I know I should be posting part two of the Blue Marlin Camping trip, but I thought I would mix it up and share my 24 hr adventure from last weekend. Friday night I took my friend Lebsica out to show her my backyard and try to get her on some quality fish. She had never caught a fish before and wanted to try it out after hearing the stories and looking at my pictures. We met up at 7 pm and headed up the beach looking for live bait. I spotted the first bait cloud, but it was a false alarm being a huge school of big lady fish. After pushing further up the beach I found a pod of mullet and after one throw with the cast net we were in business and ready to have some fun!
I ran back down the beach in slick calm seas and set up looking for tarpon. The week before I released 9 tarpon out of 32 bites at this spot so I had high hopes! The first 3 baits I put out got 4 tarpon bites. That’s right, 1 of the tarpon jumped off and the bait stayed on the hook. As soon as it hit the water we were on again! The resident summer tarpon average 20-40 lbs and with a medium sized mullet you end up jumping them off fairly easily. After 3 fish coming off and a short fight on the 4th one, we released her first tarpon. This was also the first fish she ever caught, which came just in time before she got sea sick and started puking over the side! A light rain started to fall so we headed in to the bay to give her some Dramamine and get a quick bite to eat.
Feeling better now we heading back out. As we ran down the bay cruising at 50mph in my new 2011 Egret, she looked over to say something and there went her $600 prescription glasses into the bay at night! That sucked, but she was so excited after her first tarpon we weren’t going to let that stop us. She was basically blind at this point so I casted her bait out, handed her the rod and it immediately got slammed by a stud 45 inch snook! Her first snook ever was a true beast!!!!!!!!! Blind as hell, she held it up with a smile from ear to ear.
Next bait out was her first snapper! A monster cubera that smoked the reel and bottomed out a 30 lb boga!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We released 6 more tarpon bringing my release total for the year to 389! I thought the night couldn’t get any better until we caught 3 more snook all over slot with the smallest at 36 inches! On the last cast of the night I got slammed on my favorite bait caster, a shimano curodo 300 loaded with 65 braid and a custom rod. The fish was dumping line at full drag so I tried to thumb the reel and slow it down before it got into the structure. With my thumb pressing harder and harder to stop this beast, it got stuck in the reel between the spool and top frame, OUCH! With braid slicing into my thumb I pulled back trying to free my finger but nothing happened! The braid cut in deeper and deeper and as I yanked my hand out the fish lunged and my $500 set up flew into the dark night waters! Too bad she didn’t get to see it all very clearly, LOL. Now it was 1:30am and time to head back to the dock. It was an EPIC AND EXPENSIVE NIGHT!
I went home took a quick shower and drove to my friend Kohler’s house to spend the day fishing in Flamingo with him and his girl Ashley. We left at 4am to be on the water at sunrise and what a sunrise it was!!!!!
At the first spot we shut down and start to pole. Immediately we see huge schools of redfish, but there was something different about these reds. They were not the typical size Flamingo reds, but all studs! We both fire our first casts into the school and in no time we are doubled up on true donkey reds for this part of Florida. Mine came off but Kohler landed his largest red to date at mingo, and from the poling platform! She was a beautiful 14 lb fish weighed on the boga!
He continued to pole and spots what looks like a lemon shark at first glance. NO WAY! It wasn’t a shark, but an 80-100 lb tarpon swimming in a foot of water with its entire back exposed! Legs shaking, I failed on the first cast which went a few feet behind the fish. I thought to myself “Get it together Russell, you do this for a living, you can’t fail again!” The second cast was perfect and Bammm!!! A 100 lb poon is smoking my redfish rod with only 6 lb test and 30 lb leader. I knew this was going to be short lived. Jumping in a big circle she came off heading back at us throwing the lure skyward as Ashley recorded it all on video! In the distance I spot what I thought was another Tarpon. As Kohler eases the boat in position, he says “that’s not a tarpon it is a monster red, probably 40 inches and 20lbs.” I said “you are nuts, the tail is way too big to be a redfish.” As we get closer, it tails again and sure enough, it was the biggest redfish I have ever seen on the flats at Flamingo. Unfortunately, it spooked off on the cast, so after landing a few trout we decided to move on.
The change of spots paid off and we were thick in 3 more schools of reds tailing and pushing in front of the boat. Ashley put down the camera and got into the action releasing her first red followed but many more! At this point the sun was cooking us and it was time to head back. With 21 reds released, a few trout, and sending a Tarpon airborne we all had a blast. I got home at 7 pm that night opened my door and fell flat on my face! AN EPIC 24 HRS OF FISHING!!!!!!!! If you ask me what I do on my days off, now you know. Some people fish to live. I LIVE TO FISH!!!!!!!!!!!!
BLUE MARLIN CAMPING TRIP – PART 1
Every year as sailfish season wraps up and summer approaches boats from South Florida begin preparations to head to the Bahamas for the summer Blue Marlin season. These fish are the Holy Grail for sport fishers and people will spend tens of thousands of dollars per trip for the chance to catch a single fish. While they can reach nearly 2,000 pounds, the typical size fish in the waters of the Bahamas is in the 200 and 400 pound class. Since the western Bahamas is in close proximity to south Florida, it receives more fishing pressure. Having the opportunity to Captain the “Cyclops” a 50ft Hatteras, I chose to venture further south in hopes of having the best chance of tangling with these beasts.
