Ed and Captain Jimmy of the Lois Ann (part of the Lady Pamela II fleet), called me and said they wanted to go fishing at Pulley Ridge so I said yes and joined them. My plan was to jig as much as I could and then use bait and jig in between. They were just going to use bait and try some jigging for the blackfins.
We arrived at the dock on Thursday and loaded up our gear in the boat, we then ate our customary Hogfish sandwich at the bar and grill with the same name. It was close to 5pm and we were on our way. At the boat it all started with a short orientation from the Florida Sport Fishing TV crew. Very simple, fish as you always do and if you can don’t get on the way of the camera man. They gave away t-shirts, nice prizes during a raffle, and by recommendation of Captain Greg Mercurio each one of us were given a nice gold hammered jig which proved to be a lethal jig for the fish.
We got to Pulley Ridge around 4:30 am and it started off well. Ed is below with a nice mutton caught on a chunk of king mackerel.
Below is Captain Jimmy with a blackfin tuna caught on a chunk of king mackerel.
Below it’s me and a nice mutton caught on a Jigging Depot SB 220 gram slow pitch jig. I got 2 mutton snappers and a small blackfin tuna on this jig and then it got cut off. The current was almost non existing so we were able to fish with light jigs and weights of about 6 to 8 ounces to get the bait down fast.
A keeper red grouper and this time with a 210 gram Shark jig from JiggingDepot.com . I caught several fish on this jig until it got cut off later in the day.
Wahoos where all over this trip, this 60 pounder was caught on a jig and won the pool.
Captain Jimmy decided he was going old school with a 6 ounce bucktail and nailed this nice mutton and a red grouper.
Trolling got the most of the wahoos, this one was caught on a Yo-Zuri bonita.
Below is Captain Jimmy with his bucktail and an almaco jack.
Ed got into the action and got a nice amberjack that was released.
Luck be the lady on the one below. He caught a mutton on bait and a nice size blackfin got tangled on the weight.
That bucktail was working and this time it caught a nice size queen trigger fish that was released.
After 2:30pm of the 17th things turn to a slow pickings until the next day in the early morning when the trolling had another victim and wahoo wahoos on the Yo-Zuri bonita it was.
That was followed by a couple of mutton snappers and some nice red groupers (no pics of the reds, sorry). Below is Ed with his part.
As the bite had slowed down to slim pickings, Captain Greg decided to make a run to some deeper waters where I was able to catch a decent size Mystic Grouper. This one was on a whole squid and was using a 16 ounce weight.
And in came the queen snappers, some beauty of fish and so very tasty. Here is Captain Jimmy with his.
The bite had slowed down and we made a move to even deeper water. While on the move and around 1pm in came another wahoo.
And as deeper we went more monsters showed up such as the grouper below.
Ed got in the game with more queen snappers. This time the queen snappers were much bigger. I think some were probably over 25 pounds.
And a nice size blackfin tuna caught on kingfish strips.
Here is Captain Jimmy with another nice queen snapper.
We had the co captain reminding us to be on point.
The bite had slowed down again and the smaller fish were hitting our jigs. This yellow eyed snapper hit a 500 gram jig.
It was on the last stop where this nice gag grouper hit a benthos jig. This was the last fish of the trip as Saturday afternoon had come to a close and we headed back to the dock.
Here you can see the size of this nice wahoo.
What a way to spend fathers day. This family showed everyone what it is like when you don’t stop fishing and put your time on the rails.
Here is a group picture of all the participants of this trip holding some nice catches.
All in all it was a great trip, started great, slowed down, there were slim pickings, and then it turned into mayhem catching fish after fish. There were a lot of people fishing with jigs and they were catching fish. Those on the slow pitch jigs did very good and ended with some decent catches such as mutton snappers, red groupers, blackfin snappers, etc… The best baits as always were squid and oily baits like the king mackerels. Bonita strips in combination with squid worked great too. At the beginning we were fishing with light jigs but in the end had to switch to heavier jigs as the current picked up and so did the wind with just enough speed to make the drifts a bit faster. If you jig or bait always bring a small assortment, just in case, you never know what mother nature will throw at you.
Well, my next trip is July 7th so I hope to catch more fish on the jigs and off course we will also be using bait.
