Alex Garriga a member of 360tuna.com setup a vertical jigging only fishing trip. We were to only fish with jigs and other artificial baits. This trip was meant for trophy Gag Grouper and Red Grouper with the hopes of a Black Grouper fish and not to just put meat in the cooler. With that in mind some of us knew our chances were lower than a regular fishing trip, but we pushed our luck and stayed on target with our agreement of quality.
As we got to the docks we unloaded our gear and spoke with Captain Michael of Findictive Charters, he gave us the bad news, no Gag Groupers had been caught near the area and the Red Grouper season had closed 2 days earlier by a decision of the commission. He did say that a 50 pound Carborita was caught a few days earlier (a Black Grouper) He suggested Yellowtail Snapper fishing, but we stayed on our mission for quality and told him that we were not going to use bait and wanted a chance at trophy groupers. He suggested we start at 150 feet deep and work our way up to 180 feet deep. We agreed and off we were to our adventure.
Below, Alex smiles to the camera as Jarred on the right speaks with Captain Michael. The boat is a Custom Built 31 foot Ocean Master
After the one hour plus ride we arrived at the first drop where my son caught a nice Scamp Grouper followed by Mike and his about 18 pound Red Grouper (a best for him), I ended with a medium sized Rudder Fish which we released. The day started with a hot bite of quality fish and we were very optimistic as to how the day would end.
On the second stop half hour later Mike got another nice Scamp Grouper on a Taifun jig.
It wasn’t until 11 in the morning when the bite started to pick up, I was able to nail a nice 18 to 20 pound Red Grouper on a prototype jig using a 7 foot 400 gram prototype fishing rod I am co-developing with “Shark Sport Fishing Tackle”. I did risk it with using 60 lb leader as everyone else was using 80 to 100 pound test leader. But as I have fished in those waters before, I knew that there was mostly big plains of lime stone and small amounts of rocks for the fish to hide. My plan was if I get cut off on the rocks then I would change my leader to 80 pound test, but that did not happen.
Below is the video.
After my Red Grouper Mike was able to hook another Red Grouper and the bite slowed to almost non existent. We moved several times without success. The Captain asked if we wanted to have fun with some Amber Jacks and a possible chance at a Carborita fish (a Black Grouper). So we said yes and as soon as we got there Alex was cutoff by a Barracuda and my son hooked up to an Amber Jack and released it. Jarred also hooked up and lost one, then almost instantly hooked up another and this time he was able to bring it to the boat. Both fish were released and Mike had changed to an old fashion jig with a grub tail allowing him to catch another Red Grouper that was also released. Well, all Red Groupers were released.
Below is a video
After the Amber Jacks, the bite slowed down and we went on for two hours with out getting anything as the Captain even tried anchoring and moving to many spots. Then Alex also changed his strategy from the verticals to an old fashion jig with a grubtail, this allowed him to land a nice Scamp that would be part of dinner some day.
The bite slowed down again and when it picked up it was nothing but Vermilion and Lane Snappers biting on our jigs and grubs. So the trip ended and we got ready for our 2 hour ride back to shore. The boat has great speed of about 30 miles per hour and luckily for the ones that wanted to keep dry it had a cover that prevented the spray of water from wetting them.
A bird came to us as we sailed away and promptly disappeared as no one fed it. Just a friendly reminder, please do not feed wildlife or it becomes a nu sense and you help change their habits.
Here is a look at the boat as we docked at the end of our trip. We did not catch much on this trip but we did book a Red Grouper season opener for next year hoping to stumble on some Cobias as we fish for the groupers.
As always it was fun to fish with everyone. Mike that drove from Georgia whom I think caught the most fish with the grubs, Rayan that hadn’t slept for 48 hours and drove from West Palm Beach Florida (I think no sleeping affected his fishing), Jarred from Davie Florida, and Alex from Pembroke Pines Florida. Can’t wait to do it again.
Many have adventured to the Dry Tortugas fishing grounds; some have adventured to the Pulley Ridge area and fished the deep drop zones in the daytime and shallower areas at night. Not many if none have only fished below the 500 foot mark and the shallows of Pulley Ridge a full 3 days (if someone has congrats you kept it quiet long enough). This trip started when members of the Boatless Fishing forum got together at a BBQ, some dreamed of a long range Florida fishing trip, since a few of us had done this before we suggested a few options and one topped them all so we said lets go on the Yankee Capts, let’s put a date and ask the options. I emailed Captain Greg Mercurio of the Yankee Capts and asked him for rates and dates. He came up with a great idea that involved less sharks than in the Dry Tortugas and less quantities of small size fish, but a novelty on its own, something a little different; A focus on quality fish, let’s go to Pulley Ridge and explore fishing on top of the bank in less than 400 feet and doing so full time. No deep dropping that requires electric reels. That was the main idea behind this trip and what can I say, he was right on the money. We found quality and plenty of it. I can only let the pictures speak for themselves.
