Final efforts are underway to prepare the “Loud Enuff” for our next big fishing adventure. This time, I am taking the boat to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, which is located just north of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula. Here we will be targeting Sailfish, as they pursue “Bait balls” of sardines. This is some of the best Billfishing in the world, and our first time taking the boat here.
Our initial plan was to depart Venice on Monday Feb 10th, but the weather forecast is dictating a change and I may be departing 3 days sooner on Friday morning the 7th. You all know what a “challenge” I have with weather, so please keep your fingers crossed that I finally get a break.
Please check back frequently as I will update this journal daily with our adventures!
I think I ran a thousand errands today. After traveling to West Palm Beach yesterday to pick up the bait and a bunch of tackle (there are NO tackle stores in Isla Mujeres), I had my last punch list to take care of. Final plans were completed and Steph and I went food shopping for the supplies. We finished putting them on the boat at 9:30 pm.
When I got home, it was time for my final itinerary to be sent to our insurance company. The amount of paperwork required to take a boat to Mexico is mind-boggling. And, everything has to be notarized!
It’s almost midnight and I still have to pack for myself. Doubt I will sleep with all of the finite details racing through my mind.
Tomorrow, we load the bait into the freezers, put the dockbox in the cockpit and head for the Venice Yacht Club to fuel the boat. The plan is to leave for Key West early Friday morning.
My good friend Tony is coming along for a week or so to help get the boat there and I flew over from Mexico a local Mate. His name is Ruben and he will be our local guide and mate when we fish. He doesn’t speak English all that well, so I got an artist’s pad and pencils so I can draw him pictures.
Thursday Feb 6th
Up and running errands early. The final supplies were added to the boat and the bait freezer is stocked. Ruben (my mate from Mexico) helped me lift the dock box and water softener into the cockpit and grab all of the fenders and dock lines. Then, off to the Venice Yacht Club at 2:30 for the fueling chores.
Well over an hour and a half later, all three of the fuel tanks (1,800 gallons) on the “Loud Enuff” were full and it was just a matter of securing the boat for the night. My good friends Taylor and Ann, along with Steph and my parents stopped by to wish us a safe trip. It was good seeing them all, especially Taylor (fight brother!)
Tony arrives bright and early in the morning tomorrow (Friday) and the plan is to be southbound in the Gulf on a 186 degree compass heading towards Key West. We will re-fuel there, and then make final preparations for our crossing Saturday. Fingers crossed, (I’m not even gonna say it…..), but things are looking good.
Friday Feb 7th
I woke to slapping waves against the hull at The Venice Yacht Club. You know what that means—wind. Yeah, the weather man said 5-10 out of the east, but of course, it was more like 15 knots and the air temperature was 50 degrees; and yes, it was raining. I was originally dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, but after walking out into the cockpit, my wardrobe was quickly adjusted. Ugh. No worries…
We cleared Venice Inlet at 0730 hrs and pointed the bow 186 degrees. The first two hours were very uneventful, but we could NOT have that. Just south of Captiva, a dense fog rolled in, limiting the visibility to next to nothing. I thought it would pass after a few miles, but it stayed with us till we were about 10 miles north of the Key West Channel. Ruben was my lookout, while Tony and I each hawked our respective radars as we continued to cruise at 27 knots. I set one radar on long range and the other on close range just in case we missed something.
While very nerve-wracking, we made it to Key West at 1:30 and re-fueled at the Conch Republic. 647 gallons was the tally.
We then moved positions, and docked on the lay along on the furthest dock from civilization at the Galleon Marina. I had some final documents that needed to be notarized, so after checking in with the Dockmaster, we hunted down a Notary. Believe it or not, we found one on the docks that actually came out to the boat to stamp my departure forms!!
Ruben washed the boat and then we all went up to the Conch Restaurant for their famous “Cheeseburgers in Paradise”. We were all tired from the trip and we have two very long days ahead of us. I suspect I will be awake for the next 36 hours straight. The plan is to take shifts on the bridge, but there’s really no way I’m gonna be able to sleep.
