OMG - Pre-teen acronym for "Oh My God"!

Good morning everyone.  It is Memorial Day weekend.  I am home after spending Friday and Saturday at the coast.  I have a sore throat and a fever, but yesterday was a different story.  Here's why:

Oh, before I get started, I should say that two weeks ago, I had my brother Russell on the Triton.  Unfortunately, the biggest story of the day was "the one that got away".  Funny story, and you really should here it from me over a beer, but it can be summed up with, "Don't try and catch a 30 pound cobia on 8 pound test line".  My bad.  Good to have you on the boat again though, bro.  That was fun.

But let's return to this Memorial day weekend.  I spend Friday at the coast messing around and getting the boat ready for fishing on Saturday.  My "primary" Friday goal is to catch "live" pinfish.  I take the truck to Mashes Sands where I have caught them in the past with my castnet, but it is low tide, and I don't catch any.  I decide to try another spot.  Truck won't start.  OMG.  All the way down at Mashes Sands at the end of a dirt road.  The weekend isn't starting the way I would have hoped.  My brother has my back, drives down to get me, the truck eventually starts (fuel pump dying).   I won't waste too many words talking about my truck problems; this is a fishing blog; suffice it to say, I had truck problems all weekend.  But it all worked out.  I am very lucky.  My wife has my back also, btw.  Thanks Terri.

Russell and I make it back from Mashes Sands to Rock Landing Marina Friday night, and I ask Fred, who works at the marina, how to catch live pinfish.  He says, "The easiest way is to go over to my trap - right over there - and take out whatever you like".  Who knew it was that easy.  Have I mentioned how nice everyone is at Rock Landing Marina?!

So the next morning, I get 15-16 pinfish out of Fred's trap.  Okay, probably not a long-term solution to the live bait problem, but for today, I'll take it.  We get an early start, heading out right at 7 a.m.

On the boat with me today (Saturday) are Jim Pittman and Sam Littlefield.  My goal is to get to K Tower and fish for Amber Jack.

Very windy this morning.  Easy 3-4 ft waves with white caps, but the waves are at my stern, so it isn't too bad riding out.  About halfway to K Tower, (I have learned), I turn the boat around and face the bow into the wind.  Big waves, and lots of wind hitting me in the face.  Decision time.  Do I chicken out?  I'm thinking......  Have I mentioned to anyone that I need a bigger boat?  :-)   Halfway to K Tower, kind of like a big hand in poker, I feel like I am pot-committed.  I really want to make it to the tower, so I make the decision to keep going.  Hopefully, we stay safe.  I do know that Sunday (tomorrow) calls for lesser winds, so I factor that in to my decision.  My calculated guess is that winds are going to subside, not increase, throughout the day.

We're at K Tower.  We rig up and put the live pinfish on.  2-3 minutes later.  WHAM!  Something HUGE hits it.  OMG!  Jim fights it for a while, Sam gaffs it perfectly and Jim pulls this monster King in:

Gene Griffin: You HAD the biggest fish on my boat, but sorry, you have officially lost that title.  This, by far, is the biggest damn fish EVER on Geeks 1.  The ruler on my boat doesn't go past 5 ft.  Unbelievably nice fish Jim - way to go.  Not only do I need a bigger boat, I definitely need a bigger cooler.  This fish doesn't even come close to fitting in it.  We have to break his tail to get him in. 

Okay Sam, you are a guest, so the next one is yours.  We put another pinfish on.  2-3 minutes later - WHAM!  Jim gets another hit.  He fights it for a little but, like a gentleman, hands the pole over to Sam.  Shortly after, the line breaks.  Sorry Sam, that was a bit unlucky.

A few minutes later, another pinfish - WHAM!  Jim gets another bit hit on his side, but like a gentleman, hands the pole over to Sam.  Line breaks.  Sorry Sam, that was a bit unlucky.

Jim catches another, (I have no idea what Jim is doing differently, but I do hear him whispering to the pinfish), and like a gentleman, hands the pole to Sam.  Line breaks.  Dammit.  I am using 80 pound monofilament line and 45 pound wire leaders.  Sam isn't doing anything wrong, but the wire leaders keep breaking.  This happens one more time.  4 HUGE fish lost.  I am irritated. 

We discuss the problem. 

