Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29, 2008

Today was the best day I've had since I've arrived to the Keys.


I really feel like I turned a corner in so many ways today, and for so many reasons.

Yes, they're all fishing related.

Yes, I still have ways to go to see if I can find true personal happiness in the Keys.

But, the truth is, I can't remember the last time I fell asleep feeling this good about anything since the day I made the decision to leave my job and start on this journey.

I'll post more specifics soon, and hopefully some pics from a customer as well to share.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Week's Fishing in Islamorada

It's a beautiful, sunny and breezy 74 degrees this Sunday morning in Islamorada. A lot of fun fishing this past week.

Started out Monday morning when we took Capt. Greg's family out for a half day trip to catch King Mackerel, but the wind has been blowing most of the week, and the seas were a little rough. Unlike Greg, his family aren't really sea-goers, and after catching bait and getting our first hook up on a Kingfish, we were forced to head back to the dock after his brother and pregnant sister-in-law got sick, and his daughter and niece also started feeling a bit queasy.

We were treated to a bit of a Manatee show when we returned to the dock, too. Strange looking creatures. They’re also known as sea-cows. They apparently like freshwater, although they live in saltwater, but if you spray them with a hose they’ll come to the surface, and if you feed them the hose, they’ll sit and suck on it directly until you can finally wrangle it away from them. I actually got some decent photos with my point and click, but can’t find the adapter at the moment, so those will have to wait.

Tuesday, frankly, I half don't remember. A few kings, I think, but that was about it. It was rolling pretty good that day too, and we cut it short to a half day since the sails really weren't around. We fished with some wonderful people from NY, though, who we’d also fish with on Saturday.

Wednesday we fished a friend of Greg's and his son and daughter-in-law. Caught a few Kingfish again, a mutton snapper or two and dolphin fish, as well as the daughter-in-law's first Sailfish, a Merry Christmas Eve for her. It was actually an incredible morning of fish watching. We saw baits being showered by sailfish everywhere, but the bait was so plentiful, that even when we'd drop a cast right on the fishes' noses, they didn't care and would swim the other way because the bait fish in the water were so thick that the sails really didn't care. It was neat to watch, though.

Didn't fish Christmas day, but fished two couples on Friday from Rochester, NY. The trip was a Christmas present for one of the husbands. Fortunately, he wasn't the one who got sick that day. Yup, twice in a week for us. In everyone's defense, though, seas were rarely less than 4-6 all week, and it can get pretty uneven and choppy in the shallower water, especially early while we're getting bait. We started off with a few Kingfish, including a 40 lb fish (hooked by the husband that did get sick, who handed off the rod to his wife mid fight as he immediately turned and launched his breakfast overboard).

The King bite stopped, and it was awfully slow from about 9:45 until about 3 in the afternoon. Finally, though, we got the bite we were looking for, and after a nice fight, the Christmas wish was granted, and the angler had boated his first Sailfish.

Saturday turned out to be a day of epic battles. Our new friend from NYC who fished with us the previous Sunday and Tuesday was back, and his sole goal was to get on some sails. We had one come up pretty early, and it turned into an hour and forty-five minute battle. Not typical for a fish down here, but it was an atypical fish to say the least. Normally the bigger fish we see are in the 45-50 lb range, and occasionally up to 60 lbs. This fish was 85-90 if it was an ounce. Was a great fighter, and our angler did a great job on light tackle with 12 lb test line. The fish made seven or eight strong runs, pulling a bunch of line back each time he got within 30 feet of the boat.

The bite slowed midday, but we made a move further east in the afternoon, and a little after had our second bite, and to all of our surprise, after another fight of over an hour, we boated a 105 inch beauty that appeared as if it would tip the scales at over 100 lbs.

Two really spectacular fish on the same day was a treat. An even bigger treat for me was since the fights lasted so long, after we pulled the remaining baited lines out of the water and focused on the fight, I got to take the anglers camera up to the bridge and take some photos. I was in absolute heaven. Here were the results:

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sailfish and Mackerel in Islamorada

Have some days that I need to report on, but admittedly I've slacked some. I'm definitely going to update over the weekend, so don't lose faith in me, please. But, I am trying to live life some, and here I go.

Oh, and Go Bucky!!! Beat FSU.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Chamber of Commerce Day"

Heard that repeated a lot today, as although the fishing was a bit slow, on the first day of winter it was mid 70s, very little breeze, and little to no clouds.

Not ideal fishing weather, but lovely for a boat ride, and the guys on the boat figured their families were having a great day by the pool.

