Thanks for the Hook Man!

Allen and I wanted to take advantage of the great weather and get out a second time last week.  Our eyes were on the tuna grounds, but we were having trouble finding others to join us.  People had crummy excuses like:

  • I am on an oil rig in the Caribbean
  • It’s my wedding anniversary
  • I’m having hip replacement surgery

etc….  Clearly priorities in the wrong places.  But complete stranger, Wayne, had his priorities in the right place.  Even though he was scheduled to work, he got his start time pushed back.  Talk about hard core, he rides with us on a 38 hour tuna trip arriving back at the dock two hours before having to be on shift.  Still stuck around to help clean the boat and fish.  That’s my kind of crew.

Fishing at our first stop was slow.  No surface activity and not much showing on the sounder, but we did eek out one nice fish.

 

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It was Wayne’s first, but he put the wood to it.

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The water was pretty blue and since it was calm like a mill pond, it was no problem to move on to try some other spots.  While we found a nice rip with a wide scattered weed line, the troll was not very productive.  It did provide a chance for the crew to catch up on their beauty sleep though.

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We found some tuna showing on the surface and on the sounder and bump trolled live baits to see if we could entice a bite.  There were not many boats out (I guess many fisherman had set other priorities). There was a charter boat working the same area and he was nice enough to give us a really good tuna hook.  When some tuna started busting off our bow he bee-lined it in there to try to get a shot.  After pushing in front of us he informed me that we had run over his lines. Not even being in gear, I thought that was pretty rich.  I am sure he can do no wrong.  Well, when we reeled in our baits, we did find one of his lines tangled with one of our baits and harvested this sweet little circle hook.

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Allen decided to rig that bad boy up and put it to use.

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That mean little hook did a great job on this nice tuna.  Just wanted to say thanks to that nice captain on the other boat for the little hook that could. Super nice of him.

We continued to pick away at fish overnight, but the bite was not really fired up.  We did get a few flyers.  They make great bait.

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In the morning, though, things heated up.  At one point Allen and I were hooked to a double header of really nice fish.  Unfortunately, I pulled the hook early and lost some serious sashimi.  Allen, however, settled in for the slog with a fish that had to be over one hundred pounds.

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But after 45 minutes, heartbreak as the mainline was cut and the fish cruised away.  We are not sure exactly what happened, but the fish may have hit the line with its tail.  Regardless, it sucked.

We did get a shot at some smaller fish on topwater.  That is always a special blast.

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We had to leave them biting (and there were some really nice fish busting all over) so we could get hard core Wayne back in time for work.  It’s a long ride back to Destin, but weather was nice and we made great time.  Just want to send out a special tanks to Wayne for volunteering to join us despite work.  Good guy.  Oh, and here is what he did with some of his tuna.

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You can find the recipe here.

Can’t wait to get out there and do it again.  Until then, hope you catch ’em up.

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Sometimes the Fish Jump Right in the Boat

Allen and I played hooky from work this week and did a quick trip in hopes of a wahoo or two and some sword fishing.  We had a great time and checked all the boxes.

We knew things were good when a mahi free jumped right in the boat.  If that fish was in an Olympic jumping competition it would have gotten a ten for form as its jump was pure poetry in motion.  I wish I had a video. What a beautiful display, but it ended with a bit of a thud on the deck.  Its luck was not all bad though as we quickly released it in hopes of catching it in more conventional fashion on a future trip after it puts on a few pounds.

Wahoo fishing got off to a quick start with the first fish on literally within 90 seconds of putting the first bait in the water.  Man that fish made me look like a pro.  I pulled back the throttle and said, “This is the place.  Let’s start here.” Bam, fish on!  It was like I had X-Ray vision.  O.K., I was just plain lucky.

Here are a couple of shots of Allen with his quick start wahoo.  That is going to taste great.

