I had a great trip this weekend with a good customer of mine that charters me every year for a couple days of sportfishing. His name is Erik and he designed a special gimbal to fit with his wheelchair. Well, Erik charted us for 3 all day trips in a row this last weekend. Erik is the kind of guy that just likes to catch anything, no matter what it is. Well, I am too, but this is the 3rd year in a row he has fished with us and he has still not caught a sailfish. This year, no matter what, I really wanted to catch him a sailfish.
The first day we went out, we started off catching live ballyhoo at the bait buoy. We caught a lot of them, quite quickly. The water that day was “puke” green in color and did not look very “sailfishy” in on the reef. So I decided to head offshore until we found some cleaner water. The blue water edge was in about 500′ that day with a nice weedline stacked up on it. We put out the live ballyhoos and dragged them slowly to the north. It wasn’t long before we got jumped by a school of hungry mahi-mahi. I think we caught 3 in the first school and then another couple a half hour later. The current was pushing HARD to the north, and we were off Pompano beach, so I decided to try a little bit of shipwreck fishing at some artificial reefs I know in that area. We dropped live bonitos and blue runners at 5 or 6 different shipwrecks, but we couldn’t buy a bite that day.
So after a slow afternoon, we decided to start trolling back to the south along the reef. The water was still ugly green in color, but the kingfish like that kind of water sometimes. We hit a couple nice kingfish on the troll home, and oddly enough, a nice mahi-mahi too in only 65′ of water. That’s shallow for dolphin fish. Just as I trolled the baits over a 130′ shipwreck, my high line comes out of the rigger. I grabbed the rod and jigged it a couple times, and I feel a small thump. Having just passed over the shipwreck, I figured it was a small 1 pound bonito or something. So I do a quick drop back and when I come tight, the fish starts pulling drag… a lot of drag. Like a rocket launching into space, a sailfish plows through the water’s surface and does a belly flop. I’m up on the bridge holding the rod, screaming “Sailfish! Sailfish!” This was the fish I really wanted to catch Erik this year, and this was it! I handed the rod down and Chuck, my mate was helping Erik get set up with the rod. The fish kept dumping us, taking more and more line off the spool. Just as we get set up to start fighting this fish, we pulled the hooks. What a drag. It was a heartbreaker for us, but I knew I had 2 more days to get him one, and there were obviously a few sailfish around.
The next day was really slow fishing for us. It started out slow when we couldn’t even catch bait. They never came up for us at the bait buoy. We did some trolling and caught a few kingfish and a couple medium sized mahi-mahi early on in the trip. After that, we tried some sailfish with the kite fishing technique. An hour of kite fishing with no bites, and I decided to go try some trolling offshore. We trolled the rest of the trip, and caught a small tuna and not much else. It was a slow, slow day and I was a bit disapointed.
We still had one more day of fishing and I was the mate on this trip. I got my dad, Capt. Paul to the run the charter with me that day and I’m glad I did. My dad has been a full time charter captain in south Florida longer than anyone and he is a really good fisherman. We caught some live baits, and they came up for us good. Trolling the reef to start, we caught a kingfish or 2, but not much. So we decided to try dragging some live ballyhoo around on a nice color change edge in about 200′ of water. We weren’t fishing long, when we see a dark colored fin right behind one of the baits. “SSailfish on the left rigger” I head coming from the bridge. We all look back there and there he was. It was a small sailfish, but where sailfish are concerned, it doesn’t matter how big the fish is, the feat is to just catch one. I grabbed the rod and tried to hook him, a few different times. I kept “woofing the fish”. So another kid on the boat, Kevin, grabs another rod and winds the bait right in front of the sailfish. Of coarse, he hooks the fish on his first try. We strap Erik in with the rod and this fish we caught! Erik’s first sailfish in I don’t know how many hours of fishing with me. Usually I have better odds than that. We billed the fish quickly and snapped a couple good photos. We released the sailfish and watched him swim away strong. The day was made!
We still had a few hours of fishing, so we decided to try our luck trolling offshore for dolphin. I put out my best spread of rigged baits and we trucked offshore to look for something good to fish along. We were about 3 miles offshore, when Capt. Paul yelled down, “2 frigate birds circling something ahead of us. Get ready.” A second later he yells down, ” There’s something floating here. Something big. Woah! This looks like the mother load!” We didn’t even get within 300 feet of this thing floating, when every rod I had out has a fish jumping on it. There were a pile of dolphin around the boat. We had fish jumping all over. We had more fish on than anglers on the boat. As soon as we boated a fish, the angler had to grab another rod with a fish on it. We started pitching spinning rods out there with squids and small live finger mullet as baits. The dolphin were swalling the baits before they hit the water. It was nuts.
Nick hooked into about a 60 pound blacktip shark that was swimming around the floating debris that we fought for a while. He bit us off right next to the boat. We didn’t mind, since we were going to release him anyway. After the shark, the dolphin kind of scattered. So we put out the trolling spread again and started trolling around the debris again. I couldn’t get a line out for 10 seconds. We caught wahoo after wahoo after wahoo. All of them were about 10-20 pounds and they were biting everything I threw out there. Another shark came up and ate a wahoo as I was leadering him to the boat. The shark grabbed the wahoo so hard, it cut my hand when the line snapped out of my hand. I should’ve been wearing gloves, but the action was so hot, it was hard to be careful. We caught so many wahoo, we limited out, and started to release them. We were all so exhausted from the hour and a half of literally NON-STOP action. We caught enough so we decided to head back to the dock. It was a great day, and we accomplished my goal of catching Erik his first sail.
We had a really fun time out there and the fishing on the last day was just plain awesome. This winter is going to be a great season on sailfish. I’ll try to write a drift fishing report tommorrow for everyone. Sea you out on the ocean….