For you crazy, obviously very bored readers who like it when I create LONG posts, you will like this one. So go grab your cup of coffee and a danish and we will get started.
In regards to the new year, I don't really like the word "Resolution". It seems a little too daunting. I do like the word "Goals" though. One of my 2018 goals is to be: "More Adventurous"; especially on the water. Another goal is to be less inappropriate, but obviously I will never accomplish that in this lifetime.
I don't typically fish much in January or February, and if I/when I do, I usually keep it pretty close to shore for safety reasons. The weather can change pretty quickly offshore in the winter. But the forecast for Sunday, Jan 21, looks like this:
Bottom line: 71 degrees as the high with 1 to 2 foot seas. Yeah, I gotta fish. So I sent an email to my growing group of friends to determine who can go with me. I have about 30 people on that list. Typically, I get about 3 people who respond with a "Yes". At least, that is what I was hoping for - since it IS January. However, I had about 18 people respond with "Yes". Holy smokes! Does everyone have cabin-fever or what? My apologies to those of you who I had to turn down. That never happens. Next time...
And returning to the goal "Adventurous", there is no way I am staying near shore. We are definitely headed to V Tower which is 45 miles offshore. Apparently, AmberJack are open for 26 days this year. Jan 1 - Jan 26. They were closed for almost ALL of last year. And, they increased the size to 34" at the tail fork. Trust me, that is a LARGE AmberJack. So yes, I understand that "they" are making it almost impossible for us to actually keep a fish, but no matter, we are determined to seek AmberJack at V Tower.
On the boat today are: Sam, Mike, Ely (Leadership Tallahassee 35 Class), her son "GM" (my nickname for him), Paul, his son Lucas, and Bill Oliver (LT 35 Class). Ely's son is only seven and Paul's son is twelve.
As we head out, smooth seas, although admittedly, a bit chilly at 47 degrees. Brrr. Why did I wear shorts again? Honestly, I never really got cold all day, except for when we finally returned to the channel after a long day - I got a little chill. It passed quickly.
A short speech about safety and adventure before we head out:
Boys ready for an adventure. I'm sure they're thinking, how do my parents know this Capt'n Hook character?
Pretty smooth seas until we reach K Tower (20 miles out), then the seas start to increase to 3-4 ft. Getting a little bumpy out here - especially at 40 mph. I have a few people on the bow who are kind of getting beat up. I'm starting to 2nd-guess myself with our trip out here. Chilly and windy and there are ABSOLUTELY no other boats out here. I haven't seen a single vessel since we left the dock. Nice and sunny though! The temperature has gone up to 45 degrees.
Without major incident, we approach V Tower. I am still a few miles away (1st picture below) when I see a small spec on the horizon near the tower. Over the years, and as a game/challenge, I try to guess the sizes (and type) of vessels from as far away as possible. I have improved somewhat, so from a distance, I'm guessing this vessel is 18-20 ft without a T-Top. That can't be possible though because that would just be plum crazy. It's probably time to get my prescription sunglasses updated.
We get closer.... See the spec on the right now? Yes, that is a boat.
Hey, a 20 ft boat with no T-Top! I guessed Key West, but it is a Cape Horn:
Worth repeating, uh, yeah: 20 ft vessel, 45 miles offshore, by himself, 4 ft seas, January. God bless him! I like this guy. So much for thinking I am adventurous. I'm not even close. THIS guy truly understands the meaning of the word.
To prove my point, let's compare his boat to my boat:
While we were out there, and after a couple hours of fishing, we actually meet this guy and he gives us some of the plastic jigs that he is crushing the AmberJack with. What a great guy! His name was Dan.
He found me on the web and sent me an email that same evening. (So I know he made it back safely). Here is my reply to him:
When we next meet, I will assuredly NOT call you "Dan". Forever moving forward, I will always call you "BA", which obviously stands for "Bad-Ass". 4 ft seas, 20 ft boat, 42 miles offshore, by yourself, catching Amber after Amber at V Tower. Yeah, definitely 'bad-ass'.