Tomorrow the plan is to make final inspections in the engine room, check all fluids, etc and get underway at noon. I plan to run 150 miles to the North of Cuba by sunset, then bring the throttles down to chugging speed (10 knots) and go slow all night, until sunrise. This should set us up on the western most part of Cuba at Sunrise, and leave me about 160 nautical miles to get to Cancun. My calculator batteries are just about dead as all I have been doing is re-hashing fuel burn rates, gallons per hour and speeds.
I will not be updating for a day or two as I will not have any internet or cell signal, so bear with us until we can get there safely. I will update this journal just as soon as my sleepy eyes will allow, hopefully from Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Fish on !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Saturday Feb 8 (we made it)
When I went to bed last night, I had a great feeling because I knew I was going to get a good night’s sleep and did not have to be up early for any reason. The extra sleep would be needed with the extended hours we were about to put in. Didn’t happen.
At 3 AM, the (very loud) alarm on the bridge sounded, indicating some sort of problem. At the same time, all power to the boat was cut off. Being in a deep sleep added somewhat to the confusion as I got just about ½ way up the bridge ladder before I realized I might want to put some pants on. We had a major power failure and that usually means we blew the power breaker on the shore-power hook-up. After I silenced the alarm, I began to investigate the power hook-up on the dock. Again, still in the fog of a deep sleep, I could not understand why the breaker was not “tripped” yet still, I did not have power. A few minutes passed and I became more awake to finally realize I was standing in the pitch black. Not a single light on anywhere for as far as you could see and I could hear other alarms from nearby boats sounding. The entire marina was without power! Somewhat of a sigh of relief until I realized that I was a half-nekid man running around the docks in the pitch black, in Key West. Better get back inside!
I went back to bed hoping the power would be restored any minute and the air-conditioning would kick back on before I started to sweat. Then I remembered all of the bait and frozen food I had in our freezers… I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep and just told myself it would come back on. At 4:30 AM, I started wondering if I should crank up the generator. At least that way the freezers would turn back on and I would not lose my very important frozen supplies. At 5AM, I realized the generator ran on Diesel and if I cranked it up, it would draw from our main fuel supply. Not that the generator drinks too much fuel, but after all of the math I did last night, I did not want to recalculate anything! 6 AM, the power finally came back on. OK, time to get up, I guess…
At 10 AM, I conducted a safety briefing with Tony and Ruben. Tony knows where just about every piece of safety gear is on the boat, but I added a few things and wanted to ensure he knew where everything was located in case something happened to me. Ruben does not speak English all that well, so I had to literally break out each piece of gear and physically show him. He repeatedly thanked me for taking the time to make him feel safe. At noon (right on schedule) we threw the lines from the dock and were headed to Mexico!
The entrance to the Key West shipping channel is a busy place, especially on a Saturday. There was a massive cruise ship docking and a lot of other traffic in the immediate area. Once I entered the Southwest Channel, I set the auto-pilot on its 340 nautical mile course and settled in. I could not believe how nice the weather was. Very light north east winds and a following sea; with waves that were no more than two feet. Finally, I get a break with the weather ! This isn’t going to be another story about lightning storms, torrential rain and ten foot seas and I deserve a trip without any DRAMA !! Didn’t happen…..
Two hours into the trip and about 50 miles southwest of Key West, I pick up a blip on my Radar. It was on our port side and about 12 miles away. I scanned that area with my own eyes, but didn’t see anything. No big deal, there are lots of ships out here. I put the radar’s target tracker on the blip and simply monitored the target’s position as we cruised on- getting even closer to Cuba. After a half hour, I noticed the blip was not getting further away from us, but rather keeping even. No problem, he’s still ten miles away. More time passed and the target was only getting closer. It had not altered its course and was not passing us. Hmmmmm. I broke out the Bino’s and could make out a fairly large vessel at cruise speed. That was all I could see at this point, but now I was silently wondering why this scenario was unfolding like it was. I knew I was getting close to Cuba, but I was still in International Waters and I purposely plotted a course that kept me at least 25 miles from its coastline.
After more than an hour of tracking this vessel on radar, it was obvious it was coming at us. I had both VHF radios on channel 16 and the squelch turned way down in case they tried to initiate comms with us. At five miles, I could see through the Bino’s that the boat was some sort of military craft, but it was in the glare of the sun and I could not make out who it was. Initiate pucker factor. Mexico has a very strict policy on firearms and they are simply NOT allowed in the country. We were unarmed with a large boat intently bearing down on us. Intensify pucker factor!