It was another year for the Amberjacks to aggregate in the Florida Keys. Unlike last year’s trip when our lines got cut off by shark after shark this year the shark issue was not bad at all but the fish just did not want to eat in the morning. This year the plan had a live bait backup. The plan was that if the Amberjacks would not be there in numbers we would then go fishing for snappers and we would also use live bait to fish at the Humps and shallower for snappers. My personal plan was to just jig until my arms fell off which almost happened, as I type right now I am doing so in pain and it was worth it as it always is.
The trips was set to go fishing on Sunday but weather almost stops us from fishing, luckily the Captain had Saturday available and we decided to move the day to the day that just so happened to be my Birthday. One of the original members of the trip was not able to get Saturday off but lucky for us Alex was available and was able to replace him. I got to the docks at 6 am and the Captain was there he filled the boat with diesel and came right back. It was loading time, bag after bag of heavy jigs. One of the bags felt like it had 50 pounds of jigs mine was only 30 pounds and I thought I was overdoing it it. We carry as many jigs as we can as we do not know what the fish will want to bite on that particular day. Sometimes it’s long jigs sometimes it’s small jigs, sometime they like a color and sometimes it really doesn’t matter.
Loading the boat.
A great Florida Keys sunrise.
On the way out many boats were catching pilchards.
Our mate casting the net to get some baits.
After a couple of throws we had more than enough for our trip.
We tried a few spots like the little hump and some wrecks. We could not get the fish to bite so the captain moved the boat to the Hump off Islamorada. We were using 300 gram to 400 gram jigs. While at the hump there were some small Blackfin Tunas, that were caught on live bait, I was able to get one the jig but it was almost the size of the jig I was using. At the Hump the Amberjacks we were looking for were not biting so we moved back to the wrecks on 300 feet. Again the bite was slow but the guys fishing live bait caught a few Rainbow Runner fish at around 10:45 in the morning. Below is Victor and Dorian with their Rainbow Runners.
The fishing finally started to take a turn for the better with those fish and as we moved to another spot we got a surprise by way of a Sunfish. It had been bit by sharks and was barely able to swim upright, but it slowly did. Below is a picture of its dorsal fin showing the bites.
Well the Amberjacks finally felt hungry and it happened at our lunchtime right around noon. They were not hitting the long jigs so I decided that maybe just maybe if I switched to slow pith jigging I could get one to hit a smaller jig. I as I was joking around telling everyone that they fish were not hitting my jig on 80 pound leader that always you switch to a smaller reel and light line it’s when you get the hit and so it happened. I used my Shark Slow pith rod and a Shark slow pitch jig of 200 grams to get the first Amberjack to bite. Once the first one hit others were able to start catching them as well.
Below is Victor with his Amberjack. The fish was released.
Below is Dorian with his Amberjack. The fish was released.
I was able to get a second one and it was also released.
Below is Jared who fought several fish but got cut off a few times. This time he had an unusual catch with a stingray that was released.
After 1:30 pm we made the decision to fish shallower to catch some snappers so we moved to about 230 feet or so and then moved a bit shallower. Here live bait was king, Victor was able to land a nice size Mutton Snapper and a nice Black Grouper that was released.
We saw some Sailfish jump out of the water doing their acrobatic dance and then saw some man-o’-war birds but nothing was under them. The day was done, we were tired and the Captain went a few minutes over the agreed time but we were not able to find more fish, no dolphins this time but maybe next time. The trip was great fun as always these trips are and was a bit slower than usual perhaps due to the quick weather change that was occurring during the weekend. We will definitely come back next year and will possibly do 2 different trips instead of just one. Thanks to Dorian for putting the trip together and thanks to Alex for jumping in at the last minute.
I wanted to go fishing this weekend so I called the Reward Fishing Fleet to book a spot on their special all day trip, for $100 it’s a nice bargain to go out all day fishing without having to go back to the docks and the wait for the boat to leave back on the next trip (taking two 4 hour trips on the same day).
The trip started by gathering bait. The mates and a few other fishermen collaborated with catching white bait, pinfish, and small grunts. Once the bait was non responsive we moved onto another bait spot, the famous Bent Marker outside of Government Cut Miami. There we met with a numerous amount of boats trying to catch bait themselves. Below is a pic of the Marker.