We did have some luck with the King Mackerels again, and nearly caught our limit before 9:30 am, but most were small to medium sized fish. Caught one Sail, and a couple of Yellowtail, but really, after about 10:30, despite much effort, our fishing day turned out basically to be over.

As beautiful as the weather was a little wind would hurt. That said, it was still an awfully nice boat ride, and I hope none of that cold air up north heads our way.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Full Day on My Own

Capt. Greg got a call from the other mate just before departure time that he was sick (which I'm half assuming might be more commonly known as hung over north of Islamorada), so I quickly prepared for my first full day in the cockpit on my own.

Fortunately, it went fairly smoothly. There's a lot of room for improvement, for sure, especially where it comes to quickness and efficiency, but overall it was a positive day. Capt. Greg paid me a compliment that I performed well, and even showed vast improvement from morning to afternoon. Even though I've been here a little more than a month now, I just counted and believe that this was actually only day 11 on the big boat, so really, I'm pretty pleased with my progress.

The weather was really nice today....almost too nice, even. Calm seas and a gentle breeze, which actually doesn't make for great Sailfishing. That didn't get us down, though, as we still released one sail, landed 8 King Mackerel, an 18 lb Mutton Snapper, by far the largest of the species that I'd seen, and a nice Yellowtail Snapper as well.

All in all, a plentiful day on the water, and we're back at it tomorrow.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What a Day in Islamorada

Tough good, tough bad, tough rough, tough successful.

I made some mistakes, but I know I did better. Billed my first Sailfish into the boat today. Pulled a hook on another Sailfish that I grabbed the leader on.

Pulled a couple of Dolphin into the boat today. Missed another that I tried to leader and gaff but hit the leader and popped the hook.

All good experiences though. After all, if you never make a mistake, you won't learn anything.

Either way, I thin it was day 11, and I think there's improvement, and I think the Capt. saw improvement, so hopefully it's all good.

We had two half days today. Caught 5 sails in total, which actually wouldn't have topped the field in the tourney today that we weren't involved in, as well as landed four more dolphin, so I'm taking it as a positive.

There were also a lot of pictures taken on the boat, and I gave the anglers my address, so hopefully I'll get a few pictures out of it to share.

Hopefully this was the end of our cold front, too. This foray into the 50s in the morning was enough for me, even though we've been in the 70s during the day.

Anyway, focus on the positive that it was a good day.

Hope everyone out there is well.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Islamorada Fishing and Life Around the Boat

Monday was a great charter day for us. We caught a little bit of everything, which also meant that a little bit of everything had to be rigged, and different tackle was flying everywhere depending on the moment, and of course, a whole new set of rigs and techniques to learn.

We ended up catching six King Mackerels, a couple in the 35-40 lb range, as well as six Cobia, three of which were above the 33" size limit to keep, as well as a Dolphin and a Sailfish.

At the end of the day, I even learned to gut the Mackerels, which for anyone who knows me, knows wasn't my idea of fun, but I survived it, and wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.

Yesterday was a big boat cleaning day. Soaped up the whole house, as well as waxed all of the metal on the boat. Only took me about 7 hours to get it all done.

This morning was some bait fishing, and we caught a few for a change, which was nice. We'd actually planned to hit the back country for a little fly fishing after, but it was pretty breezy so that plan went out the window.

Tomorrow is going to be a lazy day, which means that I won't have to get to the boat until about 10 am. We'll do a few things in preparation for fishing Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which will be nice. We also had a bunch of bookings yesterday, which means we're looking at 12 more days before New Year's, which means about 17 days on the boat this month, which will hopefully translate into a relief on my bank account.

Hopefully things are picking up!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Islamorada Sailfish Championship Wrap-Up

Well, I know I'm tired because I thought I posted yesterday for Day 2, but apparently I didn't. Subliminally, I wanted to say that there were another 120 or so fish caught yesterday, but unfortunately we didn't participate in the catching. We had one on, and saw a couple of more, but it just wasn't our day.

Today we caught 6, but it still really wasn't our day. Twice we had triples on, and of those six fish we only managed to get one to the boat. We had a few others hooked that broke us off as well. We were out of the running really for the overall, but if we could have boated a few more today we might have been in good position to win the Day 3 pot in the Calcutta.

The tourney days are very long and hard work. Definitely learning a lot in the process, and feel like I'm contributing more each day.

We fish again tomorrow, but fortunately it won't be another 5am call, as far as I know. Off to the post tournament dinner here in a bit. Hope everyone out there is well.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Islamorada Sailfish Championship, Day 1 Report

WOW!! The Sailfish are here.

Some of the numbers I had the other day appear to have been off, as there were actually only 30 or so boats this year, and typically about 60, but the Sailfish were here in great numbers. In fact, there were a confirmed 145 releases today amongst the entire field.

