Sunday, May 28, 2017

Keys Fishing With Sam - 200th Fish

This was an awesome weekend of fishing on Duck Key with my friend Sam. We got there right after school on Friday and left Sunday afternoon. We fished on their boat, the Rodfather, and we fished on Friday and Saturday. You can follow Sam on Instagram @SBN1266. This weekend was very memorable and special.

Day 1-Saturday:
We woke up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for fishing. Once we were set with our supplies and sun protection and water, we set out near the Alligator Reef Lighthouse to fish for blue runners and snapper with Sam’s father, Rob, an experienced fisherman, Dave, and Sam’s sister Marielle. Dave helped a lot during the day. You can follow him on Instagram @munstersfishing.
The water was extremely flat and clear. We could easily see the bottom of the water, which was 50 feet down. We put out the snapper chum and waited. There was no weight on the line, so Dave told me to jerk the rod up and down with the bail open to have the live shrimp sink. I left the bail open and waited for the Mangrove Snapper to take the bait. When it did, the line peeled off the reel. I then locked the bail, reeled in, and hooked the fish. I used this method to catch many of the fish I caught this trip. The Mangrove Snapper fought hard, and I brought it in. I did this again with a new shrimp. I locked the bail and set the hook, and reeled it in. I caught another Mangrove Snapper! Next, I dropped a live bait, hooked in the back, down 20 feet. A blue runner took the bait! I reeled in and caught it! Meanwhile, Marielle caught a blue runner and a snapper. After this, we went in and dropped Marielle off. We were going to fish for Mahi Mahis.
At the dock, I used some of the live shrimp to fish. Because it was high tide, lots of fish were there. A big school of Dog Snapper and Schoolmasters would come up and take the bait once I put it in the water. I caught four consecutively by dropping the shrimp in the water, keeping the bail unlocked, waiting for the fish to take it, then locking it and reeling hard. Sometimes, I would reel in too fast or the fish would not be hooked yet. After those fish, I had caught 198 fish in my life. I was ready for the Dolphinfish.
The fish has three main names. Mahi-Mahi is its name in a hawaiian language. Dorado is its name in Spanish. Dolphin, or Dolphinfish most likely came about because of the fish's early scientific classification in the genus dolfyn. It is called Mahi-Mahi or Dorado on the West Coast in Southern California and Mexico, but it is widely referred to Mahi-Mahi or Dolphinfish on the East Coast. They have vibrant colors such as yellow, green, and blue. They are normally found near weedlines  or long strips of sargassum in the ocean. They are great eating and a famous gamefish.
After about 10 minutes of searching for weedlines, we finally found a good one! We set out trolling lines and cast out a jig to catch any potential Dolphinfish. Sure enough a Mahi took the jig with a big jump. Fish on! I fought hard and brought it into the boat. I caught it! Right after, we saw a Mahi Mahi swimming under the weedline near the boat. Sam cast out the jig on the spinning reel and enticed the fish. It took the jig and he set the hook. He reeled in and he had caught it! 2 fish so far. We kept on going along the weedline, and one of the trolling rods bent and the line peeled out. I was one fish away from my 200th fish. I took the rod and reeled in. I stopped reeling in when it jumped, because it would make it easier for the fish to throw the hook out. Mahi Mahis are smart fish. I reeled it up and brought it in. My 200th fish is a Mahi Mahi! Next, Sam caught another Dolphinfish. We set off to a new spot after this because the fish weren’t as big as we hoped. Other boats had caught the bulls, or the big males with a square/rectangle-shaped head.
Fishing was very slow for the next few hours. We tried  are different spots, but we had no result. One time, there was a flock of birds that were diving and eating baitfish. This means that big gamefish were probably chasing the baitfish from the bottom of the school, too. The bait ball and the birds were moving so fast, it would have been really hard to catch the fish. Because they were moving so fast, it was probably Skipjack Tuna that were eating the baitfish. After about 5 hours, we decided to try to deep drop. Deep dropping is using an electric reel to drop bait 700 feet down. We wanted to catch big Groupers and Snappers. The bait would be whole squid on multiple hooks on a rig with 3 way swivels. We deep dropped right next to the hump, an underwater limestone mountain where lots of gamefish can be found. Normally it is crowded on a weekend. Just as we were about to deep drop, A school of Mahi Mahi swam near the boat.
We immediately baited our spinning rods with squid. The water was so clear that we could see Dolphinfish 15-25 feet away. Sam, Dave, and I cast out our lines and kept the bail open. We could see the Mahis take the bait. When I saw one take my bait, I flipped the bail, reeled in, and set the hook hard. Fish on! I reeled in and brought it up. I caught another Mahi! It was my first Bull Mahi! Right after, I picked up another rod and set the hook. I caught it! I ended up catching 3 more Mahis there. Sam caught 4 Mahis there and even Rob got to reel one in when Sam and I were busy with our fish. One time, I hooked a bull and I was about to bring it up but because I gave it too much slack the fish got off the hook. We tried deep dropping when the school of Mahi went away, but nothing took the bait. We decided to call it a day offshore by then, and we drove in.
After washing the boat, Sam and I used live shrimp to fish off the dock. It was low tide, but we still caught many Dog Snappers and Schoolmasters. Two of the fish I caught were Irish Pompanos! I caught 12 of them off the dock, and Sam caught 3.
I ended the day catching 26 fish in total, only 3 less than my record for most fish in a day. My record is 29 at Pier 60 in Clearwater, Fl. This was an extremely fun day, but the weekend was not over.