We told people not to focus on buying expensive baits like goggle eyes. A lot of people still did, well, it didn’t work so well here The fish wanted oily or bloody baits like speedos bonita. Squid did well enough in my opinion. As for gear just stay with the regular Dry Tortugas gear. Just like Captain Greg recommended; 50 pound test braid was perfect to get the bait down, a 15 foot top shot of 50lb test mono was sufficient, a 10 to 12 ounce bank sinker tied to a swivel placed on the main line and then a bead on the main line. Then another swivel and about 10 to 15 lb test mono with a 7/o in line circle hook was the preferred rig ( http://yankeecapts.com/tackle-section/ ). For the vertical jiggers, 50lb braid to 10 feet of flouro carbon line and 220 gram jigs to 350 gram jigs was all that was needed under the conditions we had.
We were to depart at 8pm, but Captain Greg contacted me the prior day to see if we could leave the docks earlier since we had a long drive to Pulley Ridge. We all got there with in minutes to 3pm and waited for the boat to return from filling the boxes with ice and the boat with fuel. We all gathered by the boat and looked like a Marine Flea Market was about to happen.
Bill, who drove from Georgia wasted no time and started to troll with his rod as soon as we hit the depper waters of Key West as we approached one of those Key West sunsets
We all prepared our final adjustments to our gear as the night approached. After many ours to Pulley Ridge morning time was there and our co Captain was waiting for the morning wahoo bite. But we had to wait for that one.
She knew we were getting close to the fishing grounds and in no time our Pulley Ridge veteran came up with one stud of a 17 pound Scamp Grouper. Winning the prize for first grouper caught.
Coincidentally, Bill who is an avid traveling fisherman was slow pitch vertical jigging and hooked up on the very first Mutton Snapper of the trip. He won a prize for doing so.
The day started on fire, there was hook up after hook up. Bait and vertical jigs went head to head. Here is Jarred a new comer to vertical jigging and now an avid slow pitch jigging man, he hooked up on a slow pitch vertical jig with a Red Grouper.
The bite had slowed down on the first stop and so we moved to another and then a little deeper. Nilson, did not take long before hooking up with a nice Amber Jack which was released.
A lot of screaming reels all over the boat with double hook ups, up to quad hookups, the over under screaming of the mates could be heard from one end of the boat to the other as the mixed bag of fish started flooding the decks. Some bonitas (little tunny) found their way into the mix and a regular scene to happen of the days of fishing.
Andre, a new face to our group was enjoying some vertical jigging action and caught a nice Almaco Jack.
Will, a now vertical jigging veteran showed his jigging machine aptitudes switching from speed jigging to slow jigging when the moment required it, but he also threw a pencil to change routine from time to time. Next to him is Chris, a new comer to the Long Range scene hooked up on not only a good fish but on the urge to go back and do it again.
The bite was still almost non stop, we hit the right place at the right time. On came Quy, he jumped on the trip after another fisherman hurt his knee. I got to to tell you he made the right decision as he was getting some nice fish. Next to him is Art who once again nailed another quality fish and not to be his last either.
Well I was not only documenting the trip I also got to fish and this time I hooked up on a nice Amber Jack from 400 feet of water on a Shark Slow Pitch Jig.
The the jigs kept on bringing fish up to the decks, this time bill and Jarred had double headers on slow pitch jigs. Jarred was also having good luck with Shark Jigs. Jarred has a Yellow Edge Grouper and Bill has a Snowy Grouper.
Rori joined the party with a nice Blue Line tile and Nilson got himself a Snowie Grouper snack.
Jongsoo hooked up with a nice Snowy Grouper.
And then again with an Amber Jack using a Shark Jig.
Nilson and Imran hooked up on some nice beauties Queen Snappers.
The variety kept coming, big Gag Groupers started to show on this trip. Below is Danny with a nice 27.5 Gag Grouper caught at 11:30 am of the first day of fishing. This fish was caught with a whole squid.
Some more Amber Jacks were showing up in between the Gag Grouper Catches.
It was a madhouse again with a mixed bag of fish comng over the rail and them again more Gag Groupers made a showing. Jongsoo got a nice one that went over 20 pounds.
I got another Gag Grouper that went 29.5 pounds.
Then Victor joined me as he was part of our triple Gag Grouper hook up.
The hot bite was quick, it only lasted 30 minutes and by noon things had calm down. The only thing caught for an hour was strangely enough, a startfish. No worries it was released back to the ocean. Then the fishing got a little slow with a few fish on every drop and so the sun started to set many took a nap or stayed away from the hot sun. That was a good choice.
Night time came with a another nice mixed bag of fish. Rori started it with a Red Grouper and William caught a nice King Fish Mackerel on a Pencil.
Danny got in the action with Black Fin Snappers and Rori got a nice Mutton Snapper.
Then Rori hit it big with a nice Red Grouper at around 10 at night.
