Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Kelley Fleet Fishing

       It's the middle of a week off from school, and there's no better way to spend it than fishing in this perfect weather. My grandfather and I decided to try the Kelley Fleet in hopes of catching some big fish. The results were kind of disappointing, but, regardless, we had a great time.

       We started off in the rather cold, cloudy morning, eager to catch some fish. We had dead ballyhoo as bait, and we were going for Kingfish. We would simply let line out from the reel and let the ballyhoo drift in the middle of the water column. After a little while at our first spot, Zaide, my grandfather, felt a tug. He handed the rod to me, and I reeled it in. We caught a Triggerfish. It was a nice catch, but we were hoping that it was a Kingfish. I had caught my first Kingfish on this boat, years before. The Triggerfish was pretty cool, and its skin was so tough that we had to use a knife to get the hook out. We had one.

       After a little while, the clouds went away and the sun came out. The water was really clear. The weather was perfect.

       Since we weren't catching anything, I asked for a chicken rig to drop to the bottom. We put cut squid on these hooks. It turned out to work! Once we arrived at a new spot, I felt the nibbles and then a nice pull. The rod bent over, and a fish was on. I reeled in a Squirrelfish! Although very colorful, the Squirrelfish is poisonous and I was very careful not to touch the fish directly when I was handling it. About 15 minutes later, there was another bite on my ballyhoo rod. I reeled it in, and it was another Triggerfish. We then waited quite a while for the next fish. After about 30 minutes, we went to a new spot which looked promising because there were already two boats there by the time we arrived. On the very first drop, I felt some small tugs, and I reeled in a Grunt. We threw it back before taking pictures. It was our 4th, and last, fish of the day.

       The clouds that were present in the morning left early on in the trip, and my grandfather and I had an awesome day on the water, even though we did not catch the Kingfish we were after. After all, "they call it fishing, not catching." A fish is a fish, and we caught 4. Today reminded me what fishing is all about, just having fun out on the water with friends and family.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

New Species on Pier 60

My family and I were on vacation in Clearwater, and I couldn't resist the temptation of fishing there. I found a few hours to take my dad and brother to Pier 60 to catch some fish. I decided to rent gear from the pier because I didn't bring much and preferred not to risk breaking my own rigs. The pier was very fisherman friendly, and it gave out free buckets to use for storing the frozen bait, as well as a hose for washing hands and melting the frozen bait. I settled for frozen shrimp to buy from the pier after checking a local bait shop that ran out of live shrimp. When the bait quickly defrosted, Jacob and I cut pieces of shrimp into small parts and baited them on the size 1-2 J-hooks. I wish we had smaller circle hooks, because that would have been easier to hook the fish with. In the end, it worked out. The bait was really soft. There was much life in the water, and we saw schools of fish in the water when we looked down. When we casted or dropped the bait, we would sometimes feel bites instantly, and then lose them. Whenever we would reel in to check on the bait, it was gone. This happened repeatedly for the first hour. It was quite disappointing. At one point, Jacob reeled up a cool-looking crab that feel off just as he was bringing it over the side of the pier. I'm not sure what it was, as I didn't have a chance to look at it very well. After a while, when the sun had just set, my brother turned to me excitedly and exclaimed, "Josh, I GOT ONE." I watched him reel in a small Pinfish, our first fish of the day. The catch itself wasn't extraordinary, but a fish is a fish, and it was our first of the day. On the very next drop, Jacob reeled in another fish! It looked like our missing streak was over. I checked to see which species it was, and it was a new one! A Sand Trout! A member of the Cynoscion family, the Sand Trout is recognizable by its white color and distinct lateral line. Although not as popular as Spotted Seatrout, their close relatives, they are also a great fish to catch. As it got darker, I became more desperate to catch a fish, especially a Sand Trout. Sure enough, I dropped my hook, reeled up slightly as I felt the bites, and subtly jerked the rod up. the Rod bent and I felt the tug. Fish on! I reeled in the fish which was almost mechanically vibrating as I brought it up and over the side of the pier. I caught a Sand Trout! A nice catch! I was really happy to finally get on the board. After about another 20 minutes of trying to catch fish, Jacob and I both reeled in a Pigfish! Another new species, the Pigfish is a member of the Grunt, or Haemulon family. It is known as being a good baitfish, and I tried to drop it in the pier lights for Snook in the time I had left. Alas, the fish was foul hooked and didn't survive for very long. Before leaving, we caught yet another new species, a Silver Perch! These fish, although very similar in appearance to the Sand Trout, can be distinguished by a rounder body and slightly taller fins. It makes sense that they were together at the pier, given their similarities. We packed up, returned the gear, and left with smiles on our faces. We had caught rather small fish, but we were happier with the fact that we were able to add a few more species to the life-list.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

7th Annual Fishing Trip

My Aunt and I went on our 7th Annual Sea Legs offshore fishing trip today, and it was pretty exciting. There was great weather, clear skies and temperature in the 80's. We were eager to catch some fish, hopefully Snapper. We started off at some stops at which some people on the boat were catching fish. Annette, my aunt, and I started off slowly, as we were missing the hits by Triggerfish, who would peck the bait off the hook a bit after it hit the bottom. At the third stop, we decided to slow down the line as it got closer to the bottom, so we could feel the bite better. Sure enough, as soon as a Triggerfish took the bait, I set the hook and felt the tug. The fish fought well, but it was not enough. I brought the first fish on board! We did not catch for the next few stops because the wind would blow us off the reefs. The captain told us that the wind was blowing at 15 knots, and that the best wind speed was 5-10 knots. At the next spot, we caught a few good fish. I caught 2 nice Porgy’s, and we also brought up a Sand Tilefish. We were very happy with these fish, and excited about our new species, but we were ready to catch more. At the last spot, Annette and I reeled in a cool Almaco Jack. Minutes later, I caught a hard fighting Blue Runner, part of the Jack family. We ended up not catching any Snapper, which was kind of disappointing, but we were happy with the fish that we did catch. Besides, only one or two Vermies were caught by the whole boat. I caught 5 fish, and Annette caught two to finish the day. We came away with not only some awesome fish, but also some valuable lessons. The first was the wind speed: it’s best to fish in 5-10 knot wind speeds so that the boat is not drifted off the reef. The second was that the Snapper bite is better later in the Spring, as the last time we went fishing on the boat was in early May, and we caught Snappers left and right. Overall, this was another really fun day out on the water.