An Afternoon on the Knot Nancy
Jan S. Maizler
Some History- Then, A Simple Plan-
Many moons and years can pass without any frequent contact between the shallow water skiff anglers and the center console fleet. Sure, they may greet each other at the dock and near the inlets- and even “call out” while sharing some fired-up bay bridges. But generally, those worlds only briefly merge- and, to me, that seemed like far too little.
That was specifically the case with Captain Dave Kostyo and me. I’d been hearing of his successful tarpon, and ocean trips out of his “big vessel” for perhaps thirty years. His stability and reputation made me think of him as a pillar of the center console/light tackle community of Greater Miami and I promised myself I’d fish with him one day.
The times and tides of travels and career as well as my motivations came together during the Fall mullet run and I called Captain Dave (A.K.A. “Dave”) to see whether he had any times open to take me fishing aboard his 28-foot Whitewater vessel, the “Knot Nancy.” And I was glad to find out that he did. We agreed to go out in just three days on a Friday afternoon for about four or five hours. Dave felt that a trip bracketing 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. would span the magic sunset hours that were so often associated with a good tarpon bite plus provide some furious action on gamesters that were blasting the finger mullet all around that big island called Miami Beach.
Dave told me the Knot Nancy was moored and sails out of T.N.T. Marine in Miami. The entrance to the marina was downright simple to find. All I did was to get myself to the intersection of N.E. 135th Street and Biscayne Boulevard and then go east on 135th for one-half block- the entrance was on my right-or the south side of the street. After going through under the metal portal, I proceeded all the way to the back where the boats were safely nestled in the protected waters of Arch Creek. Dave’s vessel was obvious not just by the well-placed signage, but the Christmas tree plenty of fishing outfits in the rod holders spoke loudly of a rig getting ready to rumble.
I quickly parked my car and came aboard to say hello. After the pleasure of introductions with Captain Dave, I met Captain Gil Gutierrez who would be joining us on our short and bold project. Captain Gil is Dave’s associate and he has a big center console vessel- “Lucky Fishing Charters”- moored right alongside the Knot Nancy.
Dave quickly fired up his twin Yamaha 150 four-strokes and we were soon idling eastward on the canal. Dave mentioned that we were well prepared with a livewell brimming with freshly netted finger mullet. Those were the kind of satisfactory preparations that puts a reassuring aura to a fishing trips’ beginning- but I was really interested in Dave’s shiny new fishing tackle. When I asked him what basic outfit I’d be fishing with, he handed me one of his newest spin outfits graced with a fine Penn Conquerer spinning reel, which was spooled with 30-pound braided line. Dave told me he was delighted with this reel’s dependable performance in a fishery notorious for beating up tackle. I told Dave I’d been having excellent results with Penn’s Battle line of spinning reels in my own tarpon fishing.
As the boat idled along backyards graced with big lawns and seemingly bigger yachts, I asked Dave about his favorite terminal tackle setup for tarpon. He told me that his standard rig was a few feet of 50-pound fluorocarbon leader topped off with an 8/0 Eagle Claw circle hook. I was surprised by the lightness of a leader that would be -or had been- involved with combat-level rod pressure with leaping fish that often exceeded one hundred pounds. When I brought up my reservation about the leader to Dave, he mentioned that a secondary beauty of using a no-strike-needed circle hook was that the fish was inevitably hooked at the jaw hinge rather than deeper in its’ mouth. The predictable hookup spot kept the leader outside of those rough chafing bony jaws and therefore allowed him to go lighter on the leader. This also had the benefit of getting more strikes in clearer winter waters than the thick 80-pound stuff many charter boats still use on the Silver King.
I asked Dave to tell me about his usual clients and his charter customer philosophy. He enthusiastically told me that while he was used to fishing with experts, he especially loved taking out families on an angling adventure for tarpon, sailfish, or even some species for the table. He felt that the expertly-guided fishing he provided not only left his families free to bond with each other in the vast marine outdoors- but it also gave the family a chance to grow together as they learned all the different techniques that were offered on the Knot Nancy. Captain Dave told me that everyone was welcome aboard his vessel. That included people with a physical handicap, but wheelchair anglers would have to be boarded further along the marina at the more properly positioned gas dock.
The Action Comes Fast-
As soon as the three of us entered the open expanse of north Biscayne Bay, we sighted some wheeling and diving birds in a direct lineup with HauloverBridge. Dave pushed down the throttles as soon as he was in the channel proper and it wasn’t long before we were close to the action. We all could see blowups much more clearly and in the remaining distance of a football field we could see showering finger mullet being pushed by predators below them. Captain Dave said he planned to make a slow troll through the action and he made a wide arc to the northwest with the wind behind him. As we made this maneuver, even more gulls filled up the china blue sky above us. Gil rigged two spinners with finger mullet, free-spooled them back to the proper trolling distance, closed the bails and placed the outfits in the rod holders. I positioned myself in the bow with one of Dave’s plug rods rigged with a D.O.A. BaitBuster. In seconds, both stern rods went off and came tight via their circle hooks with jumping bluefish. I ran to the stern, fired off a cast past the hooked fish and came tight within three or four turns of the plug reel with another jumping blue.
We got the bluefish in quickly and caught a few more- but since our goal was mainly a tarpon, we left the action to net some more finger mullet and began tarpon fishing in the Cut. There was very little action for fifteen minutes and Dave knew the brief time I had allotted to the trip was important. He told us to reel in and he headed south to Government Cut. Because of the slowdowns for bridges and speed zones, that time took about thirty minutes.
Dave had done some research earlier that day with other captains and was told that there were tarpon spotted and hooked south of the south jetty- so this is where we headed to begin our slow trolling. Within five minutes, I saw two tarpon roll- as did Dave- and we trolled over where we guessed the dissipating “rings” of the rolls had been. One of the rods heeled over and the drag screamed as a chunky medium-sized tarpon went airborne. I grabbed the rod out of the holder and kept consistent hard pressure until I had the fish alongside about twenty minutes later. The three of us estimated the tarpon to be around fifty to sixty pounds. Dave unhooked the fish, breathed it, and released it into the green briny depths it currently called home.
While Dave and Gil were preparing for another troll, I told them that I was satisfied we’d reached our goal so efficiently and I was ready to go to the “barn.” As the Knot Nancy made for her port at T.N.T., I felt that familiar gloating satisfaction -but future hunger- of leaving the fish while they were still in a “bite”- and I suspected that with Captains Dave and Gil that this duo were “on fish” so much of the time.
Captain Dave Kostyo
Web Site- www.knotnancy.com
Captain Gil Gutierrez
Web Site- www.luckyfishingcharters.com
Joint Web Site-