Thursday, April 27, 2006

4/27/06 -My sailors!

This was taken Monday morning on the way to see the doctor. Later, we would receive the news that my eldest had strep throat. Eating has been such a struggle for him for several days.

I am so fortunate that my boys are such good friends. Not only do they enjoy fishing together, but also playing with monster trucks, legos, bionicles and counting their coins.

Also, below is our boxer who turned 6yo this month. Jackson is a big love and my third child.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

4/25/06 P'Nuts!!

It turned out to be one those those days of endless trolling. We made it to 25.8 mi due east of the inlet and stopped to listen to the NOAA weather. Yikes, we ended up in the Gulf Stream but nobody bothered to put a sign up today. Can't they make one of those cross-guard signs warning you? Anyhow, the water was gorgeous blue and the sun was warm but it didn't feel hot since we kept a breeze going over ourselves by trolling. Capt. Jack set out all the rigs while I kept course heading due south. For a little while there, I was turned around but I knew we had found a rip current (color & temperature change) in the water. We trolled that without success. We saw no boards or weedlines. The kids were not thrilled with this kind of fishing (as opposed to bottom dropping). We came up behind a 5 ft long brown shark - sorry I can't be more descriptive than that. We saw about 6 flying fish get spooked into flying away from us. I saw a cobia and a small dolphin at two different times, but nothing would grab onto our ballyhoo.

Finally, we had gone from 120 ft down to 80's ft at Pelican Flats without a single knockdown. We had our picnic lunch and kept trolling. Then, Jack yells that he thinks we had a bite but no fish. He pulls the line off the pole that popped. As you can see, the fish was very clever in taking a bit without getting either hook in his mouth. Jack saw silver and figures it to have been typical Kingfish behavior. At least it gave us renewed interest. We trolled southbound towards Highbar reef but at one point, Jack decided it was time to head east and then pull lines. Someday, there is just no activity on the water. No birds out hunting. No balls of baitfish at the surface. Nothing striking lures. It's called getting skunked. He stops the boat and we start reeling in line when he gets a whack on his pole. He fights the fish which we think we see yellow/green/blue (mahi). Twenty seconds later..... off. BUT, they are not gone! It is 5 'peanut' dolphins also known as schoolies and their buddies, 4 remoras. Jack's yelling, "Chum, Chum!" I'm throwing squid and cutting sardines as fast as my fingers will let me. They did not want a jig and apparently the horse ballyhoo were too intimidating. So, he puts cut bait on there and whammo. He catches one smaller than the original one. We had a bit of chaos (AKA Chinese fire drill -whatever that means) and I couldn't get the other lines unrigged, throw chum and get to the other waiting peanuts. Jack pulls his guy in and when he turns around, the others are gone.

There is a saying that if you leave your one mahi in the water, you can catch the rest of the school. I believe it is true. They were sticking around until he was in the boat.

Anyhow, we did get this guy measured at 20.5" at the fork of the tail. Twenty+ is legal to keep. He went to the cooler for an ice bath. Unfortunately, nobody else did and he was very lonely for the ride home. Below is a picture of Jack with the fish. He was a bit disappointed because he should have let our boys bring in these smaller 'phins. It is no thrill for a salty fisherman to bring in a small peanut/'phin but it would have meant the world to the boys. We had our family debriefing in the suburban on the ride home. We usually do this in order to improve on what went wrong, how to improve it, and to kudos things done right. Next time, we'll be better since we have an idea of what to do. The boys will definitely be helping in the catching. I hate to disappoint them. They are avid fishermen too!

Monday, April 24, 2006

4/25/06 Trolling 101 - Lures & Bait

Troll? No, not those funny little people hiding under bridges but something you do with a boat at low speeds with ballyhoo dressed in skirts behind your boat. I promise, it is not a foreign language. Let me add some pictures to help. To the left is a ballyhoo bait fish with a hook in the bottom. The line coming off of it is held in the forward position by wrapping a copper wire around the bill. This and the flying fish are natural prey for most pelagics (sails, swords, wahoo, kings, mahi and cobia). No, they are not alive when all this 'rigging' is done to them. And tonight, I had to brine the pre-pkg'd rigged ballyhoo that we bought this afternoon. The kids and I made a heavily saturated salt solution with a little bit of baking soda to boot. Then, we added these 'hoos to it and then placed in the frig over night. The frig part was NOT my idea. I will have to air it out tomorrow. Ick!!

