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

Allen Tuna3

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.

Nakika

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.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0196.

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.

Work Boat (2)

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!
Brett and Dad2

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!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0173.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0173.

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!