bait to bottom that isn't perfectly presented, knots tied right, line and leader in perfect shape. It will ALWAYS be the biggest trophy of your trip that will bite, at that instant; and get away.
Later, Matt the mate and I were in a friendly, verbal jousting match, making fun of each other, as I fought a decent mutton. My top shot appeared, the fish was only thirty feet from defeat and I was out of quips to fling at Matt. Amanda, co-host of the trip, appeared behind us and having no come back to Matts last insult, my attention on the mutton, I blurted "Matt, don't say mean things about Amanda". She perked up and wanted to know what he has said, which was absolutely nothing and at that exact moment, karma took over. Now karma can deliver a cruel prize and in this case, with my ten pound mutton fully in view, only fifteen feet from the surface, exhausted, ready for the gaff and my cooler, karma took the form of a shark that chomped quickly, four times and swallowed my mutton. Matt, Amanda and I all laughed at the immediate pay back for my comment. Ha ha, frikking ha.
I had brought some chum and thought it might be a useful diversion, at the right time. Greg said to use it and a whole school of spade fish came to the surface. Several were caught, breaking up a slow spell. A huge turtle drifted very close to the boat, even raising his head for a photo opportunity! There is always something interesting to see!
Night two, there was a decent sunset bite. Numerous muttons, well over ten pounds were landed and flyers appeared in quantity. Dozens went back down as bait and it looked like the Yankee Captains, dream was about to happen. A hot, night bite seemed imminent. Most of the anglers, even Dom, went down for a nap as the moon rose and I was the only fisherman at the stern, or the bow! Only two others were dipping a line on the whole boat. My golden opportunity! A kid in an empty candy store, Disney and a world cruise had nothing on this. My cooler would be overflowing!!! NOT! The bite was nearly dead. The best I could muster was a new, Yankee Captains, record size flying fish, dip netted bait record. A giant 16.5 inch flyer literally swam into my net, causing oohs! and ahhs! from at least one of the two people present. That would be me... Oh, by the way, I held the previous record and the one before that too. I don't think anyone else even knows, or cares that there is a record, except me.
So next day, Dom strode to the stern to flat line for yellow tail snappers. He had a light spinning rod set up with 15 pound test line. Showing no strain, but very focused, he fought and landed a 25 pound amberjack. Next cast, he calmly hooked up and fought a very angry king mackerel to the gaff, weighing in at about 45 pounds! Both were caught on a tiny jig head intended for a 16" toothless fish! Dom got excited, announcing that in three casts, he could possibly catch 100 pounds of fish on light tackle, some kind of bar room bragging statistic, among his peers, but it didn't work out. Still, all were in awe, I think he even impressed himself!
Sunset city, of the third night, was to be the final drop, nearly out of bait and all fished out. I was alone on the pulpit, fishless, but painfully aware that quality fish were being landed at or near the stern. Three fish were brought forward to Dom's personal cooler, a large red grouper, a huge mutton and another fish that made a huge slopping sound as it hit the ice. By this time, I couldn't bring myself to look, as I hauled in yet another shark.
All joking aside, I had a very happy trip and believe it or not, I have surpassed every goal I had for this winter. In the past 25 days alone, I've been on the Yankee Captains 15 days, on 4 different trips, including Pulley Ridge; fished in my own boat at least 4 days in between, I helped sponsor two fish fries at the campground and numerous other events. No wonder I was sleeping at the rail this trip! How much fun can one guy have? MORE!
We arrived at the dock, in the wee hours of the morn and Dom volunteered to drop me and my gear off, at the Jolly Roger, to save Janice a late night run to Key West. We solved most of the world problems on the drive home and I repaid his generosity by inadvertently stealing his favorite fishing rod. Now THAT'S how you learn how to fish like the Gods of the Yankee Captains!!! And now, Karma is going to crush me like the cockroach I am.Emoji
Thanks to Capt. Greg and the crew and all of the fine friends I've had the opportunity to meet, on the best darned fishing value in Florida, The Yankee Captains!!
See you in November!