Just For Fun
One thing I love about fishing in the Keys is having the ability to target such a variety of fish. When you charter fish you get both experienced and inexperienced anglers. Many of them don’t care what they catch, and just want action. Some people want fish that pull hard and others want fish that taste good.
What we may consider a slow day, many people consider a great day. In all honesty any day on the water is a good one.
At the end of May, Bud n’ Mary’s teamed up with Pelagic to host a multi-species tournament right here in Islamorada. It was designed as a “fun” tournament to get anglers of all skill level and experience involved. The only problem with May is it can be windy sometimes, and with 20 knots of wind it put a damper on things. Most of the small boats cancelled last minute, but we still had ten different teams ready for action. Dolphin, tuna, amberjack and wahoo were the targets. If you caught three or more species you got bonus points. Scoring was simple, as it was one point per pound, and you could weigh one of each species for combined points. I used my uncle’s boat, Catch 22, and took some friends and family out that don’t get to fish as much as they would like. I put together a game plan in my head, and started with the hardest species.
Wahoo are hit and miss here, but we trolled for them to start the day. The scattered weeds were bad, and we were clearing the lines every ten minutes. I knew everyone in the cockpit was getting tired after the third or fourth time clearing the spread, but sure enough we hooked up. At 13 knots a wahoo screamed some drag. Helen was the angler and after a five minute fight she caught her first ever wahoo, a 17 lber.
After we put that fish in the box we headed further offshore to look for dolphin.
We stopped on a few schools of fish, catching a dozen or so from five to ten pounds. I found a piece of wood floating as well, and sure enough a nice bull swam up. The excitement was short lived though, as the fish disappeared after a few seconds. We had half the species in the box, so the Hump was our next stop.
“Football” blackfin tuna usually aren’t hard to catch, but they call it fishing for a reason. Nothing is guaranteed! We spent an hour and a half and finally caught one blackfin tuna just under five pounds. I was hoping for a few of them so we could send them down for a big amberjack, but with only one in the box we needed him for the weigh in. We had a few live baits in the well so we sent them down to the bottom. It’s mind blowing to me that we couldn’t get a bite in the month of May from an amberjack on the hump. But it happened to us, and a few other boats too.
At this point we were thirty miles south of Islamorada, we had three of the four species, but everyone knew amberjack would be the easiest way to rack up the points. It was 2 p.m. and we needed an amberjack! I knew one other spot we could try closer to home, but it was a 25 mile run into 4 – 7 foot seas! We decided to make the run, and took our time. We stopped on a few more schools of dolphin, catching another ten fish up to 12 lbs. We finally made it to the amberjack spot and sent down the vertical jigs. We hooked a double header first drop! Unfortunately they turned out to be almaco jacks, and they didn’t count.
We didn’t give up though, and sent the jigs back down. We worked them up aggressively and finally the rod doubled over. My sister in law Elizabeth had never caught an amberjack before, and she may never want to again. If you’ve never caught one on a jigging stick with 80 lb braid with 20 lbs of drag you should do it once. It’s a full body workout and you’ll understand why they call them reef donkeys. After a ten minute battle she had a 44 lb amberjack in the boat. We were stoked to have all four species in the box but decided to make one more drift. We hooked two more jacks, but both were smaller than the one we had in the box. We called it a day after that and headed back to the scales to see how we faired.
As it turned out, we caught the only wahoo, as well as the biggest amberjack. We got 15 bonus points for catching all four species on top of our combined fish points, giving us a total of 93 points. It was good enough for the win and it was a great day on the water with family and friends. Congrats to the Cloud Nine on their second place finish and the Buzz On for taking third. We hope to host the event again next year and get more boats involved. And hopefully the weather is a little bit nicer!
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