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Not of general interest

Discussion in 'Sea Fishing Forum - Shore, Boat & Kayak Fishing' started by rupert, Nov 23, 2016.

  1. rupert

    rupert Blenny

    I appreciate foreign fishing reports are not of general interest, but I hope one or two may enjoy these pictures and reading my nonsense !

    This was my second pilgrimage to Marathon Florida with myself and three pals. This year we fished 11th-17th November, roughly a fortnight earlier than the previous year. A cold front had arrived ten days earlier and this was due to push the Spanish and king mackerel into our patch and onto our radar.

    Last year, we were unable to venture out into the Atlantic, due to wind, but this conditions allowed us out into the ocean for our first two days.

    The first day we started fishing some inshore marks on the Atlantic side of the Keys, catching mutton and mangrove snapper, grunts and other species. In the afternoon, we moved further offshore where the seabed quickly drops off from 20’ to 150’ and targeted sailfish using free-lined live pinfish and frozen ballyhoo as bait, fished on heavy spinning rods.

    Some boats had been catching three or four sailfish a day, but none were forthcoming for us that afternoon. We finished off on an inshore wreck and caught some nice mutton snappers that pull well and are delicious to eat.

    I took a nice Jack on a deep fished speed jig too. These fish pull way over their pay grade!

    Jack for me

    The following day, we travelled out to a mark called “The Humps” which is twenty odd miles offshore. The hump, as its name suggests juts up from the 1,000 ft. deep sea bed to around 500 ft. As we approached the mark, we could see there were already a dozen or so other boats already fishing, but before joining the flotilla, diving birds were spotted, so we deployed two trolling rods and covered this area with two trolling lures. Wes, (our Captain for the week) chose a sparkly skirted lure and I put a 5” cedar plug lure on my other rod. These are trolled 50 to 80 yards behind the boat at around 6 or 7 knots.

    For those that are not familiar with cedar plugs, they are perhaps the most uninspiring lure you will see on a tackle shop shelf, but don’t be fooled by their plain looks! Whilst you can buy them painted in a variety of colour schemes, I was using the good old plain un-painted version, which I had soaked overnight in menhaden oil, which, I reasoned, would do it no harm!

    Wes said he rarely used Cedar plugs these days. First blood went to his sparkly effort. Then my cedar plug evened the score. Another for the cedar plug, made in 2-1. Then 3-1. Wes’s lure then dropped a fish, (Oh dear!). The cedar plug scored again. And again. I was winding Wes up with the running tally and we pulled stumps at 7-1 in favour of the cedar. No big tuna, but it would give us sushi for the next night or two!

    [​IMG]Cedar plug lures

    We then joined the other boats on The Humps, but it was clear that the tuna were deep rather than on the surface, so a change from trolling tactics was needed. We fished on the drift with big 400 gram speed jigs. The technique is to count them down till you find the fish, so some counted to 60, others to 120 before starting to rip them up. Even after counting to 150, you still hadn’t touched bottom!

    As well as winding as fast as you can, you need to work the rod up and down at same time. This isn’t tricky for those that can pat their head and circle their tummy at the same time, but for some of the lads it took a bit of fathoming. On top of this, this speed jigging lark has to be one of the most knackering techniques ever invented!

    Giles's first deep speed jigged tuna

    We were all but bushed after an hour and half. Most caught using this method, but by midday and full sun, all action had tailed off and we motored back inshore. Wes put us over a deep-water wreck, where we finished the day catching a variety of species including more Mutton Snapper. That was supper sorted!

    Mutton snapper for tony and I

    Having fished two days in the deep water of the Atlantic Ocean, for day three, we fished on the west side of the Keys over wrecks in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Here, the depths are typically 10 to 20ft.

    The routine each morning is a take the boat to the dockside tackle shop for chum, 5 or 6 dozen live shrimp and a dustbin full of ice. On the way out to the Gulf, Wes had two fish traps set, which are each baited with a 7lb block of frozen chum. The traps gave us all the live pinfish we needed for a full day at sea.

    The furthest wreck we fished was around 24 miles offshore, so depending on sea conditions, it takes around an hour or so to reach. Once on the mark, we fish at anchor, but it sometimes takes one or two attempts before the boat is positioned to the skipper’s satisfaction. That’s one of the great things about the shallow water, the anchor can quickly be pulled in and re-set as required.

    Once anchored, the frozen chum is deployed over the stern usually within ten minutes the small bait fish arrive to pick of the melted morsels dropping away in the tide. Ballyhoo are usually the first to arrive, which are curious little fish with a garfish like bill. Blue Runner are similarly drawn to the chum. As time goes on, the quantity of baitfish at the stern has to be seen to be believed.

    Every now and again a four hundred square feet area of the sea erupts, with ballyhoo airborne in an attempt to evade the predator approaching from below them. It’s all very exciting and visual fishing!

