Be Ready for Everything
We had some exciting fishing trips here in Islamorada the past month. The late spring months are fun to fish here because of the variety we catch. Offshore we’ll have mahi, blackfin tuna, wahoo, swordfish, amberjack and tripletail. On the reef we’ll catch yellowtail and mutton snapper, kingfish, grouper, permit, cobia, sailfish, and barracuda. Now I’ll agree any day on the water is a good day, but the key to consistently catching fish is always to be ready for everything. It’s not uncommon for me to have 15 rods with all sorts of different rigs. I recently sold my boat and am having a new one built, so for now I’m fishing with my uncle, Capt. Scott Stanczyk, aboard the Catch 22 as well as on my old boat, Bn’M.
On a recent charter aboard the Catch 22 we had a great trip. The charter consisted of two adults and a 14 year old kid. We started out the day catching live pilchards. I hate when people tell me we are wasting time catching bait, or trying to catch bait. They didn’t say that though, because we all knew we’d have more options if we had live bait. After an hour of trying we had a livewell full.
We made it past the reef five miles and Scott saw a small boat drifting by a piece of debris and wanted to fight a couple mahi. We slowed down and idled over. We asked if they minded if we caught some of the mahi that were swimming around and they said go ahead. We didn’t want to go up and “mug” them, since they were there first. We gave them a bucket full of live pilchards. We were both having great action.
When it was all said and done we had a dozen mahi, the biggest being a 25 lb bull. We also caught a few tripletail on the lighter outfits with small hooks. To finish, we trolled up a couple wahoo. It was a great catch of fish, and it was only 10am! Now we were faced with the question of whether to spend the rest of the day trolling around to try to catch more mahi or go back to the reef. Young Sam told me he wanted to catch something big, so I rigged up a couple vertical jigs and a RonZ lure on my jigging rods. Scott hadn’t done a ton of jigging before, but I knew some amberjacks had been on one of the smaller humps.
We ran a couple miles and sent down three Shimano Trevala rods. I like to fish a really tight drag on the 80 lb braid, mostly because the jigs are $15 - $20 a piece. Within two minutes we had a triple header on! The amberjacks were from 35 – 45 lbs. When you hook these donkeys they try to rip the rods out of your hands. If you’ve caught one you know! After a 15 minute tug of war Sam was victorious, as were the other two. They all agreed they didn’t want to punish their backs anymore.
Next we headed back to the reef to look for permit. There was a boat diving on one of the wrecks where we usually get them, but the school of fish wasn’t very happy. We caught a couple crevalle jacks while drifting around. I asked Sam if there was anything in particular he still wanted to catch. He said barracuda. So we rigged up a few wire leaders and caught and released a few barracuda at the next spot. From there we looked for cobia for a little bit, but no luck. Next we fished a wreck and caught a couple king mackerel and a bunch of bonitos. We saw a couple sailfish free jumping, and lined up on them, but no bites.
By the time the day was over we had caught most of the fish young Sam had mentioned. Sure Scott has been fishing 35 years, but having all the different rigs and rods ready to go made it that much easier. So be prepared when the opportunity comes.
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