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The sunset cruise to the sword grounds was nice and smooth.  Sunset was beautiful and just as it faded to dark, we had a pod of porpoise come up to check us out.  It was pretty cool.  Video embedded below, but I noticed these are not embedding in the emails that go to blog followers so I added a link as well (or you can just view directly in the blog at: (http://www.bluewaterhowto.com))

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We set up for sword fish just after dark and things were quiet until the moon came up at about 9:30. As soon as the moon came over the horizon we were hooked up.  The fish came up to the surface and was streaking along towing the disco light through the darkness.  Allen was on the rod and it seemed like a solid fish, but then it was gone.  The hook and bait came back to the boat in good condition so it seems we were never really hooked to the fish. May have been wrapped around the bill or the fish may have just been holding the bait.  Disappointing, but at least we were getting some action.

We redeployed the baits and were soon catching some z’s and storing up energy for the sword fights of which we dreamed.  We were the only boat anywhere in the area without a single blip on the radar.  I love mid week fishing.

About 11:30 the 80W goes off.  Again, the fish is up on the surface trailing the disco light through the dark.  The rod was in the bow and the fish was bee-lining it back around the transom to the other side of the boat so I had to go from fast asleep to full on fire drill trying to prevent a break off.

I was able to get the rod around to the transom and get in good position to fight this fish. Allen was up and helping me get into a fighting belt. Unfortunately, I took my eye off the ball as I tried to get strapped in and something went horribly wrong as the fish surged and the 80lb mainline snapped with a large bang. Shit!  Not sure if it crossed the other line that was still out, hit something on the transom, wrapped the tip or what, but the fight was over. Not sure how big this fish was, but have you ever tried to break 80lb test line?  It ain’t easy and this fish did it like it was dental floss.

I have been several times with zero bites.  One or two bites a night is a good night.  We had blown the first two with no guaranty of another. A little depressing, and it was disturbing our sleep with no reward.

We redeployed the baits and settled in for another nap.  I was in the bow and Allen was in the cockpit when the transom rod started screaming drag.  I got up yelling “Allen!” as I headed aft, but he was fast asleep.  A few more exclamations and he was up and on the rod, alert as if it were high noon!

The fish put up a good fight, but Allen was on the job.

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It was now occurring to me that there were just two of us and no flying gaff or harpoon.  It might turn out to be a bit of a challenge to land this fish.  Note to self, bring flying gaff next time!  We were surprised when the fish came up that it was not as large as it seemed during the fight.  On the smaller size, but this fish had heart.  We had decided to release it to fight another day, but unfortunately it was bleeding profusely from the gills. This is one of the few times I have seen a circle hook catch deep in a fish rather than the corner of the mouth.  Checking to make sure it met the legal limit we decided it was unlikely to survive so we brought it aboard and put it on ice.

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Mission accomplished.  Wahoo and swordfish in the boat.  That was our goal.

As the sun came up we put out a spread and started looking for a weed line we had drifted through during the night.  Water color was decent, but not great and no bites as we searched.  When we finally found the line it was very scattered and presented a slow conversion from blue water to blue-green.  We worked this for a while, clearing lines constantly, but had no luck so we packed up and headed north.

On the way home we put the high speed lures back out in search of another wahoo.  We worked it for a while without any luck so we decided to change our position a bit and immediately saw a nice hoo skyrocket 12-15 feet out of the water scattering hundreds of flying fish.  Again, I wish I had a video to share.  That fish was a high octane hunter flying through the air like a jet fighter with its afterburners on.  I swear you could see rippling muscles as his tail continued to pump in mid flight.  The flying fish were in full on panic.

We brought the boat around pulling the baits through the kill zone and boom!, fish on.  Yeehaw! Nice fish, now we have two wahoo in the box.  My favorite fish to eat of any species, full stop.

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We decided it was time to head home and get everything cleaned up so we stowed the gear and pushed the throttles down for the run back to the hill.  On the way we ran across this interesting debris.

