It was a new moon’s dark night, fair nice breeze, decent current, and the usual short walk we make to one of Long Key’s Bridge fishing platforms. It felt like the day of fishing would be promising. Here is my recollection of this day.
I got off work a bit late and rushed home to eat dinner with my family and then pickup my gear. It was about 7:30 pm by the time I left home to pickup Nilson and then was to our usual stops to get some blue crabs, thread-fin herring, and ballyhoo for bait. The commercial fishing for ballyhoo is closed in August so we had to buy frozen and hoped to be able to catch some bait for snappers at the bridge. We wanted to be there before the tide change but barely made it to slack tide. On this trip I went light meaning I only brought five fishing rods with me. I normally bring 10 to 12 fishing rods since there is always ample room to fish at the bridges in the Florida Keys. I brought two 9 foot bridge rods with6/0 Penn Senators filled with 80 pound test line. Well these are my inexpensive party boat trolling reels and since my Accurate 600’s were filled with braid I did not want to un-spool and re-spool with 50 lb test mono filament line. While fishing in the Florida Keys bridges I like to fish with monofilament line since it does not break so easily on the bridge’s arches or pylon’s barnacles. I took one 9 foot rod to fish for snappers, this one had an old Penn Jigging Master with Accuplates and was filled with 30 lb test mono filament line. Additionally, I brought two small bait rods; One for a sabiki rig and another for hook, line, and sinker to get small grunts and also use it a light snapper rod.
Nilson and I got to the fishing platform and after setting up we waited for Ron and Ricky to show up. We casted our rods for permit fishing and as Nilson was cutting bait for snapper fishing he dropped the only bait cutting knife we brought. We had to improvise so out came a file I use to sharpen my hooks and became a bait shank. We cut a few bits the best we could and out the snapper baits went in the water. A few small snappers were caught but back in the water they went. By this time the tide started to change and zzzzzzzzzzzzz Nilson’s rod started singing but by the time we got to it the permit fish dropped the crab, Nilson missed his first and only permit bite of the midnight tide change.
Ron and Ricky arrived shortly after and started fishing for snappers. The night was nothing but slow pickings of lady fish, bonnet head sharks, a possible nurse shark, and a few short sized mutton snappers. Bait was scarce but we did manage a few grunts to be used for snapper fishing.
Below is Nilson with one of the Ladyfish caught. It was used for bait and a short while later a nurse shark, a bonnet head and a small mutton snapper was caught.
Ron and his undersized mutton snapper.Time went by, the tide had already fullychanged and the bite slowed down so I fell asleep like a pancake on the floor. I did not bring a chair or a sleeping bag and not even a yoga mat to sleep on. Like Nilson told me “man I have never seen you so unprepared”. Well it was true. I had no tme to think about what I brought to fish with. One thing I was prepared for was to catch a permit which was my main goal. I positioned my weather gear bag next to my fishing rod and used it as a pillow and fell asleep on the pavement right next to my rod. My rod was set on free spool and the clicker was set to prevent the spool from releasing any line unless a permit would pick up my bait and would start swimming away with bait in mouth. What can I say sometimes it’s all about timing I woke up at 6:30 am and as soon as I woke up the loud clicker started to sing zzzz zzzzzzz zzzzzzznnnnnn… and the line started to rip away from my reel like a run away train. I woke up like a ninja and nefore I knew it I ad the reel and rod in my hands and started to reel in the line making sure not to set the hook as I was using a 7/0 circle hook. I was not able to see which way the line was going since it was still dark but the tide had started to change and the Permit swam 3 bridge arches to my left and headed to go under one of them. The guys were telling me wich way the line was going and I dashed to follow the run away train. If it wasn’t because I had such a heavy line I would have lost the fish. The guys assisted with the landing of the fish. It was a nice 24.5 pounds fish. The fish had smashed it’s head against the pylons and it’s mouth was destroyed so I decided to keep it.
There were six rods out in total with crabs on them and as the tide continued to change Nilson’s rod got hit and as he jumps and runs to pick up his rod the line mysteriously popped. This was to be the second permit he lost since midnight but it was not long before he would get another chance and this time it was a longer runaway train that did not want to stop. The fish swam very fast away from the pylons and decided to make a swim towards the arches under the bridge. Nilson ran towards the direction of the run away train trying to catch it. We guided him so he could concentrate on reeling the line in/ It was now the 4th bridge arch and Nilson was able to turn the fish away. We got the fishes head out of the water which usually means the fish gave up and could be ready to be landed, but as Ron drops the landing net in the water the fish flipped and swam with a mad dash towards the bridge arches again, Nilson ran reeling and reeling until finally he caught up with it and again the fish head almost out of the water but zzzzzzzz another mad dash to another arch, and again Nilson runs to catch up with the run away train until finally he turns the fish and the head was once again out of the water. Ron dropped the net in the water but the net got caught up on the bridge so I had to assist him with it and as I guide Nilson to place the fish over the net and I start to pull the fish out his hook tip broke, but the fish was already in the net and with a little difficulty we were able to pull it on the bridge.
Ricky and Ron did not have takers this time but hopefully next time it will be different. As we left the bridge we gave our left over crabs to another fisherman that was to fish the bridges until Sunday. He had already caught some nice size mangrove snappers in the rocky areas of the bridge. As we left in this hot summer afternoon it was off to play Tetris with our gear and our cars. On the way people were asking how we did and so I told them we only got two fish. They looked back at us with the thought that it was not a good day of fishing, but to me it was great fun as it always is with our crew and Nilson and I walked away with fish to last us 6 dinners at home. 🙂