Here are skirts.

No, I'm sorry, there is no mini's or micro-mini's. There aren't even legs involved. These are placed over the nose of a ballyhoo to attract attention. Color depends on the weather, the preference of the fish that particular day. Some fishermen will put out different colors and see what is attracting fish, then put more of that on later.

This creature is another lure. Lures can have different heads on them. Some vary in shape or in weight. Some include a large plastic lip in order for them to swim lower in the water column. I like the pretend eyes and flashy colors. I don't know why more young girls aren't interested in offshore fishing. Look at this purple! Some lures have bubblers or noise makers (like propellers) to attract fish by sound. If they hear something, the are curious enough to check it out. Then, they're hooked with color and taste of ballyhoo right behind this. The reason why you put bally's behind this is to mimic the look that the bally is chasing something else.

Anyhow, I think we're prepared and while we'll get a late start with the Captain coming in after his morning meeting, we should be able to have a nice picnic lunch over cobalt blue water, catch a nice tan, hopefully catch a nice fish and then come home in time to put Jack to sleep early. My older son is looking forward to catching his first dolphin as much as I am. Oh, it is not dolphin, the porpoise. It is the fish dolphin, AKA mahi mahi or dorado. See pic.

Friday, April 21, 2006

4/21/06 WaaaaHOOOOOOO!

It was a beautiful day offshore, especially all morning and early afternoon. As soon as Jack & his buddies got to cobalt blue water, they spotted something jumping out of the water. Shark, Cobia, no Shark, ???. They threw the ballyhoo out and in no time, they had this guy hooked. As I have mentioned before, you will not have much a problem getting the cobia to the boat. The problem is once they are IN the boat. This guy showed he was going to flip himself out of that boat if he could. There were no pictures of that action since it was chaotic. They did finally show him the luxury ice bath house, which relaxed him. Capt. Jack says that Mike's cobia was even bigger than mine (22 lbs - 36 in). He said the cobia went off the measuring stick so they never did get the full length or weight.

They did troll around for a long time. I know they had big dreams of putting the first dolphin-mahi mahi - dorado on our own boat. They never saw one all day. At some point, the line on the outriggers popped and line was screaming off a reel. I don't have the full story but Jack said it was a wonderful game-on fight for his friend, Joe. It is a wahoo, which IS the first one for our boat and I believe a first ever for Jack to have seen caught first-hand. As you can see, they have magnificient blues to purple hues and distinctive stripes when excited. This wahoo is still very much alive and mad! Kudos to Jack for sticking the gaff cleanly 3 for 3x.

The last fish to be caught trolling was a medium sized barracuda. Nobody around here eats them because of the possible toxins in their meat; however, people from the islands say they know how to distinguish which are good eating and eat them regularly. Soooo, a guy at work wanted a barracuda if Jack could get on in the smaller range. I don't have a picture of him, but he is on ice and will be packaged for freezing for his friend. I thought it would be more fun to show all three friends (Mike, Joe and John) with the Wahoo.

I'll have more stats tomorrow, but the Capt said they were 39 miles offshore at one point, which would have put them in the middle of the Gulf Stream. He said it wasn't bad - maybe 1 ft higher than the inshore height. They trolled from the cones to Highbar, then back home.
4/21/06 Big Game Day!!!

Jack and the guys started arriving at 6am from work & their homes. I don't know what happened to my wake-up call, but I hurried to join all of them. We loaded what they had, hitched up the boat and they drove off. Then, after I got my first cup of coffee, I got a call they were coming back home. Ugh. They forgot the beanbags chairs & Jack's x-ray vision glasses (as I like to call them). I know Jack must have been so disappointed to be driving home as the sun was cresting over the edge of earth.

I am praying for safety first. Then, I pray for a good day and possibly fish. Jack does not like to pray for fish because he thinks it sounds selfish and maybe that is true. Is it wrong to pray that your football team will win? Possibly. Anyhow, I still am praying for fish and hope that God understands my desires that every fishing trip be cost-effective. LOL. I like to get a little something for the freezer out of the deal or something entertaining & educational for those on board.