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It looks to be a bulkhead, all from a boat and it has a coffin box for an EPIRB mounted on it.  The hydrostatic release seems to have been tripped and the EPIRB released, but not any time soon as there was some growth on the debris and it was covered with small cobia and mahi.  We played around for a bit catching a few of those and then continued on to home. We reported this to the Coast Guard primarily because it would suck for someone to hit that thing while running.  Sounds like they were going to try to tow it in.

We flew the flags as we came through the pass.

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Once we got the boat cleaned up (except for the squid that I apparently left in the fish box (yuck)), we set about making up that wahoo sashimi.  The recipe is simple: Filet wahoo.  Cut filet into small pieces.  Eat after dipping in soy and wasabi.  Lick lips. Pairs well with Ranger IPA 🙂

 

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Great trip.  Lots of fun.  Good company.  And watching that wahoo sky was worth the price of admission.

Until next time, catch em up!

Marlin Provides Proof in Execution

Last week I blogged up how to rig an Ilander ballyhoo combo.  So on Sunday I figured I better see how my prototypes worked in the field.

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There was the blue and white one I used in the video and the black and red one I used for the pics.  I decided to pit them against each other with the blue and white on the right short and the red and black on the left short. It didn’t take long for whitey to find them both.  We hooked up on the black and red and Logan made short work of getting him to the boat.  Allen was the wire man and Tom put in the tag for a successful release.

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We were able to get a bit of video.  This fish was a little lit up.

As we cleared the lines we saw that the blue and white had also been smacked around.  Could have been the same fish or his brother.  So can’t say if blue and white is better or perhaps black and red, but they both work, that is a fact!

We tried overnight swording, but not a single bite.  There were a bunch of other boats doing the same, but only heard of one that got a fish.  I must say, it’s a much slower more relaxing gig than the tuna fishing at the rigs. Speaking of tuna, we had a bunch of nice ones crashing around the boat in the dark and flying through the lights, but it all happened pretty quickly and we just didn’t get enough baits in the water fast enough.  It was a typical tuna smash and grab job as they were gone before we knew it.

The trolling was pretty slow.  Aside from the white we picked up a few small dolphin and bonita, but not much else.

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We tried high speed for a bit and got a big wahoo on.  He took me deeeeep into the 50 wide before we got him turned.  Just as we were about to sink the gaff, though, he shook the hook.  Heartbreak as he was 50+ pounds of sashimi in the making.  Here is what he hit.  Do you think the hoo like this lure?

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I might change those hooks out for the big single J Hooks on swivels.  I don’t like them coming unbuttoned like that.

Hope you all had a great weekend.  Until next time, catch em up.

J Hook Rigged Ballyhoo under Blue and White Ilander

A rigged ballyhoo trolled behind a blue and white Ilander lure is probably the single most popular trolled bait there is. This is really the first natural bait presentation you should learn when getting into bluewater trolling. Blue and white is the go to color of choice, but there are many options out there like this black and red (a good choice for wahoo).

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I like the mahi colored ones as well as bright yellow and pink.  It’s probably the nice contrast of blue and white that helps make that color effective and particularly versatile.  One consideration on color is to contrast dark skies with light colors and bright skies with dark colors so with blue and white on the same lure you can pet two dogs (I don’t kill birds) with one hand.

Circle hook rigs are required for tournaments and are great to improve survival rates on released fish, but if you are rigging your baits under trolling lures, you are going to need to use a traditional j hook.

These rigs will catch pretty much anything that swims near the surface of the ocean.  They are great for mahi, wahoo, tuna, kingfish, sailfish, white marlin, and blue marlin.  You can rig with mono or wire leader, it will work either way.

One big benefit of rigging under an Ilander is that it is very forgiving of imperfect rigging.  When you rig a naked ballyhoo, it better be right.  If not, it will spin, fail to track straight, or wash out (tear up and start to break apart).  That does not mean it won’t catch a fish, but your chances fall significantly.  Put an Ilander lure over top of the ballyhoo and it becomes the principal driver of how the bait tracks in the water.  You can screw this up so bad not even an Ilander will save the day, but no doubt, you can live with some imperfections in your rigging with little or no consequence when set up under an Ilander or similar skirt.