We all agree that it isn't Sam who is unlucky but the problem lies with the pre-made 45 pound leaders, (with cheap gates) that just aren't strong enough for these huge fish.  That is our consensus:


Sam sits down on the bow, faces me, and decides to have a "snack".  Good for him.  He is a little tired from losing all those fish.  The first thing he pulls out:  A f*cking banana.  Oh no you didn't!  You did NOT bring a banana on my boat!  "What?"  he asks me.  I very calmly, but very seriously, inform him, "You can either throw that banana away NOW, or you can swim back from here".  He replies, "But I brought 4 bananas!".  I immediately do the math in my head.  How many HUGE fish have you lost in the last 30 minutes?  Let's count, oh yes, 4!!!!!!!

All the bananas, including the one he is eating, get thrown overboard. 

Sam starts catching Amber Jacks left and right, even jigging for them.  The boy is on fire.  He says its because he started rigging the tackle.  Uh huh, sure it is, Sam!  Meanwhile, there are no more bananas on my boat.

Once again, something VERY LARGE hits Jim's line.  Jim starts fighting it.  15 minutes later, Jim is still fighting this thing.  30 minutes later, Jim is still fighting.  I start calling Jim names, none of them manly.  45 minutes later (I'm not kidding), Jim is still fighting this fish.   And when I say "fighting", I don't mean little tugs.  For the last 45 minutes, the pole has been completely, and perpetually bent over.  For the benefit of the camera, here let me show you: 

Jim did this for 45 minutes!  This is no amber jack.  For the last 45 minutes, as the Captain, I have used the boat to follow the fish for Jim - we have travelled well over a mile.  OMG!  What the heck is this thing?  Do they have whales at K Tower?  After 45 minutes, we still don't have a peek at it.  Jim, and I don't blame him, is exhausted.  I can't believe that, whatever this fish is, it hasn't broken the line.  It probably has to do with Sam's new custom-made leaders!  :-)

Finally, we see it.  Ironically, it surfaces right next to the bananas that we threw in the water.  Okay, not really, that just sounded good!  OMG!  Bull shark.  Biggest damn shark I have ever seen from my boat.  Definitely the biggest "fish", we have ever caught.  A couple of years ago, Ryan Brooks had a large bull shark on the line near K Tower.  He asked me what to do.  I said, "Not a damn thing cause you ain't catching a 150 pound, 8 ft bull shark from my little bay boat". So now I have to retract those words, because Jim Pittman has just done it.  Obviously, we aren't letting this monster in the boat.  Have you ever seen those idiots that do?  Yeah, me too.  Sharks get really pissed when they enter your boat.  They are not fans of oxygen and they are extremely strong.   Captain Hook doesn't need any more stitches in his body, so we bring it as close as we can to the boat, and VERY CAREFULLY cut the leader next to the hook.  Look, I have no beef against sharks.  They deserve to be out there.  They serve a purpose.  As recreational fishermen, our goal should be to protect all we can. I catch fish to eat them, not just to kill them.

We did our best to get some pictures of it in the water for you.  If I could play the JAWS audio here, I would:

OMG!  Now THAT is the biggest fish ever caught from Geeks 1.  Probably somewhere around 7-8 ft long and 150-200 pounds.  Just guessing, but trust me, I don't think I am exaggerating.  It looked  a LOT bigger next to the boat cutting the line with its huge mouth near my right hand.

Jim, bless his heart, needs a little "break" from fishing.  The shark needs a break from Jim.

Very busy at K Tower now with lots of boats; the wind has subsided considerably (I figured it would); so we decide to head to Oar Reef about 3 miles from K Tower.

But before we go, I decide to foul the prop with hundreds of feet of trolling line.  You know, just to make the day interesting.  Just when I think I am getting better at this Captaining thing, I do stupid stuff like this.  Keeps me humble, I suppose. It takes a while, but without going swimming, I'm able to cut it all off with my knife.  I've gotten better with that particular maneuver also.  Precariously hanging off the back of the engine while cutting line off the prop with a razor sharp knife is one of the reasons I don't drink alcohol out there.  Even being careful, bad things happen sooo quickly out there.  And this time, I didn't lose my military and police knife.  Not so in the past.

