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john martin

Turtles. Sharks And Gratitude.

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  The Gag bite has been hot so, I approached this trip with much anticipation. First thing is to get the bait. My buddy Omar and I got that done as we had at least 200 live Pins most of which were hand sized. The weatherman gave us an excellent forecast. Captain Bryon told me we were going to start on a wreck I am familiar with and have had great success. All things pointed to a stellar trip.


  We started around 1:00 AM in near perfect conditions. I decided to drop down a big live bait hoping to get busy right away. I expected to see some sort of instant action but didn’t see any rods bent. After a five-minute soak I felt my bait getting excited. A slight pop but then nothing. Reeling up my bait was gone. I dropped another and got a solid hit and a fish on. I think it might have been a decent Red Snapper but whatever it was it shook the hook about have way up. I saw a few small Mangrove Snapper come up but mostly small Amber Jacks.


  The Captain said we swung off the spot so we re-anchored.  I fired down another live bait but no quick hit.  After a few minutes Mangos started coming up but no Gags. I made the decision to go with my Mango rig using Threadfin. As I had a big bait down I put my reel in free spool with the clicker on sticking the rod in the holder as I got my lighter rig out of the rack.  When I returned I started cranking up when I felt something heavy on the line. As I tightened up the line it started to move. There was something big and slow on the line. I quickly speculated it was either a turtle or a ray. Even though I wanted neither I hoped it was a turtle as a ray can keep you down for a long time while a turtle will surface.  The beast drug me to the stern where it eventually surfaced. Sure, enough it was a giant Logger Head. One of the biggest I’ve seen. Fortunately, the hook pulled as he was making a dive. The rest of the trip my good buddy’s, mates Will and Jon asked me if I had a turtle on every time I hooked up. I did manage to land a few Mangos before we moved.


  The rest of the night spots saw a similar pattern.  We picked Mangos, small AJ’s and throw back Red Grouper.  There were a few Gags caught as well. Most of the action was on the stern as the current was running straight back and was the same direction as the wind. This means the chum line was always off the back. The worst part is those fishing off the sides and the bow are constantly fighting tangles as the lines drift together. There are two ways to deal with this. You can either cast out away from the boat and reel in and repeat as your line drifts in or you can use a much heavier weight and try and hold bottom in one place. The only issue with this is if others are using light weight they will drift into you. Its tough either way.


  Just before sun rise there was a flurry of King Fish action and several “Smokers” were landed. As the sun rose the current slacked off so I fired down the biggest “Livey” I could find. Just as the “Fire Ball” was peeking up I got slammed so hard I thought it would pull my rod in. I cranked for all I had but no hook up.  I could feel the bait was still there but no return hit so I cranked up and just as I feared the fish hit so hard he turned the bait back on the hook so the barb was in the bait. I put down another bait and caught a Gag just big enough to keep.  I dropped another and caught two Gags in a row.  Only problem they were both about 18 inchers.


  Through the next stops leading up to noon I picked a few nice Mangos, had a couple hits that might have been decent fish but no BANGS! There were a few decent Gags and Red Grouper landed but not on my line. The Gags have been chewing but this trip seemed to be a sputtering bite. Guess that’s why they call it fishing and not catching.  Afternoon and the Captain said we were going to make run to another area.


 After about an hour run, new area and renewed expectations. Moving with the current I paid my buddy Cliff a visit on the gang plank port side. I fired down a big bait and as soon as it hit the bottom something snatched it off. As I was re-baiting Cliff got slammed and subsequently “Broke Off”. I let down again and was soaking a live Pin when Cliff got slammed again on his bigger rig. While I was watching him, I got slammed and quickly broke off. Cliff on the other hand reeled in a nice Gag that weighed in at 17 plus LBS. We both fired down big baits but neither got hit. After what seemed like an eternity I decided to switch to dead bait. Just as I started to crank in the live bait. BANG! Monster on the Line! My drag started peeling straight off the bow. Slipping by Cliff (I almost went down) The massive fish was quickly spooling my 4/0 with 80 LB mono. Just when it was looking like I couldn’t stop him he slowed a bit and I was able to get some line back. Now, the fight was on!


 It was give and take and he made another run that almost spooled me.  I was hoping it was big Carbo or perhaps Cueberra but after 10 -15 minutes I suspected it might be a big Shark. All I knew for certain was it was “Big” and I wanted to see it.  It was a classic battle (the kind that I live for) and I was so focused on the action it surprised me a bit when I turned around to see half the boat gathered around cheering me on.  I was hoping to land a trophy fish but it ended up being a Sand Bar Shark that was in the 500 LB. range.  Enough fishing aerobics time to move on.


  The next several stops saw Mangos and scattered Gags but none on my line. Night fall and time for a couple more stops. I decided to go with targeting Mangos using my 60 LB. rig. First drop I pulled a Goozer in the 6 LB. range. Next drop another nice Snapper. Thinking I’d made the right decision when BANG! Gag on! Try as I might I couldn’t turn him and he eventually cut me off. Oh well I kept pulling Mangos.


 Last stop and I’m sticking with my Mango rig. Pulled in a couple and BANG! One more shot. The fish kept me on bottom and I just knew I was going to get cut off but, I turned him. Now I had him coming my way. I had him up but he was still taking a bit of drag but he was mine. Just a few more cranks to go. Heart racing knowing this was a Gag over 20 LBS. I was alone on the bow so I hollered out “I’m going to need a gaffe” Just as first mate Will came around the corner my line went slack.  Five more cranks and I reeled up my line, the leader was in shreds.  There are many ways to lose a fish but this has to be the most frustrating.  Time to go home dream of the ones that got away and rest up for December first and my next chance to slam some Gags.


 The highlight of the trip was talking to my young friend Charles Paul Vannoy. Charles has become a regular and on this trip. He brought a number of friends one of which was a first timer. When Charles first started fishing he didn’t have much of a clue but he was passionate and determined to get better. I was so pleased to hear him tell the story of his trip. He’d not only limited out on Gags and Goozers but caught a nice King and most importantly he was so proud his friend had caught Gags and Goozers as well.  I know how you feel my friend.


  At this writing it’s the eve of Thanksgiving.  My wife is in the kitchen   I’m about to get back to my honey do list and looking forward to meeting my two-week-old grandson tomorrow. I am truly blessed with good friends and the health to go fishing. I am grateful for the opportunity I have and the friends I continue to make. I hope you feel blessed as well.


 Special shout out to the best fishing friend a guy could have. My kindred spirit Danny is recovering from surgery and is in my prayers. Get well my friend we have many more fish to catch.


  See you out there!









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