I don’t know where to begin with this one, so I’ll start at the beginning with a little background.
This trip was the fourth installment in the now infamous “Armageddon” series of private charters aboard the great Yankee Capts (www.yankeecapts.com). The original Armageddon trip was five years ago, and was my older brother’s (Untouchable) bachelor party trip. It was a huge success, and we’ve continued the tradition every year since. One year, the trip was cancelled due to inclement weather, so this is the Armageddon IV. We always try and fill the roster with the best fishermen we know.
As you may or may not know, Untouchable has been living in NY for the past few years, is married, and has a cute little son. He also has a wife . . . that’s a little less than understanding about his fishing passion. Let’s just leave it at that. Well, Untouchable started planning this trip a few months ago: he picked a date, and we assembled a crew, and let Capt. Greg know of our plans. Capt. Greg was gracious enough to let us book the trip on a weekend, and all was set.
Long story short, Untouchable was “unable” to make the trip.
Team Fiasqo, Maaz (the other one), Johnny (has no forum name anymore due to transgressions), and myself, would continue the tradition, pick up the pieces left by Untouchable’s absence, and make the best of things. The real pain in the @ss with these private charters, is finding dependable people. This is a limited load trip, and we only have a certain number of spots. As happens every year, people commit early on, take up a spot on the “roster,” and then bail at the last second. This year was no exception. For myriad reasons, a few people backed out and I had to scramble to find willing fisherman to fill the spots on short notice. Capt. Greg assisted, and through the FS forum and word-of-mouth, I was able to fill the last few spots. I couldn’t be happier with the people that rounded out the A4 roster. To those that give their word and never waiver – thank you.
The final roster consisted of about 20 great fisherman. I was also able to “draft” a youngster that I’ve heard a lot about, Little JohnB. Some of you know who he is, some don’t. But I knew that he was an amazing fisherman, and was looking forward to fishing with him aboard the Yankee Capt. I expected big things from him on this trip, albeit his first, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Another Armageddon tradition is worrying about the weather. For a change, the weather looked good a week out and the forecast didn’t waiver. Weather really wasn’t a concern this year, and it made things a lot easier.
No Team Fiasqo adventure is complete without some “interesting” activities. We’ll first start with making lead. We didn’t have any, and weren’t about to spend .40/oz. at Bass Pro (or anywhere else) on lead; so we again made our own. The “cancer party” only took a couple hours, and we had enough lead to last us a full season of Dry Tortugas fishing.
With Johnny now gainfully employed, it was the first time that all Team Fiasqo members were full-time members of the workforce. It sounds good on paper, but it raises some new dilemmas. How are we going to get bait if we all work? Exactly.
Maaz (the other one) is pretty useless when it comes to procuring bait. So, it was up to Johnny and myself to figure something out. We made the plan to head out Thursday night, in the freezing cold, to [hopefully] wrangle-up some much-needed goggle eyes. Usually we can count on some of our friends to help us out with bait, but we weren’t able to get enough, even though NickC was gracious enough to give us a few dozen -- thanks a lot Nick.
Something people may not know about Johnny, is that he’s a great guy; he’s also as reliable as a broken clock. So, as we loaded up the truck to pick up his boat and trailer, Johnny remembered that he didn’t have his trailer lock keys.
"What's the problem?"
“Dude, I think I left the keys in my car.”
“Where’s your car Johnny . . .?”
“It’s at the body shop, locked-up.”
I’ve known Johnny for a while, I wasn’t surprised in the least. Annoyed? Absolutely. So, we arrive at the boat/trailer and sit there and stare at the lock that is securing the trailer. The lock for which we have no key. The lock that is keeping us from going out and catching goggle eye, the night before our trip. We have no choice – the lock has to come off.
I told Johnny to call some of his friends who “have experience with this kind of thing.” We were unable to get a hold of anyone with that criteria. I then suggested drilling through the lock. We started with a small drill bit. Although it did end up breaking, I noticed that we were making progress. We upped the size of the drill bit, and within a few second – voila!