Once again the bite slowed down and slow pickings were back on, but then at 2am things turned around. Chris got a Mutton Snapper and right after that a very nice Dog Snapper.
By 2:30 am Nilson got a nice Blackfin Tuna. Many of the were to come via vertical jigging with glow jigs and even with non glow jigs close to the boat. Sorry that bite was just too hot for me to put the rod down to take pictures.
I followed with a Mutton Snapper and a Nice red Grouper.
The bite kept on going on and off with waves of fish coming and going, this lasted until about 7:30 am and after it slowed down the Captain decided it was time to move and try something else.
I keep telling people if you brought the gear to troll, do it. Rory did and he was rewarded. Up came a nice 35 pound Wahoo. I know that left a great taste on many people’s mouth. Got to love a quality fish like that.
I fell as sleep during a hot Mutton Snapper bite that lasted a short 30 minutes. It goes to show you that you should always sleep when the boat moves and not when it stops to fish. Well, after that was over a few quality Kitty Mitchel were caught and some were released. Here is Jarred again with another Slow Pitch Vertical jig caught fish.
Below is a video Jarred shared on his Slow Pitch Jigging
The quality Queen Snapper did not stop showing up. Here are Bill and Nilson with two more beauties.
As the Queen Snapper were hitting the decks 3 sail fish were hooked. One by William on a vertical jig, one by Patrick as he was deploying bait, and one by Art. Hopefully the video will come out good. To top it off a Mako shark was hooked up and lost right at the boat.
Chris and Art kept on the quality hunts.
Art dialed in.
It was almost the end of the fishing trip and I nailed the smallest fish so far to hit one of my jigs. It’s amazing what fish will try to swallow when they are hungry.
The day ended for us at the bow with Bill and a super nice Grouper.
And Victor with a very nice Almaco Jack easily over 20 pounds.
All good things must come to an end, and this time with an awesome Pulley Ridge Sunset.
Rori and Bill did not give up on the trolling until the very end. Chris and Rori were hoping for a last minute Wahoo.
The fishing crew last resort was rest and wait for a dinner snack.
The boat crew lined up all the fish on the side of the boat, getting ready to dock. In total we filled the 2 back coolers and one quarter of the third. Not bad for so many who were here for the very first time. That goes to show that when people follow instructions they get results.
Once docked we got ready to receive our fish and tally for the prizes.
These were the 2 contenders for biggest fish. I happened to win that category, but did take my self out of the non cash prizes since I organized this event. The cash prizes were a pool and had no sponsors in it.
Below are the runners for biggest Snapper. Imran won that category.
Below is William, he won biggest tuna and 2nd place most Mutton Snappers, Groupers and Blackfin Tunas, he received a fishing trip with Captain Phil Caputo.
Below is Art, he won First Grouper caught. He got a nice set of jigs donated by OSAGE my self and a prize bag donated by JimyjigsUSA. The jigs had a very nice finish to them and the glow paint is high quality. I and others were impressed with the finish.
Below is Bill, he won First Mutton Snapper caught. He received two one pound spools of mono donated by Art.
Below is Quy, he won most Mutton Snappers, Groupers, and Blackfin Tunas Combined. He received a free 3 day Dry Tortugas fishing trip on the Yankee Capts.
Below is William, with his prize for biggest tuna caught. He Receive OTI poppers donated by OSAGE and a prize bag donated by JimyjigsUSA.
Below and again is William, he also won Heaviest fish caught on jig. He received a Vertical jig pack donated by OSAGE and my self. He also received a prize bag donated by Jimyjigs USA.
And Once again William won with heaviest combined weight of Snapper, Grouper, and Blackfin Tunas.
Below is Andre, he won 3rd Place with most Mutton Snappers, Groupers, and Blackfin Tunas caught. He received 2 Packs of Mentos and a $50 gift certificate.
Below is Chris, he won 4th place most Mutton Snappers, Grouper, and Black fin Tunas caught. He received a Harness donated by Patrick and a JimyjigsUSA Koozie.
Here is another look at Art’s Queen Snappers. These were runner ups to biggest nappers.
Victor and Danny show us their groupers once again.
here is Victor showing off his Almaco Jack
The crew cleaning the fish.
And to finish it all off here is the group shot and two panoramic shots.
Please visit our trip sponsors. They were generous and very professional with their Prizes.
Our trip not only became a special novelty trip, it became a mini tournament on its own thanks to officer Chris’ idea, a California Long Range trip and Dry Tortugas trips veteran on board of different vessels. I started to look for sponsors right away and was very happy that Capt. Greg Mercurio sponsored us from the start, not only did he waved the fuel surcharge for our Long Range Fishing Trip, he also donated a free 3 day fishing trip to the Dry Tortugas. Also to add to our prizes Nilson Soto a member of several fishing forums and avid Land Based Fisherman and with several Dry Tortugas fishing trips on his belt donated an unusual prize. Osage a vertical fishing veteran also donated jigs to our mini tournament. Art who is another Florida Long Range veteran and an original Pulley Ridge pioneer donated 2 full spools of mono. I posted on several places looking for sponsors and JimyjigsUSA came on board on their own, we really appreciate they did that and were impressed on the quality finish of their jigs. Shortly after, Captain Phil Caputo donated a full day fishing trip as well. Jongsoo, a representative of Shark Jigs came on board with a full load of samples and great prizes. The jigs functioned perfectly and were of high quality. We were very grateful to all those that donated to our mini tournament.