An inspirational story:
I had two young boys on the boat; before we left the dock, I gave them a speech about "Adventure". I explained that we were going FAR offshore and no matter what happens, good or bad, they will remember this adventure for a very long time. As fishermen, we may have grown more comfortable with it, but not too many people have ever been 40-50 miles offshore in a boat. It scares the crap out of most adults. Between K and V, as you know, the seas picked up to 3-4 ft. I had a few people on the bow getting knocked around. One of the boys (7 year-old who was with his Mom) got pretty worried. My app said the seas were supposed to increase, not decrease, so I figured it might be a long day for him. The entire drive out, I hadn't seen another boat, but as I approached V Tower, I saw, to my amazement, what appeared to be a small vessel with just a single person on it. I'm speculating that you are tied up to the tower, possibly in trouble, and have gotten stuck out there without VHF. As we approach, you have a large Amber on, and you simply wave. I smiled and said to everyone, "Now that guy is a Bad-Ass"! As I kept talking about the differences between our vessels and how brave (crazy?) you are, that 7-year-old’s confidence immediately increased. His actions on the boat went from timid (wouldn’t leave his Mom) to confident: (“Excuse me sir, can I borrow that rod if you are done with it?”). I'm telling you dude, you inspired him. That kid was determined to figure out jigging on his own (he did) and he ended up catching AmberJack and Snapper all day. He fell in love with offshore fishing yesterday - and your actions gave him the confidence to do it. At the end of the day, I kept hearing, "Mr. Paul, can we go again? Captain, are you gonna email my Mom again? Mr. Paul, when are you going out again?" 😊 Although we fished apart all day on different vessels, you and I made a positive difference in that kid's life yesterday. (Or, we created a monster for his Mom)
Unfortunately, we didn't have any live bait (we tried), so we were forced to use diamond jigs and vertical jigs. "Jigging" is the art of dropping a heavy lure that looks like a knife blade to the bottom and then start yanking and reeling like crazy. Sometimes (not all the time), the flash and jerkiness gets the AmberJacks attention and it strikes. It is very tiring. I have had people do this for hours on my boat and catch nothing - and question my experience with these things. I have had people jig once or twice and catch a big Amber. It just depends. I think the fish do tend to figure it out after an hour or so. They definitely get smarter.
But today.... we sley them (Both Amberjacks and Snapper and...wait for it...).
Great job Ely on all the pictures and videos.
For the most part (not all fish are pictured), here is our busy and productive day at V Tower:
Bill enjoys catching the "smaller" Amberjack: (I don't know why). In all fairness, he did have a HUGE AmberJack on, but the line snapped. That was my fault as it was related to my knot. Even though I have had to pass tests at Sea School for knot-tying, mine still suck.
Ely and GM staying warm on the bow:
Come on Bill, they must be MUCH bigger than that:
That's more like it!:
Paul and Lucas relaxing:
V Tower in the sunshine:
Capt'n Hook looking "geeky" as always:
Sam looking "studly", as always: (Helps that he is a Marine).
Except for the ride out, this kid never stopped smiling:
One of MANY snappers caught throughout the day. They gotta go back in though:
Mike struggling with something:
Slaying em and having some fun:
After much determined practice, Gabe "GM" really got the hang of jigging. It takes practice to improve. I like tenacious kids! Not only did he catch AmberJack, but he also caught big Snapper: (As always, thanks Mike and Sam, for all your assistance).
I'm certain that kid fell asleep with that smile on his face. That is a 27" AmberJack. It is NOT easy to bring that in to the boat. At times, they had to hold GM down so that he didn't fly off the boat. His feet came off the deck several times fighting this fish! AmberJack are STRONG fighters! Their nicknames are "Reef Donkeys" cause when you catch one, it feels like they are trying to buck you.
Huge snapper are ALSO not easy to bring in. Still smiling though. He has the fever! :-)
This one probably needs to get framed:
Nice fish gentlemen: Bill's is bigger:
Finally, Sam hooks into something that simply doesn't move. For the first twenty minutes, Sam really doesn't make any progress with this thing. He moves around the entire boat. At one point, we thought he might have bottom, but every now and then the pole twitches. Sam is a strong dude, but he is clearly struggling. After 45 minutes, we of course, start making fun of him:
An hour later, this beast finally surfaces:
Videos are tricky on this blog: (Here they are, if they work in your browser)
As we leave V Tower, we are all pretty darn tired (okay, I'm not, although steering the boat is very stressful sometimes on my left pinky finger), so we troll for a 1/2 hour until we get to Bryson reef. We don't catch anything trolling, but honestly, we are somewhat okay with that. V Tower tired everyone out. (Except Dan on the other boat!)
Beautiful drive back. The seas did NOT increase, they actually subsided to zero, so the LONG ride back was quite nice. Love it when that happens. Safely back at the marina! Boat all cleaned up. Time for a couple of beers at Mad Anthony's to finish out the day.
Thanks everyone. Awesome January day! I'm now ready for work tomorrow.
I gotta admit, I like my new 2018 goal of being adventurous. What is your goal? Looking forward to seeing more of you on my boat this year; that would be a good goal for you.
And I admit, I am jumping the gun.... In 2017, I put the necessary time in at Sea School and passed the test, but the Coast Guard has not sent me my new "Master Captain" credentials yet. If they don't promote me, I will have to change my logo back. Dang it. For now though (in limbo and patiently waiting), I like the way it looks. :-)