First off, I'd like to wish everyone reading a belatedly happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Unfortunately, since my December 29, 2008 post, I've yet to receive any photos from the anglers on the boat with cameras, so you'll just have to take my word for it that fishing was as successful as I indicated. Five sailfish, including a few that I hooked and landed in the boat, which was one of the big turns for me.
Yes, I've caught sails before, but all on fly which is a different game entirely. Yes, I've caught a number of other species before, but without the pressure of a fish that might only be near the surface for a few seconds, with anglers on the boat dependent on you hooking the fish in that moment, with the captain screaming directions from the tuna tower.
There are a lot of moments in fishing that call for quick reaction and quick thought. Seeing a tarpon rolling, or seeing a Bonefish feeding up a flat, but even in those instances, you typically have a chance to see the fish, look at the direction it's headed make a couple of false casts, and try to make a good presentation to the fish. Typically, they're also trapped in shallower water, so if you don't spook it off, you can even represent if necessary.
With the Sailfishing, though, if you're chasing bait showers, or just looking for fish swimming freely, they're in water that's still deep enough, 45-120 ft or more, where if they're not interested the first time you toss a bait, they'll release to the depths below before you've got your bait halfway back to the boat.
So seeing, casting, hooking, and boating these wonderful specimens for the first time on my own was a wonderful progression for me. All of it was also in the midst of boating a limit of King Mackerel, as well as a number of Yellowtail Snapper, and even a few shots at Cobia. And each switch involves preparing different tackle, and readying oneself for the transition to the different species. A lot of this took place while the other "experienced" mate sat with the captain up in the tower and let me handle the fire in the cockpit, which was a confidence booster in itself.
The day ended with praise from the captain, and a new found confidence for me. Not that I wasn't confident that I'd be able to do it, but of course accomplishment makes it even stronger.
Unfortunately, the fishing since that day hasn't been as hot for us. I had a couple of misses on sailfish, but really no major mistakes in anything that I did. We've had some more mackerel, and a few snapper and Cobia, but the water's been clear, which makes it difficult for bottom fish, and the wind has been changing directions daily, which seems to keep the fish skittish.
New Years hit the keys in a strange fashion. The famed Cheeca Lodge caught ablaze when a firework is believed to have caught the newly built Tiki Bar on fire, and the flames quickly went on to burn half of the main building there. It's the high-end lodging in Islamorada, so the prospect of it being closed for six months or more with the already tight economy isn't adding much hope to the situation. They've already cancelled the sailfish tournament they sponsor which was to be fished in the next couple of weeks as well.
New Year's morning, at the "Blessing of the Fleet" for 2009, a boat with an experience captain got too close to the bridge, and was subsequently trapped under the bridge for a bit, and nearly sank. Fortunately, it didn't, but that didn't save another boat from sinking just outside the channel of the Bud and Mary's Marina that we fish out of.
Not necessarily the bright and shiny signs you're looking for entering a new year.
I did hit Key West for a concert the other night which was fun. It was on Sunset Pier, which quite literally was a wooden pier (very sturdy), and a very cool venue to just sit and listen to music with water surrounding you from three sides and below. Moments like that remind you how lucky you are.
The Key West jaunt was preceded by a day of fishing where I found myself alone in the cockpit again for the entire trip. The fishing wasn't spectacular by any means, but I think I handled it well, and the captain commented that he was pleased at the end of the day as well.
Since then, I've also been told that I'll probably be handling all future non-tournament days on my own as well. Even though the captain and I both acknowledged that I'm probably not fully ready yet, I've proven myself well enough in under 30 days on the water that I'm capable of handling the majority of it, and picking up the rest as I go. It's a nice compliment to have someone put that trust in you when it comes to their livelihood.
Hope everyone reading out there is well.