Back To Work
Well the seasons are changing and everything here in Key West is about to pick up quite a bit, at least thats what everyone is hoping. I just got back from a little vacation back home to west central Florida. Getting out of the Keys and away from the boat and business always does the mind and body good. It really puts things into perspective. Gator hunting this season was pretty good for me and great for my friends that still live in the area and get to be a little more dedicated than me. We took two gators over nine feet with my tags, one of them being almost ten and a half feet. I also did really well fishing for snook and redfish the week prior to my hunts. I did even better at spooking the snook and redfish, I was definitely a little rusty, but things worked out well enough to satisfy me. I think the highlight of my trip might have been the food but we won’t get into that here. I will say if you are ever in Plant City, do yourself a favor and go to Grandpa Johnson’s for some real southern food. Then do me a favor and text me a picture of your plate (305-393-3299) because you just can’t get stuff like that down here.
Fishing here in Key West has definitely picked up since I left. I have had some really good afternoons fishing for blackfin tuna out to the west. I found a few wahoo and some really consistent school dolphin action offshore and the outer bar is ramping up for the fall push. The first week of October I was out in 750 feet of water and the bite was pretty hot. We had put about a dozen or more mahi in the box and were working our way east on a really pretty line of weed. A few hours in, we hooked a double and lifted the first fish into the boat. As we were getting ready to lift the second, a large, fast, dark shadow appeared behind it. The dolphin saw what it was and started to panic, jumping out of the water and hitting my transom. My mate grabbed the rod and pitched the five pound schoolie back out behind the boat and our marlin got another shot. The fish ate the dolphin not ten feet from the boat which was pretty much all the show we got. Since the only hook in the picture was buried deep down in our “bait” we knew there wasn’t much of chance to actually get a leader touch and count the marlin as caught. Either way, we dropped the mahi back and locked the drag up to strike. Twenty-five minutes later, Marlin-1, Double Wrap-0.
I kept thinking about it over and over again, wondering if I should have done something different. Every year we get put in the same situation and it always comes out of nowhere. They come quick, and leave even quicker. I ended up losing a little bit of sleep on this one though, and Im not sure why. Maybe because it was my first trip back from vacation and I really wanted that fish to start me out on the right foot.
A few days went by and I decided I was going to finally designate a pitch rod on the boat for those rare scenarios. It seems like a logical thing to do, but for one reason or another I never do it. I think part of it may be superstition. Obviously, you always want to be prepared for anything but in my mind when you get rigged up for something so special and rare it seems to never happen. Fast forward a week.
We were down at the end of the bar, west of Key West, and the tuna bite was on. It seemed like every time I got even remotely close to the Sub wreck, two or three baits were getting knocked down with tuna strikes. Once again, we had about dozen or so fish in the boat and every once in a while we would catch a skipjack mixed in with the blackfins. After releasing our third or fourth skipjack another large, fast and dark shadow appeared next to the boat. We watched the marlin eat the skipjack right as it reentered the water. It was so close, it actually threw water back into the cockpit of the boat. Now was the time for the experiment. We still had another tuna hooked up that we were fighting. It was a blackfin of about twelve or thirteen pounds. I ran to the deck and started wiring it in. As soon as it hit the deck, the hook was cut out and a 12/0 circle hook was placed into his back. The problem was that we were in very sharky water and as soon I pitched the tuna, the marlin wasn’t going to be the only big predator looking for an easy meal. Almost instantly, two big lemon sharks appeared and after playing keep away I didn’t have much choice but to just lift the tuna back into the boat and put him on ice. That was the second marlin we had to the boat in five days and the second marlin we didn’t get a release on.
So which one burned me more, hooking a marlin that I knew we probably wouldn’t ever see again; or being prepared to present a bait to a marlin boat side, that if taken would give us a very very high chance of release; or never getting the shot at all? To be honest ,I don’t know. They still both bother me a little bit. It does comfort me a little to know that even though things didn’t work out, I was still ready for them and did my best to make it happen, no excuses.
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