With a little help from my wife as camera woman and creative director, I put together this video that goes through step by step just how I rig a ballyhoo with a j hook.  I did this under a blue and white Ilander, but the same rig will work under any trolling skirt.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  I know some folks will likely rig differently, and so I would invite you to post up your videos for others to see how your do it too.

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Triple Threat for Triple Tail

The weather was right so we decided to pull together a crew and head to the rigs in search of tuna.  We put out the word but could not scratch together a four man crew so it was just me, Allen and Stephen.  We figured if the US Women’s Gymnastics Team could pick their own name (“The Final Five”) we could, too.  So we dub this crew, Team Triple Threat.

We consulted FishTrac and Roffers and it was clear that blue water was far away so we settled in for a long run.  When we did find rigs in blue water there just did not seem to be a lot of activity, so we kept moving.  We ended up way southwest with Tuna busting the surface in nasty green water.  We chunked, we live baited, we trolled, but the bite was slow and completely died overnight despite the full moon.  We only had one decent bite and the fish came unhooked before we got it to the boat.  We were in good company with several other boats seeming to have much the same experience.

We tried some other rigs and found another in green water with a decent bite going on.  Saw a couple of other boats hooking up on live baits, but our live bait had not held up.  Lots of dead ones and just a few left to try. Bridled up the biggest hard tail in the live well and boom, we were on.  Let him eat it and take line for perhaps 30-45 seconds and then brought the line tight.  Fought the fish for a couple minutes and then it came unbuttoned.  When we reeled the line back in we found the hard tail was still on the hook and you could see it had been bitten and held on to, but never swallowed.   I guess next time I need to let the fish eat it even longer.

We were out of live bait and strangely the fish were completely ignoring our nice fresh chunk.  We had caught some blackfin, skippies, and small yellowfin, but it was just not our day for Tuna.  A bit frustrated we decided to start back toward home in hopes of finding a good rip to fish on the way.

On the way out we had run across a  debris line from the Mississippi in lovely river water.

3 Tail Habitat

We had worked some schools of tuna nearby picking up some blackfin, skippies, bonita etc… but nothing exciting enough to hold our attention. There was a huge shark lurking among them and it was tempting to try to hook it up, but it was not a Mako and the idea of fighting it for a couple hours was not something we wanted to embrace.

Checking the debris line we found it was loaded up with triple tail.  That is when Team Triple Threat let its colors shine.  Using highly unconventional tactics we set about selecting a few of these fish for the ice box.  Allen struck first putting a nice one in the box.

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This was a nice specimen that was literally hand fed the jig.

I jumped in and found a second volunteer.

Me and Allen with Tripple Tail Thumbs up

But Stephen did not feel we were being adequately selective so he went moose hunting and dipped this one out of the fish tank.

Stephen with Moose 3Tail Close

I am astounded that triple tail are not extinct.  I do believe they are the most docile, least spooky, most incredibly willing to die species on the planet.

On the way home we found a bit of a rip and light weed line and pulled some small tuna off it, but never found what we were looking for.  What amazes me about this trip is that despite a really long run and failure to catch the target species, we just had a great time.  Those triple tail were a blast, the weather was great, company superb and it was just awesome to be on the water.  Beats work any day!

One last shot of Team Triple Threat back at the dock.

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The payoff was pan fried triple tail dinner.

3Tail Dinner

Straight forward preparation.  Dipped in flour, salt and pepper and seared in a cast iron skillet with olive oil and butter.  A great salad and tomatoes caprese for accompaniment along with your beverage of choice.

Next time, we will get those tuna!  Until then, catch em up.

