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john martin

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john martin last won the day on September 26 2018

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  1. The trip started out fishing with my good friend Larry on the Skyway. The bite was fairly steady and we were able to get all the live bait we needed in a couple of hours. We left with 40 anglers eager to take advantage of the great weather and the hope of good fishing. Trolling on the way out was slow but that didn’t mean those giving it a try lacked enthusiasm. If you read last weeks report you’ll know there were some impressive fish landed while trolling between spots. Apparently pictures of a 50 LB Wahoo gets people excited. I wish I could report continued success but last weeks result didn’t roll over to this trip. Good news it should pick up as the water warms. Note: The most important thing about trolling is to have the proper gear. In general, you need a good two speed reel that is a 4/0 size or better. In my opinion anything less is a waste of time. We started around midnight in almost flat seas. Temperature was almost Spring like. Now if only the fish were ready to celebrate with a chew. They must have been in a fasting mood as the bite was slow all night. In fact, it was slow most of the trip. The best spot of the trip came mid afternoon when we got on a Vermilion Snapper bite. They were hungry and they were big. Every fish was in the 2-3 LB. range. One angler got 15 on this spot alone. In fairness if I could have kept all I caught I’d have had a banner trip as I caught 7 Gags including back to back an 18 LB and one closer to 25 LB. My throw backs also included numerous American Red Snapper. The Mango’s just weren’t biting. Although I did land one in the 8 LB, range. All in all, I am not complaining as we always eat good at the Martin House. Check out the picture taken just before I cleaned some for family and friend’s dinner. As always, I can’t wait to get back out and at it again! See You Out There!
  2. Another spring like weekend in February made me excited to get back out on the water. We left in great conditions with high hopes for a banner trip. Trolling on the way out was slower than I expected but was on fire the next day as a beautiful 50 LB Wahoo and several Big Blackfin Tuna were caught. We started later than usual around 1:30 AM. There was very little wind which sounds good but can be a mixed blessing. The flat seas made it hard for Captain Garret to get a steady anchoring heading. This in turn lead to the boat drifting off the spot. All of this makes the Mangrove Snapper bite inconsistent as no chum line develops. Most of the night saw a scattering of Mangos and lots of American Red Snapper. I managed to pick a few Mangroves off every spot including one Fatty over 7 Lbs. I also caught my share of Gags, 5 in all that were successfully released. Hopefully we will meet again in season. The day bite was slow but there were some special fish caught including a very Nice Hog Fish. My personal best was a Large Scamp Grouper in the 7-8 LB. range. The most frustrating aspect of the trip was we were on great shows of fish. (I saw them on the screen) but they just wouldn’t bite. One spot in particular show cased the above problem. The Captain said we were on a spot he’d caught “Giant” Vermilion Snapper and the screen was loaded up. If you know anything about these fish, you’ll know that if there is one there is a thousand and if one bites, they all will. I saw a handful of Vermilion come up and they were big 3 LBS or better. But that was it. I soaked a “Chicken Rig” with squid on at least three occasions and never got a single bite. That’s why they call it fishing and not catching. See you out there!!!!
  3. The last several trips have seen great fishing and windy cold weather. This 44 Hour Full Moon Trip started out in calm seas and Spring like temperatures. Feeling like I’d paid my dues I welcomed the change and hoped the fish would celebrate with a good bite. Trolling lately has been slow and this trip was no exception although there were a few Bonita’s caught and a really nice King lost just beyond gaffing range while trolling between spots. We started around 8:00 PM in fantastic conditions in 120’ of water. The first stop was slow but I did catch a couple of Mangrove Snappers. Capt. Bryon said he had a solid anchor heading so I was hoping the second stop would see an improvement. I got hit as soon as I reached bottom and reeled up a “Giant” Vermilion Snapper in the 3 LB. range. The Vermilion kept biting as well as a few Mango’s. I decided it was time to try some live bait. My bait was nervous when it hit bottom and sure enough, I felt that familiar “Pop” of a Goozer. I was proved right when a nice Mango around 5 LBS. cleared the rail. This would become a pattern. I would start each spot with Threadfins and catch a few fish. Then I would switch to live bait and nail a Fatty Mango. Live bait fishing for Mango’s is both fun and challenging. Generally, Mangrove Snapper like to kill their bait before they eat it. This means they rarely “Hog” it. As a result, many anglers reel too soon. They end up either having their bait ripped off or they wind up a Pinfish in tatters. Below are tips for improving your chances with live bait. Tip/ If I am consistently using live bait I go with a single hook. If possible, have two poles set up. One for live and the other for dead bait. It is OK to use the double hook rig but just use the bottom hook. Never put both hooks in a live bait as this limits their movement and defeats the purpose of live bait. My preference for live bait is a Pin Fish. I hook them under the chin and out the nose. Tip Continued/ The main difference between live bait and dead is when to crank. Note: There is no “Setting” the hook in water deeper the 60’. With a dead bait I said just crank when you feel the bite. With Live bait Mango’s like to kill their bait before they eat it. They will “Pop” it a couple of times and then swallow it. Wait for the hard pull before you wind. Sometimes you have to feed them a little line. Like all things the more practice the better you will get. During the night I ended up catching over a dozen Goozers all between 4-7 pounders. The day bite was slower but there was action on every stop. Two more Cobia were caught meaning the boat has gotten a Cobia on every trip this year. Continuing to use live bait I got my limit of Mango’s as well as decent Scamp Grouper and a “Keeper” Red Grouper. I released 7 Gags one of which was over 20 LBS and more American Red Snapper than I could count. The overall highlight of the trip for me was seeing the grit determination and joy of the three Lady Anglers we had. They not only held their own but, (Sorry Guys) out fished the men they were with. Pictures don’t lie. Check them out. One of the great things about these trips is all the great people you meet. Can’t wait to get back out there! See You Out There!