Yesterday, we put a new anchor line aboard. We had 1/2" heavy nylon that cut into your raw fingers. We were learning that thicker line can be pushed by the water currents, hence leaving you w/ the need for more line to keep your anchor down. A math lesson....say your fishing 50 ft of water, you need 150 ft of line (3x the depth) to keep anchored from coming off the bottom. Heavier line may mean needing more rope because of more resistance (drag). We cut back to 3/8" soft nylon for less resistance. Also, having smaller diameter rope means that we can fit more length into the anchor bin. We went from 150-ish ft of rope to 350 ft of rope in the same area. Now, we will have the ability to anchor in deeper waters if need be. It is also wise to have 5-10 ft of chain in front of your anchor for weight. This keeps it dug down into the sand and the arm of the anchor from being lifted up by the rope. We have approx 5 ft of chain but we're going to up that in the near future.

Brining? What is it? Fishermen brine their ballyhoo in brine salt in order to toughen up the skin so that you can troll your baits for a longer time without them breaking up. Also, if you add baking soda to your brine, it is suppose to bring out the shine which attracts large game fish. Ballyhoo are mostly on the menu today. In front of the ballyhoo will be teasers, bubblers and skirts to attract the ears and eyes of the pelagics and bring them over for a taste. Goodness, I just realized that men are part of the pelagic species!

Our 225 Merc Opti-Max engine is a oil-injected engine. Jack also refilled his oil bin to the top and brought along a gallon of extra for emergency. I don't think they will need that much oil but it is essential to keeping your engine running smoothly.

I hope to share pictures with you all tomorrow.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

4/20/06 Thursday planning for big offshore trip Friday trip!

It has been since April 1st-2nd weekend that we have been out fishing. Where did the three weeks go? Jack's work took him away and there have been days upon days of high seas this spring. As the Bible says, this too shall pass. As our days warm up, our seas finally flatten out to that perfect postcard weather. Not hot enough for thunderstorms, not cold enough for a jacket.

Today is the day of preparation. Jack and his coworkers have put together a wonderful day of offshore fishing and will be hopefully coming back with any of the pelagic species - Yellowfin & blackfin tuna, Mahi mahi, wahoo, kingfish, cobia and possibly any of the sail- & swordfish species. Pelagics are any fish that stay in the upper water column searching for food on the top of the water. His friend has brined (salted) & rigged w/ hooks 3 dozen ballyhoo - a treat for the pelagics. Also, Mahi love flying fish too. Jack and I are going to clean out, load needed equipment and check everything to be in working order. Preparation is the key. You never know what species you will run into when you're out there in the Spring.

As for me, I have to get past my pouting of not being able to go. My boys are too young to tread water for hours if any terrible accident should happen. The ocean is filled with floating debris that can pierce the hull of a boat and cause an accident. While we carry 2 radios and tons of life-jackets, we do not have an emergency EPIRB system to alert the Coast Guard automatically when it hits water. One of our radios is hand-held and water-proof but it will not save your life like an EPIRB system. It activates immediate when hitting water. We also will invest (hopefully this year) in a sturdy emergency life-raft so none of us have to tread water.

We had friends that were overturned on a return trip home from the Bahamas during the approach of Hurricane Arlene (2005). A wave tipped the nose down and it became caught under the water and following seas flipped the back-end over. Fortunately, the two men 1) had an EPIRB 2) clung to the hull of their boat 3) could dive under to get some food, drinks and supplies to survive the night. They were found the next day after suffering through 30 hrs of 6 ft+ seas. So the moral is I shouldn't pout. I should be patient until we have all the safety gear and our boys also get a little older. For now, this is more a man's trip to go out to the gulf stream and possibly cross it to the other side where the water is deep, it is blue, and it is filled with BIG game fish.

Also, here is another little lesson in offshore fishing weather. On any given day, you have to consider 3 different types of weather. There is the weather/waves from shore to 20 miles out. Then, there is the Gulf Stream's own conditions that can be totally different from inshore. Finally, there is the 'weather' on the otherside of the Gulf Stream. Yes, this one has a mind of its own too. Our area has 2 weather bouys to check on before heading out to sea. We tend to concentrate on the 20 nm bouy; however, tonight & early tomorrow morning, Jack will look closely at the 60nm bouy as well.