 

Exumas 2016 — It’s not always a fishing trip

Had a great opportunity to meet up with some old friends on their boat in the Exumas.  I have been to the Bahamas, but this as a first to visit the Exumas chain of islands and they did not disappoint.  If you have ever been to Great Bahama or many of the other islands you may have an impression like I did of low lying flat islands.  A lot like flat Florida and its barrier islands.  The Exumas chain, though, is rocky with some pretty good elevation.  Not mountains, but a comfortable geography with rocky islands where you can get a view of the beautiful scenery.

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I flew out on a Cessna from  Ft. Lauderdale and had a quick stop in the Berry Islands to clear customs and immigration.

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The airport at Great Harbour isn’t exactly O’Hare.

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From there it was on to Staniel Cay to meet my buddies.

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The guys picked me up and we headed out to the boat.  It was great staying anchored out each night and just moving around each day to see some different places, snorkel, swim, and enjoy the incredible white sand beaches.

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Snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto (famous from James Bond and Splash movies) was a blast.

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Feeding the pigs that live on Pig Beach (They were clearly delighted):

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Snorkeling with a grey angel.

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A little hike near Bell Rock.  Views were great.

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This is Rachel’s Bubble Bath.  Waves come over the rocks into this pool and create a flood of bubbles like in a hot tub.

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Cocktails as we enjoyed the sunset from the bridge of the boat.  This shot was taken just a second or two before the green flash.  I had never seen the green flash before, but boldly predicted we would all see it this day, and we did!  Even a broken clock is right twice a day 🙂

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We also checked out some of the local residences.  This in Johnny Depp’s house on his own private island.  He needs to fight for this in the divorce!

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Johnny’s place is way understated compared to some neighbors like The Aga Khan with his massive island estate (I think he spent about $100 million on it) and this little compound:

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Three full size windmills, a solar field, the main house, five guest houses, multiple private beaches and pools, a private marina, golf course and tennis court and, of course, a float plane and hanger.  Who could do without that?

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Unfortunately, I did not get an invitation to move to that island so I reluctantly packed my bags and headed home to our own little slice of paradise.

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As a thank you for my buddies I got them custom powder coated Yeti Ramblers from Precision Powder Coating near Dallas, TX.  I don’t usually like to deal with people from Dallas since I am a die hard Washington Redskins fan, but I have to say they did a great job and treated me like a native.

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Hope you enjoyed my little travel log.  Back soon with another fishing report or how to.  Until then, catch ’em up!

Tuna, Storms, The Man in the Blue Suit, and a Broken Nose

Sorry I have not posted a blog in a few weeks. I was able to take some time to visit some old friends on their boat for a trip to the Bahamas and neglected my blog duties.  I’ll post up about that trip soon, but today is about this week’s trip to the Gulf of Mexico Oil rigs in the successful pursuit of the man in the blue suit.

Me, Allen, Frenchy and newcomer, Stephen, loaded up FN PAIR-A-DICE and left Destin on Sunday headed southwest, deep into the oil fields of the central Gulf of Mexico.  All the elements were there for a good trip and we were in need of some screaming drags.

We arrived at our ultimate destination at about 1 AM and were quickly on the fish.  Blackfin and yellowfin were active and biting.  I was the first to get a YFT to the boat and had a blast doing it, using spin tackle and a live flying fish that made the mistake of getting too close to the boat.

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OK, so we knew we would be eating well, the pressure was off.  We were consistently getting bites as the sun peered through the early morning clouds.  Allen landed a nice one.

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And so did Frenchy.

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But we were also frustratingly hooking up and losing some fish, too.  I hung a really nice one and after ten minutes or so, as it surged away from the boat, I got cut off.  Not sure what happened, perhaps it hit the leader with its tail, but that was my hundred pounder, gone.  Allen and Frenchy missed a few as well, but it was Stephen that seemed snake bit.  He must have had six fish come unbuttoned.  But, he did ultimately get his revenge.

We pushed away from the rig to troll a bit and look for a rip that was supposed to be in the area.  I must have dosed off a bit, but woke up to screaming drags, as the boys had a double header going.