  4. I apologize for the lateness of this report for the weekend of 1/25/19. Between the time it took for me to thaw out and taking a 5-day vacation to New Orleans a few days later I just forgot. The combination of the bait fishing being slow and Gag season closed I decided to forgo live bait this trip. The cold played into my decision as well. Even though the trip started out windy and cold I was still excited to get back out there and see if they were still biting as strong as they had two weeks prior. Trolling on the way out was poor as the water conditions were cloudy. It started raining a few miles from shore which brought an end to the trolling effort. Due to extreme cold few attempted it between spots the following day. We started around 1:00 AM in weather more fitting for “Deadliest Catch” than FL Mango fishing. This was especially true on the bow. Winds were at least 25 Knots and the temperature felt like 20. Fortunately, or unfortunately I have a lot of experience in these conditions so I managed a steady pick of Mango’s all night. There was also a scattering of large Vermillion and Yellowtail Snapper. Of course, the Gags continued to chew as I caught and released six nice ones over the course of the trip. The day didn’t bring much relief from the cold because the wind steadily picked up. As the seas picked up so did the boat swing making it difficult to stay on the spots resulting in a very sporadic bite. On one early morning spot two Cobia were landed both in the 30 LB. range. Captain Garret decided to move to an area of “Pot Holes” known to hold Red Grouper and Scamps. Throughout the day I didn’t have much luck but there were some nice keepers caught around the boat on every stop. On one spot late in the afternoon I was walking around deck shooting some video when a fellow angler got slammed. He ended up with a “Fire Truck” Red Grouper in the 20 LB. range. Turned out he wasn’t in the Jackpot. (Opinion Tip) Always get in the Jackpot. I say this for two reasons. One you may win enough money to pay for your trip and secondly it will make you a better fisherman. As an example, people bet on Golf as the wager makes them compete more. I find the same is true in fishing. I rarely look forward to a trip ending but I must admit I was leaning that way. The conditions were such that holding anchor was becoming a challenge. On the Sun set stop there was a flurry of nice Mango’s coming over the rail. I was hopeful but personally saw no action. After what seemed like an hour, I was close to surrendering. The Captain said we had about an hour left to fish but he didn’t want to move so we were going to ride it out on this one. With the above information I decided to hang in there. Funny how the “Fish Gods” work. No sooner did I make this decision when BANG! Fish ON! Turned out to be a Goozer in the seven-pound range. Over the next thirty minutes I would land five more all over five LBS. You just never know. Good news I am rested and battle tested but, most importantly thawed out. Looking forward to getting back out there this weekend. See You Out There!
  5. This being a 44 Hour Full Moon Trip leaving at 10:00 AM there is no time to catch bait. Another factor is Gag Grouper and Amber Jack remain closed. All of this added up to my decision not to seek live bait and thus straight from Hawthorne to the Boat. We left on time under decent conditions with the knowledge the good weather was temporary as it was to get progressively nasty as the weekend progressed. We started just after 7:00 PM in good conditions. With the Full Moon, current is always a concern. Strong current can be an issue especially when Mangrove Snapper fishing as it makes developing a chum line difficult. Tip/ (This tip mainly benefits those who can cast.) Staying in the chum line is vital to consistently catch fish. This is even more difficult at night with the boat swinging. If possible, use the Moon or Stars as a waypoint. Once you establish the chum (current) line try to cast in a way that keeps you in it. It takes practice but trust me it is well worth it. The first stop was decent but the second was on fire as were most of the stops all night. One stop in particular was fantastic. Mangos were coming up everywhere. There were also Flag Size Yellow Tail Snappers and “Big” Vermillion. Of course, Gags and American Red Snapper were plentiful. Even though they have to go back they are fun to catch. In all I caught and released six Gags throughout the trip and more ARS than I could count as well as undersized Red Grouper. One stop we not only caught all the above but the King Mackerel took off. You could see them streaking in the Moon light all around the boat. When they are like this it doesn’t take much to target them. The easiest way is to flat line some bait on a Jig with wire leader. Make sure to set your drag right as King’s make an initial strong run. Even though I wasn’t targeting them I caught two decent ones back to back. Even though the Kings were chewing I targeting Mangos. They continued to chew and the average size was impressive. On the same stop as the Kings I tied off a stringer of 10 Goozers that were all 5 LBS are better. (Side Note: The Jackpot Mango was over 9 LBS.) On this spot I was reeling what I was sure was a nice Goozer and Bang! It got slammed. After a few seconds of screaming drag it let go and the Mango was still on. I kept reeling and Bang it was hit again. More drag singing and again it let go. The Snapper was still on so I continued to reel. Just when I thought it was in the clear BANG! Hard Slam! This time there was no letting go. What ever I had took me straight to the bottom. Keep in mind I was using my Snapper set up with only 40 LB test. I continued to fight the beast on the Pulpit of the Bow in 15 -20 knot winds in 3-5’ seas temperature 40 degrees and spray hitting my face and I was loving every minute of it! After a tense battle it ended up being an AJ in the 80 LB. range. At Sunrise Captain Bryon said we would make one more stop in this area. I dropped down a large Threadfin and let it soak. The current was picking up as were the seas. I continued to let my sinker bounce along the bottom and Bam! Nice Fish ON! I had it coming up but about mid-way it came un-buttoned. Frustrated but undeterred I dropped down again and got hit quickly. This fish was smaller but still decent. Turned out to be a nice Mutton Snapper. Can’t help but think the one that got away might have been as well. Next, we made an hour move to deeper water targeting Scamp and Red Grouper. On the first stop I got hit as soon as I hit bottom. Turned out to be a nice Scamp in the 4 LB range. I also caught a keeper Red Grouper. Overall the boat did excellent on this stop as at least a dozen nice Scamp came up. We tried several more stops in this area but the seas were picking up making the anchor continuing to drag. With the seas building and predicted to get much worse the Captain had us steadily working towards the North so the boat would be in the best position for the ride home. Time for one last stop. I cast out and got slammed on the way down. My drag was singing. I finally turned the fish and began “working” him in. I thought my drag was right but my leader popped. While I was tangling with my fish the gentleman next to me got hooked up. I got re-rigged just in time to Gaff a large African Pompano. I was certain that was what I had on. I cast out and got hit again. I’d set my drag a little looser and this time I landed a beautiful African Pompano in the 25 LB range. Time to head home and hope the weather permits us to go again this weekend! See you out there!
