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Ice Station FL

Trip started out as usual trying to catch bait. It quickly became clear it was too cold for fish and fisherman alike. Luckily my buddy Omar caught 50 Pins the day before and had them in a bait keeper at the dock. When we got there, they were still alive but barely as they appeared to be frozen. I know I was.

As this was a 44hr trip we left at 10:00 AM with 18 cold anglers eager to get heated up with some newly opened Amber Jack action. Trolling on the way out was a non-starter as the water was extremely churned up and frankly it was just plain cold.

We started fishing around 7:30 in frigid but fishable conditions. The bite was on from the start. Throughout the night everyone was catching fish. There was a mix of Mangrove Snapper, Scamp Grouper, Porgies and Vermilion Snapper. We also caught more Trigger Fish during the entire trip than I’ve ever seen. Before day break I also caught a couple of Gags (released) and even a small but legal Mutton Snapper.

Several Kings and Blackfin Tuna were landed so I put down a 1oz Jig with a live bait hoping to get in on the action. Letting it drop slowly it eventually made it to the bottom. I continued to let it bounce along the bottom when BANG! Fish ON! If the fish had gotten away I would have sworn it was a Tuna by the way it fought but it turned out to be one of the largest Bonita’s I ever caught. Although I didn’t land any Tuna there were at least a dozen caught.

I have to mention my friend Captain James Russo of the Party Boat Rosie out of Long Island NY. The Captain comes down like most “Snow Birds” during the winter months and I enjoy fishing with him. Although he often does well, this trip he was on fire. Using mostly a three hook Chicken Rig James was catching fish two and three at a time. Most of the time this set up is primarily used to catch Porgies and Vermilion Snapper and he certainly did that but the Captain was regularly landing nice Mangos, Scamps, Triggers and he even caught a decent Gag. Going by shear weight and volume he had one of the better trips I’ve seen in a while.

Sun rise brought the hope of a warm up but the wind was having none of that as it steadily picked up as did its chilling effect. Fortunately, the fish didn’t seem to mind as they continued to bite all day with one exception, the AJ’s we came to find. By late afternoon we only had two keepers on the boat. This would soon change. About an hour before Sun down Captain Bryon said we were fishing a big ledge that looked promising. Using some of the bait I’d caught during the trip I dropped down a large one and let it drop slowly to the bottom all of a sudden it got real nervous and then got slammed. Not sure but I think it was a big Grouper as it stayed on the bottom and eventually cut me off. I quickly re- rigged and let down another This time I stopped the bait 20’ off the bottom. I felt a couple of tugs on the line and feed some line out. BANG! Big Fish ON! I knew right away this was a big AJ. After what seemed like a 10-minute fight I landed a Monster AJ in the 80 LB range.

On this stop I had two more hook ups but both times they spit the hook. In all there were 10 to 12 large AJ’s caught. Later during the stop, I switched to Threadfin and caught several Mangos and a Red Grouper in the12 LB range. Late in the stop I was still using Threadfin but was needing a bathroom break so I decided to wind up. Cranking up fast about 30’ down I got slammed by a “Runner” I thought it was likely a King or Tuna but turned out to be a keeper Cobia. It’s good to be lucky.

The next night bite was ok but by this time most of the fishermen were tired and a bit frozen. We made two stops after Sun set and I hate to admit but I quit early in the last stop as I just didn’t want to fight the cold any more.

Since my last report I lost a dear friend Jim Stevens. I met Jim when I first started fishing. He fished with the legendary Captain Wilson Hubbard. Not many of the old guard left. Jim loved fishing and was a true gentleman. He will be missed.

See you out there!


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