Stephen put a nice YFT in the boat and broke his curse!

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Allen made sure the gaff shot would count.

Frenchy capped it off with a nice skipjack.

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Stephen, however, was not done.  Lines back in, another lap around the rig and Stephen is holding on for dear life as literally a thousand yards of line melts off the 50W.  We are all laser focused on a big tuna, but what comes careening out of the water is the man in the blue suit!  It is grey hounding out there in the distance, right between the legs of the rig.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I was pretty sure this was going to end fast with the line broken off on the rig.

Unbelievably, the fish kept going past the rig and off into open water, but now we had a big belly in the line and about three quarters or more of the line off the reel.  Allen gets Stephen in the bow and starts working at the fish and we quickly had the line tight, straight to the fish again.  Things are looking up and Stephen settled in for the fight.

Stephen Fighting Marlin

It wasn’t long before Stephen had the fish at the boat for his first marlin tag and release.  Stephen was looking good, but the fish had a broken nose.  Not sure if that happened before or during the fight.  You can see it in the video.

Everyone smile for the camera!

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Monday got pretty stormy and we had to don the foul weather gear repeatedly, but there was the occasional promise of clear skies.

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Monday night got downright sporty with rain coming across the deck sideways and lightning popping regularly.  We decided we had done well and it was time to beat a retreat so we packed up and started working toward home.

The Boys Navigating the Storms

Storms

The trip home was a slow slog, but the sun came out as we arrived at the docks and set about the business of scrubbing the boat and cleaning the fish.

Tuna and Marlin Flag

Now we enjoy the spoils.

Dinner

Recipe: Tuna steak coated with black sesame seeds.  Seared on grill for 2-3 minutes per side.  A squeeze of lemon or lime.  Serve with soy and wasabi for dipping.

Catch em up!

A Day Late and Short Tuna

Well, we were all geared up to fish the Ft. Walton Beach Sailfish Club Offshore Tournament, but the wrong engine parts showing up on the last day had us bowing out and going to Plan B. Legendary worked hard to get us back on the water, but we ended up being a day behind the tournament boats and just decided not to come back for the Saturday weigh in so that we could still get two nights on the water.

Crew this week was Me, Allen, The Wrench, and Cody, who drove in from Dalton GA. (Carpet Town USA!) We made the long run to the rigs Friday afternoon getting there in time for the evening bite.

Ensco Rig

The ride out was smooth and fast and our elation at finally being back on the water was matched only by the that of the Dolphin greeting us as we crossed the steps.  It’s pretty cool to see them fly 8-10 feet out of the water next to the boat like they are putting on a show at Sea World.  In the words of Herman Melville: “Huzza Porpoise!

Cody got his first real YFT on the evening bite.

Cody Tuna

The Blackfin bite was slow so it was tough to make chunk, but we were marking fish and working them with a combination of baits.  As the sun began to rise things picked up a bit and we put a few more in the boat.

Logan Tuna

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The clip is only 3 seconds, but here it is doing the death circle.

And one more!

John Tuna

What kills me is we were fishing light fluorocarbon leader and small hooks carefully concealed to entice the bite and one of these fish came to the boat with something like a 14/0 circle hook with 4-6 feet of perhaps 400# mono leader. Longliner?   We have been seeing them operating in the area.

Weather was slick calm each day, but breezy each night.  We moved around to several rigs looking for the bite, but had no more luck.

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We did find a nice weed line, but I think every boat in the ECBMC had fished up and down it twice so all they left us was some triple tail (which tasted great!) and some small mahi.

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So the best part on that line was catching the triple tail.  There were so many jacks and other bait fish the triple tail did not have a chance to eat the bait.  We are sneaky though.  When the triple tail went back under the grass mat we tossed a light jig right onto the mat over its head and let the jig slip through quietly right in front of it.  The jacks did not notice, but the triple tail was sold and ate it right off.   That’s the patented “fish under cover” approach 🙂

We did all agree that when we win the PowerBall, we are buying this to be our new mother ship.  I think we could fish anywhere with impunity.