We then moved up to several other spots where people were catching vermilion snappers, Amberjacks, and Almaco Jacks. Jongsoo caught an Amberjack that was tagged, the fish was lip gaffed, taken a picture of, measured and released again. Below is Jeff the mate before measuring the fish. Sorry I didn’t take a pic of you Jongsoo.
On the next move we saw some birds but nothing was biting under them, we kept moving and then as we stopped to fish I saw a Mahi Mahi and let everyone know, I wanted to make sure someone got it before it left. Leaving a caught Mahi Mahi hooke in the water will bring others closer to the boat if they are schooling together. I went to get my plug rod as Will sent his out first cast catching the first Mahi Mahi. I sent my plug flying out and as I retrieved it with a sweeping motion I caught the next Mahi Mahi with an H4L Wingman plug. I caught another right after while using the same plug. One of the mates set up some pitch rods and people started catching more mahi mahis including Jared who was ready with his own pitch rod. A total of 12 were caught ensuring many would take a nice dinner home. Below is mines.
At one of the spots we started to get a few small Blackfin Tunas, mines was one of the smallest ones and one of the fishermen by the name of Ben whom is another experienced slow pitch jigging fisherman that was only using jigs caught the biggest one, a football size one with enough meat to get a couple dinners out of it. Here is my small Blackfin Tuna, it was so greedy that it swiped a jig half it’s size.
As the day went by a few yellow eye snapper, sand tiles, and a rare Long Tail Bass was caught by Jeff another experienced slow pitch fisherman. I should have taken a picture but I was busy fishing, sorry guys, I was trying to maximize my fishing time. On the deeper end of the trip we fished down to 500 feet of water where Will caught a nice keeper Amberjack.
I was still fishing with my prototype slow pitch setup and Shark Fishing Jigs when I hooked up a Snowy Grouper and then sent my 500 gram slow pitch jig down again and hooked a Yellow Edge grouper. What are the odds, the only two keeper groupers caught were back to back on my setup. Below is the Snowy Grouper and the the Yellow Edge.
The highlight of the day came when Jared hooked up with a Sailfish on a jig. He fought it for 30 minutes going around the boat 2 times until he got it close enough to touch the leader and made it an official catch. The jig was extracted using a gaff and the fish was released. High fives went around and the fish swam away to live another day. Below is Jared fighting the fish and also a pic of the Sailfish with the jig on it’s mouth.
Below is a video of part of the fight.
All in all it was a good trip and plenty fun was had. We left with a full boat’s fish cooler. Back at the Bayside Marina Docks the fish were unloaded and the mates cleaned the fish for those that wanted that service. Below is the mate sorting and giving the fish to the fishermen.
Below is a fisherman that was using bait and tried out vertical jigging. He caught dinner and wanted a picture for him to later retrieve from the web. So here you are Sir. You are welcome to download your own picture, enjoy your fresh fish dinners. Just click on the picture to make it bigger, right click on it and save it to your PC or phone.
Happy New Year to you all and Happy Fishing in 2016. thanks again for visiting my site.
Vertical Jigging tips:
In order to reach the bottom use 1 gram weight per foot of water (if fishing in 300 feet of water use a 300 gram jig), if the current is stronger adjust accordingly by using a heavier jig. It works the same way for Slow Pitch Jigging.
If of any interest to you I was using a 60 to 400 gram Slow Pitch Jigging Rod, a Shimano Ocea Jigger 2000 with high speed gear 6.1:1 loaded with 30 lb test braid line, 40lb test fluorocarbon leader, and 3/0 size hooks with 2mm length assist cord. two hooks on top and two hooks on bottom.