  6. This trip started out with me doing what I love and have missed, catching Pin Fish on the Skyway. Although it was freezing, I was grateful to see so much life after all the horror of the Red Tide. They bit pretty good so I was able to get about 80 in a couple of hours. Now to the boat with the hope of keeping them alive. I am happy to report they survived throughout the whole trip. Note: There is still RT around but conditions are improving. Conditions on the way out were a bit rough and the trolling was slow. It was much better between spots as some tuna were caught. We started out in windy cold conditions especially on the bow. Fortunately, the fish were biting well enough to keep the blood flowing. For a moment it looked like we would be on a night time Gag chew as three were caught quickly. It ended as quick as it started as none were caught until day break. Sun rise so time to see if the live Pins would make a difference. In fact, they already had as I caught several nice Goozers on Pins during the night. The Gags just didn’t want to cooperate, I didn’t get a single hit by Noon. I did land a few Mango’s. The Snapper bit well all day and I had no trouble getting my limit. Truth is if hadn’t been focusing so much effort on Gags I’m sure I could have doubled my limit. Late afternoon and still no Gags, that was about to change. I dropped down a large Pin and half way down it got BLASTED! I thought sure it was an Amber Jack as it started taking drag. To my surprise it was one of the Bigger American Red Snappers I’ve seen in a while. It had to be in the 20 LB. range. Good news it was properly vented and went down healthy so I am hoping we meet again. Still on the ARS spot I quickly fired down a live bait only to get hung in the rocks. I managed to lose my whole rig two times in a row. The most frustrating thing is people were catching Gags all around the boat. Undaunted I re-rigged and fired down again. This time BANG! Big Fish ON! After a few tense moments I turned the fish which I was certain was a nice Gag. Well I’ll never know as about half way up it chewed through my leader. Fishing can be frustrating some time. The trick is to keep your spirit up as you never know. I re-rigged for the third time on this spot and fired down the largest Pin I had left. Sure enough, as soon as I tightened on my line Slama Jama! I promptly reeled in a nice Gag in the 15 LB. range. Never Give UP! It is Thanksgiving Eve as I write and I am truly grateful for all the many blessings I have. Not the least of which is being able to fish with so many great people. This trip was no exception. Not only did my young friend Chucky return but he slammed the fish. I also got to witness one of my Star pupils come into his own. Bubba not only limited out on Mangos but got a Gag and a Blackfin Tuna! Good job Grasshopper. Did I mention that Chuck brought along his Uncle (Captain) Joe who mated along with First Mate Will. With Captain Garett at the helm it felt like we had the Old Band back together again. The big news is Captain Joe will be making his 39 hr. Captaining Debut this Thanksgiving Weekend. He has earned it and I am eager to fish with him. From my Family to yours I wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings. See you out there!
  7. The trip started with Red Tide still being bad at John’s Pass so no live bait was being sold. (At this writing the RT seems to be dissipating) At the time of departure the conditions were decent but the forecast was for the winds to pick up. Trolling on the way out was decent with a few Kings and Spanish Mackerel coming over the rail. We started around Midnight with the winds blowing 10-15 and seas around 2’. The bite was decent throughout the night with Mangrove Snapper coming up all over the boat. I wouldn’t say they were ever on fire but it was steady. The best news was the size was above average. I caught several over four LBS. and two over 6. I was hoping for some night Gag action, and although I wasn’t so fortunate there were a few caught. Day break brought the promised increase in the winds. They kicked up to 20-25 peaking around 2:00. This didn’t stop the Goozer bite as they continued to bite most of the day. On the second stop after Sun rise, I dropped down and before I could tighten my line BANG! Fish ON! I knew right away it was a Gag. After a few tense moments I reeled up a nice one in 12 LB range. Next stop I dropped down my biggest Live bait and once again got slammed! This time my drag was singing. I figured it was an Amber Jack but you always want to see it. I managed to weave in and out of several lines on my way to the stern (I never would have gotten him up if AJ’s were still in season) Sure enough it turned out to be a Jack at least 70 LBS. Sorry no pictures as Will the first mate was able to de-hook him in the water and he swam off. Perhaps we will meet again. After about an hour run to a new area, I managed to do something I haven’t done in a while. I caught back to back keeper Red Grouper. One was barely legal and the other a couple inches past. My buddy Danny caught one over 15 LBS that ended up being the Jack Pot winner! Next stop Captain Bryon said it was a place he’d caught some nice Gags in the past. Turned out he was right as BANG! BANG! I landed two Gags in a row one of which was over 20 LBS. All in all, it was a great trip and just before we left the weather improved and we had a nice ride home. Time to rest up and get ready for the next one. See you out there! P.S. The Legend of “Jig Head Ed” struck again as the anchor was being pulled for the last time. He hooked up while reeling in. It was my privilege to gaff a “Smoker King” that had to be 30 LBS!