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All in all a good trip with good people.  Boat is back on the water and we are catchin’ em up!

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Next Generation Fishing Action

We recently had the pleasure of a visit from no less than fifteen nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.  It was a true Cousinpalooza! While the preponderance of sea sickness in the older generation does create pause for concern, the younger generation seemed like fertile ground from which to cull some new fisher men and women.  So we decided to set sail and see what kind of fishing action this new generation could summon.

Maggie, Brett, and Lucas were up for the challenge.  Here they are taking control of the PAIR-A-DICE like the little pirates they are:

JR Captains at the helm

Everyone drove the boat and they worked as a team to get the boat into the fish zone. Brett bravely volunteered to take the first turn on the rod, with a bit of help from Dad.  And it paid, FISH ON!

Brett and Dad

Nice one Brett!
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Next up, sister Maggie.  It’s not long before she and Unc spot another lunker.

Maggie and Unc spot the fish

I think this smile just says it all:

Maggie is all smiles

Cousin Lu wants in on the action and not to be outdone, he catches a double header.  That’s right, two fish at a time!  Here is one of the monsters:

Lucas not so sure

I’m hoping this is the kind of trip that secures me angling partners to keep me fishing well into old age.  It was short, smooth, everyone caught fish (some of us caught two at a time!) and nobody got sick (not even the parents).

Next year we target King Fish and we are gonna catch em up!

Sometimes You Have to Work a Little Harder

This was just one of those trips.

Me, Allen, “The Wrench” (aka Logan), and newcomer Troy decided to cut out early on Friday and hit the rigs.  Weather was looking great and we figured those Tuna were just waiting for us to show up and feed them.  We spent the morning getting the boat provisioned and were off the dock about 1PM.  By 1:10 the starboard engine was overheating.  Are you kidding?  We had just replaced the impeller so we should be good.  I am beginning to think that bringing The Wrench is just bad luck and rather than being the solution for mechanical questions we were all asking: Is he the cause?

Well, this crew does not shrink in the face of adversity.  We started to work on the problem.  We pulled the impeller and found that it was badly damaged.  Hmm, it’s brand new.  That is not good.  Fortunately, we had a spare and we installed that.  Things were looking up.  We had water pumping again, but not with the volume we felt was optimal.  Did a bunch of trouble shooting and no obvious fixable problems.  The engine was being a bit finicky, but the temperature was within specs so we took a vote and decided to make the run (four hours behind schedule).

The ride to West Neptune was smooth sailing and all went well, but when we arrived it looked like the entire Gulf of Mexico fleet was there.  With the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic in full swing, everyone was there looking for the winning tuna.

West Neptune

We saw a couple of boats hook up, but generally the bite was slow so we moved to Horn Mountain.  Same scene, same results.  We were getting some blackfin, but no yellowfin and the bite just was not on.  The dawn bite never happened so we consulted our Fish Track maps and decided the water looked good toward the South. There was a nice looking counter clockwise eddy just over the horizon.  We hit a drill ship and then on to Nakika and the water was electric blue but very little activity on the surface or showing on the depth finder.  Traffic thinned, but there were several big sportfishers live baiting for marlin and one of them caught the MGCBC winner there at Nakika.

We were getting frustrated and it was brutally hot so we decided to change things up and put out a trolling spread.  We started back North and found a nice rip, strangely, not being fished by anyone.  We were quickly back in the game.  A bull and a cow dolphin swam right by the boat on their way to check out our baits.  Seeing them coming by, we were on the rods when they struck.  Left long gets pummeled by the bull, but he isn’t hooked.  I back the drag off and drop the bait back and, just like in the manual, he turns back on the bait and eats it a second time.  FISH ON!  Woo Hoo!  And then the cow nails the shotgun.  We are doubled up!