The 100’ plus vessel came rushing up on our port bow and cut us off. The radio came to life with a voice requesting to know my vessel’s name, home port and my intended destination. They finally identified themselves, the United States Coast Guard! Pheeeeeeew ! They asked that I maintain my course, but slow to idle speed while they conducted an interrogation over the radio with me. A litany of questions about my crew, last port of call, intended port of call, reason for going to Mexico and all of my U.S.C.G. Documentation numbers and registration information. They requested my name and date of birth as well. They instructed me to maintain my current heading at idle speed without altering anything – as they would, “Get back to me”! My nervousness was very relieved when I knew it was our boys out there this close to Cuba. Having worked directly with the Coast Guard in my past life, I understood exactly what they were doing, and why. No big deal. After about 10 minutes, they re-contacted me on the radio and advised me I was free to carry on and to have a safe trip. I thanked them for being out there and doing their job. Pucker Factor concluded!
Because the seas were flat, I was actually ahead of schedule. At 5:30 pm we slowed to chugging speed (about 10 knots) and settled in for the night. We made sandwiches and ate and did another thorough engine room check to make sure everything was OK. The sunset out this far is like nothing I’ve ever seen, only to be outdone by the amazing amount of stars that are visible at night.
We each took turns on the bridge, tracking large freighters and a LOT of cruise ships as they passed by. I tried to sleep on the couch, but found it difficult to actually nod off. Around 4 AM we came real close with a cruise ship that was leaving Cancun and heading to Key West. I called him on the radio just to let him know I was aware of his presence and what heading I was on. We agreed on a starboard to starboard pass and we safely went by each other with room to spare. By daybreak, we were situated at the westernmost tip of Cuba and all systems were go to get back up on plane and cross over to the Yucatan Peninsula.
With the exception of running through some very heavy current from the “Yucatan Current” the water was very flat. This current runs about 4-5 knots up from the south and re-directs to the northeast when it hits land. This causes some confused waves that are very obvious and I would not want to be out there when the wind is cranking!
Ocean Current images courtesy of “Hilton’s Realtime Navigator” As always Captain Tom, Thx !!
At 11:30, we touched down at the “La Amada” marina in Cancun to fuel up. By the way, I did not plan on Mexico units of measure for fuel as Liters. Try converting that and Pesos for a large boat fill-up, the receipt was 2 feet long !!! Now, time to start the customs process (ugh).
I had pre-arranged to have a Mexican “Clearing Agent” meet us at the boat. I don’t really know how this all works but apparently he is also a doctor/agriculture inspector/sanitation inspector/immigration agent/travel agent. He wore jeans and a t-shirt with a jacket over it. Mind you it was 83 degrees… After being paid, he said we passed all of our inspections and the crew “physicals”. Uhhhhh, OK ?? There was one caveat, however. The Customs Officers had gone home for the day (2 pm) and we could not leave the marina until they showed up (some time) tomorrow and searched the boat. Really ?? Not that there was anything bad on the boat, but did they think it would still be on the boat after they were giving me 24 hour notice that they are coming to search it for anything illegal? Anyway……
We had to move the boat to a corner of the marina and sit in Time-Out until Customs showed up. We were allowed to leave the boat, but had to keep the Quarantine Flag flying. Travelling to and docking in the foreign countries is always interesting, to say the least. The docks were not finished, and there was only one piling to tie up to. Mind you, the one piling was NOT where it was supposed to be. YES, that is an anchor line coming off the bow !
For yet another night, we ate sandwiches. At least I would get a good night’s sleep, and Ruben kept us entertained…
Tomorrow (Monday), we hope Customs shows up and we can leave and travel over to Isla Mujeres where will will be docking for the duration of the trip. Stay tuned …
Monday Feb 10th
Sooooooo NOT a happy camper right now. It’s 10:30 pm Monday night and I just got a WI-FI signal. Mexico Customs and Immigration FAILED to SHOW at 9:00 am like were supposed to.
I was told by the Mexican Official that Customs would be at the boat promptly at 9:00 AM to inspect the boat. Didn’t happen. I had to buy a black market Mexican Cell phone just to communicate with the Mexican Officials. First call, “Capitan Kevin, I assure you, they will be there by 11:00 am”. Ok, I waited. They didn’t show. At 2:00 pm, I called again. “Capitan Kevin, I assure you, they will be there by 2:00 pm. Guess what ????????? They didn’t show !
