Saturday, August 12, 2006

8/11/06 Kingfish and Mahi mahi for the family

Beautiful day on the water. One of the best ways to homeschool! The teacher and student throw on bathing suits & sunblock. The principal puts on his ball cap. We sink the classroom into the water by 9am, catch bait on buoy #4 and cruise over to our field trip area - Pelican Flats. PF is about 20 mi. SE of Port Canaveral. It is a plateau of grass and reefs in the middle of nowhere, so that's why the fish love it.

As you can see, the teacher is getting very relaxed while trolling South. Captain, um... I mean, the principal is putting out the live bait on the steel leaders. We probably aren't even cruising for 15 minutes and both poles start screaming line off one by one. The bad news is that it was probably the same kingfish and he took his share of the back ends of both baits and left the hooks and heads behind. A few minutes later, Jack has both lines back out on the water. We're goofing off a little bit. Bam! Two more back to back hits. Jack retrieves the first line, left with only a head attached. For me, I wait for the line to stop rolling off the reel and no sooner get to reeling him in and pop - he is happily fed with my bait. I have an empty hook. we've got to fix this problem. Jack puts on a stinger hook that freely trails about the length of the bait. When the kingfish eats, he's got no choice but to have a hook in his mouth. Another 30 minutes go by and everything is back on and the line is screaming again. (My job is to put the boat into neutral and the boys get to watch and see what comes to the boat.) A few minutes later, they see a very large kingfish - about 25 lbs. I'm too busy getting the gaff on the otherside. The big guy sees the "classroom" and says, "No way!" He does this big headshake and breaks our powerpro line at the top eyelet. Absolutely heart-breaking to see him leave back into the blue.

Well, now we know the stinger rig works. We get cruising again and another whack with line screaming. Jack brings in this decent kingfish. The boys *have* to go to the front of the boat for the gaffing and putting the fish in the box. The gaff is very sharp, added with 7 lbs worth of angry fish and teeth, and well, hooks too. He goes in for the ice bath. We're all high-fiving each other.

Next is my turn. Nice size fish is coming to the boat and as Jack is holding the gaff for a shot, this kingfish shakes his head and breaks my line at the eyelet. Another short heartbreak until the next time we're set up. I'm mad now because I want my fish in a box. Line is just smokin' off for seconds that seem like eternity. I was really afraid we were going to see him take all the line to Africa. At some point, I'm reeling and reeling and reeling and reeling. I have what's called the jelly arms. I've only had 10 minutes between fish! Jack works his gift with the gaff and puts #2 in the box. He's a bit bigger so we let him calmed down over 10 minutes before removing his hooks.

Next is M's turn. Twice we had the sounding of line coming off only to be fooled that it was golden sargassum weighing down the line. We get all set up a 3rd time only to spot a board. Yipee, we love floating debris. A minute later, I spot 4 mahi about 40 ft off the board. The excitement level goes sky high for all of us. While Jack is turning the boat around, I'm keeping my eye on the board. We get back there, he grabs a pole, I run to the back to pitch a couple live baits out to hold their interest.

Jack throws his livie overboard and immediately hooked up with a large cow in the group. Everything is going smoothly (NOT!) except for the fact that she's tangled around the trolling line and almost tangled in the outdrive (engine). I hold the pole while Jack sinked the gaff in and puts her on ice.

Now here's where it gets trickier. Jack gets a new pole with a live bait and picks up a small dolphin. I'm untangling the other rod from the endless trolling line that is either floating around or wrapped around the outdrive. Not good. I'm in barefeet. The gaff is around and I'm not certain if it was recapped for safety. Everything feels like a rush but keeping ever-aware that sharp things loom around me. I manage to free the first pole again, hand that to Jack. He hands off his 'peanut' fin to M. Jack gets another hook-up with a 3rd cow. While he's fighting her, I'm stowing hooks, gaff, watching M measure the peanut (not closely, mind you), then helping Jack get the 3rd one into the boat. Whew! It was a most exciting 10 minutes. The 4th dolphin (mahi mahi) was probably the bull (male) and has figured out that we're not his friend. He's gone. We do a quick clean-up and assessment of the damage. More high-5's go around the boat. We now have 5 fish in the box.

We did our best to search around another hour to find that board while trolling for kingfish for M. By this time, we're feeling blessed and like going home to the house at 3:30pm for rest. Jack has been up since 10pm the night before. He puts the boat in neutral and we watch something look and then inhale the bait right behind the boat.

Oh no! We're off again. He reappears about 60 ft away and skyrockets full-body out of the water. That is typical kingfish behavior. He ended up breaking water over 3x. I managed to catch this one shot.

We get him boatside and .......... what? He's got spots on him? It's a barracuda! We don't want anything to do with barracuda so I give Jack the metal cutters and he clips the steel leader.

Overall, still a fabulous day on the water. We haven't had a good day like this since spring. We're hoping that this is a sign that the summer slump is over and the pelagics are coming back to Port Canaveral.

Several people have posted that the cobia are within 12 miles north of us. I hope that over the next month, we'll be able to post some cobia reports. I'll post the family pictures of the overall fish now.

Stats: Mahi - 6.5 lbs, 28"; 5 lbs, 24"; 20"

Kingfish - 8.6 lbs, 32" (Robin's); 6.6lbs, 28.5" (Jack's)

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