Did I mention I love this stuff?  I do and this is what I dream about at night.  Not dragging baits along and a mystery fish eats one and somebody cranks it in on the 80 wide.  That’s not what it’s about.  It’s getting the right baits in the right place, seeing the fish come in to eat, and turning a missed strike into a fish on the line.  It’s a blast.

Finally the stink is off the boat and we have two nice gaffer dolphin in the fish box.  Mahi tacos baby!

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We worked the rip all the way back to Nakika and picked up several more dolphin in the process.  We tried bump trolling a large rainbow runner around the rig for a bit, but he drew no interest so, still not marking tuna or seeing any surface activity, we decided to head back to West Neptune for the evening bite.

En route we see a little something floating on the water so we circle back to check it out thinking perhaps we can pick up a triple tail.  When we pull up it looks like a small piece of carpet backing or something.  It’s basically about the size of a six foot 2X6 and it just has a few little fish on it, including a triple tail that is only about five inches long.  We toss in a jig just to see what is there and a wolf pack of mid size dolphin come cruising up from the deep.  We were all quickly hooking up on jigs, top waters, live baits and cut bait.  The fish were not huge, but they were not chicken dolphin either so we were having fun. Troy is dropping a jig deep in hopes of finding a wahoo and I am tossing a topwater for dolphin when a wahoo comes rocketing across the water and makes a 90 degree turn to nail my topwater.

Awesome, topwater wahoo on spin, that just does not happen every day.  With a light mono leader I am keen to get this fish in the boat and fortunately the take was close to the boat and the fish was not big enough to run off too much line.  We had him with the perfect gaff shot and in the box within just a few minutes.  Wahoo!

With a box full of dolphin and a bonus wahoo, we got underway again and moved over to West Neptune.  Things there started slow, but we did get a tuna bite on chunk early on. While it pulled the hook it did motivate us to kept at it.  Sharks were in the area and making it tough but we were eeking out a living on some nice blackfin and the occasional yellowfin bite. Troy finally broke the ice and put the first YFT in the boat.

Troys Tuna Close up

Troys Tuna Close

Troys Tuna

That is his first and you have got to love the smile!

We kept picking away and working around the sharks and Logan was rewarded with another nice YFT.

Logans Tuna

Between YFT we were also catching some nice BFT.  We had three over 18# with Allen tacking the trophy at 25.5#.  That’s pretty much a stud for a blackfin.

With a tough bite and a long trip back to Destin in front of us we decided to start the trip home in the dark in hopes of an early morning Wahoo bite closer to home.  We had the wahoo spread out at first light but no interest in the first hour or so so we switched up to a high speed spread.  That was the trick.  Troy whacked this bad boy in short order:

Troys Wahoo

This time his smile was not as pronounced.  I think 48 hours with only about three of it sleeping was beginning to take its toll.

We put the high speed spread back out and trolled another 30-45 minutes but we were all bushed and had a full fish box so we decided to head for the hill.  Fortunately, the fish were not done with us.  As Logan started cranking on one of the reels it got slammed again.  Wahooo!  This one is a better class and is dumping line off the reel, but Logan gets him turned around.  Allen sinks the gaff and we have some icing for our cake.

Logans Wahoo

Logans Wahoo Close

Even a tired crew can smile at this fish.  We iced her down, got cleaned up a bit and put up the flags.

Flags

This was a tough trip to get going.  It almost did not happen.  Then when we did get on the water, the fishing just was not on fire.  But we stuck with it and put together a nice mixed bag of fish.  It all came right in the end and we felt a little prouder of our effort for the way we worked to bring it together.  And as a reward, we got some sweet meat:

Wahoo Steak

And at several houses some feasts ensued.

Wahoo Dinner

Tuna Dinner

I’ll get some more how to’s up as soon as fishing slows down.  If you like what you are reading click on the link to “register” in the right margin and sign up to follow the blog.

In the mean time, hope you all get out there and catch em up!