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
I spent a couple of weekends getting my jigging gear ready and couple others catching bait for our trip to the Dry Tortugas. On one night I had hell netting with a 3 foot cast net but managed to net 136 ballyhoo of which I a gave a bag of over 20 to each on the trip. Before the trip we had one more night scheduled to catch bait and this time I was to bring a 6 foot cast net to make things easier once I got to the dock Adam got the boat ready to go but it was a no go. The bridge between the dock and the liberty of the ocean was blocked by higher than normal low tide, we were not able to get past the bridge to get fresh bait that we would keep brined to take the same day. In the end of bait gathering we all managed to get a few goggle eyes and bought a few as well. With the bait in our freezers and our gear ready to go we thought all was 100% when all of a sudden we were on weather watch as the weather could make a bad turn to cancel our trip as it did in 2013. It was the last day and we got the go ahead to drive to Stock Island in the Florida Keys. I had to leave some gear behind as this boat only allows 5 rods per person. It was tough for me to do so as I like to bring 7 rods with me. I ended bringing one bottom rod, 2 jigging rods, a top water rod that could double as a jigging rod, and a bait rod to catch gogs and Yellow Tail Snappers. I also brought a YO-YO reel just in case. On the way we were notified that Captain Yury was on a hunting trip and Captain Shane Leonard was to be our Captain for this trip. Most of us had fished with him three times before so I had no worries.
On the way to the boat.
I picked up Nilson for the drive down to the Keys. We played Tetris with our gear and coolers to get everything in the back of my Scion XB box car. We did it and did not leave anything behind. On we went for a few bait stops so we stopped at Key Largo Fisheries for some fresh ballyhoo, but they had none so while we were there we went over our memory list of things needed and of course we forgot a few things. Towels, toothpaste, and soap, need to take at least one shower on this kind of trip you know plus you do need to brush your teeth everyday day. After getting that plus a few unneeded things like chocolate bars we went on the way to catch some bait. This time to the well known not a secret spot No Name Key where the boys loaded a 15 gallon bucket with live pinfish and prayed they made the journey to the boat.
At no name Key
Well, we got to the boat and had to wait for Stevie the Wonder to finish cleaning it. We let the boat dry out a bit and loaded our gear in it.
As we were waiting just about all of us had good hope for a good fishing trip as we stared at the fileted fished in a cart. These were from the trip before us. Looked like a nice load.
Fishing got started.
Things started slowly with me getting a small Cobia on bait. Robert started with the mutton snappers by nailing a decent size one then Rory put a bigger one in the box. A bit later I switched to a jig and then got another small cobia, and then another. I thought there might just be one out there that was of size but there was no luck for me.
In the morning
I started jigging and was able to connect with a Red Grouper a story that would repeat over and over for about 20 times. On this trip the Red Groupers seemed to like jigs slowly moved near the bottom. Below is a Red Grouper on a Supplex jig.
Next I got a porgie on the same Supplex jig.Rory was onto the Mutton Snappers with live bait.When he decided to jig a shark came up and claimed it’s Dry Tortugas taxes.Adam got this nice Scamp Grouper on a vertical jig.At noon I took a rest from the jigs and used a live bait to get this nice 12 pound Mutton Snapper.Shortly after at 1:15 pm I got another beauty of 12 pounds as well.
Nilson joined us and got his Mutton Snapper.Adam went back to bait and landed his Mutton Snapper.I decided to go back to jigging and landed a nice Red Grouper.Adam kept on bait fishing and landed the biggest mutton of the trip, a 14.5 or so Mutton Snapper.Nilson went on and also got a 14 pound Mutton Snapper.
The First Night
Night time came by and I do not know what happened, I fell as sleep. Yes I did! I guess I am getting to that stage in my age where the non exercise couch potatoness is setting in and by 9 pm I start to get sleepy just to wake up at 5:00 am. Oh well I missed out on some good fishing, I think. Well, I was told that the seas would be rough so we were to move behind the Fort for cover.
The Second Morning
The morning of the 14th things got hotter, we were fishing in shallow water and fishing was hot. I was glad I slept well and so did others. It was no surprice, I spelt a hell of a lot more than I ever done on a fishing trip.
Ricky started into the good fishing by nailing a decent mutton around 8:30 am.I kept with my jigging and after catching a few more small Red Groupers I lost my Supplex jig to a King Mackerel. I switched to a Blue Blue jig and at 11:30 am landed this nice Red Grouper.Meanwhile Adam kept with the bait fishing and landed this nice 14 pound Red Grouper.My Blue Blue jig got cut off by another King Mackerel so I switched to a Maxel Dragonfly in 180 grams. The result, another Red Grouper and this time it was a double header as Adam got one a minute later with live bait.The above grouper was a stubborn one and rocked me, I managed to get it out and almost lost it as my reel drag got loose and then the Shout 1/0 hook bent but did not bend enough to loose my fish.
