Fishing with Phil Pica
THE FISHING TRIP: In search for permit and groupers while jigging
Aboard the “Unknown” with Captain Phil Pica
The Spot : Fort Myers shallow water wrecks
Weather : 0 to 5 knot winds, Fair weather
Water: calm at first then 1 to 2 foot seas
Fish catches: Gag groupers, Permit, Snappers, Cobias
Biggest size Type : Cobia around 30 pounds
Techniques : Vertical Jigging produced two tiny cobias and live bait everything else
Jigs : 100 gram, butterfly jigs
Well we wanted to venture out in the Fort Myers are of the Gulf. The plan we were told was to fish in 60 to 80 foot deep wrecks but the captain spotted large schools of Permit circling shallow wrecks so he changed the plans to head towards those wrecks first. We arrived early at the dock to watch the big Snook and catfish being fed the prior day dead shrimp. We waited for the captain to arrive at 8:00 am but he was a bit late and got there at 9:00 am. He had already the crabs and some backup shrimp in case the snappers were hot. We all loaded our gear and the captain was like “are you guys thinking we are going on a multi day trip or what?” We had brought three rods for each and our own tackle, must captains are used to catching the fish and handing the rods down to their customers but we were not there for that and the Captain knew about it, so all he did was shake his head.
On to the bait catching we went, the excess water from Lake Okeechobee was being let out from the canals and all youcould see was brackish water for about ten miles. When we hit the color change from brackish to the usual green turquoise waters we spotted many schools of herrings being chased by Jack Crevales and Spanish Mackerels. The Threadfin Herrings were trying to swim towards the beaches but kept going back into the green waters to get pounded by their predators. We brought only one light tackle rod to catch bait so the captain decided to use the cast net instead. As we got closer the captain saw an opportunity to pickup from the boiling schools of bait and after a few tries he succeed with a nice net of a couple dozen Threadfin Herrings.
With the bait loaded we headed to the first wreck, there were dozens of schools of Spade Fish and dozens of Permit fish as well. We were in only 30 feet of water so we did not even try to vertical jig that shallow. The captain says set up for permit! So he starts setting up with 20 pound test, he said that the fish were very spooky and anything thicker would not allow for a bite. So I picked my light tackle set up and the others did the same so out went three crabs. Adam decided he wanted the grouper instead and so he fished with a live Threadfin herring, great choice as he was rewarded later on. The first hit came on Phil’s uncle a small permit it was and then Ed’s rod started to scream with another small permit, and then my rod gets hits but as I am fighting it it took me towards the wreck where I was broken off but not by the wreck, it was the fish mouth which was abrasive enough to cut through the 20 pound test line. We were wondering what it was when Adam got a nice hit on his rod, he was using 60 pound test leader so he was able to catch the culprit, a nice 30 pound cobia. the cobia had a follower since Phil was ready with a bottom rod he tossed a live Threadfin herring in the water. I had no time to do that so I took my jigging rod, took off the jig, and out another live Threadfin Herring went, but it was Phil’s bait that was chosen as he was on the bottom and my bait was just free lined on the top water. Phil’s cobia came up to a nice almost 25 pound size.
Of to deeper wrecks we went, this time in 45 feet, we all decided still too shallow for jigging but still tried it and since it was shallow were were basically just yo-yoing the jigs, so we switched to bait. I did not bring a bottom rod as the original plan was to jig so i had to use one of my jigging rods to do so. So I setup a rod in wich I had 70 pound test Jerry Brown and 80 pound test leader I added a swivel to the end of it and decided to go light on the leader using only 50 pound test and a 7/0 circle hook, the only one I had in my bag. Off the Threadfin Herrings went, BAM! I get a hit and immediately it goes straight to the wreck as I was fighting it BAM! Phil gets hooked up on his bottom rod and he starts to reel in but seems that his fish was giving up faster than mines, as it came up closer we knew it was a Jewfish so I decided to tighten the drag and pull the line as much as I could to snap the line. I did not want to be on Phil’s way since his fish was closer to the top. Up came the 150 pounder to the surface where he was greeted for a few photo ops. Since we knew what lurked there we made a move to another spot.
This time we went deeper and again the captain’s avid eye spotted more permits in the mix with dozens of Spade fish. This is where Ed again nailed another Permit. This time we were in about 54 feet so me and Phil started to jig. Ed decided to change it up and threw down a live Threadfin Herring and almost instantly he hooked up with a small cobia that was followed by many others of a smaller size. We tossed some biat at the but since the followers were to small we pulled the bait out. Phil and I hooked up on the jigs with tiny cobes so back in the water they went, none of the bigger ones took our offer of beautiful expensive metals. We took our lines out of the water because these were too small. One more move to about the same depth and on the first drop Adam and Ed get their lines tight and up came the first Gag grouper and then the second while my bait gets hit and WHAT DO I GET? A SHARK!!! Wow my luck hasn’t got any better as the second fish i hooked up was another shark and they got another Gag grouper at the same time. Oh well, it is what it is and got to take what the seas offered us.
After a few mishaps with the bottom machine the captain was able to rig it to start functioning well so after that there was time for one more move. Here we went back to the first wreck to see if the permit fish were hungry again. The Captains spots the Permit fish hanging under some barracudas and this time they were in bigger sizes and bigger schools so HMMMM, wait, wait, nothing happened so I switched to a shrimp and got a small keeper mangrove, Adam got a lane snapper (but i think it was on the stop before this one), and another snapper was landed by Phil’s uncle. That was it, it was time to go back to the dock where the fish was split. i didn’t catch anything worth it but was able to get some filets for a few dinners with my wife and family.
The trip was well worth it, I had a shot at many fish but was unlucky. I sure will try to go again but next time I will only bring my bottom fishing gear. There will not be excuses next time. I hope I will get redemption on my next 3 day trip. I just hope 😦