Yankee Capts Halfway Ledge April 5-8 (7!)
With new departure time of 3 pm we left the dock on time Thursday afternoon. The early start had some pluses and minuses. The plus..an extra dinner served by Chef Chad, some fancy pasta, cheese and meatball dish I probably couldn’t spell correctly even if I knew what it was called. Delicious! The only minus (other than all the morning rush-hour South Florida traffic encountered on the drive down) was that it shaved four hours off my usual nap time on the ride out. I couldn’t fall asleep until after 7. No worries though, the incredible weather and scenery was nice to take in while cruising past Key West.
I believe we started fishing around 2 AM. Some started with jigs some started with an assortment of baits. We had a decent mutton bite that lasted about 45 minutes filling a few totes to start the trip. Vince and Matt had a few on gogs and I had a couple on boat squid. I saw a few blackfin come up as well. After that the bite slowed down considerably for a while. A mutton or red grouper came up just frequently enough to keep things interesting. We had another good flurry of action just before sunrise.
Once the sun came up the pick continued although sometimes it was a bit more of a grind. I switched to jigging, going back and forth between a bucktail and a flat fall. The bucktail was producing best for me so I stuck with it landing several red groupers. Vince was doing really well catching muttons on gogs and Matt was picking away at the red grouper‘s and muttons with his trusty diamond jig.
Sometime after lunch (literally the best burger I’ve had in years, is Chad really this good or does fishing cause me to get the munchies?) Matt hooked up with a decent pulling fish but commented it was fighting all the way up like a jack. We were thinking horse eye or AJ so we were all pleasantly surprised when he pulled up an African pompano. Just as he landed the AP I got crushed on the bucktail. This was a hard fighting fish, charging desperately for the bottom, easily the biggest fish I had tangled with so for the trip. After it pulled some drag, then somewhat of a stalemate, I finally had it coming up. It gave up fighting like most big groupers do however I could tell it had some weight to it. Mr. Black perhaps? Over halfway up and ...slack...cut off 15 feet up from my jig! Who knows what happened , but it was disappointing.
Just before dinner as we wrapped up our last drift before sunset city, we had a cool NatGeo moment. Jumbo Blackfin tuna were chasing flying fish both next to the boat and off on the horizon. There would be a large boil, sometimes with a tuna skyrocketing completely out of the water. Other times the flying fish would get away, frantically trying to stay in the air as long as he could only to eventually have to come back down, being immediately engulfed by the tuna that had been tracking him from under the water the whole time. Hmmm tonight might get interesting when all those flyers and tuna get attracted to the lights on the boat.
After a dinner of breaded fried pork chops, apple sauce and cheesy broccoli it was time to start a new drift. At this time I would say one of the three back boxes was 3/4 full with mostly red grouper and muttons. This is when the bite really started to pick up. Myself, Matt and Vince were doing well with the muttons on gogs. The mates were bringing fish after fish from the front of the boat to the stern boxes as well. A couple scamps came up on slow pitch jigs. Then the blackfin crashed the party. It was pure mayhem. They were hitting baits intended for bottom dwellers, they were hitting both vertical and slow pitch jigs. Big fish too. Many legit 25 pound fish going into the box. If your bait or jig did make it to the bottom the muttons and grouper were still biting well too. By time the blitz settled down the third back box was 2/3 of the way full and it was only midnight!
Most guys went to bed. Others chose to stay up knowing the boxes were destined to be filled early. After the sun came up Greg assessed the situation and confirmed we had enough room for one more drift and we would be headed home by 10am. He set the boat up for the last drift and again the bite was good. More muttons and grouper coming up. One of the younger anglers on the trip hooked up with a good fish on a slow pitch jig...a while later and he landed a nice 30lb black grouper. Possible pool winner? Nope, not to be outdone Vince gets bit on bait. This fish peels out line and won’t budge of the bottom for a minute. After a good battle up comes the biggest prize of the trip, a 40lb cubera snapper. Perfect fish to wrap things up with.
Another outstanding trip put together by Greg and his crew. Memorable from start to finish. Pretty cool to be back 12 hours early too!