In the Red Grouper madness Rory and Robert also had a double header.Ricky was drifting a Hookup Jig (Troll Right) in the chum slick when a very nice Red Grouper hit the tiny morsel. He had a good fight trying to get the fish in the boat.I kept on with the Maxel jig and kept getting more Red Grouper after Red Grouper.Nilson it was still around 1:30 when Nilson also got into the hot Red Grouper bite and landed a few very nice Red Groupers.
After the bite slowed down we made a move to deeper water but the current was just too much, 2 pounds would not hold so we moved to another shallow spot. The Captain told us to get our heaviest gear and put a big live bait down. Adam decided to use his jigging gear with a Jigging Master hook, he made the right choice and was able to land a nice Goliath Grouper.Then shortly after Rory landed on of the few non Red Groupers.
On The Second Night
Night time fell upon us and was to be the last night of the trip. The highlights were Rory thinking he was stuck on the bottom and using a YO-YO to pull his rig but surprise, surprise, the line kept on coming and coming until a big Nurse Shark was revealed. Rory always seems to find one of these cats no matter where he fished, well most of the time.
After the Nurse Shark was released unharmed Adam landed an 18 pound cobia. it went nuts in the boat as they always do, so we had to put it in a cooler until it calmed down. We forgot all about it and did not take a pic. The rest of the morning we spent it catching yellow tails to make up our snapper limit. The Captain was kind enough to cook breakfast and dinner for us through out the trip. Normally he would do a breakfast and a dinner. We thank him very much for going the extra mile with us.
Back at the dock we laid our gear against the fileting station for a wash.
Our catch in garbage cans, there was more in the coolers as we were unloading from the boat.Our total catch picture is below.
High Hook for Mutton Snappers went to Robert with about 10 Mutton Snappers.
I was High Hook on Groupers with my limit of six and all by way of the Vertical Jig. Got over 15.
Rory also ended very high on the Groupers with 7 Red Groupers and one Gag Grouper.
Biggest Fish, Biggest Mutton, and Biggest Grouper went to Adam.
Stevie the Wonder fileting our catch for $35 bucks an hour, $5 more than last year. But it is worth the wait to make things easier when you get home.
All in all on vertical fluttering jigs (Slow Pitch jigs) I caught:
5 Cobias – released all of them because they were too small
15 red groupers (and even more, most where short of the legal size requirement) I kept my limit of six
3 Lane snappers
3 Vermillion Snappers
1 Yellow Tail Snapper
1 Mutton Snapper
1 Porgie – Released
1 Grey Trigger Fish – Released
The gear I used was :
-Accurate BX600 4:1 w/ 80 lb braid, top shot 100 lb mono on a GF850H Calstar (30 to 80 pound class rod).For Groupers and doubled up as a Mutton Snapper rod at night. I had 80 lb braid backing and a short 100 foot top shot that I could change when night or daytime came.
-Shimano Sustain 5000 with 15 lb mono line to catch Yellow Tails. Next time will bump to 20 lb line.
-Shimano Stella 8000SWPG on a factory Calstar 7 foot rod.
-Jigging Master PE3 filled with PE4 BB line with 40lb flourocarbon leader on a 200 gram Jigging Master Power Spell Jigging Rod.
-Jigging Master Ocean Devil PE6 filled with 65lb Tuffline XP and and 60 lb leader on a Jigging Master Terminator 400 gram rod.
Jig and assist line after getting hit after hit after hit
Back in August my son and I took a drive up to Panama City Beach for a friendly Tournament. Getting out of Florida always seems like it takes for ever specially when you have to drive through unfamiliar back roads and ghost town look a like places. On the way we almost hit a dog and some deer that seem to appear on the road like holograms in the foggy night. Scarier thing is to stop at a gas station and been asked “you lost? You ain’t from around here ha?” I have to thank to that darn GPS for always taking me in the back roads and neighborhoods with 1 pump gas stations. Well, once we got off the I-10 highway it was a dark ride all the way to Panama City Beach but we got there in one piece. As we arrived at the hotel we went to get some subs and a drink then shortly after we went straight to the hotel and prepared for an all day of vertical jigging. My plan was to start with a long jig for AJ and then to use the slow jigging method combined with what I refer to as Yo-Yo technique (not Yo-Yo California Style; drop, reel fast, drop again, repeat). Simply drop the jig to the bottom and slowly pump it up and down. Then after a few up and downs slowly pump and reel, pump and reel in a slow manner.
