We recently had two day-trips with our friend Brad and son Chris.****We really look forward to doing trips in the winter because that is prime time fishing in S. Florida. November is very good because we get good runs of dolphin as well as Sailfish, Tuna, and King Mackerel.
Brad and Chris met us for the 7 a.m. blast off. We greeted each other and untied the BEAST. I immediately headed out to one of our best Hardtail spots. We got them quickly, so I powered up and ran out to find some worms.
I passed by the first bait patch because I had decided on another worm bed that holds "dinks". These smaller baits generally work better for Dolphin. Devon put out the chum. Before he had enough bait cut, the ravenous Ballyhoo were heavy in the chum line. We were hooking them, keeping Devon busy cutting bait and removing them from the hooks. It didn’t take long before we had plenty of prime “hooker” baits in the wells.
A short run out to the edge found the winds blowing around 20 knots from the North and the seas were 3-4 feet. Devon and I set out our spread. Minutes later we had a nice pair of “lifter” Dolphin hooked up. The cow came loose but Chris caught the bull quickly.
Devon reset the spread and the down rod is screaming. Brad has his hands full as this fish seems very big. He fights the fish to the boat and it turns out to be a 3 ½ foot Atlantic Sharpnose shark. Devon cut the leader and let it take the hook as a souvenir. The down rod gets the nod again and Chris works a smaller Sharpnose to the boat. We let him go in the same manner as his brother. The bite seems to be on! Minutes after releasing young Sharpnose, we have 3 more Dolphin hooked up! We lost one in the melee’ but successfully boated a nice bull and cow. We set out the spread again and you guessed it, we see a big boil on the long rigger. 1 boil, 2 boils, 3 boils, hooked up! This was a pretty Blackfin Tuna. As Brad is working the fish I see a Sailfish sizing up our flat line bait. I told Chris, “He took it! Feed the bait to him!" Chris flipped the bail and “Katie… bar the door!” We got Brad's 15# Blackie in the boat as fast as possible. This was Chris’ first Sailfish and it was no slouch. 25 minutes passed and the fish had put on numerous aerial displays. He was a good ole big ’un or a big ole good ’un, depending on the way you look at it! After several attempts we finally got it tamed down and close enough for Devon to bill it. Chris is on the boards with his first “Snooter”, a better than average fish pushing 60 pounds.
Holy fishing Batman, the bite was out of control. We cleaned the boat up and got back at it. The down rod goes off again and this time we have a nice Kingfish on the line and we dispatched it into the fish box destined for the smoker. I am amazed at the action and mentioned that we hadn’t taken any pictures. The amazement turned to awe as I looked at the time realizing that we had been fishing less than 90 minutes. Then the bite shut down like someone turned off the water spigot. All that action was followed by 90 minutes of absolutely nothing. The other boats were relaying the same thing to each other over the radio.
The bite came back slowly but that was better than the last couple of hours. We picked up 2 more Kingfish and another Dolphin. The guys were tired and I got "the word" a bit earlier than we normally quit. We had plenty of fish to filet, a BEAST to clean, and we’re going out again tomorrow.
We hit the docks the next morning at the usual time. It was blowing as hard as it was the day before but the BEAST was chomping at the bits to get out there. We hit a different Hardtail spot looking for smaller “Yummies”. We managed to catch about a half dozen and I pulled the plug because I wanted to get some more of those wigglers like yesterday. I ran directly to the dink patch that we worked the day before. The tide was barley moving in and the wind is pushing our stern out. This is not an ideal bait condition. After 30 minutes of chumming the better part of a chum block, we only had 6 baits. This is NOT good! We evacuated the spot and headed south to another good area. Devon reloaded the chum bag and put it out. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes and not even a Bermuda Chub or tiny Yellowtail. This is not funny! I ran farther south and was equally disappointed. I’ve hit 3 good spots, burned 2 blocks of chum, and worst of all we were wasting time. My back is against the wall. Let’s head north to some of our other spots. As we neared the spot we tried that morning and the day before, I got a gut feeling and whipped the bow back into the spot. Devon loaded a fresh block of chum into the bag. 5 minutes later the worms were crawling all over the place. They weren’t quite as thick as the day before but we were putting bait in the live well. We caught plenty on hooks and I threw the Calusa net twice. Now our wells were in good shape.