    Tactics at anchor are to fish heavy spinning rods using 30 to 50lb braid. At the business end is 5 feet of 40/50lb fluorocarbon line and either a small jig head, or a 6/0 hook and sliding lead, which the locals call a knocker rig. The jig head can be baited with shrimp or a small live pinfish and the knocker rig fishes a larger live pinfish.

    Nurse shark caught on the knocker Rig with pinfish

    I spent most of the week using a slightly heavier set up than the other lads. My rod was a Fox Tarpon travel rod, which is a 20-50 lb 7ft. rod matched to a Shimano Stella 20,000SW. This was loaded with multicolour 80lb Daiwa X braid. I persevered with the knocker rig and bigger live baits hoping big bait big fish! Even with this heavy setup I still got trashed on a few occasions by whatever had picked my bait up and then ran into the wreck. Most likely these were Goliath Grouper. You could barely pull line off the drag of my Stella, but still I was mullered!

    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016
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  2. rupert

    rupert Blenny

    The weather gods stayed with us and day’s four to seven were all spent out in the shallow water of the Gulf fishing a number of different wrecks.

    It is difficult to pick out my favourite moment as there were simply so many. I know Giles enjoyed his deep jigged Tuna, but on balance we all raved most about the African Pompano. (Abbreviated to A.P’s in the trade). Some days, we landed half a dozen of these stunning fish to the boat and pound for pound, they can pull so hard. Nick had one than must have run around 100 yards without stopping. Over the week, we retained three for supper and they were outstandingly delicious!

    Tony with an African Pompano (A.P.)

    Most days we saw barracuda, and some pretty useful ones too. They would lurk under the shade of the boat looking ready to pounce, but these guys were smarter than we first gave them credit for. Live pinfish were ignored. Silver spoons were dismissed. We even rigged a live Bluerunner up on a wire trace stinger rig, but they pretty much ignored this all week.

    We did however land three Cuda during the week but all of these were flukes (albeit quite impressive ones) when my pals were fishing shrimp tipped jigs on light bait catching rods. Cuda generally love to eat Bluerunners, and each of these accidental catches was when a Bluerunner was being pulled in on mono. The cuda were hooked on the edge of their jaw and the mono avoided contact with the teeth. Some of the fights from these were epic, particularly Nick’s first which erupted dramatically and fizzed away through the waves in a stream of white water when it was first hooked.

    Barracuda for Nick

    Caught on bait rod and mono!

    Virtually every wreck we anchored over contained small sharks. One afternoon the boat moved some way to the side of the wreck and we had great sport on the fast little sharks. They rip plenty of line off your reel and usually involve the angler doing a lap or two of the boat before being landed. They’re snappy little things on deck too and a back of the neck hold is the only safe way to prevent them turning and biting you.


    Most afternoons we would deploy the grouper rod. This was a short 30-80 stand up fibreglass rod with a Penn lever drag reel, 80lb braid and a 400lb mono wind on leader and a big circle hook. We fished these with a 10 oz. lead and whatever suitable bait we had. The Grouper seemed completely omnivorous and were happy to hoover up Spanish mackerel, Jacks and Bluerunners with equal gusto.

    Tony had never caught a grouper before, so I was keen to put him to the test first. It took less than two minutes from lowering the bait before Tony was ‘in’. Between us we caught nearly a dozen over the week ranging from 50lb to 500lb. Tony had the biggest at 500lb and I had one at 450lb. both of these being Captain Wes’s biggest two groupers ever.

    Me holding Tony's first ever grouper and this was a relatively 'small' one!

    Other great memories were from a late night finish, we had and the amazing views coming in and seeing the big game boats illuminated in the harbour.


    Night time boat porn!

    The villa we stayed in had its own mooring at the end of the patio, so our boat was moored there overnight making for a very civilised start each day. Equally civilised were the fish cleaning stations on the patio and we used these every day, once we realised what the secondary craic was !!!


    There were probably 40 villas down the same canal as us, but we appeared to be one of the few fishing parties that week. We quickly realised that when we used the cleaning station, it was only a matter of minutes before we had fishy visitors eating our discarded scraps. It was after day two on the tuna that we discovered this and there was a fair bit of tuna blood being swilled off into the canal and Wes discarded a fish frame that floated for a while – until a 7-8 ft. foot Bull shark glided up and it promptly vanished in a delicate swirl.

    Skipper Wes cleaning some fish...............

    Nick, Wes and I saw this, so we told Giles and Tony to come over and watch! The next frame vanished instantly!! Could we land one of these beasts from outside our villa? Muggins here was volunteered for the task, but we thought we had better wait until dusk, as we weren’t quite sure how our immediate neighbours might take to us doing this……?