  8. Sorry for the lateness of this report just been a real busy week. Once again, I started the trip with no live bait as the Red Tide is still an issue around John’s Pass. As there is no trip this weekend I am hoping for dramatic improvement by next weekend. I miss my Pin fish. Not only as bait but I enjoy catching them and it just has become part of the process for me. As this was a Full Moon 44-hour trip we left at 10:00 AM. The conditions where rough from the start with white caps before we cleared the jetty. In spite of the conditions the trolling on the way out was decent. Spanish Mackerel were caught in abundance as well as scattered Kings. No Tuna on the way out but some were landed between spots once out there as well as a Dolphin. We started in clear windy conditions with seas 5-8’. The Mangrove Snapper bit from the start. They never really chewed but were steady through the night and much of the day. Most experienced anglers caught their limit Because of the conditions less experienced anglers were either in the bunk or dealing with their lack of “sea legs” For this old “Salty Dog” the picken’s were good. So good that before day light I was throwing back the smaller but legal Mangos. Tip: I fish most often on the bow which can be a challenge in rough weather. I have developed several techniques to over come these challenges. First you must hold your rod higher than usual. This will enable you to ‘bob” with the waves. This less your sinker moves the better. Next if the wind is blowing so hard (which it was) that your rod is shaking like a leaf on a tree, keep your line slack and hold it between your thumb and index finger. This will let you feel the bite. When you do just wind. The harder the current is running the more difficult this technique is but it can be mastered with concentrated practice. If you see me on the boat just ask and I’ll show you. Day break usually means the Snapper quit biting. This day they may have slowed a bit but not much. The morning stops consisted of Mango’s, scattered Gags and a few AJ’s. Although there were a number of Gags caught, I never got hooked up. I did catch fish on every stop including one were I got slammed by what I thought at first was a nice Gag. Turned out to be an American Red Snapper that had to be 20 lbs. or better. Sorry no picture as I wanted to get him back down ASAP. He looked like he was doing well so perhaps we will meet again. In the afternoon Capt. Bryon said we were going to make just over an hour run to some big ledges where he hoped we would find some “Monster” Amber Jacks. Sure enough on my first drop BANG! Big Fish ON! I knew it was a big AJ. I also knew I had little chance of getting him as he ran down and then under the boat to the other side. I just couldn’t get him through all the lines. This would happen to me four more times over the next couple of stops. As this was the last trip of AJ season, I was hoping to land a nice one. Since I was out of live bait and didn’t feel like Jigging (which by they way was successful for many during the trip) I figured I’d target a Gag with big Threadfins. Couldn’t get a Gag but did land some nice Goozers. Between stops one of my friends told me he had a couple of live baits he wasn’t going to use so I grabbed them. Look out AJ’s its not over yet. On the next stop I was blessed to get slammed twice and even more blessed to land twin AJ’s both in the 40 Lb. range Good fishing, good friends and a good boat in bad weather, life is good. Time to be pushed home by a following sea. After all the fishing aerobics I’d done on the bow I was ready to head home and catch some bunk time! See you out there!
  9. This trip started out differently than any trip I’ve been on. This was due to the “Big Question”, what would be the consequences of the Red Tide. For the first time I boarded the boat not even trying to catch bait. No one had live bait as even if you caught it would not survive as the Red Tide was in John’s Pass and at varying levels miles off shore. The next question would be what if any effect would the water quality issues have on the trip as a whole. This to my surprise was answered fairly quickly. As soon as we cleared the RT (approx. 10-15 miles offshore) fish were being hooked up trolling. I doubted we would catch anything trolling but there were multiple Kings, Spanish Mackerel, Bonita and Black Fin Tuna caught. We started fishing just after Midnight in perfect conditions. Side note: the weather was perfect throughout the trip. My strategy was to start out every stop with a bait rig and switch to my Mangrove Snapper rig after 10 minutes or upon seeing the first Mango come over the rail. I am happy to report this worked well throughout the night. The Mango bite was consistent all night and the size were decent with a few Goozers along the way. On the second stop I picked a couple of Mangos when BANG! Big Fish ON! Even though it had been two months since my last hook up I knew instantly I had a nice Gag on the line. I felt the beast graze the rocks but fortunately I was able to get him up. Turned out to be a Gag in the 15 LB. range. Sunrise saw a continued Mangrove Snapper bite and Gags on every stop. The most consistent fish throughout the trip was under sized Red Grouper (I must have caught 30) and bigger than average Red Snapper. (I caught three in the 15 LB range as well as dozens of smaller ones). Captain Bryon said it was time to make an hour long run to a wreck for some Amber Jack action. Those who trolled along the way were rewarded with Black Fin Tuna and King Mackerel. Once we got to the wreck I dropped down one of the live baits I caught and before it hit bottom HOOK UP! Turned out to be a nice AJ around 30 LBS. Rods were bent all over the boat. Most were keeper Jacks but several decent Gags were landed as well. The rest of the day I was picking Mangrove Snapper and fighting extinct Red Snapper. I did manage to get Broken off by what I assumed was a Gag as well as a 10-minute fight with what I am sure was a Goliath Grouper. (He’s still swimming) Even though I missed my Pin Fish I was thrilled to not only be back on the water but to see so much life off shore. Time to head back and get ready for the upcoming 44-hour Full Moon. Keeping my fingers crossed and praying the Red Tide will subside but at least I know there are fish yet to catch and Nature will find a way. See You Out There!