Yankee Capts, Key West’s Originators, Leaders and Pioneers of Dry Tortugas/Pulley Ridge Fishing Trips since 1977
After bridge fishing I arrived home in time to take a nap and then get ready to set up my Vertical Jigging gear. I knew I was to get punished by the Greater Amberjacks, those that carry the nick name of “Sea Donkeys” so I set up some heavy line on my reels. Four rods for this 3/4 day jigging trip with one of them a light setup in case we encountered a school of Mahi Mahi. As many trips before all reels were checked for loose screws and drags were set at 15 and 9 pounds respectively (this time I set the drag at the boat). I did not minimize my selection of jigs because I was expecting some cut offs by toothy fish. I took twelve 250 grams, twelve 150 grams, and the rest were 100 grams and under. First up was a 250 gram jigging rod with a Stella 8000PG and color coded PE6 line (80 lb Test), a 200 gram jigging rod with a Saragossa 10000 and 70 lb test white braid , a 400 gram rod and conventional PE6 jigging reel with 300 yards of PE6 (80lb test) braid, and last but not least a live bait rod to double as a light jigging rod rod with 30lb test green braid that could double as a small jig pitching rod for Mahi Mahi. Enough of the talk about gear here is the report and it’s mostly in pictures:
It was 4 of us on this Florida Keys Charter out of the Postcard Inn Marina in Islamorada. I arrived there early and just waited so I snapped this picture.
Captain Bruce of the Capt. Easy Sport fishing Charter arrived shortly afterwards and we spoke about previous trips and the Mahi Mahi bite which had been on an off at times.
After Adam, Ed, and Jimmy arrived they loaded the boat and off we were to our adventure.
Shortly after we were in 300 feet of water and started jigging. I had some mishaps with the Diawa Boat Braid line as it got cut off, by the wreck, and then on the second fish the jig was cut off by a possible barracuda, and on the third I got sharked. As we had a quad hook up and I lost my fish Ed, Adam, and jimmy did well on bringing theirs in.
The second drift over the wreck came and this time I connected in the quad hook up and we all brought our fish in. But unfortunately for me it was a Barracuda and so I decided to change colors from a blue to orange and seemed to work for me, everyone was using pink at the time and perhaps it was just a coincidence that I got cut off and then caught a cuda since others changed to a blue color later on and were successful.
On the third drift I was able to connect well and this time I was using a conventional jigging reel which felt a lot more powerful than my other setups.
The fourth drift came along and again we all connected well and brought all our fish in to be released soon after.
The fifth drift came in and again it was a repeat but I was beat by this time on my 4th Greater Amberjack, I just had to rest my arms on the rail while Adam and Jimmy continued hand in hand with their 7th and 8th Greater Amberjacks. Ed after his third fish took a little break on this drift and took some of the pictures.
Jigging Master Terminator II 400g jigging rod with Jigging Master Ocean Devil PE6 reel.
On this one I believe we stayed on the drift as the Captain kept power drifting just over the wreck and Ed got back on for his 4th Greater Amberjack. By this time we were no longer taking pictures of the fish and were just catching and releasing them as soon as we could. I caught my fith Greater Amberjack and I was basically done for the rest of the trip. I literally begged for Mercy on my 5th fish. I di try again on other wrecks but was really wishing for a fish not to hit, LOL.
Here is Captain Bruce quickly releasing the Greater Amberjacks caught Vertical Jigging.
And one last Picture of one of Jimmy’s Greater Amberjacks.
Afterwards other boats started showing up trying to figure out what we were doing and off their live baits went in the water. Our bite started to slow down so the Captain Bruce moved the boat to another wreck. I got a small almaco jack and Jimmy did the same at a later time. On the other wrecks we were not able to get the fish to bite and so we headed home.
The day was great and all we wanted to accomplish was done on the first hour of fishing. We could not have asked for more. Off we went to eat lunch at a nice little restaurant by the shore and off to home we went to face the Sunday traffic.
Of all the jigs I took I lost 3 Nagamasas and used only 6 different jigs after that with one orange jig working the best. The heaviest set up was the one used the most as the Amberjacks were in the bigger side of the scale. I most say that Captain Bruce is really knowledgeable about power drifting and keeping the boat in check for all the lines to stay vertically. We were able to work our jigs the way they were intended to be used “Vertically”. Kudos to the Captain for a class service, we will absolutely be back and I strongly recommend his Charter Services for any kind of fishing, but specially for Vertical jigging.