More to come.....

Thursday, April 13, 2006


The OTHER poster child.

I have no idea if this is real or not, but she gets my vote for being the poster child for sunblock.

Don't stare too long at her or else you could become blind.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

4/11/06 Poster girl

This is really silly but we submitted the picture of me holding the cobia into the Picture of the Week contest on Jack's fishing forum. There were only 2 of us. It was a landslide victory, not that I'm surprised. Girl w/ any fish vs Guy w/ fish. I could have been holding bait and won in other words. I'm a bit embarassed by the whole thing but this too shall pass in a week.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Week of 4/9/06

Seas are building from 3 ft now to the 8-11 ft range by Tuesday!!!! Thanks to the 25 knot winds, waters will only calm down to 5-7 footers by Friday. As soon as all this passes, we'll be out looking for dolphin under boards & seaweed patches (AKA floating hotels).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

4/8/06 Clean-up

Today, we clean up our boat and ran the engine to keep the batteries fresh on her. The seas will be high all week and winds up, so we thought it best to give her a bath. The salt water can be very destructive on your boat, engine & trailer.

The Mahi Mahi are coming closer to shore. Some local guys have caught them in the 150 ft+ waters. By mid-late April, we will head out to start catching some on our own boat. Jack caught his first last year on a friend's boat. The boys and I are still waiting for our first time. We were never able to venture out far with our previous recreation boat. It had only a 30 gal gas tank, whereas our big gal has 150 gal tank. That plus we have one of the most fuel efficient engines running on the back of her. (2003 Merc 225hp, Opti-Max.)

Last weekend, while we were stopping for ice & shrimp, a couple gentlemen stopped to compliment Jack on our boat. Mako makes a wonderful boat and the hull design on our 248 is top-notch for comfort while we run at 49 mph top speed. Cruising is more like 30 mph.

Our trailer has rollers instead of the tradition wooden bunks. It took some getting used to but I think that I rather like the rollers now. At some point, maybe next winter, we will have to either convert it to bunks or put new rollers on because these old ones are scuffing the bottom of the boat which is awful looking. Once that is done, we can concentrate on giving her a fresh coat of paint & getting a new logo on her.

When we bought the Mako, the name was First Choice. After tossing names back 'n' forth for over 6 months, I think we'll keep the same name. We took off the lettering to allow us the freedom to design a new logo w/ words to have put up there. Jack has a work friend who is opening up a graphics business and will help us.

I will post up the new logo if/when I have time to create one, which is hopefully this week.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

4/5/06 What do we do with the kids?

Well, we have several options available for them when we go fishing. First, they ride in style with the bean bags to and fro. Depending on the distance and the seas, they either are ready to fish or already passed out.

Jack and I drop down the baits first to see what's biting. If we see that we're getting small pinfish which make great bait, we'll let both boys bring more of them up to throw in the livewell. My eldest has brought up keeper Red Snapper so he gets good gear. Our youngest gets a Zebco pole w/ the push button for letting the lighter (in weight) line straight down, although he believes he can cast pretty good. If he hooks anything huge, and he has, we let him try or he hands it to us. I have prayed at times that the line breaks because I would hate for his favorite blue pole to snap on an oversized fish.

Sometimes, the boys and I get a little seasick in the 4-6 ft seas or if we've been on shore too long -say a month. It's like readjusting to your sea legs. We take bonine motion sickness medicine (quarter tablet) if we think we might have a problem. Note, take them WELL in advance of getting sick. Poor big "M" has suffered the worse with tossing his cookies or as we say at sea - chumming the water. Our fishing friend, Mr. John, also chums the water. I blame those useless wrist bands.

I have taken bonine a couple times and while it helps on the water, it is BAD, BAD, BAD once I get home. A serious 12 hrs later, I'm still in a coma-like state where my brain is actively hearing my family move around but my body is weighed down & my eyes are sealed shut. For me, it is an absolute last resort.

Another option for our children is playing in the cuddy once we arrive on the scene or if the seas are smooth. They have a backpack of toys & drawing paper. This weekend, they did brain teasers. They also have a table for building legos or running Monster trucks back & forth.