  10. Since this was a Full Moon 44 Hour trip leaving at 10:00 I came down on Thursday to catch bait with my Pin Fish pal Omar. The bite was slow and I had multiple tackle issues including my rod tip breaking and both my main reel and my backup deciding they’d had enough. Oh well “Stuff” happens especially when you are fishing. Fortunately, my buddy was not only catching fish but had a backup that worked. There is luck (as in life) involved in fishing but being prepared is what makes you consistent and is what counts overall. We had almost a full load of anglers eager for some offshore action. Trolling on the way out was slow but there were a few Kings and Spanish landed. In general, the trolling has been sketchy. I think this is due to seasonal transition. It seems that as a season peeks (in this case Summer) there is a lull in the action. We started around 9:00 PM in great conditions with a solid 10 knot wind that would last throughout the trip. This is a blessing as it gives the Captain a good anchor heading and us a break from the heat. The Mangrove Snapper bite was solid all night with decent numbers on every stop. I was especially pleased with the average size I caught as I had a significant number in the five-pound class. Although I didn’t have any hook ups there were a number of Gags caught during the night as well as one Cobia. On the spot the Cobia was caught I had a monster hook up that took me to the Bow and as far as I know is still running. It was likely a Big Shark but I told people it had to be a world record Cobia. Side note/ Fishermen aren’t liars we just “Dream Big” Sunrise, time for big live bait. On the very first day light drop I put down a big Pin Fish and before I could tighten my line BANG! Turned out to be a “Keeper Gag” I quickly fired another down and got hit just as quick. This time it was a throw back Red Grouper. I would end up catching at least five of those on this stop and I kid you not at least 30 throughout the trip. Not sure what the Scientist say but from my prospective the future is bright for Red Grouper. After a few more stops in this area where I picked up some additional Mangos, Captain Garett Hubbard said we were going to make a move to a wreck in search of Amber Jack. After a run of more than an hour the Captain said we were close to the wreck but he wanted to stop on some “Hard Bottom” to get an anchor heading first. He said we were most likely to get Grouper here and possibly Snapper. As soon as my bait hit bottom I was hooked up on a nice AJ. Looking around so were many others. The bite was ON! I did eventually get “Sawed” of by braid but fortunately the AJ’s were biting so well I had another one on as soon as I re-rigged. This time I landed one in the 30 B range. Tip: I often get asked why I make so many rigs up before we start fishing. People assume it is due to hanging bottom. There are multiple reasons but the primary one is I want to be in the water as much as possible thus, I want to spend as minimal time as possible rigging while it is fishing time. When tying multiple rigs, you need a safe place to hang them from and don’t tie swivels to them as if you do you will have a tangled mess. Next stop we were on the wreck and the AJ’s were on FIRE! The whole boat was hooked up This can be a challenge and hopeless with out cooperation. The bad news is many nice fish were lost, good news many were landed as they were chewing. As the action slowed down I decided to switch over to my Snapper Rod and fire down a Threadfin hoping for some Mango action. This time of year, I never go below 60 LB line as it is Gag season. After soaking the dead bait for some time, I pulled up on it and BANG! Monster Fish ON! I knew right away I had a “Homesteader Gag” on. Try as I may I could not turn him so I had no choice but to let him run. Right as he slowed down and I thought I turned him the line popped. When I reeled in my leader was badly frayed down at hook level. This was conformation it was a big Gag as he hadn’t cut me off just wore the leader out. Oh well that’s what keeps you coming back. After the wreck we went to some near by ledges where the AJ action was intense to say the least. Bad news, not everybody limited out but good news, everybody had a chance too. I managed to land one in the 60 LB range and picked some decent Goozers as well. Time for one last stop before heading back. Captain set us up on a wreck. Though there was steady AJ action I decided to focus on dead bait hoping for a Gag or big Mango’s. I did get a couple of big Vermilion Snapper but, no Gags or Goozers. However, there was an exciting moment. I was on the bottom and got slammed! My drag started “Singing” I never thought it was a Gag as it was moving too fast. I was sure it wasn’t an AJ either. I had it on line for a while and actually turned it and began working it back to the boat. It was a classic fight. The fish tacking drag but, I was steadily gaining on it. All of a sudden, the Monster took one more run and just came un-buttoned. I reeled in and to my surprise my hook had broken. This is rare as I was using 8/0 Mustad hooks that are usually sound. Oh well one thing I’ve learned time and again. “There are multiple ways to lose a fish and you don’t have him until he is over the rail” When your fishing 100 miles offshore you have to be prepared for anything. See you out there!