Sweet! Time to go gog fishing!! Well, after four hours in the frigid weather, the gog mission turned out to be an epic fail, unless you consider four goggle eyes a success. We found out the next day that we missed the bite by an hour!
Oh well. I made some phone calls and lined-up a few dozen “bought” gogs, which I hate doing.
The plan was for Johnny and I to leave Boca at 5 a.m. and head for the Keys, stopping by some bridges to procure some bait. The other Team Fiasqo member, ‘the other one’ was riding down from West Palm Beach with our friend Martin, a few hours later. Martin is our friend from high school who is an amazing rod builder and worked for the original Chaos rods; he’s back in the rod building scene and works for boomerang rods. He made Maaz and I a couple rods for this trip and they came out amazing. More on that later.
Johnny and I made decent time and got to the bait bridge around 10 a.m. I noticed a family at the end of the bridge, and immediately recognized PostGuy and his lovely wife and little girl. That's a hardcore family! I immediately snapped a picture with my phone and sent to Untouchable with the caption "PostGuy and fam at bridge, hardcore." I also sent him the picture to contrast the way his life "is" and the way it "should be." I'm sure Mrs. Untouchable won't be enthused with that comment.
We were able to catch a bunch of pinfish, but the main target, ballyhoo, was not cooperating. Around 4:30 p.m., Johnny got the ballyhoo dialed-in, and with a few throws of the 12’ net, we started to fill the cooler. Cast-after-cast resulted in hundred of ballyhoo hitting the deck, big ones too. Our once bleak bait situation was looking very promising. I took a couple tosses too, and we filled two coolers in short order.
Johnny "Se Fue" Birkman with a netfull
Around 5 p.m., Maaz and Martin roll up to the bridge – clean and well-fed, and warm. Johnny and I looked like we had been catching bait off a bridge all day in the cold, because that’s what we were doing.
After procuring groceries, we arrive at the Yankee Capt in all her glory. I greeted Capt. Greg, and was amazed to find that he was missing about 100#. I exchanged words with all the members of the Armageddon IV roster, and we pushed off around 8:00 p.m. It was on.
As the anchor chain was released into the dark depths of the Dry Tortugas, the patrons of A4 stumbled from their bunks and made their way to the rail.
The first couple hours were a steady pick of nice muttons, and it didn’t really change the whole trip. There was no consistent hot bait, all different things worked: pinfish, ballyhoo, kingfish, goggle eyes, etc. If it was fresh and fished properly, you caught fish.
The best part about the fishing was that it wasn’t just a few regulars catching fish, as if often the case. Everyone was. Up on the bow, Maaz, General Turtle, Dan-the-Man, Warren and Martin were consistently bringing up nice muttons all trip long.
On the starboard side, Capt. Bill, Jack Hexter, and Mike were doing damage. On the port, Kris, Ralph and Kenny were tearing it up.
On the stern it was an all-star cast of young talent: myself, PostGuy (Jason), Little JohnB, Milo, Nat, and Nat’s uncle.
There was plenty of room all over the boat, which meant that there weren’t too many tangles and everyone seemed content.
It’s hard to remember all the sub-plots during the trip, but I’ll post a few and add to this thread as I remember more.
Johnny has some demons. For the past few seasons, Team Fiasqo has anointed him with the infamous “Se Fue” award, for always “blowing it,” in major fashion, one way or another. It’s like clockwork. Last season, it was the unrelenting trend to always lose his first mutton. And I don’t mean “lose” as in “he missed the bite.” No, I mean “lose” as in -- he hooks the fish, brings it all the way to the surface, only to watch it float away as he waits for the gaff. I’ve seen it happen on every trip, and it’s sad and funny at the same time. More funny than sad, though.