I REALLY want to learn how to use the "downrigger" that Major Mike Wood (Leon County Sheriff's Office) graciously gave me last year.  He actually gave me two of them.  These devices place the bait at whatever depth you want.  We still have 5-6 pinfish left,  and Sam and Jim agree to give it a try at Oar Reef.  OMG!  I don't think there was ever more than 5 minutes elapsed before an amberjack hit the bait at the depth we set it to.  A couple of years ago, we had tried to use the downrigger (with no success), but we were using artificial lures, and not live pinfish.   Downriggers rock.  We hammered the fish with it.  Thanks again Mike Wood.

Here is Sam with one of the keeper Ambers:

So we used 16 pinfish, which resulted in 16 large fish on the line.  We lost a few at the beginning, many were under 30", and we kept a few.  All in all, it was the MOST fish ever caught on Geeks 1 and definitely one of our more exciting days.  Sam, you are always welcome back - with oranges.  Fred - I owe you some beers at the bar.  Thanks again for the bait.

Lessons learned (this time):

1. Don't fish offshore without live pinfish.
2. Don't use 45 pound pre-made leaders with crappy gates.  Make your own leaders with wire.
3. Always keep a sharp knife handy.
4. Downriggers are the "shit".
5. Thou shalt not bring bananas on my boat!

Thank you to all our soldiers.  God bless you all and Happy Memorial Day.  Thank you for making the USA the best country - ever.  If you are a veteran, you are always welcome on my boat.

Happy Birthday to Casey at Mad Anthony's. When she smiles, the world is a brighter place.

Tight lines everyone. :)

Captn Hook


The Panacea Rock-the-dock fishing tournament is this weekend!  This is our 2nd year in the tournament.  We are a lot smarter this year - we think.  We KNOW we ain't gonna win anything.  More on that later.

Since this is a tournament weekend, I have lots to write.  So for my 3 readers of this blog, you may want to read this when you have 5-10 minutes to spare.

Conditions are perfect this weekend.  1 ft seas or less, no chance of rain.  The tournament directors could not have picked a more perfect weather weekend.  Because I am always looking for any excuse to be at the coast, I head down there on Thursday with the excuse that the boat really needs to be cleaned.  In all honesty, the boat really does need to be cleaned.  After a couple of months in the shed, it is completely black with dust.  I hate fishing on a dirty boat.  So I spend all day Thursday cleaning.  The boat is in the water, but never leaves the dock. Of course, I don't drink any beer while I am cleaning - that would just be wrong.

Mad Anthony's, the new amazing Tiki Bar and restaurant that they have built at Rock Landing Marina is going through final preparations for its grand opening tomorrow night.  From my boat, I can hear the entire staff being trained.  Lots of staff!  Big bar - nice place.  It should be hopping tomorrow night.

I install my last new battery.  Over the winter, I have installed four new batteries and I had my mechanic do LOTS of engine work.  I am not expecting any troubles, so I turn the key.  Engine starts perfectly!  Nice.  Electronics?  None!  Figures.  So I spend the next few hours cleaning ground wires, checking things, etc.  Still nothing.  No GPS, no fish finder, no trim tabs, no radio, no toggle switches, nothing.  Dammit.

Gene Griffin makes it down Thursday night.  As he walks down to the Triton, I go to my truck to grab a flashlight so he can see inside the battery compartment.  (It is starting to get dark).  I am 45 seconds behind him.  As I approach the boat, I hear my satellite radio and I see my GPS on.  Bastard.  I love him, but he is still a bastard.  I missed a wire.  A big one to the battery apparently.  I am an idiot.  But I am still a genius cause I have Gene to fix everything.  What is the old saying, "Surround yourself with people smarter than you to be successful".  Exactly.   The fact that he fixes it within 45 seconds is a little irritating though. 

At the bar, we meet up with a couple of Gene's friends ("Camp" and his son) and have dinner together.  They ask if they can fish with us tomorrow morning.  Sure!  Love to have the company.