  11. Catching bait was slow but steady but, with a little help from a friend I was able to reach my goal so time to head for the boat. Trolling on the way out was slow as even my friend and legend “Jig Head” Ed struck out. Good news it picked up the next day between spots as several Tuna were caught. We started around Midnight in winds 10-15 with seas about 3’. Having a breeze this time of year is a blessing as it gives you a break from the heat. Fortunately, it would stay this way throughout the trip. The Mangrove Snapper bite never really took off. I’m not sure exactly why as they have been biting well. The Porgies and Vermillion chewed the whole trip. Sunrise brought the expectation of Gags and Amber Jacks. On the very first stop after Sun up I dropped down a “Big” Pin hoping for a Gag attack. After soaking it for at least ten minutes I noticed a few Mangos coming up so I decided to switch to a Threadfin. I got several decent bites but produced no fish. One of my philosophies is “If I’m going to soak a bait it might as well be a livey” I dropped down a Pin and after a 5-minute soak I felt it get nervous. Suddenly Bang! FISH ON! Turned out to be a nice Gag in the 10 LB. range. Baiting up as quick as I could I shot down another. I barely gone the line tight when I got slammed. I cranked as hard as I could but he cut me off. I reeled up my line and my leader was shredded. Just as soon as I rigged up the Captain announced it was time to move. We made a couple more stops in the general area but I didn’t get any more hook ups. To be fair there were a number of Gags caught around the boat. Captain Bryon said it was time to target some AJ’s and thus we needed to make an hour run. (It was during this run that some Black Fins were landed). On the very first stop after the move I dropped down a hand sized Pin Fish. Bang! I knew right away this was no Jack. Turned out to be a Gag at least 15 LBS. Looking around the boat I could see people hooking AJ’s everywhere. I waited until the anglers at my sides got their fish in. Dropping another large Pin I got hit on the way down. Ended up catching a Jack in the 30 LB. range. Tip/ pet Peeve/ When some one has a big fish such as an AJ on use a little patience or common sense and don’t drop down right on top of them as the likely result is you will get tangled with them and lose fishing time not to mention cause someone to lose a nice fish. Either wait (tough to do) or if there is room move to another spot and drop down. On the next stop I saw 4 rods (Including mine) bend at the same time. At first, I wasn’t sure what I had on as it fought hard on the bottom but then seemed to relax. Just as I thought it might be a Gag it started taking drag. I knew it was a Big AJ. Sometimes Big Jacks will swim up with you not really knowing they are hooked. When they wake up the fight is ON! After some fish aerobics First Mate Will gaffed a Reef Donkey in the 70 LB. class. The next several stops saw much of the same. Big AJ’s a scattering of Gags as well as some keeper Red Grouper, Scamp Grouper and “Picky” Mangos. I did hook what I am sure was another big AJ but I got tangled in some lines and lost it. Time to head back, take a week off and get ready for the “Full Moon 44 Hour Trip. I can’t wait! P.S. Just as we were pulling anchor “Jig Head” hooked a Sail. He passed the Rod to Will who cranked it all the way to the boat where it broke off on the anchor rope but not before some great “Tail Walking” Check out the video on Hubbard’s FB Page. See you out there!
  12. With the opening of Amber Jack season comes the need for Big Baits. With that in mind I met up with my buddy Omar at one of our “Secret” Pinfish spots. The bite started out slow so we ended up moving to a “Top Secret” spot and after a few hours we got what we needed and head toward the dock with Reef Donkeys in our dreams. Now that ARS season is over the trip loads are lighter which is a great time to fish a Party Boat. We left on time with 30 anglers eager for action. Trolling on the way out was a bit slow but I did see a couple of Kings and Bonita find their way over the rail. We started around Midnight in perfect conditions as far as wind and seas. Wind was 10-15 the whole trip which is a blessing for August and the oppressive heat. The only issue was the current which was surprisingly strong most of the trip. The first couple of stops saw some Mangrove Snapper action but, the third stop they were fired up. For about thirty minutes they were hitting so fast I would cast and literally start winding as soon it hit bottom as I had a fish on! Time for one last stop before Sunrise. The Mango bite although not as hot as the previous spot was decent but the Gag bite on the stern was epic. I started hearing a steady call for Gaff! Turned out they were at the right place at the right time. The mates were so busy on the stern I ended up gaffing the one Gag caught on the bow. In total 17 Gags were boated on this stop. The biggest disappointment for me on this stop (beyond not getting a Gag) was seeing so many people in their bunks that missed out on the bite. I’ve seen people catch fish all over the boat but never from the bunk. As I say “If you want to catch the fish of your dreams you have to fish while others are dreaming” Side note: People often assume Captains put the stern on the best spot. Although this maybe true in some cases I have seen no evidence of this. I have fished all over the boat and in my current role I usually fish in the bow area. I remember a time last year when a guy accused the Captain of putting only me on the fish. Some how with 40 people on board the Captain was so skilled he positioned the boat so only I caught fish. In general, the reason the stern appears to catch the most fish is it often has the greatest number of experienced anglers. The legendary Captain Wilson Hubbard had a saying “20 % of the Fishermen catch 80% of the fish, always have always will. In the case of this stop I think it was a combination of the wind and current that had the stern just over the ledge we were on and the Gags congregated there. The day bite overall was decent for this time of year as Mangos bit on every stop and gags were steadily picked as well. Of course, the near extinct American Red Snapper aggravated us on every stop. The good news is we are catching so many most anglers are becoming experts at venting and releasing so they can breed and be ready for next season. I did manage to get a “keeper” size Gag. Captain Bryon announced we were going to make an hour move to a wreck. Time for a brief nap and dream of the AJ’s to come. We got anchored up and the bite was instant. AJ’s were on the line everywhere. Great news they were all legal size although no Giants except of course the ones that got away. Bad news one angler decided it was a good idea to drop down straight 200 LB Braided line on a reel with no drag. The result was he hooked an AJ he couldn’t reel in that acted as a “Buzz Saw” and cut off at least 8 other angler’s fish as when mono hits braid it is like a hot knife on butter. I don’t want to start the argument about braid but I would ask you to consider not using it for AJ’s on a Party Boat. As for me I was one of two against the braid. The rest of the trip saw steady action and I managed to pick Mangos all day. On one stop late in the trip I was using a large Threadfin win BANG! Big Hit! At first, I thought I had a decent Gag but actually got more excited as I realized I likely had a Big Goozer on. Turned out I was right. I reeled up by far the biggest Mango of the trip it had to be in the 7-8 LB range. It appeared to be hooked well in fact the hooks were out of sight. As I tried to swing it over the rail the entire bait popped out so fast it hit me in the back of the head. The fish had swallowed the bait without taking the hooks. That’s why I say you don’t have it till its in the box. Time to head home and get ready for the next one. See you out there!
