Fishing Jupiter to Miami in Eight Hours
Jan S. Maizler
These days it’s almost indispensible for a journalist to submerge themselves in the social media to make contacts, keep them alive, and have a ready live audience for their craft. On Facebook alone, I’ve made countless angling and travel friends. And that’s where I met Captain Jason Sullivan. He’s a rising star in South Florida’s shallow water fishery. His charters cover some very diverse habitats. This includes paddle fishing for largemouth and peacock bass in Florida’s SawgrassRecreationPark. He also provides night fishing charters in his Maverick HPX for tarpon and snook along the Gold Coast, plus angling in every nook and cranny in the EvergladesNational Park.
Our new friendship proceeded and when the fall arrived, each of us made the time to fish together. Jason offered his skills and skiff to make a night trip to encounter the unfolding fall mullet run in Jupiter, Florida. When we discussed the trip features, Jason mentioned that he was a fly and lure specialist- which meant there’d be no messy or time-consuming live bait runs: he’d have all the necessary tackle on the boat at the ready. In addition, the plan of meeting at the Bass Pro Shop at Dania Beach and then riding up together made the trip seem quite simple- and I was all for it.
The appointed time arrived and as we drove up I-95 the remnants of the setting sun fractured into the horizon as the inky blue night occupied all of the sky. The major topic of conversation was the recent massive rainfall(s) caused by tropical weather systems and cyclones. South Florida was flooded with rain- particularly in the interior. The SFWMD had opened all the canals to relieve this massive glut of liquid; which in turn left Jupiter and St. Lucie Inlets corrupted by dirty volumes of storm water. The outgoing tides especially would send out plumes of filth that went well into the ocean. There were even reports of dead grass carp floating a few miles offshore of this entire two-city area.
Our brisk conversation made the trip go quickly and soon- a relative term- Jason was launching his skiff at BurtReynoldsPark. As we eased towards Jupiter Inlet, a silvery moon was ascending into the firmament to the east. We soon carefully idled by an SUP regatta with about 20 paddlers. In the moonlight and the darkness, they looked surreal. Despite the “slow zones”, it did not take long for Jason to arrive at his first well-lit dock. He cut his outboard and put his electric motor to the task of closing in for the last hundred feet.
As we got within casting range of the yellowish orb cast on the water, we saw about a dozen snook finning into the incoming tide. Jason gave me a spinner rigged with a plastic jerkbait and I made a perfect upcurrent cast. Two of the fish peeled away from the pod of linesiders and followed my lure without striking it. A few more casts proved these fish to be sluggish and unresponsive. This was also the case with the next two lighted docks.
When we eased over to the fourth dock, we saw and heard some snook popping- a clear sign that these fish were in a more active feeding mode. Jason carefully positioned his skiff with his electric trolling motor to give me the perfect presentation. As I readied myself on the bow, Jason handed me a new spinning outfit rigged with a fresh weightless Gulp shrimp. Both of us saw an especially nice fish under the dock shadow. He told me to make my presentation upcurrent and reel the offering on the surface. My cast was good and my retrieve was even better. The snook struck immediately. I sunk the hook hard and began to fast-stroke it away from the dock. I told Jason to plane the fish away as well by electric-motoring his skiff away from the dock. The strategy worked and a few minutes later we were posing a nice eight–pound fish for photos.
We had a few more strikes-albeit half-hearted-at the next few docks. But when the tide died and started to ebb, the water grew filthy and the fish turned off. Yet we felt successful for the few hours’ fellowship and agreed to fish my home waters of (north) Biscayne Bay for the same amount of time the following week.
A few days before we’d meet, I phoned Jason to ask him if he was open to cut-baiting some of the indigenous fish in my home waters of North Bay. I was relieved to hear he was open to that technique. Towards that end, I picked up some fresh frozen pilchards and majua at a local tackle shop. In addition, I planned on bringing a few of my own spinners that were rigged “old school” with monofilament line. Those that know me may also know my position that soft-mouthed sea trout and jumping tarpon stay hooked better with “forgiving” mono.
We met at PelicanHarbor boat ramp about two hours before dawn so that we could try some tarpon fishing along some of the area bridges and docks. That effort yielded a couple sea trout, but the multi-barred sunrise lifting in the east told us it was time to run to some nearby grassflats for an early morning bite. As we got within a hundred yards of the flat, we could see diving pelicans, and large schools of migrating mullet dimpling, sizzling, and jumping at the surface. This was exactly where we wanted to be. Jason idled within about a hundred feet of an especially large school of mullet and then turned off his engine. As he poled in to close the distance, I cut up some of the baits that were soaking in a small bucket.
I handed him one of my rods, which was rigged with eight-pound mono, a length of forty-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a 2/0 Tru-Turn hook. I baited him up with a pilchard slice and he cast smack dab in the middle of a mullet school- indeed a very nervous school! His line came tight within moments and he struck hard. In the distance, a big trout came to the surface thrashing up a storm- clearly unhappy that he was hooked. As Jason played the fish lightly, I cast out with the same kind of rig and was rewarded with similar results within a minute. In short time, we both released good fish of a few pounds each. Jason remarked at the size of the fish- a comment I’ve heard many times. I told him to be ready for fish that were even bigger.
We continued catching trout with regularity, and we periodically hooked a few pinfish as well. Rather than release them, I cut them up into chunk baits and told Jason to start fishing with these baits instead: this was when we began to catch even bigger trout pushing five pounds. Although we did not match the hatch, we were feeding some gators just the bait they wanted and we released a half dozen North Bay giant “spotsides”.
Jason had an especially hard “take” and struck back. We were delighted to see a medium tarpon of around forty pounds go airborne. I really wanted some photos of this fish, so Jason played the fish lightly against a leader of only forty pounds. It took about thirty minutes- as well as a chase of about a half-mile- before we were able to leader the fish for photos.
We returned to the flat and though the rising sun was suppressing the action, we caught more trout, as well as some small ‘cuda and large mangrove snappers. As we idled back to the boat ramp, we had a pleasant chat about what a well-planned span of fishing could yield- and one lasting only eight hours!
Captain Jason Sullivan- Rising Tide Charters
Web Site- www.tarponfishing-miami.com