We head out Friday morning.  Beautiful day.  It is immediately apparent that Camp really knows his stuff.  This guy teaches me more about fishing and tackle in the first 2 hours he is on my boat than in the last 2 years that I have owned the damn thing.  Sometime in the middle of the day he says, "I hope you don't mind if I keep making suggestions".  I turn to him and say, "If you STOP making suggestions, I am going to kick your ass".  So Camp gives us lots of advice; many GPS Coordinates; we catch lots of in-shore fish; and we return to the dock with a cooler full of trout, rock bass, and several other species of in-shore fish.  We head in,  Oh hello FWC.  A safety check?  Well of course.  God forbid I fish a day out here without getting stopped by my friends at FWC.  At this point, I even know, by memory, what the expiration dates are on my flares.  (February, 2017, BTW).  Since this is my 18th safety check in two years, the safety check takes all of 2.5 minutes.  I'm a little disappointed that they carry .45 calibers now.  Used to be the .40 caliber I always carry on the boat was bigger than theirs.  Now I have weapon envy.  Don't even think about it Russell.  I don't need another handgun.  We have being pulled over by the cops down to a science.  See ya.  All in all, a great day of fishing.  Thanks Camp, you are always welcome, and no, I am not going to purchase your 35 ft yacht.  Tempting though.

Friday afternoon, Mike Wilson and Ryan Brooks arrive in Panacea.  The tournament Captain's meeting and party start at 7 p.m. Gene and I, fortunately have had enough time to get back to Carrabelle, shower, and return to Panacea.  Because I have had my boat in Panacea for a couple of years now, it is fun to hang with people we know, shoot the sh*t, and have a good time at the bar.  Rob owns the place and he has flown down from Pennsylvania for the occasion.  We sit with him at the bar for awhile and talk business.  I am drinking these odd "red" something or other beers that are apparently 10.1% alcohol.  They sure are tasty.  Needless to say, when we leave the bar at 10 p.m., I am absolutely hammered.  Thank you Ryan for driving, because I couldn't have made it to the end of the street, let alone all the way to Carrabelle.  Of course, that doesn't stop us from stopping at the bar in Carrabelle for one last beer.  I will sleep when I die.

OMG, is that my frickin alarm!?  What the heck time is it?  6 a.m.?  Who beat my head with a baseball bat while I was sleeping?  Am I dead, cause if not, I want to sleep more.  Wow.  Maybe we should just fish on Sunday and skip today.  We have even lost a guy, since we can't find Ryan anywhere.  I was pretty sure he was here when I went to bed, but he has disappeared.  Did another boat Shanghi him?  I think we were playing "CLR" before I went to bed, and I have a vague memory that Ryan was at the table.  We are ready to leave for Panacea and he hasn't returned.  I finally think to check my phone.  Ryan had been feeling sick all night and decided to return to Tallahassee at 3:33 a.m.  (We think it was Mike's snoring).  We will miss you Ryan, but the show must go on.  We get to the Rock Landing dock by 7:30 am and off we go.

Perfect conditions - again.  I have to be careful though, every time I lean over and come back up I see stars and get all light-headed.  Ooops.  I wonder what that is from?  Probably not enough protein in my diet. :) We head straight for Oar Reef which is about 17 miles offshore, and happens to be my favorite reef.  We aren't there long before we hear, 'zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz'.  You know - my favorite trolling sound!  We are in Federal waters, so we can't catch grouper.  So what do we catch?  Grouper.  Dammit.  Huge grouper!  We throw him back.  Not long after that, another grouper.  Not long after that, another grouper.  They all go back.  Damn, that sucks!

Here is a picture of Mike holding one of the smaller gag groupers:

We keep fishing.  Wham - another bite.  Finally, a King!

I need a bigger cooler.  34" king.  Cooler is only 32".  He isn't huge as Kings go (minimum size is 24"), but hey, we got a keeper fish in the cooler.  We are officially in the tournament baby!

After a few more runs, we decide to head in-shore to check some of Camps coordinates that he gave us the day before.  By the time we are done, we have a cooler full of fish.  I am starting to think that we are getting better at this fishing thing.  Thanks again Camp for the coordinates.

Okay, now I know this King isn't very big (as Kings go), but doggone it, I want to walk across the damn stage, (something I have never done) so my crew lets me take the fish up there.  I don't think I actually caught him, but I appreciate their respect for their Captain.  Besides, they know what a ham I am:

The King was on the board for 18 whole minutes I think.  18 minutes of fame baby! 3 more than some people get.

We head back to Carrabelle Saturday night for a fish-fry.  We actually eat a healthy dinner and I can't make myself drink anything but water.  I am exhausted.  I actually fall asleep at the dining table in the middle of conversation.  I simply can't party two nights in a row anymore - and especially not after fishing hard for 9 hours.  Peer pressure doesn't work on me (something about whiskey shots) and I go to bed at 10 p.m.