Our boat, the Cloud Nine, started out a bit slow, but finished with 8 fish, including a triple header that turned into a double when one fish through the hook, another double, and then 4 single fish. We had 7 others that also broke our anglers off, so we ended 8/15 on the day. We caught two Dolphin fish as well, though neither big enough for the other species category.

15 is actually the number leading now, and there were a few other boats that finished in double digits, and one at nine, so we're around 6th after day 1, and kept ourselves in contention.

The morning started at 5am in the skiff running to get baits that we caught previously from the pens, and then more bait fishing and rigging. Lines in were at 8:30 and we fished until 4:30. We finished at 6 pm after clean up and re-rigging for tomorrow, and now I'm off to cut more leaders in preparation as well, and then to bed for another 5:30 am call.

Definitely learning under fire for me. I had a few missteps, but I think I did better as the day wore on. I feel like I'm still learning to crawl when I know it's time to run during the big tournaments, but all I can do is try to continue to improve, and not directly cost us any fish. There's a lot going on, but fortunately I'm working with some understanding guys, and three great laid back anglers, so it's all good.

Hopefully we'll be on them again tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is It That Hard to Make a Sand Ball?

You wouldn't think so, but I was surprised. Headed out on the big boat this morning. Mix sand, chum, and water, and then form them into balls the size of softballs so that they'll sink and take the chum to the bottom. I quickly found that they're not nearly as easy to pack as snow balls, though, and if they're too wet, or too dry, they're just not going to pack and hold together well enough to toss and get the desired effect. Even balls of sand are a learning process.

Had a short day of fishing. Mostly we were getting the tackle straight and working out the last minute kinks for the tournament. We caught one small sail which was the perfect tournament fish. Had it to the boat and released in five minutes.

Excited for tomorrow, but it's an early call. At the boat at 5 am for bait. We'll catch what we can, then head back to the dock and head out for lines in at 8. Hopefully we'll have a successful Day One Tourney report tomorrow night.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Islamorada Cold Front

Wish I had my camera yesterday morning as the front came through. We headed out from the marina at 7:30 in search of bait. It was clear, calm, and a beautifully peaceful morning.

We found some "ducks" as Greg likes to call most any bird on the ocean, in this case, pelicans, crashing baits and set ourselves in position to catch what we could. Not half an hour later, Greg turns and said, there's going to be some wind in that.

I looked back to the north, and there was the most defined line of clouds that I'd ever remembered seeing, with dark clouds following. It was still totally calm where we were, and crystal clear blue skies to the south. A picture I wish I'd gotten, but I was sans camera again, unfortunately.

Not five minutes later, it was as if someone flipped a switch and a giant fan turned on full blast. No build up or anything. Just an immediate shift from no wind, to winds blowing 20-25. We just got hit with only light showers, but the ride back was rough and cold for sure.

We did get some baits, but not as productive as we'd hoped. We tried again later in the afternoon when skies cleared again, but no luck, nor any luck this morning.

This afternoon was spent rigging tackle. My Bimini Twists are getting better, which is good, since nearly everything we rig uses them. I always remember Craig saying, "Chicks dig guys who can tie good Bimini Twists." I was never sure why, but hopefully now that I'm getting the hang of them, the women will take notice.

Four straight days of fishing start tomorrow, including the big Islamorada Sailfish Championship Friday-Sunday. It's typically the biggest sailfish tournament down here, as I understand, with normally 120-140 boats, but it sounds as though there will only be about 60 this year, though. Fortunately, we're booked for it, and it actually sounds as though we're getting some decent bookings for the next three moths, which is a relief.

Going to go finish cutting a few more leaders tonight in preparation for the next four days. Wish us luck.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Back to Islamorada

Rolled back into Islamorada today. Was nice to see my family over Thanksgiving. Always nice to be home around the people who love you the most.

Also had a chance to reconnect with a friend with whom my relationship turned a bit tumultuous. We had some ups and down, and hard to always have conversations about those sorts of things when there's so many feelings involved, but I feel better with how things were left, even though I think there's still some hurt feelings on both ends. I'm sure I probably say too much sometimes, too, as I have a tendency to be a bit too honest. I probably don't always explain myself very well, either, or get a bit too wordy and vague, as I'm undoubtedly doing right now.

Hopefully after some time wears on, though, we can leave the past where it is, and start to slowly rebuild a better friendship.

Anyhow, I'm really hoping that the charters here will pick up now. I know I'll feel better once I can get focused on a fuller work schedule and start making some better progress down here.

Hope everyone had a good holiday.