Monday, October 31, 2011

On Good Days, Bad Things Happen

The Sailfish came early this season. We'll see more of them with each cold front we get.
Over the years many of us have switched to circle hooks. They are supposed to do the least amount of harm to the fish. They are designed to hook the fish in the mouth. This way you can release the fish unharmed, sometimes tired, exhausted, needing to be revived at the side of the boat, but for all intents unharmed.
About twelve days ago we were fishing and ended the day with a Sailfish (catch & release). We fished a few more trips after that without seeing one. Then I took an old client (friend) fishing for a day.
We left the dock at 8 AM and started trolling south. I spoke to a captain friend the day before, he said there was bait (Threadfin Herring) at the Government Cut range marker. On our way south we caught Bonitos, a Skipjack Tuna and a Dolphin. We went to the range marker and loaded the livewell with Herring then went looking for the edge of the Gulf Stream. It was deep, about 320 feet, but it looked real good. The kite was up, the baits were out and in about 20 minutes we had a Sailfish jumping behind the boat. There was another sail there, but that one wasn't hungry. We fought the fish for about 15 minutes caught and released it. Time to do it again! We waited, caught some Dolphin and then, there was Sailfish #2. We fought it for a while. It kept sticking it's head out of the water and looking at us. When we got it close to the boat we could see it was bleeding from it's gills. The circle hook didn't work! We released it immediately. The fish didn't look good. You do everything you can to preserve the fish and the sport and sometimes it isn't enough. We put our live baits back in the water and kept fishing. The Dolphin and Tuna would keep our minds off the wounded Sailfish. About 40 minutes after releasing Sailfish #2, we look to the side of the boat and there was the ugly reminder of how that last fight ended. That Sailfish was floating upside down, dead! We pulled it out of the water, measured it (59" from the lower jaw to the fork in the tail), the overall length of the fish was 80" but still too short to bring back to the dock. Now, the craziest part. Because of it's size we had to put it back in the water to become Shark Food. It just doesn't seem right. We put our baits back in and kept fishing. We were talking about the failure of the circle hook, then we talked about how we've caught sails with the line lassoed around it's tail. No hook in the fish! All of a sudden there was another Sailfish. Sailfish #3 hit hard and ran and ran and ran. When we finally caught up with it, in our amazement, the fish was lassoed just like we were talking about before it hit! We released it, it swam away. We trolled in, caught a Kingfish and called it a day. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Different Charters, Different Days

Every fishing charter is different. They are booked at different times, for different lengths of time, on different days, in all kinds of weather. We look for different fish for different reasons. Sometimes we look for what the customer wants to catch. Sometimes the customer doesn't care  what we catch. 
Charlie and I really like what we do, but some days are better than others. A few days ago we took four guys fishing. They were drinking the night before and I think morning came too early. We were fishing for twenty minutes and the first guy was puking over the side. We caught some Bonitos and a Barracuda then started going offshore looking for dinner for our customers. We had a nice Dolphin on but I think our angler was in slow motion. The fish swam toward the boat, the line went slack, I moved the boat forward to take up the slack in the fishing line but it was too late, the fish was gone. Two more were puking, one puked up on the bridge under my feet. I had to clear the cockpit below and hose off the bridge deck, then Charlie had to clean the cockpit. The boat was a VOMITORIUM! I was told to head back. All of a sudden the planer rod goes off, the tip is shaking, it's a Wahoo. Again, slow motion. We caught a Blackfin Tuna on the way in. The guys took it with them for sushi.
Yesterday I had a three boat charter (15 anglers). The client was a repeat from last year. All three boats were out all day. Nobody got sick! All three boats caught Bonitos and Skipjack Tunas. There were some Mackerel caught, one boat caught a 50lb Cuberra Snapper, another caught a 6' Hammerhead Shark. In addition to that, Old Hat caught a Blackfin Tuna, two Dolphin and a Sailfish! We had the boss of the group on Old Hat. He caught his first Sailfish. We removed the hook, took pictures and released the young Sailfish quickly. We are having a replica Sailfish mount made for our angler. The fish and the angler both win. Everybody had a great time!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pick The Right Time

Yesterday morning we went fishing. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about the weather. The forecast for the prior days was calling for strong winds and thunderstorms. The day before, the forecast was better for Saturday morning than in the afternoon, so we went.
Before leaving the dock, there was a storm approaching, so I delayed leaving for 5 minutes. The storm blew through and we went fishing.
We caught a Bonito right away but it got off the hook just 50 ft behind the boat. Then we caught a Mackerel and released him. Rain storms started drifting our way and it looked like a good time to go offshore.
When we were in 800 to 900 ft of water (about 5 miles out) we searched around and spotted a young Frigate bird. When we got close to the bird we had a fish on the planner rod and as I slowed down we hooked up on 2 of our surface lures. All 3 fish were Dolphin. It was time to start heading in. There was a line of thunder storms approaching. We caught a Blackfin Tuna on the way in. I was trolling almost fast enough to stay in front of the storm. Almost was the key word.
It was a windy, rough, soggy ride in but our customers were happy. They caught fish and experienced a little adventure at the end of the trip. It stopped raining shortly after we tied up. Charlie cut up their fish. They ate the Tuna at the dock and took the Dolphin fillets with them for a fish feast.