THE FISHING TRIP: Greater Amberjack Vertical Jigging
Aboard the “Capt. Easy” with Captain Bruce Andersen
The Spot : islamorada, Florida Keys
Weather Forecast: Sunny 0% chance of rain, Saturday didn’t even check the winds as all week had been less than 2 foot seas and so this days was the same.
Water: Light chop almost no current.
Fish catches: Greater 26 Amberjacks and 2 Almaco Jacks. Adam with 9, Jimmy with 8, Me with 5, and Ed with 4.
Biggest size Type : Fish were mostly 30 pounds to 50 pounds with a couple about 25 pounds.
Techniques : Vertical Jigging
Jigs : 150 to 300 gram, all jigs would have worked in this situation as the Greater Amber Jacks were in Spawn season.
Youtube Video Part 1
Youtube video part 2
Youtube video part 3
Youtube video part 4
Youtube video part 5
Youtube video part 6 and final part of this fishing report.
The was another 10 hour fishing trip on the Reward Won and this time we would go straight to the action with the amberjacks and anything else that lurked around the artificial wrecks around Fowey Rocks Light. The trip started by going to get live bait which again is included in the $100 of the trip’s cost. As we got to bug light and waited on Jimmy’s boat (the bait man) some started out tossing sabikis and started catching bait, some of us started tossing crappy jigs and got a couple of blue runners, the captain bought the rest to complete a live well full of big pilchards and thread fin herrings plus a couple dozen of goggle eyes (Gogs courtesy of Jimmy the bait man).
Here is the live well after Jimmy the bait man passed by.
As we headed out 4 rods were set up for trolling, not so far out the day started with a football size blackfin tuna reeled in by my son was welcomed aboard to the fish cooler.
A Sailfish Tournament was going on so there were many boats flying kites. Below is one near Fowey Rocks.
The drive to get to the fishing grounds went on and a small Mahi Mahi was caught on the troll. The Captain said to give the fight to one of the lady anglers that came on this trip.
As soon as we got to the wreck we started jigging and there were double hook up and quad hook ups. I landed my first fish of the trip a decent size Amberjack and as was landing it some were fighting their fish side by side.
Others were landing their fish, here is a couple that came on the fishing trip.
Another happy fisherman got his priced caught fish which he released.
Here is my fishing friend Ron playing around with his exaggerated fishing pose and afterwards happily posing with his catch which he released.
And another angler continued the battle and then landed his biggest fish to date which was also released.
We passed over the wreck and as we started to fish a new wave of anglers were catching more Amberjacks. This time William did it again by catching a 65 pound amberjack that unfortunately was not going to make it and was kept along with three others. This was one of the longest drifts and as many continued catching fish Captain Wayne Conn let out the kite and placed two goggle eyes out in the water so I was fortunate to fight a sailfish and got it to the boat and the leader was touched making it a catch, unfortunately I do not have pictures because I pressed the wrong buttons on the Gopro and the fish had gone under the boat cutting the line off.
Below is my son with one of the last amberjacks caught, after this one the fish turned off and the captain moved the boat to another location.
As we arrived at the other location a deeper one this time I used one of the boat rods set up with a chicken Rig and caught two Vermillion snappers with it. Not many were bottom fishing so I decided to get a rest and do so. Captain Wayne had the kite out with two live baits and William took the rod as a nice Mahi Mahi hit one of the baits.
The day went by and weak cold front started approaching so the seas got a little rougher. A fishing friend of mines Nilson came out of hibernation and caught a peanut Mahi Mahi, it was not of legal size so it was released. A few more Mahi Mahi came in the boat and a few made the size limit while a few more were released. On the troll another peanut tuna was caught and a couple of skip jack tunas came on board as well. As the day came to a close I took a chance at tossing a live thread fin Herring bait to a good size Mahi Mahi of about 20 lb or so and it took it I thought it had the circle hook well set but as it made it’s first jump it tossed it out. I ran to the back of the boat and took a goggle eye and tossed again and again it did the same. I ran back again got another bait and the same happened again, then another person also had it and he also lost it. This fish was a smart one and it might is still out there eating.
On the way back I was able to take some pictures of the Key Biscayne Light House. It is always nice to see.
We also Passed close by the Bill Bags State Park Fishing Piers. Below is the first one in the corner of the park.
Below are the rest of the piers lined up one after another.
And again another picture of the Rickenbacker Causeway Fishing pier.
A closer look at it.
Here is the end summary of my fishing report:
THE FISHING TRIP: Iron Man 10 Hour Fishing Trip which in the end ended being a 12 hour total trip again so thanks to the captain for that.
Aboard the “Reward Won” with Captain Wayne Conn of the Reward Fishing Fleet
The Spot : Around Fowey Rocks Light House, FL
Weather Forecast: Sunny 20% chance of rain, Saturday Easterlyt winds 9 to 14 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 3 to 5 later in the day with occasional 6 foot rolling waves, clear skies and no rain all day.