The Mexican Official told me it was OK to travel over to Isla Mujeres and the Customs Agent would promptly meet me there when I arrived. Didn’t happen. In fact, when I arrived at the Puerto Isla Mujeres Yacht Club and Resort, NOBODY answered the radio or PHONE !!! Perfecto !!!!!!! Again, sooooo NOT a happy Camper. Later, the Dockmaster showed up at the boat and confirmed, “Capitano Kevin, Customs no coming today. Maybe manyana.”
Luckily, there were a LOT of American boats docked at the marina and they offered some guidance on who to Talk to (Pay off). It appears, “Herman” is the guy to talk to with regard to clearing customs. He assured me Mexico Customs would be at the boat, wait for it………………………………………. TOMORROW!
I’m about over it. This place is absolutely Beautiful but bringing a boat here is not easy. Hopefully, tomorrow I will have all my Clearance paperwork.
Ruben and his “Amigo” (Louise) cleaned and washed the boat ALL day. I have NEVER seen anybody work so hard. Ruben actually showed up at the boat today with a Homemade Mexican meal his wife (esposa) made, just for me. He handed me a bag with about 2 pounds of pulled pork, diced onions, homemade guacamole, cilantro, a specially made habanera “Hot sauce”, and home cooked Tortillas his wife made. What the Mexican Customs Officials were lacking, Ruben made up for. Thank You Mi Amigo!
We are currently docked at the Puerto Isla Mujeres Resort and Yacht Club and it is absolutely beautiful !!! The docks are teaming with life and everyone is living the dream !!! The resort is fabulous and we hit the massive pool at 8:00 pm to cool off.
I really hope this Customs situation fixes itself tomorrow, there are Sailfish to be caught !!!
Internet, Wi-Fi , Viber, etc are hit and miss, so I will update as Technology allows!!
Tuesday, Feb 11th
Guess what ?? Customs did NOT show up this morning. However, at a little after 1 PM, an officer arrived and went through the boat to make sure I didn’t have a Cache of guns, money and drugs. Like it would still be on the boat after being here for two and a half days waiting on them to arrive.
This process was stressful and demanding. I worked for weeks to ensure I would have a smooth entry, only to encounter this. Note the irony here; An American is trying to come to Mexico (LEGALLY) and faces all sorts of obstacles. Yet a Mexican can cross OUR border ILLEGALLY and be welcomed with open arms, given federal benefits and soon the right to vote………………….. I digress.
As soon as the Customs Officer stamped my paperwork, he informed me that I NOW had to catch the ferry boat back to Cancun to see the “Port Captain”. Here, I would have to pay another “Fee” for the Temporary Importation of the boat into the country. This is good for ten years and has to do with Mexican Taxes, etc. Again, more Red tape to legally come into their country.
OK, so here is the caveat: When the Customs Officer told me this, it was about 1:45 pm. He then proceeds to tell me the entire Mexican government’s offices close at 2:30. I had to run to the north end of the Island to catch the ferry, which was about a 20 minute ride to Cancun, run and jump in a cab and get to the Port Captain’s office. How I did it, I do not know, but I came in HOT- sliding sideways. Another $50 some dollars and I had the last of paperwork finished, yeah !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I caught the ferry back out to the island where Ruben had started to rig a couple dozen Ballyhoo. I hope to get in a half day of pre-fishing to dial things in. Ruben is not fast (Rapido), but he is thorough (no idea how to say “thorough”). We changed gears from travel/transit/customs to fishing, finally.
The docks are busy and today’s fishing reports have the boats catching 30 plus sailfish today alone. There are also bunches of tuna being cut up on the docks. Fresh sushi for dinner tomorrow night would not hurt my feelings.
Tony cooked Mexican hamburgers on the grille, but I’m very suspect of the meat’s true origin. We also ate some Mexican yard bird I bought at the Mexican Walmart. Now unless you’ve ever been to a Mexican Walmart, you haven’t been to a Walmart. Sights beyond description. The best were the eggs that were stacked 8 ft high on an aisle end-cap-UNREFRIGERATED. Spanish mackerel, grunts, squid and Octopus are on display at the Self-Serve seafood counter
There was one Pelican that stayed next to our boat all day. Judging by his ankle bracelet, I think he’s under Mexican house arrest…………
Time to catch a fish-Finally !!!