    I hooked up a suitable bait using a wire trace on the heavy grouper rod. The reel I recall pulls around 45lb of drag, but I would need to hassle the shark as much as possible to have any chance. I fished from the moored boat and swirled a baited hook overboard. It took under 5 minutes before the reel shrieked and I was in!

    The 45lb drag had no effect at all, so I moved the lever drag past the button to full drag. Still no effect !! The submarine of a bull shark continued down the canal until the braid parted on a boat dock further down. It was all over in under 20 seconds!

    Gone in under 20 seconds!

    We realised that it wasn’t a realistic prospect to land one of these beasts on rod and line, but we did enjoy teasing them during the rest of the week. We found 50 metres of 8mm polypropylene rope in the garage at the villa, and using a four pint milk carton as a float, got these sharks on the rope before they tore the fish frames clean off it.


    Our confidence grew during the week, such that we thought we might just be able to land one of these sharks on this hand line, if we tied it off to a dock cleat and let it tire itself. We got the idea from one of the local tackle shops, whose staff caught them this way from time to time. On the last night of our stay, we decided to try with a hook in the bait!!

    We considered our options and tied the rope to two cleats just in case! We were going to let the shark take about twenty five feet of rope before it came tight on the first cleat. We hoped the shark might tire sufficiently within 15 to 20 minutes that we might be able to man handle it with four of us and return it ?

    OK. So plan thought through, bait in the water………………………..in under two minutes, the milk container bobbed twice, then streaks off, the 25ft of rope snaps taught to the first cleat and there is a massive commotion under the water until the rope fell slack.

    This hook-up had lasted less than ten seconds this time!


    And so our latest Florida trip ended, but we will be back! Our bucket list of tarpon and King Mackerel, is still to be ticket off!

    Many, many thanks to Rodney Goodship (www.fishthedream.co.uk) for organising an epic holiday.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2016
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  3. Slim Jim

    Slim Jim Blenny

    Fantastic report, thank you for sharing it.
  4. Roger Melly

    Roger Melly Whitby Fishing Forum _ Simply The Best

    Great write up, fantastic fishing... makes winter on the Yorkshire Coast seem a bit tame.

    (Some of the piccies arent showing though :( )

  5. tatch1

    tatch1 Whitby Fishing Forum _ Simply The Best

    Cracking report Rupert I cant see a few pictures though just a box with an x in
  6. rupert

    rupert Blenny

    Sorry about the missing pictures???

    They are all there when I open the post and they were loaded using the same copy and paste. Can't understand why you can't see some of them. Would have thought it would be all or nothing picture wise?

    What happens if you leave the page open and press refresh?
  7. Slim Jim

    Slim Jim Blenny

    I can see them all on my ipad
  8. brian carragher

    brian carragher Whitby Fishing Forum _ Simply The Best

    Great write up as usual, sounds like another hellova trip , cant open the pics either from the laptop, will have a look on the static pc and see what happens

    Regardless , this Florida fishing is a whole lot different to bobbing about on the North Sea during our summer
  9. jc

    jc Whitby Fishing Forum _ Simply The Best

    fantastic report and glad you have shared with us some pics cant see but your description paints the picture
    the only big fight we get is if u hook a seal at the gare
  10. robq

    robq Rockling

    I always enjoy reading about your adventures wherever they are Rupert :)

    Thanks for the report

    I have always been fascinated by those huge groupers !! would love to have a battle with one of them someday :)
  11. rupert

    rupert Blenny

    Hi Rob and thanks for your kind words! Hope you could see all the pictures OK, as I know some are struggling.

    Yes, the Groupers are amazing fun. Its all but impossible to bust the gear we use, so once the hook is set, it really is a complete tug of war. The fish pull so hard at times they slam the rod foregrip onto the gunnel and all you can do is crouch down to prevent the whole outfit being pulled over the side.

    The fights don't last long, only minutes, but they're full on. The bite is quite gentle - you can imagine them inhaling the bait with a big slurp, in their great big gobs! We use circle hooks so the next step is to gently wind till you feel weight (or not). No weight - let a little line out and wait. Feel weight - wind like hell and be ready to hold tight!!

    All of them try to go back to the wreck, so you have to hang on as best you can! If you loose much more than 5 yards of line, the chances are the fish will find some sort of structure and all will go solid. I've yet to get one out that's gone solid like that. Even tying the 400lb mono to a boat cleat to drag them out ends up with a bust line!

    Once you've got them to the surface by the boat, they pretty much surrender, until you touch them, then they very often get a second wind and belt off again with a massive slap of the tail.

    The wrecks we fished are reputed to hold Groupers considerably bigger than the 500lber we caught, but much above this size they are impossible to hold onto within the close confines of the wreck,where you need to be fishing.

    These fish should be on everyone's bucket list!!
    • Informative Informative x 1
  12. robq

    robq Rockling

    thanks Rupert

    Maybe one day :)

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