Many months ago during the boatlessfishing forum BBQ, we spoke about a private fishing charter just for boatlessfishing members. Nothing happened until after I went fishing on an Ironman trip ( ten hours fishing on the Reward Won). The trip was an all day fishing trip, jigging, kite fishing, trolling for dolphin, bottom fishing for snappers and groupers and king fish flat lining; “A mixed trip”. So I asked Captain Wayne how much a private charter like this would cost. After finding out the cost of the trip I suggested to fish on this boat, the boat can have 15 people while drift fishing but I suggested to have a maximum of 12 to give us all plenty of elbow room to fish comfortably and with less people there would be more chances for everyone to catch a fish. I started the thread about the trip. Some members wanted to fish vertical jigs, some wanted to fish with live baits, and a couple of them were interested on king mackerels (kingfish). We set a date but later found out one of the Captains was not available to fish on that day and Captain Wayne had another private charter booked, so we moved it a day over. Lady luck was on our side as the fishing trip got us some trophy fish.
The original intent was to fish live bottom for snappers and groupers, troll in between spots, and then a few wrecks to vertical jig for big amberjacks. When the captain got there he explained that the commercial fishermen had already wiped out the amberjacks and so that would be hard to do, so I asked him to take us where the fish were. I have fished with Captain Wayne at the helm for many years, sometimes once or twice a year and some years up to ten times so I trust his judgement anytime. When he starts to give advise I listen even if I know about it or had done it before, you never know when he will say something I’ve haven’t heard before or give a twist to something I already know. As we waited for everyone to arrive and finish unloading (by this time it was 6 am) he gathered us to give us the fishing plan for the day: We were to go catch pinfish on the way out, fish some ledges, rock piles, wrecks, live bottom and some deep water on the way to Fowey Rocks light house. If we made good time we would meet Jimmy the bait man and get some white baits, all depending on how everything went.
Below on the left is Captain Wayne Conn giving the plan, on the right boatless members talking about their adventures as we are heading out on the boat, it was about 6:20 am.
Below on the left catching pinfish for bait. On the right it was 7:30 am when passing by the new South Beach pier (almost completed).
On the way out I told everyone to take turns on the trolling rods. One was mine, the other was Richard’s and the another was the boat’s. The ride was not as time consuming as catching bait was, we got to the fishing grounds and were in about 130 to 150 feet of water when the Captain said “I am going to adjust the boat for the drift”. Everyone started to drop the baits as the engine shut off and I jigged for that first drop along with Ron, Victor and a few others. A few minutes after the baits were dropped the first rod bends were observed.
It was 8:06 am when Jessie had his bent rod fighting a super nice Gag grouper and only 3 minutes later Robert “ffishermen” was fighting a very nice Mutton snapper. The bar was set high at the very start of this trip.
Below is Jessie with his first ever a very nice 21 pound Gag Grouper.
Below is Robert “ffishermen” with his nice 12 to 14 pound Mutton Snapper.
As the boat drifted away and nothing else on the bite the Captain decided to do a second pass on the same spot. At 8:48 am my son Seth was the first to hook up and then Raul at 8:51, both brought in gag groupers.
Again no more bites as the boat drifted and many were already with only 1/4 of a spool left as we leave our reels in free spool trying to maintain the bait in the bite zone (where the boat turned the engines off for us to first drop our bait). This is what many of us call long lining. The Captain decided to do a third drift where fishman Joe AKA Gruntking got another Gag Grouper at 9:06 am.
The captain made the decision to move the boat to deeper water looking for the better fish populated spots. No one was trolling anymore so I decided to put my trolling rod out but there were no takers. We were now in the 200′ to 240′ and many had to up their weights from 6 to 8 ounces to 12 or 16 ounces, some doubling up on sinkers as we did not bring those specific weights. It was all pick a fish here and there and we started to see some scamps come up.
Ron and Victor where jigging and got a few almaco jacks but not many more fish were picked up on several drifts so Captain Wayne decided to go even deeper. No one was trolling anymore as no fish had fallen for the trolling skirt I was using. I had told Richard to use a pink trolling skirt I had brought and then offered it to others but the lure was left on the bench as trolling was not giving results. I understood why no one wanted to do so, as you do have to pay attention to the rod and have to make sure to bring the line in every time the captain slowed down the boat and made a few turns around the wrecks looking for fish on the sonar.