Day 2-Sunday:
We woke up at 6:30 a.m. again so we could set out fishing early. We found a weedline but it only got our lines tangled in sargassum. We decided to go to the lighthouse to fish the clear water and patch reefs for Mutton Snapper and whatever else would bite. On the way in, we saw a jumping Sailfish! This is a fish on my bucket list, and we might have tried to catch it if we only had live bait. I will catch it one day.
We arrived at the reef. Right under the boat, there were Filefish waiting to steal our squid. I tried to bring it away from them, but I reeled in to late. I hooked the filefish. It didn’t fight hard, but it was surprisingly heavy. It had many teeth. It wasn’t the fish we were hoping to catch, but a fish is a fish! We had nibbles, but they started to go away. We saw other boats coming in, too. It wasn’t a great day for fishing.
I fished at the dock, too. I caught a pinfish, but that’s it. I saw the fish, but they didn’t bite. It just wasn’t a great day for fishing. I ended the trip with a total of 219 fish caught in my life.
On the way back, we fed the Tarpon at Robbie’s near Islamorada. It was awesome. So many big Tarpon were waiting there for the fish. I ate a hogfish sandwich there, too. It was great!. On Friday, the day we arrived at Duck key, we ate at Angler and Ale. The fish taco was amazing!

I had an incredible time catching fish this weekend and I hope to come down to the keys again. Stay Tuned and Tight Lines!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

C-8 Canal Fishing with Ben

For this trip I was fishing with my friend Ben in the C-8 Canal. We used bread as bait. We started off not catching anything. At times, lots of fish would nibble. But the bait wouldn't stay on. I ended up putting a very small piece of bread on the hook. If the fish bit, I would have caught it. Sure enough, a Spotted Tilapia took the bait. It went fast to the left, but I managed to bring it in and not to cut it on the rocks near the bank. I caught it! I then unhooked it over the water and it swam away. We weren't catching anything else, so then Ben brought me to his "hot spot" across the dock in another corner. Once he dropped the bait in the water, a decent Mayan Cichlid bit his hook. Instantly, as Ben was reeling in, the line was tied up in a branch. I brought in the palm branch. We caught it! The fish swallowed the hook so we had to cut the line. This was a very fun trip, and I will hopefully have more like this soon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

COEP Fishing

This trip was really fun and exciting. In my school, there is a program called COEP. COEP teaches students about the outdoors, reserves and parks, and wildlife. In COEP, we taught 4th graders how to fish in the C-8 canal. We used pieces of bread. I was fishing with two 4th graders. One we got there, I saw numerous fish swimming along the bank of the canal. We mushed the small pieces of bread together so it could be harder and even smaller, perfect to be on the hook with ought falling off. I was teaching them how to set out the bait, when I saw a big sunfish take the bait. The rod started to bend and I told them to reel in. We caught it! It was a nice bluegill! We were all really excited because we had caught a fish right after we started. I showed them how to unhook the fish, and then we rebated the hook. We had 3 split shot sinkers on the line near the small j-hook. We waited a bit more, but the fish wouldn’t come. We were running low on time, and we were becoming anxious to catch another fish. Then, in the nick of time, a big orange Mayan Cichlid came and took the bait. Fish on! We held the rod and reeled in. Teamwork prevailed and we brought it up! We took a picture and then we released it. After that, it was time to go. We were all really happy to have caught 2 fish. Thanks COEP for this awesome opportunity. STAY TUNED. More posts coming soon.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fishing Milestones

I went fishing with Ben, Adam (Ben’s father), and Ben’s grandfather on Adam’s boat. They knew that I had never caught a Mahi Mahi before and they wanted to take me out to catch one.