We finally got offshore to the edge. We didn’t miss much because there was a a constant chatter on the radio about how slow it was. The winds laid down nicely and the seas were about 2 feet. The fishing was slow but we did manage to catch a Kingfish within the first 10 minutes. We had a big bite on the down rod and the reel was screaming. The fish hesitated as if it had shifted gears and the reel hollered again for a short minute. Then the line went slack and the fish was gone. When we retrieved the line we could see that whatever it was had eaten the entire terminal rig, leaving only the leader. Not too long after that we had busts on the long rigger bait that looked like somebody throwing cinder blocks in the water. 3 times is a charm and Chris is fast on this good Blackfin. He fought that fish for 10 minutes and Devon began to see color down below. In the blink of an eye the line parted. Chris cranked in the remaining line for a visual inspection. It looked as if it had gotten hung up on something but we knew it hadn’t. Devon was really confused because he had checked all of the lines just that morning. We don’t have a clue what happened there.
I was working my way in closer while waiting for the tide to start draining off the reef. I was talking to another Captain on the radio about working the bait showers when the tide changed. Suddenly we had a pair of Dolphin come into the spread. The bull grabbed the first rigger bait and launched high into the air. He lost his grip on the bait, never getting the bite of the hook. The cow was not that fortunate as she hooked up and we managed to get her into the boat. I saw my friend steaming near the edge when he suddenly slammed on the brakes and spun the boat in a couple of circles. About 5 minutes later he punched the gas and then slammed on the brakes again. He hailed me on the radio and asked if I saw him. I said, “How could I miss that!”. He said, “It’s on in here around the 50 foot mark! I just got 3 out of 4!” I was already working my way in. "OK… I’m on my way!" We got into the edge and the Houndfish and Ballyhoo are getting slaughtered. They are rising in tremendous bait showers attempting to escape the predators after them. We cut off the first shower we saw in 50 feet of water and a Sailfish popped up. He wasn't interested in our baits. We settled into the game and got a rise from 2 Sailfish on both of our flat lines. The fish on the right rigger was circling as he got ready to eat the worm. As his bill breaks the surface, a Tern swoops down and snatches the bait away from him. The Sail on the other flat line ate his 'hoo readily and it was game on for Brad. This fish was another better than average fish and put on an equally better than average show. We worked this fish to the boat several times and it finally allowed Devon to bill it. Brad was extremely happy as this was only his second Sailfish.
We got back into the shallow edge while the tide is still dumping off the reef. I was working my way up the reef in 60 feet of water when 2 bull Dolphin crashed our baits. We hooked them both and Chris and Brad were doing the fire drill shuffle. It didn’t take too awful long before the guys had them boat side and Devon brought them aboard.
We got back into position and in the next 15 minutes we had another cow Dolphin on. This was a good fish and Brad was working it. When he got it to the boat, Murphy’s Law came into play. I’m not sure what happened there but the fish was gone. My friend was out of bait and headed for the dock, as did others who had come in the area to join us. We remained a while longer. Time was waning as Brad gave us the nod. We dumped the baits hoping we might get one more Sailfish for the day. That’s not happening this time!
We readied the boat for the run in and I turned the pointy end toward home as I kicked The BEAST in the butt. This was an enjoyable 2 days with 2 good customers. This was the first time they had been fishing with us during the winter Sailfish season. I guarantee it won’t be their last.
There is nothing more exciting than catching Sailfish on light spinning tackle. Sailfish are aerial acrobats that is second to none and tough as nails when going down and dirty. They exhibit beauty, grace, speed and power. They breed excitement in 40 feet of water chasing bait, tailing in a big NE swell, or rising to your baits. The Sailfish is my favorite sporting fish, bar none, and the late fall/winter season is prime time!