Sometimes if we are desperate for a mini-vacation away from home, we'll pack a lunch & only the spinner poles w/ frozen shrimp for bait. Daddy and I will play deckhands and do all the rebaiting & fish removing. I think they must like those days a lot. Of course, big "M" might like the day he brought home snapper dinner more. He never let us forget his big moment. Little "M" does like to fish and by golly, we had better let him get in on the action if there are some nice pinfish or blacksea bass biting. It is good discipline for me to stop my competitive drive to fish and work on making his day wonderful on the water too. I am a mommy first.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

4/2/03 It is so awesome to be in God's house Sunday morning, then out in the afternoon to see God's creations in the water. Forgive the glare on the water. This manta ray stalled out at the front of our boat as if to look at us, like we were looking at her.

Overall, we saw 8 mantas on Sunday. I never get tired of spotting them and following them for a short while. I wait all hear for them to come migrate back through our area and then, it is like Christmas morning all over again.

I am also including this illustration to point out the parts to the young or new enthusiasts.
Mantas can have a wingspan from a few feet to over a dozen feet. Although this one way down a few feet (shown here), I'd guess her to be about 6 ft - on the smaller side.

Monday, April 03, 2006

4/1-2/06 Weekend Report

As you can see from the smile on my face, it was a good weekend of fishing. It was a weekend of firsts. First time I was 30 miles offshore in our boat. First time I set the hook & landed a cobia. This is my largest fish ever caught at 36", 22 lbs. This was also our first time of limiting out on any species for our family. Florida regulations allows 1 cobia/person/boat.

My sweet husband & Captain landed the first cobia. He was a confused fish. He was circling a floating drum like a tripletail and then refused the customary cobia jig. He inhaled a live shrimp, again, like a tripletail. After a few runs back down to the bottom & a saltwater bath later, I was able to net Jack's 16 lb, 33.5" cobia. A few minutes later, we floated over a team of 4 cobia that never resurfaced. A few minutes after that, we see my cobia. Jack threw the jig to him and once it landed on his head, spooking him. A little while later, he popped back up on the surface swimming circles. I was so excited I couldn't cast worth a flip, so Jack put the shrimp directly in his swimming path. I then jigged the pole and set the hook. It was a good 15 minute fight and poor Jack could not get the net all the way around this long fish. His plan was to net the head and grab the tail and swing him aboard. Yes, we do have a gaff and could have used it in this situation, knowing the fish was large enough to keep. However, he was barely hooked and Jack was afraid that if he didn't get a clean shot w/ the gaff, it might unhook the fish and he'd be gone forever. It all paid off in the end.

Sunday, after church, we headed back out to search again for a smaller cobia for our son to learn on. The beaches of Patrick Air Force base seem to be breeding/stomping grounds for the manta rays each year. Cobia will occassionally ride on the backs of rays, so fishermen will throw jigs near them hoping to lure cobias away for a meal. This particular manta stalled in front of us to have a look at us and then went on her way. I wish I had a polarized lens because what we could see in person was so much more spectacular than this pic, fighting the glare. Those light colored patches are her 'shoulder pads' and her mouth is open feeding. Overall, we saw 8 rays (w/ nothing on their backs) and 2 sea turtles and 1 small cobia that spooked immediately as we drifted by him. It was a shame because he would have made a good learning experience for our son. I'd say he was in the 2 ft range.

While we were 30 miles offshore, we did come back in to 50 ft water depth, 73 deg temp, 2 ft waves @ 11sec, just a couple miles off the beaches of Patrick AFB - south tower. No mahi were sighted but water was clear. Bottom bite was mostly nibbles & break-offs. We did see a kingfish jump out of the water on Sat and I think a shark (bull?) slam something on the water surface on Sunday. I have only a split second to see things and make a guess. I saw grey, round, flat head, shark skin. To me, that seems like bull shark. Schools of bait were small but numerous and on top or mid-range of water column. Outside temp was 87 deg, UV 9, 5-10kts Sat, going still about 1:30, then back up. Sun, I think was a full 10 kts making white caps on the water, but almost no waves rolling.

I'll have more stories and pictures of our weekend to post in the next couple of days.