Water: Choppy and slow current in the morning strong currents in the afternoon around Fowey Rocks Light House.
Fish catches: Small Dolphins and one gaffer, Big Amberjacks, 1 mutton snappers, 2vermillion snappers, 1 Snowie Grouper, small kingfish, football size blackfin tunas, skip jack tunas, and several bonitos.
Biggest size Type : Amberjack estimated at around 65 pounds
Techniques : Vertical Jigging, dead bait, live bait
Jigs : 80 to 300 grams all colors were working.
Via a social site The Reward Fishing Fleet announced their “Iron Man 10 Hour Trip”. It was to take place around Elliot Key which is right before Key Largo Florida. I accepted the invite and hoped that the big AJ started to arrive for the usual April spawning season, and guess what? The big Amber Jacks’s started to arrive and Captain Wayne was able to get us on them. My intentions on this trip was to catch and release and so it was on many others mind.
The trip began as it usually does we all met at the Bayside Marina around 5 am, when the Captain arrived he needed to get some item from his newer boat “The Legacy” so I got a chance to take a look at the boat and I have to say, they are doing some great work on it. I can’t wait to get fishing on that boat. As we went back we loaded our gear into the boat, and Captain Wayne Conn gave us the fishing plan. We were to go get live bait, we would troll on the way out from there taking turns as people caught fish, we then would go bottom fishing on hard bottom, and then we would hit a wreck or two. I love fishing with a Captain that takes his time before the trip and plans what can be done and “can” is the key word. Many Captains plan a trip thinking what “will” be done. If a Captain plans what “can” be done he/she takes into consideration that not all things can go as planned. On this trip the Captain came prepared to anchor but the forecast was once again wrong and so he didn’t anchor, he drifted his boat over the spots. At the spots that were hard bottom, bait fishermen had their chance at bottom fish. The ones vertical jigging with small jigs also had their chance at bottom fish like snappers and groupers.
Here is the fishing report in pictures:
We got to the lighthouse and fished for some bait. Like all the other boats around were doing.
Captain Wayne Conn bought live bait which was covered in the $100 total fee for the 12 hour trip. Live bait was white bat and the very expensive goggle eyes.
After we left from getting bait we started trolling. I trolled with a home made daisy chain of lures. I had gone to a local tackle shop and purchased 12 small plastic squids that I found on sale for $1.00. I rigged them as follows: 150 lb test swivel, 24 inches of 50 lb mono, red bead, plastic squid, 150 lb swivel, another 24 inches of 50 lb mono, red bead, plastic squid, 150 lb swivel, on the third one I used 36 inches of 100 lb test flouro carbon a bigger plastic squid, a 1/2 ounce weight, a red bead, and a 3 times strong live bait “J” hook. It always pays off with a black fin tuna or a dolphin of any size. This time it was with a 30″ inch mahi mahi. One mahi mahi was kept in the water so it would attract the others, then other fishermen tossed cut baits and got some more mahi mahi.
Here is the color with the catches.
After the dolphins we got back on the way but this time only small bonitos were the takers. As we got to the bottom fishing grounds a few undersize mutton snappers were caught as well as trigger fish and porgies. The jigs worked and started making their presence. Here is William with a Toro Snapper that was released.
Along came the Captain’s plan and so we went fishing at one of the wrecks. It was my first drop and my line became tight and at the same time 3 others. I was close to the boat and my line went slack and so did Bernardo’s line. But the person fishing live bait landed his. It was a nice 30 ponder cobia. The Captain did two more passes over the wreck but the wind pushed the boat leaving the transom close to the wreck and all of us at the bow farther from it so I did not get another chance but other jig fishermen like Willian and Bernardo did.
The Captain got in the jigging on the transom hooked a fish and gave the battle to one of the fishermen, he then gave the fish to battle to his friend below.
Below is William on the fight using the right equipment gets the fish in with no problems or lengthy battles. He was using a Jigging Master Terminator II 300 gram rod and a Talica 12
Below is William and his Amber Jack
Here is William releasing his fish.
Below is Bernardo and his priced catch. It was also released.
After the fishing battles people that were bait fishermen wanted to get some other types of fish to be fair the captain moved to a hord bottom spot to give then a chance but that spot did not produce much. The captain also raised the fishing kite at many of the stops but at this stop we staued the longest as a chance at sailfish was probable, but there were no bottom fish and no sail fish takers. Captain Wayne Conn moved the boat once more towards a small barge wrecked, I got a nice size barracuda at this stop, and then to another wreck where I would have another chance at a fight with a sea donkey (Amber Jack).
Below is my Sea Donkey (Amber Jack) I released this fish as well.
As we drifted towards Fowey Rocks Light House, the small kingfish mackerel started to show up, here is one of them caught by a fisherman that had tons of patience waiting on a chance at fish.