  13. If you wondered where I’ve been I am pleased to announce I’m Back! I took ARS season off but have returned to just in time to get in on some Gag action and welcome in AJ season which is only days away. My first trip back was the full Moon 44-hour trip. Since this trip leaves at 10:00 AM I came down on Thursday and teamed up with my Buddy Omar to catch bait. After a couple of stops and a few hours we had enough bait so time to get some rest and head out in the morning. Tip: This time of year, in order to keep Pin Fish fresh, you must keep the water fresh and cool. I recommend changing the water just before you quit for the day. To keep it cool freeze a gallon of water in an old milk jug. Place the jug in the water. Make sure it isn’t leaking as to much added fresh water could be a problem. We started around 9:00 PM in calm conditions with a ripping current that would be a challenge most of the trip. Since I’d missed Red Snapper season I predicted I’d catch a ‘Big One” this trip. Sure, enough on the first drop I got slammed! I reeled up an ARS at least 10 LBS. It would be the first of many caught during the trip. I was hoping my fellow anglers would have done a better job of thinning them out. Perhaps they aren’t as endangered as we have been led to believe. The Mango bite was decent all night although it never would get to what I’d call chewing. The size was above average and I managed to land several in the 5-6 LB range. The best stop of the night saw not only large Goozers but some of the biggest Yellow Tails I’ve seen outside of the Bahamas. I caught one in the 5 LB range but the guy next to me landed one that had to be 8 LBS. Overall the night bite was solid and I had mixed feelings about the pending sun rise. I knew I would have a better shot at a Gag but I also knew it was going to be a scorcher. Both proved to be true as shortly after Day break I put down a Big Pin and BANG! Big fish on. After a few tense moments I cranked up a nice Gag in the 15 LB range. As predicted the day was extremely hot and standing at the rail during its height was more than many could handle. The bite throughout the day saw a very specific pattern. Either no bites or a quick flurry and then it would stop as soon as it started. One technique I use in these conditions is to soak a big live bait with the thought there might be a home steading Gag that will eventually give in to temptation. During the day I had three big hits that resulted in two break offs and one rock up. I guess I am a bit rusty. Fishing the Summer months in Florida can be a challenge but, it can also be rewarding with a little planning. I suggest if you fish an overnight trip make sure you get some rest on the way out as your best fishing is generally at night. As I like to say “If you want to catch the fish of your dreams you have to fish while others are dreaming”. Also stay hydrated and suck up some AC between stops. Time to rest up and get ready for some “Reef Donkey” Action! See you out there!
  14. Big baits on board all the gear loaded, time to toss the lines and head out for a great weekend of fishing. Trolling on the way out was slower than I expected with most anglers catching more of each other than fish. It got better a couple of hours in as we were in deeper water and some of the anglers had found their bunks. Several nice kings were landed. The highlight of the troll happened right at dusk when an angler I’d helped make lure choices at the dock and showed him A-Z on rigging got slammed. Running the trolling deck can be a bit tedious but it is all worth it to see and hear the joy when I gaffed a large Blackfin that was the first Tuna my new friend had ever caught. If you’ve been following my reports you know the Mangrove Snapper bite has been slow. I wish I could report it has improved but it hasn’t. I remain optimistic that it will improve. The ones I’ve cleaned still don’t have any roe in them so my hope is once the spawn starts so will the bite. One thing that has been hot is the big Vermilion Snapper bite, they continue to chew and are full of roe so maybe there is a connection. If the American Red Snapper bite is any indication of what the season is going to be then, this season (starts June 1) promises to be a stellar one. Large ARS came up on virtually every stop during the trip. The bite was so strong I heard one angler say “Perhaps they should switch the rules and let us keep 20 Red Snapper and only 4 Mangos” (Don’t give them any ideas) The biggest disappointment was the Amber Jack bite or should I say the lack of an AJ bite. After the opening weekend when I got my two fish limit I was certain this trip would be more of the same but the Fish Gods had other plans. Not only did I not even get a hook up but there was only one keeper landed on the boat. My first thought was we just didn’t get on them but I know Capt. Brian has them dialed in. On one stop during the day this belief was proven true when the young fisherman next to me reeled up a nice Scamp with two large AJ’s following behind. I dropped a bait right in front of them and they ignored it. They were there bit just wouldn’t bite. The most exciting bite of the trip came just before Sunrise when I heard First Mate Will holler Blackfins everywhere get your baits out. Sure enough, Tunas were coming over the rail. I reeled up as quick as I could and put down a big live Pin on a glow in the dark jig head and BANG! BIG FISH ON! I knew instantly I had a nice one on. While I was reeling up I saw several nice Blackfin landed. A few more cranks and it would be my turn. Calling for the gaff and what the*** Turns out it was an extra-large Bonita at least 20 LBS. talk about a fish buzz kill. Undaunted I tried again and much to my chagrin (and the mates) the same thing happened again. Over all I had a pretty good trip as I ended up with six nice size Goozers and my limit of large Vermilion as well as multiple fat Porgies and two nice Scamps. I caught more ARS than I can count and three nice Gags all caught and released. As my reports indicate I often catch and release large fish, primarily ARS and Gags. People often ask me how to vent the fish and how do I know they survive. The best proof that I have they survive is the number of tagged fish I’ve caught. In fact, the gentleman next to me caught and released two Red Snapper that had been tagged on this trip. These had likely been tagged by FWC professional researchers. The good news is with the right tool and minimal training any angler can learn to properly vent fish. There are multiple videos on the web showing how to do it but I’ll give you a brief overview. First you need a tool. The ideal tool is a “venting tool” which can be purchased at any tackle store. Essentially it is a large tube or needle with a sharp end for puncturing the fish air bladder. Lay the fish on a flat surface, the bladder is located just behind the pectoral fin. If you run your fingers down from the meat of the fish towards the belly you can feel the bulge of the air in the bladder. Once the bladder is located place the tool at a 45-degree angle. Apply enough pressure to puncture the skin and into the bladder but not so much pressure that you risk doing internal damage. You should hear the hiss of the escaping air. A little practice and you will have it down. Note on larger fish it may be necessary to left up a scale and go beneath it. The faster you can get the fish back in the water the better. It is in all our best interest to get this down for the future of our sport. I have included a couple of pictures demonstrating proper technique one of which is a Gag vented by Jon the mate on this trip. See you out there!!!
