Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Fishing with Zach

 Zach has been one of my best friends for almost as long as I can remember. However, since he isn't as interested in fishing as I am, I hadn't gone fishing with him in years. That being said, Zach had recently been asking me to take him fishing so he could see more about what it was all about, and we finally found the time. I figured a good bet would be to take him out on a boat where we could go bottom fishing for snapper and other reef fish. Jakes, Zach, and I boarded the Reward Fleet at 8 this morning. Since it was a weekday, very few people were on the boat; we had a whole side to ourselves. Despite forecasts that called for rain, it was near completely sunny - we were all excited to begin fishing. One of my favorite things about the Reward Fleet is that it leaves from Bayshore, which is right near midtown/downtown, which is one of the best areas of Miami. As you leave the dock and pass through the blue waters of Biscayne Bay, you pass by all of the office buildings that make up the beautiful city in which I consider myself very lucky to live. One of the best feelings I've ever experienced occurs when I'm fishing and looking out over all those buildings, occupied with workers, while I'm out on the water, leaving all my troubles on shore.

    We arrived at the first stop and anchored up, meaning we were going to stay there. The captain said the bite had been pretty slow lately, but that this was the best reef for fishing at the time. It wasn't too deep, about 60-80 feet, so we were going for Snappers. For bait we had limited squid and more cut ballyhoo. The fishing went by pretty slow, and we didn't catch much. That was, until Jakes got us on the board with a Yellowtail Snapper! It was Jacob's biggest Yellowtail Snapper yet, and we were joking about how he always catches them whenever we're fishing.

    The fish were pretty pesky all trip, and would steal the bait off our hook often. As the one who was baiting the hooks for all three of us, I started taking it personally. I double checked and double hooked every single one before instructing the other two to drop their lines. It didn't help that we were mostly dealing with frozen and thawed ballyhoo, which I found to be softer than other preferred baits. Soon, however, a deckhand gave us some cut Bonita strips to use. This worked like a charm. Tying one on, I dropped my hook, confident that the fish would have a tougher time stealing the bait now. Sure enough, after a lot of nibbles and patiently waiting for a strong bite and hookset, I had a fish on. I gave my rod to Zach to reel in. I wanted him to catch one, and also to feel what a fish on is like. Like many new anglers, he felt nibbles and wasn't sure whether they were solid bites or not. "When it bites, you'll know," I said. Now he knew for sure. He reeled it in and we saw that it was a Doctorfish. I nice type of reef fish of the Tang family, it's got a unique shape and dark color. Not the fish we were looking to take home, but it was a fun catch nonetheless. We threw it back and got back to the fishing.

The next one to catch was Jakes with another Yellowtail Snapper, then me with a Doctorfish. A few times, Then Zach, now understanding how to set the hook and when a fish bites, said he had one on. But when he reeled in, he thought he lost it. He kept going to check on the bait, but he found that a fish had indeed been on, it had just swam up while being reeled in. Another Doctorfish. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. I was especially glad to see Zach catch one himself. Later, as the boat was about to leave and the engine was running, Jakes and I were feeling nibbles. I had been saying that I ideally wanted another Yellowtail, so that there would be enough to eat. Jakes of course came up clutch and caught us a buzzer beater Snapper before we left.

It was a mediocre day of fishing, with some of our fish getting sharked, our hooks getting rocked after hooking up with a fish, and a total of 6 fish (2 by me) to show for it. But, of course, it wasn't just the fish we were going for. We had a great time on the boat together and it led to some really great memories. Zach enjoyed it enough despite the slow fishing which was frustrating at times that he asked for the next time we'd be going out. All in all, another fun day on the water with good company; what more could you ask for?

Afterwards, I cooked the Snapper (the deckhands gave us extra Yellowtail and Mangrove Snapper too, which was much appreciated). It was blackened, and really good. I even surprised myself. There's nothing that beats fresh fish.