I give kudos to Captain Wayne Conn and his mate for working hard on getting everyone on the fish. He takes us to the spots and is upto us to get on the fish but he goes out of his way and catches fish to allow others to fight the fish and even allows them to keep the fish if they wish to do so. I love to hear his first question before landing a fish; “if you want to release it’s great, we can release it and if you want to keep it it is entirely up to you”. He always strives toward conservation and does not like it when someone says lets keep it just to leave it at the dock. You can hear him talking about releasing fish through out the entire trip which encourages people to do so and they leave the boat with a clear conscious mind when doing the right thing. Off course there are times when a fish just won’t make it because the angler took too long some time because the fish was foul hooked (hook was not in the mouth) or because the angler’s tackle was just too light for the task. When this happens there nothing else that can be done other than to keep the fish if is is legal size and legal species.
All trips come to an end and so we had to say good by to one of the great light houses of Florida “Fowey Rocks Light House”
On the way back I took a shot at the Rickenbacker bridge and below it you can see the fishing bridge. It was the original driving bridge to Key Biscayne Florida but a new and much higher bridge was built. The great thing was they left the old bridge standing to be used as a fishing bridge. The South side of the fishing bridge was knocked down due to structural damage (so they say).
Summary of the report:
THE FISHING TRIP: Iron Man 10 Hour Fishing Trip which in the end ended being a 12 hour total trip so thanks to the captain for that.
Aboard the “Reward Won” with Captain Wayne Conn of the Reward Fishing Fleet
The Spot : Elliot Key to Fowey Rocks Light House, FL
Weather Forecast: Sunny 20% chance of rain, Saturday South South West winds 9 to 14 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet with occasional seas to 5 feet. The real weather was: Seas 4 to 6 feet with occasional 8 foot rolling waves, cloudy and no rain all day.
Water: Choppy up to 8 foot seas and slow current in the morning strong currents in the afternoon.
Fish catches: Small Dolphins, Big Amberjacks, Mutton snappers, trigger fish, Groupers that were released, porgies, kingfish
Biggest size Type : Amberjack estimated at around 60 to 70 pounds
Techniques : Vertical Jigging, dead bait, live bait
Jigs : 80 to 300 gram, butterfly jigs,silver, blue, pink, and orange worked the best.
We went fishing with Captain Yuri once more. Here is part of the report and story as I remember it.
THE FISHING TRIP: OCTOBER 18th OCTOBER 21st 2012
Aboard the “Lauren Jeanne” with Captain Yuri Vakselis
The Spot : Dry Tortugas, Florida
Weather : cloudy, winds of 10 to 15 knots? first 3 days up top 20 knots on the last day
Water: Calm at first then cloudy with sand mix noticeable
Fish catches: Mutton Snappers, Yellow Tail, Snappers, Mangrove Snappers, lane snappers, many kinds of Groupers, King Mackerels (kingfish), Cero Mackerel, and football sized Blue Runners
Biggest size Type : Muttons 15lbs … Yellow Tail snapper 4 lbs, Mangrove snapper 6 lbs, Red Grouper around 16 lbs…Kingfish mackerel around 20lbs
Techniques : Vertical Jigging, cut bait, and live bait
Jigs : 100-250 gram, Bullet type bucktail jigs, butterknife jigs, butterfly jigs, speed jigs, Pink, red/white, silver, and blue worked the most.
THE GAME PLAN: It was going to be a mixed jigging trip and bait trip. We had planned what worked for us last year, no bait in the water until we finished jigging. It worked at the beginning but later on we seemed to have gone in our own individual plans to get the fish to bite. We all had mixed jigging and baits at the same time and it worked ok. Jigging didn’t impair fishing with bait and fishing with bait didn’t impair jigging. Dead bait worked better by switching to different baits as often as the bite slowed down.
THE BAIT: It was known that it is imperative that we take all kinds of oily baits to the Dry Tortugas but it was pretty hard to gather bait before the trip,yes, again just like last year. Because of our schedules it was hard to get out on the days that the conditions would dictate good bait catching for us and this year we were also plagued by the canal water to close to the bait catching areas and lets not talk about the gas prices to get to the bait catching areas. We collected a few runners, macks, and jacks. We decided to stop trying and to catch bait on the day of the trip. On the way up some stopped by Atlantic fisheries and got some fresh ballyhoos and frozen gogs. Nilson and I stopped at the bridges for some threadfins (in case we went to a wreck), and mackerels. On one of the bridges we saw Adel and his frien catching some threadfins, he is one of the people that fish the Yankee Capts regularly. Talked to him for a bit, he gave me a new bait contact, and I wished him good luck on the trip. We the n passed by the bridges after 7 mile bridge and found a few barjacks and yellow jacks. Some of our crew went to get some pins and pins they got, great job guys. Wish you would have waited for me so we could have kept a few more alive.
