I always thought I started fishing when I was six or so but a few years back my sisters put together 30 years of photos as a present for our folk’s 30th wedding anniversary. Amongst all the photos they found one of me in 1976 when I was two years old, fishing on the dock with my red Sterns lifejacket, sure did bring back some memories growing up on the Chesapeake Bay. Those days you could kick your kid out of the house, give him a bucket and fishing pole and let him go to the park or down the dock without someone calling child services on you. Ha, those days are over, but with all the crazies in the world now, I can see why they have made some of these rules for parents.
I moved to Florida in 1996 and attended Johnson & Whales University where I spent most of my spare time out on the head boats 5-7 days a week. I could never get enough fishing in. Most people were out drinking where I was addicted to my favorite activity on earth, Fishing. Going out on the head boats I got involved with a few different clicks of fisherman. I got to know all the captains and mates on the docks; they gave me special attention as they saw my love for fishing. I even got involved with a few commercial fishermen, they let me go fishing with them for free, and I thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Live baiting for kingfish at anchor or dropping with 4/0 senators for amberjacks, they were getting free labor and I was getting my addiction taken care of. Throughout the four years of Collage I became great friends with everyone on the dock. I finished up collage and started to work for Marriott as a banquet chef, in the processI lost the ability to go fishing. Working 60-70 hours a week I was jones’n to go fishing, but once a week just wasn’t enough. After a long look at my life I decided to quit being a chef and get into the fishing industry. I got a job on a charter boat at Haulover Marina where I used to get on the head boats at. My first job was on the oldest, beat up boat with six mounted chairs in the cockpit. The Shark was this leviathan’s name and the owner’s dad had built that boat in his backyard back in the ‘60s. I learned fishing from an old timer Capt. Roger Kohn, looking back , the ways we fish has not changed for 50 years and new ways are always being thought of. This was the beginning of my epic adventures on the open ocean. I have learned from some of the greatest captains in South Florida, from Capt. Bouncer Smith to Capt. Dennis Forgione in Miami to Capt. Roy Limback in Islamorada and Capt. Ted D’ Esposito, who was the one who really gave me my Florida Keys foundation. Since then I have been learning on the job trying new things and also sharing with my other captain friends, as we all tweak our techniques.
This past week I had a captain come down from the West Coast of Florida, I used to go withthis captain in Miami as a client back in my collage days. My buddy Kalvin and an old fishing buddy Bravid who used to fish the same boats up in Miami as I used too, came down here to do some bottom fishing. Now it was up to me to put them on some fish, no pressure, hahaha. We spent the early morning catching my favorite grouper bait, white grunts. It wasn’t long before we had 30 or so nice grunts. I then pulled my pinfish trap which was loaded will all sizes of pinfish. Now we were ready to take on the groupers. I started at one of my favorite grouper spots, which is a wreck in 104 feet of water. I had some really good anglers onboard so I figured we could get our limit pretty quickly. After ten minutes we had three hooked fish and only got one to the boat. We were using 80-130# test gear. We had hooked some really big ones and unfortunately they got in the rocks even with great anglers and stout gear. After breaking off another two fish the bite turned off, instead of going to another wreck I have learned to shift the boat and re-anchor on a different side of the wreck. When fish get spooked they usually will not go far, just in another quadrant of the wreck. Now that we have only moved 200 feet it wasn’t ten minutes before we had a double header, one turned out to be a goliath and the other got back to the wreck. Then we pulled the hooks on the goliath. It’s quite easy to tell when you get a goliath; its fight is strong, with slow tail kicks, unlike a black grouper that digs hard and fast. After losing 19 fish from them getting rocked up or eaten by sharks we left and went to a reef spot where we lost a few more blacks to sharks, but we did manage to get another one around 12 pounds.
It was almost noon by now, so I decided to start hitting the deeper wrecks for some muttons and amberjacks. First drop we had a double header amberjack and up in the front of the boat my buddy Kalvin and his bosses cousin were jigging diamond jigs and were catching genuine red snappers. This time of the year we have to release them. It’s astonishing how we get more regulations each year, even though we are catching more and more fish. You might think that if the stocks are increasing then we are over regulated. Just kind of makes sense to me. If we could get to a point where the stocks stay the same each year then I think the bureaucrats would shut us down completely. I have learned from biologists that are currently working on the grouper studies in the Gulf, and they say that each year is different because of the population of offspring that survived to grow up and become adults where then they have to run the gauntlet us fisherman put them through. So some years you will have better stocks than others. There is no way around that, but for the bureaucrats to not just look at landings, but talk to the fisherman, do interviews, and hire neutral parties to conduct non-bias studies.
After catching another grouper on the wrecks and more amberjacks than they wanted to catch we moved in close to the patches where I have been doing well on large mangrove snapper. It takes time sometimes to get the fish to gather behind the boat. Knowing your bottom you can figure out where the fish are going to hang out and where you can get them to come to you by chumming. When I fish the patches I like to fish on the sandy bottom on the up current, outside edge of the patch. I will also take a big circle with the chum bag around the patch to get the chum spread out. So when the current takes chum away from the boat, it starts out as a big cone, narrowing down to the back of your boat. This time of the year the patches are loaded with fish that are coming from deeper water looking for food (ballyhoo) which is piling up all over the reef. After cast netting a half of a five gallon bucket we rigged up our rods with jigs and knocker rigs and it wasn’t long before we started catching mangrove snappers. My Capt. buddy Kalvin and I used to fish 5-7 day a week together almost 12 years ago and it sure was nice getting to fish with him again. Bravid too, he was always good to fish every weekend or when his work allowed him to during the week. Getting to fish with old friends really makes fishing much more enjoyable, so catch up with an old friend, invite them out to go fishing and rekindle your old friendships and have a hoot, oh yeah don’t forget, catch some fish.