Sunday morning.  6 a.m.  I feel all refreshed.  Let's go, beaatches!  I haven't lost any more crew members either.

We head straight to K Tower this time.  There are a few boats there, and Mike even takes a picture of a pontoon boat tied to K Tower.  A pontoon boat!  Did I mention that weather conditions are perfect?  We watch this boat next to us hook up with a large Amber Jack, then another, then another.  Holy crap, what is he doing different?  Well, he is trolling at about 2 mph with live bait.  He isn't sitting still.   The other boats sitting still are catching nothing.   We have very little live bait (a whole different story), but we do have a couple pinfish in the live well, so we do the same thing as the boat catching fish.  A few minutes later, sure enough, and Gene's side of the boat has a big bite.  Why do pictures of Gene holding fish on my boat always look the best?  I think he gets his clothes tailored before he gets on the boat.  He sure isn't normally this good looking:

Now that is a nice damn Amber Jack for my little boat!  Once again, small as Amber Jacks go, but definitely a great eating fish - and a keeper.  Ambers must be 30" at the fork, this guy is 35".  In the cooler he goes.  Look behind Gene.  We are 20 miles offshore and the water looks like we are in a bathtub.  Because the conditions are so perfect, we really want to head out to a farther reef called "Bryson Reef".  This reef is about 30 miles offshore - and outside my comfort zone as a Captain of a bay boat.  I have been there before though, so let's go.  When we arrive, we put some artificials on using a technique taught to us by Camp.  It isn't long before we start getting hit by the Amber Jacks.  They love the duster with the spoon attached to the end.   Thanks Camp.   The bite is definitely on!  I think we catch two or three Ambers in a row that are all 29". We try to "stretch" them, but we can't keep those.  Odds of seeing FWC on the way in are, what, 90%?    We are out of live bait and not sure what to do so we tie a fake eel on the end of our trolling line and fish with that.  Wham - that gets hit, and it is good-sized.  My crew is nice to me and let me reel this one in (driving all the time gets old).  These guys are so much fun to fight.  I have to use two hands as I am not as strong as Gene:

34" - Another keeper.  Now we got a heavy cooler, baby:

The wind is starting to increase and I don't particularly like being 30 miles offshore in my little bay boat, so I reluctantly tell the guys, "Let's head in".  It is only about 2 p.m. but we decide to head all the way in because there is a lot happening at the tournament, we have fish to clean and beers to drink.  (No way I am drinking just water today)

Here we are with our three biggest fish for the 2014 Panacea Rock-The-Dock Tournament:

Not bad boys!  We are quickly learning that catching larger fish really offshore is all about teamwork and practice.  When they are on the line, you really have to work together to make sure that you don't lose them before they actually get in the boat.  As one line goes off, each member on the boat has responsibilities.  Lines have to be brought in, the boat has to be maneuvered, the gaff has to be ready, gloves come on, poles get secured out of the way, etc.  And all of this must happen very quickly in a very confined space.  It kind of reminds me of an orchestra.

At the beginning of this blog, I said that we knew we wouldn't win anything in the tournament.  Why?  Well, around 3 p.m. on Sunday (final weigh-in ends at 4 p.m.), the "professionals" start showing up.  You know, those guys with the 45 ft "run and gun" center console yachts with the cool wraps on the sides of their boats and all the guys are dressed in professional gear and have sponsor names all over their matching shirts.  I think the "winning" king was 57 pounds (ours was 11), and I think the winning Amber Jack was 60 pounds.  Do you know how big that is?  Ours were like 15-17 pounds.  Now that's not to say we weren't proud of them.  Catching even small Ambers is a challenge.   It is going to be awhile before we start competing with THOSE offshore tournament guys.

But we're coming gentleman, we're learning

In between writing this blog tonight, I am programming and trying to make money.  I'm working towards my bigger boat!  I can assure you that I won't have the Triton forever.  I LOVE offshore fishing.  Addictions are terrible things :)

We must be improving as I did not have a single hook penetrate any of my body appendages!  I still don't want to lose my Capt'n Hook moniker though.  I earned that.

Thanks for reading everyone.  Tight lines.

And thank you MIke for taking all the great photos - nice job!

Capt'n Hook (Sometime on Saturday near K Tower)  :)