I’m proud to say that Johnny has relinquished the “Se Fue” award. He didn’t lose his first mutton. He actually started off the trip on a tear and quickly landed three nice muttons before most had landed their first. He had a very good trip. (side note, he almost still won the “se fue” award by telling me that he had lost his truck keys, and that we wouldn’t be able to get home. He had the “se fue” award firmly in his grasp for a third consecutive season, until he informed me that he’d found the keys. Real close). I’ll give the “Sue Fue” award to “the other one” for forgetting his shoes at the dock, for the third consecutive year. It can’t be comfortable fishing in flip flops and socks.
Another sub-plot, Little JohnB. He’s the son of a very well-known fisherman in South Florida. One of the best fisherman that I’ve ever seen. I’d never met Little JohnB, but we share some mutual friends, and I’d heard that he’s quite the fisherman, so I extended him an invite. Fishing the Dry Tortugas on a head boat is not easy, and there’s a pretty steep learning curve. I’ve seen the best anglers humbled by their first trip aboard the Yankee Capt. But I expected something different from Little JohnB.
He started the trip out slow, but I could tell that he had obviously learned from the best and he displayed some pretty impressive angling skills. While everyone else on the boat had their fancy Calstars and Saltiga/Torsa/Accurate reels, Little JohnB was armed with a TLD25 and Crowder combo. Very simple, and that’s all he needed. I continued to encourage him that he was going to do fine, and to keep fishing hard. By mid-trip, he was on fire, and probably caught more fish in the second half of the trip than anyone else. He ended up with one of the best catches, easily hitting his limit of muttons, some of which were very large. In between mutton bites, he whipped out a small spinning rod and started bailing flag yellowtails. I’ve never seen anyone do so well in their first trip, and he’s just 18. Little JohnB is a force to be reckoned with.
Nat. Other than Team Fiasqo members, I believe that Nat (Lazy Bones) is the only person to have fished on all four Armageddon trips. He says he’s going, and he does. Simple as that. Nat was fishing next to me for most of the trip, and he had some pretty bad luck with tackle failure, and most notably – the bottom. I can’t count the number of times he got hung up. He also lost a few very nice fish on the fight up due to bad luck and nothing else. But Nat stuck with it, and turned his luck by cast netting a few flying fish which he successfully converted to several nice muttons. I know that he finished the trip off with another solid catch.
Little Milo, the “golden boy” of the Yankee Capt, earned his stripes when he helped Capt. Greg out earlier this year when he needed a mate for a trip. Team Fiasqo contacted Capt. Greg and gave our full endorsement of Milo. He kicked butt a mate and he’s made several trips aboard the Yankee since. He’s a quiet kid, and a good fisherman. During a moment of razzing, he nonchalantly mentioned that it was his 21st birthday. After much razzing, Milo had his first [legal] beer. Happy birthday.
To start the trip, Capt. Matt tried going deep, but it wasn’t in the cards. The gulfstream had pushed onto the reef, and were limited to fishing in 90’ of water for the first half of the trip. But it didn’t matter, the fishing was great. If a period of five minutes went by where someone didn’t land a fish, we moved. It remained that way for the whole trip. Capt. Matt and Capt. Greg absolutely bust their @ss to put their customers on fish. They take it personally, and that’s the way it should be.
The fishing remained consistent for the whole trip. There were a couple flurries where the bite was “wide open”; properly fished bait was almost guaranteed in a hook-up. That’s about all you can ask for.
During the day things slowed down a little, but it was still a steady pick. I started using lighter line and my spinner, and hooked up with a couple nice muttons.
PostGuy (Jason) and I with a pretty evening Mutton
The evening bite Saturday evening was solid, and the fishing remained hot all the way until we headed for the barn on Sunday morning. We were able to push out to about 160’ Saturday evening and all Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Here's Turtle and Dan with a pair of Sunday morning muttons
And Turtle with a couple other muttons
Here's Capt. Bill with one of his many nice muttons
The most impressive thing about the trip was that our catch consisted almost entirely of large mutton snapper. It was quite a sight.
On the ride home, some people engage their minds in reading literature. Here we can see the generation gap, as Milo is checking out the line capacity on a Newell, while Jack delves into a novella. Oh well, reading is reading, right?