  15. First weekend in May means opening weekend of Amber Jack season. There was a Buzz on board as people were eager to hook up on what pound per pound is one of the hardest fighting fish in the sea. Even though I’ve hundreds if not thousands of AJ’s I am always giddy about hooking up on one of these “Reef Donkeys” Trolling on the way out was hot from the start with Spanish Mackerel and Kings biting as soon as we cleared the channel. Before we left the dock, I met a young Lady named Sara who was making her first trip on the Florida. She informed me she’d bought a trolling rod and reel but wasn’t sure what type of gear she needed. We visited the tackle shop and she got a Drone Spoon with a #2 plainer. This is the most consistent set up near shore. She also purchased an Xrap for trolling between spots the next day. Sara was eager to learn so I showed her how to rig up and most importantly how to set the drag on her two-speed reel. I find many people don’t know how to properly set the drag on a two-speed reel. Tip: On most two-speeds you must be in free spool to set the drag. Set the drag so that in the “Strike” setting you can barely pull the drag with the clicker on. Ideally your drag should be set so that with the clicker on in strike position no line is being pulled out by the lure but loose enough so when a fish strikes it can take some line. Note: Your reel should be in the low gear position. If everything is set right you should be able to work the fish from the strike setting but if you must push the lever forward (tightening the drag) do so gently as the pull of the drag and the motion of the boat put a tremendous amount of tug on the fish and you risk de-hooking your prize. Keep in mind I am talking about trolling from a Party Boat. Trolling from a smaller boat designed for it is much easier. In any event the good news is Sara hooked up before anyone else and caught multiple fish on the way out. I love it when a plan comes together. Trolling between spots the next day produced several nice Blackfin Tuna. We started out just after Midnight in good conditions. The Mangrove Snapper bite has been sporadic at best but, since I’d caught my limit last trip I was hopeful we had turned the corner. The first stop didn’t see any Mangos but I switched to my trusty “Chicken Rig” and caught some nice Vermilion. Anchor heading was a bit of a challenge for Captain Garett as the wind was constantly changing and the current was running against it. This would prove to be a constant problem which would make it hard to target AJ’s on wrecks. The second stop I started out hot as on the first drop I got slammed by what turned out to be a nice Gag in the 15 LB. range. Note: I ended up catching and releasing three Gags the biggest at least 20 LBS. June can’t get here fast enough. After my Gag I landed two nice Goozers in a row. I then hooked up three more that all came un-buttoned ¾ of the way up. Unfortunately, I never caught another Mango the rest of the trip. I remain concerned but hopeful this is a temporary situation. Day break, time to get on them Donkeys. =) Captain Garett had a sound plan. He hit a series of wrecks hoping for some AJ action. The first wreck was so covered in American Red Snapper it was hard to get a bait past them to anything else. The second spot we hit saw multiple hook ups but most were slightly under sized. When this happens, I feel for the mates as they have to tell an angler whose arms are cramping the beast they reeled in (that is often the biggest fish they’ve ever caught) is to small and must be thrown back. Keep in mind the minimum length is 34” to the fork of the tail, this means a legal AJ is 25 to 30 LBS. I dropped down a big Pin Fish and got slammed by what turned out to be an AJ around 30 LBS. Most of the day saw the same pattern. Good shows but slow fishing. On a stop late in the day I was soaking a live bait but decided to reel up and switch to a chicken rig as there were some big Vermillion coming up. Just as I started to wind BANG! BIG FISH ON! I knew right away I had at least a keeper size AJ on the line. Try as I may to keep the fish in front of me he turned and went straight down the gunnel. I could feel lines all over me and I was resigned to losing the fish. But with a little luck combined with some cooperation from fellow anglers and Jon the mate they were able to land the fish on the stern while I never left the bow. I ended up limiting out on AJ’s which is a good thing. As I had reached my limit I switched back to Threadfin and caught a decent Scamp Grouper. My buddy Omar seeing what I caught switched over as well and caught two Scamp one of which was at least 8 LBS. Time to head home get a little rest and pray for the return of the Mango’s. See you out there!
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