We went out in the morning to haulover and government cut to try to find some live pilchards. We kept on searching, but nobody there had them, people only were selling herring. We were waiting and seeking, until finally Adam found out that there was someone with pilchards at bear cut, the north part of Key Biscayne. We drove as fast as we can to get to bear cut as fast as possible so we could start fishing.

Bear cut is a very interesting place. There are many interesting mangroves and even a very rare fossilized mangrove reef that are home to many ecosystems and creatures. It is a place full of bait fish like pilchards and would be an amazing place to inshore fish, but we weren’t inshore fishing. We fishing way offshore in 400-900 feet of water for Mahi-Mahi.

Once we got our bait, we went out to the sea to find birds. The birds know where the baitfish are, and where there is baitfish, there’s big fish. We found one and we followed it around. But, the waves were big. The wind was pretty high so it pushed the water and made it almost impossible to fish. It was clear that we had to go back in and wait for the wind to die down. We called the plan a “reset.”

While everyone was getting set to go out again, Ben and I were using live pilchards hooked through the mouth to catch huge jacks that were ambushing baitfish around the pilings of the dock. We dropped one down and were waiting anxiously. I felt the pilchards trying to swim fast, which means it was scared and was being chased by a big hungry jack. The bail was unlocked. When a big jack took the bait, the slack in the line tightened up and you can feel it on the line. We locked the bail and reeled in. As the slack in the line decreased, the rod bent violently. The fish put up a really hard fight. It went around the boat. It was hard to reel in. The jack took line. The fight was thrilling, until I finally brought it up. I caught a huge jack! It was my PB, or personal best-sized jack! it was huge! It swallowed the bait with the hook because we kept the bail off when it ate the pilchard, so we cut the line right next to the mouth to release it. This gave me a good feeling about the reset. We kept on trying for more jacks. We had two more bites, but they cut the line off on the piling.

Time came to go back out on the water. We left out of bakers haulover inlet and looked for birds. The plan of the reset was to wait for the wind to die down, and that is exactly what happened. The waves weren’t rough at all. We were ready to fish! 

We were still looking for birds, but we couldn’t find any. Because we couldn’t find any birds, we went to an area that Adam knew about, and set out trolling lures with rigged ballyhoo. Trolling is putting bait out far in the wake and it imitates fish following the boat. The bait is dragged by the boat. We set out the lines and waited. I was determined to cross Mahi Mahi off of my fishing bucket list.

After a little while of waiting, we finally had a bite. Ben and I reeled in the fish that we had felt was very heavy and tough. Finally, we brought it up to the boat. We caught a Barracuda! I have wanted to catch a Barracuda since I had started to fish! Barracuda are known for being ravenous, apex predators of the sea. They are long and sleek and have teeth so sharp that they sometimes can cut through line when they take the bait. I was tremendously excited for catching this fishing milestone, but Adam and Ben on the other hand, were not. They were disappointed because they were looking forward to a Mahi Mahi, not a Barracuda. Some people think of Barracudas as pesky “bait stealers” because they can mess up gear or be a let down of excitement when fishing for other game fish. We moved on and tried to go for my first MAHI MAHI.

We kept on trying as we kept on trolling. It was becoming a bit frustrating until Ben and his grandfather spotted a Mahi-Mahi jumping. Adam slowed down the boat and made a small turn, and we were all getting ready for the potential fight.

The rod bent and Ben gave me the rod. I reeled in as hard as I could. I was using 30 lb. test line to reel in this incredible fish at 800 feet of water. But of course, this was at the surface of the water because we were trolling. It was a fun fight, and I couldn’t believe it when my first Mahi-Mahi came right up next to the boat. Adam gaffed it and brought it on the boat. I had caught my first Mahi! I could hardly believe it! Mahi-Mahi’s are great eating fish and are found offshore in florida and the eastern Caribbean. They can also be found near San Diego, CA and other places up the Atlantic US coast, but they are most popular in Miami. Mahi-Mahi are very colorful and are also known for their magnificent appearance. This is another catch I will never forget.

We kept on trying, but we caught nothing. To complete the trip, we saw sea turtles on our way back to the dock. This was a really fun trip and I will never forget it. I greatly appreciate everything Ben, his grandfather, and Adam for taking me out and letting me catch my first Barracuda and Mahi-Mahi!

After this trip, I can now cross off “Mahi-Mahi”and “Barracuda” off of my fishing bucket list, two fish that I have wanted to catch my whole life since I heard about them. I look forward to many more trips like this in the future. Stay Tuned! More trips, tips, and tricks coming soon.