After Jack finished his novella, he magically made a pizza appear.
As far as personal totals are concerned, several people, including all Team Fiasqo members, Turtle, Little JohnB, Milo, and a couple others hit their 20 fish limit. I believe that Maaz (the other one) hit it first, so I’ll award him with “high hook” honors. He probably had lots of energy since he didn’t waste any on catching bait . . .
I believe that most people were in the teens, and everyone caught more than five. The trip was a huge success, and I believe that everyone had a great time. I know that I did.
Team Fiasqo's catch:
The biologist at the dock sneaking in on the action
Team Fiasqo with the now-svelte Capt. Greg looking on
One of JohnB/Milo's coolers
And their catch on the fillet table
Little JohnB/Milo/MikeT (EXTRACTOR)
And the lovely Nicole passing out the catch
The Ring of Death
Team Fiasqo's coolers
Turtle and Dan-the-Man
Mr. Jack Hexter with his solid catch
Capt. Bill (Hawkboat) with his solid catch
Group shot with Team Fiasqo, Martin, Little JohnB, Milo, Turtle, and PostGuy with his little girl (Molly, I believe)
I told myself that this would be the last time I do this trip, but it’s going to be tough to put an end to this series. It’s always a success and always worth the hard work that goes into planning/organizing such an event. We’ll see . . .
I want to thank Capt. Greg, and Capt. Matt for putting us on the meat the whole trip. The amazing mates, Nicole and Todd for always being ready with the gaff and a smile (not always the latter) and helping out in every way possible. I’ve seen a lot of mates on the Yankee, and they’re always top notch; Nicole and Todd are no exception. I also want to thank Renata, who always cooks amazing meals in a small 3x3 “kitchen,” all trip long. I don’t know how she does it.
I also want to thank Boomerang Rods (http://www.boomerangfishing.com/) and Martin for building Team Fiasqo some amazing rods. Anyone that wants the highest quality custom rods, any way they want, I fully endorse them.
Boomerang Rod, Team Fiasqo prototype
Kenny looks on
Every time I put up one of these posts, there are dozens of replies about people wanting to do this trip. All I can say it – do the d@mn trip! You won’t be sorry! The Yankee Capts have the muttons dialed-in right now, take advantage. I know there’s a trip going out this weekend with plenty of room. Get on there. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you guys have.
Hope you enjoyed the report.
Until next time – Team Fiasqo
Reading that report was almost like being there. Pictures are great. Looks like a great time was had by all. Thanks for taking the time to write it.
I have been so looking forward to reading your report Marsad, thanks for sharing. The fella that built your boomerang rod built my chaos Miami dolphins rod some years ago when he was with chaos, I know you got a quality product! I am saddened to hear that you made your last armageddon trip, why give it up?
Congrats Liti...this post is definitely:
Thanks for taking us on that trip! Seas looked great. Love it when it playes out perfect.
Way to slay em up good Liti!
Awesome report and pics.
Number 1 on my bucket list is an Armageddon trip. If you do another trip, and I very much hope you do, please let me know asap when you get a date as it's almost impossible to get time off of work on short notice.
Looks like the lead production went high tech this year. A quantum leap forward in technology.
Congrat to all on the trip and way to catch em up guys.
Edit: Where did you guys get that cast iron lead pot? Harbour Freight?
Last edited by Zecura; 02-24-10 at 10:09 AM.
This too shall pass.
Good job guys
I seriously would have gone along this time, but was in Phoenix for business. How'd the weather hold up? Looks pretty nice from the pictures.
Eric Fosbender, Team Googanator
"If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago."
- Zane Grey
Excellent post as expected. I am very sorry that your brother couldn't make the trip, you could always see his enthusiasm for the fishing in his pictures.
YC's trip is on my top five things to do next year. Can you or Capt. Greg talk about how fishing will be affected by the new regs next year if at all? I thought I read something about special permits this year, I just can't remember where I read it. I may be mistaken.
Thanks again for taking the time to post.