Ron fighting an almaco jack on a jig at 11:15 am.
On the way to one of the spots someone saw a school of peanut Mahi Mahi’s around a vertically floating piece of bamboo and so everyone tossed bait at them. Raul and I were some of the lucky ones to get one that was of legal measurement but the rest would have to throw back a few and so did I. The boat was drifting and since no more fish were taken, I decided I would rig the pink trolling skirt on my rod. Perhaps I could get lucky and get one more dolphin fish I thought. I took the black, purple, and blue skirt that I rigged using 10 feet of 250 lb test wire cable off the 500 lb snap swivel (makes it easy to switch trolling rigs). I use that trolling skirt to target toothy fish like wahoo and blackfin tunas, but sometimes Mahi Mahi get hooked on it as well. I snapped the pink skirt rig on, I had used 10 feet of 100 lb test fluorocarbon leader to a 11/0 3x strong live bait Mustad hook. As the boat turned the engines on and started to move I let out the trolling rig and as I snapped the release clip on, I looked to the right I heard a scream and saw my rod bending, I picked it up and let the fish run a bit. I tightened the drag and started to fight the fish, I saw a big wide flash and screamed BIG DOLPHIN! (Mahi), but there was not a jump during the fight, then the mate says “IT’S A WAHOO! IT’S TURNING! BACK THE DRAG OUT!” So I did, this allowed the fish to run and wear it self out and prevented it from breaking or snapping my line. These fish have power and very sharp teeth. The fish made an additional small run and I was able to get it close to the boat for the gaffing. I was lucky the fish did not cut through the fluorocarbon leader. On my boat and while on fishing party boats on the way to Bimini back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I would always get them no bigger than 15 pounds and this time I was able to get double that weight.
The Captain continued stopping where the fish were but the fish were not cooperating and so he went even deeper. This time to 400 feet where a couple of fish were landed. Jessie again nailed another fish as we has getting ready to bring the bait back on the boat he felt a tug and in the middle of a tangle he was able to land it. And yet again another first ever for him, a Snowy Grouper!
Many could not reach bottom as the current started to rip faster and faster as we went deeper, so the Captain told us he would move the boat to shallow water to give us a chance at snappers, more groupers and perhaps a chance at kingfish mackerel as well.
Some of the last to hook up to a fish on the trip were Richard and Peter. This happened at 2:10 and 2:15 pm when they hooked to a black tip shark. Richard fought one and as he was bringing it in it broke off, then Peter fought his all the way to the boat. They both did great on the fights.
It was over, no more bites 3:00 pm was here already and some water spouts began to form. We got rained on and the Captain called it quits, we headed back to port. Again I stressed for someone to let the trolling line out and someone did but there were no takers.
And we took the group picture.
The only thing we missed was the big amberjacks and bait to go on the kite, it would have been an awesome addition to this trip. But it was not needed as this trip was considered epic by some since many personal best were attained. I hope we can do this again.
Here is the end summary of my fishing report:
THE FISHING TRIP: Private Charter Boatlessfishing.com 10 Hour Fishing Trip.
Aboard the “Reward Won” with Captain Wayne Conn of the Reward Fishing Fleet
The Spot : Off Key Biscayne Cape Light House, FL
Weather Forecast: Cloudy with afternoon showers and thunder storms, Sunday SouthEast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet with occasional seas to 5 feet. The real weather was: Earlier seas 2 to 3 feet in the morning and 2 to 4 later in the day with occasional 5 foot rolling waves, cloudy skies and storms after 3pm.
Water: Choppy and slow current in the morning strong currents in the afternoon as we got closer to Fowey Rocks Light House.
Fish catches: Small Dolphins, 1 mutton snapper 12 to 14 pounds, 1 mangrove snapper,1 Red American Snapper, 4 Gag groupers 1 @ 21 pounds, 1 Snowie Grouper, 3 or 4 scamp groupers, 1 wahoo, almaco jacks, a couple of bonitos.
Biggest size Type : Wahoo around 32 pounds on the scale
Techniques : live bait, dead bait, and some Vertical Jigging
Jigs : 80 to 400 grams