I left Miami and cruised at 10 knots for the first 400 miles down to Long Island. Although extremely boring, I was able to save $4,800 in fuel over our normal cruising speed. My first mate for the trip was Max who fished the Bahamas with me the past two summers and has seen 54 Blues. The second mate was Johnnie, a greenhorn with only sailfish experience who was very excited to come. I pull into the marina at long Island it’s packed with boats. What was going on? I just went 400 miles to get away from all the people. Later I was told there was an article in Marlin magazine about the fishing around Long and sure enough everyone showed up. Note: “Please forget and or burn this after reading” LOL.
The boss Taylor flew in a day later and was happy we were able to save nearly five grand in fuel running slow. After a quick lunch I took he and his girl Lori out for a half day of fishing near the marina. One hour into it, a small Blue slid in up on the teaser and gave a half hearted crack at it. Then she went back and did the same to the long rigger but never came tight. Thirty minutes later another small blue about 150lbs did the same but this time we were hooked up. When that fish jumped so did Johnnie and I think he nearly hit his head on the bridge deck! After a short 15 min fight on 30 lb test, we released the first Marlin of the trip! I looked over at Johnnie and said: “what do think”? He talks a little slow, rarely says much, and emphasizes the last word in every sentence like Forest Gump, but with a grin from ear to ear he responded: “the coolest thing everrrrrrr”!
The next morning we headed south to explore the out islands. Fishing our way down we won’t touch land for the next five days. Weather sucked the first two days with rain and rough seas. We had a few window shoppers, including one Blue over 700 lbs, but the low barometer made the fish lethargic. The next day, the sun broke out and so did the BITE! We raised 9 Blue Marlin and by the fifth bite I started talking like Johnnie. Fishing hard all day we released the last Blue in the dark with the spreader lights on. The last day we were only able to fish in the morning because the boss had to catch a flight back in the afternoon. The fishing remained strong and we quickly released two more blues. Then, a big Blue snuck up in the glare and inhaled the bridge teaser. I grabbed the line and pulled as she swam away dumping line! When it got to the end I took a wrap on the 400 lb test and held on for dear life. The outrigger started to make a groan and the 400lb leader was severed off in the corner of her jaw. With my favorite teaser gone and a mono burned hand we headed in. The boss will be back in a week and so will part two of the trip. Tight Lines
IRONMAN TARPON ADVENTURE/EGRET 2011 BOAT TEST
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I only fish one way, EXTREME! I started the insanity on Friday night after picking up a couple of clients for a trip. They watched the sun set and moon rise over the Miami skyline waiting for their chance to battle the mighty silver king.
Every year in the winter months as the night falls, Tarpon begin to feed in on shrimp that are flushed in and out of the bays and inlets with the tidal flow. After releasing 4 nice tarpon, 1 mutton snapper, and 1 cubera snapper in 4hrs I went home and loaded up my Egret 18’9. My friend Kohler who had been fishing all night himself came by and we began the long 2 ½ hour drive to the lower keys.
Half way down I decided to pull over at a bridge where small tarpon were feeding. A few casts with the fly rod is all it took to hook 2 teenagers. After releasing one fish and losing the other, we pressed on. The boat splashed as the sun rose and we motored off into the beautiful turquoise waters of the lower keys. The morning was action packed releasing several more tarpon on bait and one with Kohler’s new G Loomis Pro 1 12wt/Nautilus NV combo. This 60lb fish was no match for the strength and power of the Pro 1.
At noon we loaded the boat and went to Duck key to meet Jimmy, owner of an Egret 2011 Hull #1 who was kind enough to take us for a test ride. The big Egret immediately impressed me with its soft dry ride, tons of storage, surprisingly shallow draft, and unsurpassed build quality. The boat was paired with Yamaha’s new 250hp SHO motor and blasted to 65mph in no time. With some propeller adjusting you are looking at 70+mph! This boat will be an excellent choice for those who want to fish the backcountry, bridges and even offshore.
With 4 hours of daylight remaining we picked up my friend Justin’s two kids Twinkie and Brandon then headed out in search of hogfish. Two hours yielded 11 nice hogs which we cleaned and brought to Hobo’s for dinner. If you haven’t been there, check it out (MM 101.6 Oceanside).
With full stomach’s and our bodies running on fumes after 40hrs straight, it was finally time to get some sleep, which of course turned into a 4 hour nap. At 3am Sunday morning we decided to try our luck at night in Islamorada. First drift and bam we are hooked up to a big fish. This one was smarter than we were and headed directly for the bridge span melting line until he broke us off in the pilings. The next fish didn’t stand a chance against the 50lb braid and G Loomis 905. After the sea monster was under control next to the boat, I took a DNA swab which was sent away to further tarpon research.
On our way back to Miami Sunday, Ramiro calls and says he has the Maverick HPX-T loaded up and wanted to do an afternoon bone fishing session. We looked at each other and said “what the hell, let’s do it.” Unfortunately, the wind picked up to a solid 20mph and the ghosts of flats just teased us, waving their tails back and forth as we struggled to make accurate casts. After fishing from Miami to Big Pine Key and back we covered almost 300 miles and slept only 4 hours. We got in what felt like a week of fishing in another crazy two day adventure. It was a great time with great friends!