Want to know the secret to deep-sea fishing?Gene Griffin, Cameron Paul, and I spent all day yesterday on the Triton – but not fishing. It was a “maintenance” day. If you read one of my earlier blogs, you knew that both my VHF radios died. Gene installed a new one on the boat, and I purchased a new mobile VHF. Communications restored. 110 degrees in the marina shed. It was unbelievably hot! The three of us spent the night at the Panacea Motel because it was close-by. Like the teenage girls text: OMG. That is the nastiest motel in the U.S. The shower handles were made from electrical tape. We were going to head home after our maintenance day but Terri asked, “Why aren’t you guys going fishing on Sunday?” Excellent question!
We were all happy to wake up, put salve on our flea bites, brush off the roaches, and get on the water. Since we were right down the street from the marina, we did get an early start and were on the water at 6:30 a.m. Leaving the channel, we watch the sunrise. It is a breathtaking sight and one of those moments that make you feel blessed just to be alive. It is also a beautiful day and the seas are less than 1 ft. The smoothest I have ever seen it out here.Because of the smooth seas, our goal is to get to Bryon’s Reef about 50 miles away from the Marina and ten miles past K Tower. It is a long way, but there are big fish out there.
Because of the smooth seas, we have no problems getting to the reef an hour and a half later. There is nobody else out here, so we start trolling first. Not much luck, so we decide to bottom fish. We are using frozen squid and ballyhoos for bait. Not much luck bottom fishing either – which is annoying since we can see fish EVERYWHERE. And I don’t mean just a few fish:
As we sit on the reef, we see an ENORMOUS variety of fish species. Floating next to the boat are large Kings, hundreds of AmberJack, 8-10 foot sharks, thousands of Spanish Mackerel and Angelfish. The water is a crystal clear blue. It’s kind of like being in an all-natural aquarium. What are we catching? Not a damn thing. We are obviously doing something wrong! I get a bite. It’s a large shark. I don’t want shark.I get frustrated with bottom fishing, so we start trolling again. Something big hits the line. Cameron grabs it first. Cameron fights this thing for 15 minutes. He has to maneuver around the entire boat. Don’t lose it dude! That is the biggest fish you have ever had on the line! We get it in the boat. Nice Amberjack Cameron!
Cameron says he is exhausted. Of course, like almost ALL fish species, it is closed, so we have to throw him back. Just for the record, I think the ever-changing Federal fishing regulations are utterly ridiculous.
We continue to troll, without much luck. Very frustrating since we can see fish everywhere!It is still relatively early, so we head back to K Tower and tie up next to it.
Once again – fish EVERYWHERE! Barracuda (6 ft easily), Cobia (4-6 ft), Mackerel. Well, pretty much every fish species I have ever heard of is right here under the boat. Millions of bait fish. What are we catching? Nothing. Wait – I take that back. I throw a lure about 100 feet. As it is in the air, a sea bird flies right into it, flips over, and falls 20 feet from mid-air. Now my lure is attached to the bird’s wing; he is squawking like crazy and I have to slowly reel him into the boat. Cameron and Gene remove the hook from the wing. The bird is wounded but after a few attempts, she finds wind under her wings. I flip him the bird. (Sorry – but I’m irritated). So while other people are catching fish, I am flipping birds. The observation, “I suck at fishing”, really seems to be an under-statement at this point in time. Stop laughing.
A boat approaches. They start fishing. Two minutes later – they have a large slot redfish. Another two minutes their 7 yr old catches a grouper. What the hell??!! I yell over, “Hey, what are you guys fishing with?” The guy replies like I am an idiot, “Live pinfish, of course!” Of course, indeed. I ask him, “Where did you get them?” His response, “I could tell you, but I would have to kill you”. Interesting.Another boat approaches. They anchor right next to us. They start catching fish immediately. I ask, “What are you guys fishing with?” The guy looks at me like I'm an idiot, “Live pinfish, of course!” Of course, indeed. The old guy asks me, “Do you guys have a sabiki rig?” You mean that thing in my boat that I have never used but Gene just happened to rig up yesterday on maintenance day? Yep, I got one of those. The old guy says, “Give it a try”. So we do.
A sabiki rig is simply a bunch of small shiny hooks that have no bait on them. Little fish are attracted to the shiny hooks and they bite them. It seems silly to fish without bait, but supposedly, it works. Cameron gives it a shot. A minute later, viola, he catches a small minnow. I put that minnow on my hook and drop to the bottom. Wham! Gag Grouper. Nice. Cameron catches another minnow. Minnow on hook, Gene drops the bottom. Wham! Gag Grouper. This is cool. Cameron catches a larger bait fish – some kind of fish I don’t recognize. I put him on the hook. Drop to the bottom:
WHAM! Okay, this is, without a doubt, the largest thing I have ever had on my line bottom fishing. It takes all my strength to hang onto the pole and to keep my sorry ass from falling out of the boat. I start moaning and grunting. My deep-sea rig is bent completely over. This must be a shark. SNAP! Line breaks. Dammit! As I am re-rigging a new leader, I see a school of 5-6 ft cobia directly under the boat. One of them has my hook, leader and weight hanging from his mouth. He is laughing. I can see the bubbles.So Cameron keeps sabikiing. (That is not really a word). Gene and I, and sometimes Cameron, place the bait on our lines, drop and struggle for a while with massive fish until the line snaps. Keep in mind that we are using 50 pound test with 50 pound monofilament leaders. It is simply not enough. Most of the time the leaders are breaking at the hook – not our line. We keep this up for a couple hours. I am now completely out of leaders, weights, and circle hooks. Hey, I get to spend more money on fishing equipment - who knew?
The secret to deep-sea fishing: Live bait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Granted. On certain days, the fish won’t bite anything due to conditions, moods, tides, or whatever. But without live bait, I’m certain it is not worth the time and effort to take the boat 40 miles offshore. As best as I can tell, success revolves around live bait – and heavier tackle. I will be purchasing 80 pd test and 80 pd leaders, now I just have to figure out where to buy bait traps and how to get them out on the water the night before.
Stay tuned for my next blog – with live bait.I wonder. Is fishing like golf? Just when you think you have it all figured out, you realize you don’t?