BASICS WERE LOADED: . After the bait we stopped at one of my favorite Pizza Places, the one across from Winn-Dixie in No Name Key, Pizza Works. What great Pizza, or is it that I am always very hungry by the time I get there? Only thing is that every year it just keeps on getting smaller. After pizza it was a Cannon Ball Race for the best bunks. Low Rider Red car team pulled a David Copperfield/David Blain act on us and disappeared so it was to safely race to the docks. Team Stoner a little confused made a turn back to No Name Key, which gave us the advantage to at least get the small bunks even though we missed Schrimp Road we got there before them. We loaded the boat and enjoyed a few beers.
THURSDAY FISHING STARTED: We left the docks around 8:10 pm and started fishing shortly after midnight. We knew that we were going to be plagued with high currents but surprisingly the Captain found areas in 130 to 150 were we could fish with 6 to 8 ounces of weight, but we celebrated too early as every time the tide changed we would need up to 2 pounds to find bottom. On my snapper rod I never went above 10 ounces but I was using light line. On my grouper rod I was using 12 ounces. For snapper I started with 40 lb test leader but after loosing the first fish I stuck with 60lb leader most of the time and when the bite slowed down or the fish got bigger and the sun was out I switched to 50 pound fluorocarbon and at times switching back to 40 pound leader. After the water was chummed up the muttons started chewing within an hour of us being there. The bite started slow from the get go and we prepared for an ok trip. It was slow pickings but we got a good job done, at least I think. On the first night we got some muffin muttons while a few sharks came by and collected their Tortugas tax.
FRIDAY CAME: This is when the jigging really got pretty good. There were some small groupers, muttons, and Red American snappers caught. The days that followed a few more came up by way of jigging. FISHING ALMOST ENDED: Well, we were getting taxed heavily by the sharks. We lost just too many muttons to them and on one of those as I was getting ready to grab the leader on my line a stupid shark dashed to the bottom cut the line off and the 10 ounce weight sprung bat towards my head. I was not able to move away fast enough and up came the punch from Shark Tyson, well, knock down!!!! I hit the floor up I came bleeding like a boxer and went to get some paper towels, the Captain gave me something to clean it up and a band aid, so all in all was kewl with a bit of double vision and blurriness. We kept fishing and after the trips was over I ended up going to urgent care, I was sent to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, some anesthetics and an eye patch until my laser procedure to remove some blood vessels. Just be car eful with handling those tiny sharks, sometime they cause the most damage. Pic don’t look so bad but it felt rally bad.
SATURDAY: This was a slow pickings day for most, the daytime brought some slob and we got to fish in 250 feet where some yellow eyes and more Red Americans kept on coming as pests. At night most of the time was filled with muffins, but we got a few nice ones as well.
SUNDAY FISHING ENDED: The captain said that the wind would pick up in the morning so we headed to fish by Rebecca’s Shoals. This is were the nice flag yellow tails came from. It got a little rough but not enough to get anyone sick. We did a couple of moves around the area and surprisingly were fishing in 30 feet of water were a couple of nice Red Groupers, more flag yellow tails, and some button muttons came up. This is where some were able to catch up in the fishing; it was not bad at all.
What bait worked best? As always the fresh bait is what did it; fresh gogs, fresh ballyhoo, fresh blue runners, fresh bonito, and fresh pinfish, some of the backup bait was used, but the men in the grey suit loved it too much. At least that was the case in my part.
THE FINAL TALLY WAS:
20 muttons with biggest at 14.5 pounds, a 6 pound mangrove, 2 yellow eyes(only kept my 2 day snapper limit), 1 Red American snapper, 2 triggerfish, one strawberry grouper, one red grouper, a cero mackerel, a kingfish, and too many sharks to count with one that almost leaves me blind.
15 muttons with biggest at 14 pounds, a 6 pounder mangrove, too many sharks to count, and a 20 pounder kingfish
10 muttons with biggest around 14 pounds, 3 flags at around 24″ each, 1 red grouper, 1 king, 1 baby cobia, 1 big jack crevalle, and 323 sharks
12 muttons with biggest mutton at 15 pounds, 3 mangrove snappers, 3 yellow tail snappers, 1 kingfish, 1 nice margate, 1 rockhind grouper, 1 red grouper, and too many sharks to count.
11 muttons, 2 Mangroves, 2 Red American snappers, 4 yellowtails, and 3 red grouper, and too many sharks to count.
15 mutton, one mangrove, 2 Red American snappers, and a red grouper, and too many sharks to count.
Here are the pics:
Picking up Nilson on my old faithfull 300k plus miles truck
On the way
At No Name with the endangered ones
Passing the 7 mile bridge
If you put them in individual bags this does not happen
On the waters
Herbert (me) with “El Cuchillo part 2”
We had a very, very tired visitor
Someone chummed the water for him
Chilling after eating a great dinner cooked by Capt Yuri
This Stowaway came from the beaches of the Atlantic to get me a snapper
The sharks were so thick they were hugging down jigs as well
Back at the Docks to hear some of Stevie’s jokes and have a few beers