It was morning time, we got some breakfast and then we had to hunt down for the Marina’s location. Once there we loaded the boat with our long list of gear and a couple bags of ice. The boat left at high speed to the fishing grounds just to find another team fishing the same wreck we were going to fish as our Captain positioned the boat we heard a shout saying that we were already fishing for second place as they had caught a big Amber Jack. We thought they were joking so we began to fish the other side of the wreck where a small jack was caught but nothing else was interested in our Metal Vertical Jjigs.
We moved to a second spot where the action was hot from the start it was an all out Porgie (White Snappers) madness by the guys. Below is the first Porgie on the boat, this one was by Ray.
Here is Jeff and the second Porgie on the boat. In total there were 7 porgies caught and most were from this stop.
Finally on the third spot red grouper after red grouper started coming up, but for me it was slow as I was the only one with a long jig in pursuit for a big AJ. After seeing that my jig did not produce on the first two spots I changed it to a smaller length H4L Goober 300g and finally started to catch them groupers and in between them there were several Red Snappers and a couple of Bonitos caught.
Below is Captain Charlie helping Ray with his Red Grouper. He was using a Jigging World JW-A141 170g Vertical Jig.
Here is Jeff and the biggest grouper of the tournament. A 19 pounds Gag Grouper.
Rey with another Red Grouper.
Below is a double with a Red Grouper by Ray and a Scamp by me.
A keeper Gag liked my H4L Goober 300g jig.
Red Snappers also liked my jig, but most of this one was taken by the tax man in the Grey Suit (a shark).
Here is James with some bendo action.
After the Grouper and ARS mayhem things slowed down a bit, then my son was able to nail an Lesser Amberjack.
There were lots of American Red Snappers caught on our boat. Below is Ray and in the back you can see James with another one.
Here I am with another ARS as well.
Then my last Scamp Grouper came in. I caught 3 Scamps and a Gag on this trip.
After that scamp we had a 5 consecutive hook up. Here are three bent rods on this pic. It ended being a mix of groupers, American Red Snappers, and a Bonito.
This spot has an all out mix of fish. Here is my son with a Porgie. He was catching all his fish on an 80g Maxel Dragonfly.
Then he managed to get an Amber Jack on the same small jig on a different spot.
That was it for us it was getting late, we had a box full of fish and most of us had our grouper limit for the day so we called it the day and headed home.
Back at the dock we tallied our fish and took a quick picture. The total came out to 27 fish caught between 5 of us. 6 Red Groupers, 8 Scamp Groupers,2 Gag Groupers,7 Porgies, and 4 Almaco Jacks. We waited for the other teams to show us their catch but one of the boats had bad luck with the weather in the area where they went and turned back a lot earlier than we all expected. The second boat showed up with a 70 pound Amberjack, an 18 pound grouper, lots of peanut dolphins, and some Vermillion Snappers taking the winnings since they caught the biggest fish and Pelagics plus Snappers.
It was the end of the trip and we all got together to share some stories before we headed home. Below is a group shot, but the camera flash did not work properly so it didn’t come out correctly. We stayed for a little while before heading home for our 10+ hour drive. It was plenty fun and the fishing in Panama City Beach seemed well worth the stop for a future trip.
Below is a link to a video of this trip.
The gear my son and I used were a Jigging Master Power Spell 200g Rod with a Jigging Master PE3 reel, a Jigging Master Terminator 400g rod with a Jigging Master Ocean Devil PE6 reel, a Spinal 250g Rod with a Shimano Saragossa 10K, and a Phoenix Hybrid rod with a Stella 8000PG. This last rod fought many hard battles against Amberjacks and Groupers but on this day it broke below the reel seat.
Hope you all enjoyed and perhaps it helped someone with some Vertical Jigging information.