Wednesday Feb 12th
Today was a warm-up day. We removed all of our fishing gear from storage and set it up. We keep all of the tackle locked away when we are on our crossings and it takes some time to break everything out and put it together. I had to re-spool one of my 50 wide reels with new line, wind-on and swivels and we had to get the “Strip Teaser” dredges out of the packaging.
The Dredge is something we pull from each outrigger behind the boat as teasers. When we start to sailfish, we will rig natural ballyhoo on one dredge and 6-9 inch mullet on the other dredge. There are 48 fish on each dredge, so this involves a LOT of bait rigging. The dredges are attached to very heavy trolling weights that keep the dredge about 5 feet below the water’s surface where the predator fish can see it. Once the predator sees the dredge, he thinks it is a large school of baitfish (which it actually is- they are just dead) and comes in for a closer look. We strategically place our hooked baits just behind the dredge to make it look like one of the baitfish in the school has gotten injured and fallen from the pack. The predator then moves in and picks off the easy target.
There are several types of dredges and they can be made in numerous sizes and weights. The simplest and most cost-effective dredge teaser is called a “Strip Teaser”. This is a dredge with long, clear plastic strips with holographic/reflective fish stuck on the strips.
This type of teaser is very low maintenance and easy to deploy. Today, our goal was to simply use the Strip Teaser to make sure all of the dredge rigging was working properly.
In addition to the dredge, I found an underwater camera housing that I count mount my Go-Pro HD video camera to. I spent some time rigging up a tow harness so I could position the underwater camera in the center of the dredge. The trick is to rig it so the camera does not spin with the dredge. I think I got it figured out. See the videos below.
We untied at about 9:30 am to do some practice fishing. The wind was cranking about 20 mph from the south, but with the current running strong from the south to the north, it was not too rough. We headed out only a few miles where we saw a big flock of Frigate birds working a school of bait. We all got excited and as soon as we got under the birds, 4 lines started screaming. It was complete chaos in the cockpit. With only 2 guys in the pit, and 4 lines screaming off it got kinda sketchy. I had to put the boat in idle in order to slow the other two lines down and come down off the bridge to crank on a rod. Our excitement faded however because while these reels were screaming, there were no fish jumping; sailfish take to the air when they get hooked and giant Bonito go deep. All of our fish were going deep…
We spent the next couple of hours cranking on the biggest bonito I have ever seen. Incredible fighters, but not good for much else. Our goal was to experiment with the camera and dredges and the video I was able to capture is really neat.
We headed back over the reef to Isla Mujeres and passed one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The water is amazing. Back at the dock, one of Ruben’s Amigos was waiting to help tie up. After we were secured, Ruben came into the boat and ever so politely asked if we could hire his Amigo Louise to wash the boat. He wanted $40 for the entire boat. Let me tell you, I not only hired him, but the boat has NEVER been washed so well. The locals here have an incredible work ethic that is almost non-existent in the states. All these people want to do is work-and they work HARD!
Ruben and Louise prepared all of the cleaning supplies and dragged out the long hose, but a few minutes later, Ruben comes into the boat and declares, “Capitano, es no agua.” Ugh. It would appear the utilities department had temporarily shut off the water to the marina while they did some repairs. It took Ruben and Louise a long time to get the boat cleaned as the Agua was on and off for the next few hours. No worries, while there was no agua, we had cervezas!
Tony and I decided to get a cab into town and check out some of the local restaurant that friends have recommended to us. We ended up having Mexican pizza at a place called Rolandi’s. Lots of jalapenos and other spicey stuff. Wasn’t too bad. We then went for a walk into town and took in the sights. Lots of critters intermingled with the people; dogs, cats, chickens and some kind of giant lizard (I think they are small dragons) allover. We were sitting at some small place having a beer when a cat jumped off the roof onto a table. Interesting.
We found a basketball game going on right in the middle of town and sat down (Courtside) to watch for a while. It looked well organized as both teams wore uniforms and there were two referees, with many of the local people sitting and watching. We then caught a cab back to the marina and called it a night.
We are thinking of going snorkeling tomorrow, but it appears there is some funky weather moving in…
Thursday Feb 13th
No snorkeling. Apparently, the weather systems that you all are experiencing back home has started to influence us here in Isla. We woke up to rain and wind. No fishing! No worries, we had plenty to keep up busy all day. As you boaters know, there is always something to fix on a boat. Make it a large boat like this and you will find something to keep you busy. We stayed busy.
Ruben showed up around 9:30 am and declared, “No fishing. I clean the boat for you Capitano!” I showed him a few things I would like cleaned in the tackle drawers and the large in-deck kill box and he got right on it. Again, I have never seen someone clean like he does. He literally washed, polished and WD-40’d every tool, knife, sharpener and pair of pliers I had on board. He just sat on a bucket for the better part of the day and polished. All he wants to eat and drink is American Ritz crackers and cans of Coke.
I had a few things on the bridge to fix, so Tony and I busted out the tools and took to “Switchin Switches” (only a few of you will get that, but I had to put it in for the benefit of the few). Just prior to our trip over here, the center panel of“see-through glass” that surrounds the bridge cracked in the top left corner. This plastic is really thick and I think the cold weather we had in the weeks prior took a toll on it. This is the protection from the wind and spray while driving and having a crack is not good. It not only was compromised, but it was letting in some water and wind as I drove. If it gets rough and I take a LOT of spray, the entire panel could blow out and cause much bigger problems. Tony and I analyzed a possible fix for a while and considered several options. Clear packing tape and Super-Glue was seriously considered, but I had no clear tape. I was also afraid that upon a strong impact, it would still go kablamo! I have several of “Gorilla” tape, but wanted to save duct-tape as my absolute, last option.
We walked the docks, asking if any of the other crews had a roll of clear packing tape on board that we could borrow. Believe it or not, I ran into a Captain from Sarasota who had some tape. This is one of the things I love about these adventures; everyone is there to help each other out. I networked with another guy that has been coming to Isla for a decade and made a new friend. Plus, we had the crucial ingredient to our repair!
After MUCH thought, Tony and I decided the BEST way to fix this problem was to STITCH it closed- as in sutures. This involved actually drilling small holes underneath and above the length of the crack. I got a long bait-rigging needle, some 30 pound test fluorocarbon leader, my cordless drill, some drill bits and started drilling holes. It wasn’t pretty, but I think it’s gonna work.
It took over an hour to drill all of the required holes and then Tony and I got to stitching. It took both of us to thread the long needle back and forth between the inside of the material and the outside. It wasn’t pretty, but I think Frankenstein would have been proud. After we made all the stitches and tied them off, we took the clear packing tape and covered them with multiple layers to keep the water out. We shall see. Here is a quick video of the operation:
Ruben was still scrubbing. Now he was inside the bowels of the boat, scrubbing the bilge. He took out the giant kill box from the floor and got down inside the floor to scrub. He then soaked and washed every dock line I had and laid them out to dry in the sun. At 5:00, I paid him and told him to go home to his family, he had worked hard enough. He was extremely appreciative!
Tony and I got some food out of the freezer and got to cooking. This little stainless steel propane grill I bought at Lowe’s for $80 is awesome. It gets hot and cooks the food quick. The only problem is that if there is any wind, it tends to blow out. It was very breezy, so we had to put the grill down on the dock, then lay our large rigging table down in front of it to block the wind. Even cooking hamburgers requires some improvising.
After dinner, we sat in our chairs on the dock and watched the full moon rise in the east over the boat. Not a bad view…..
After a few “Tecate” cervezas, we called it a night. My new Spanish word for the day is “Sudor”, which means “sweat”. Mucho sudor hoy.
Friday Feb 14th (Happy Valentine’s Day)
Yes, I was smart enough to pre-order flowers for my Valentine Stephanie last week before I left and had them delivered to her at the YMCA. Thank you to Garden of Eden Florists in Venice for doing such a great job!
Internet and wi-fi were non-existant today, so communication was difficult and I could not call or talk with anyone. Believe it or not, Facebook is one of the only things working so I have been able to get a few pics out there.
Today, we decided to rent a golf cart and go into town. Before we left however, I need my skivvies washed. The resort has a laundry service here, so all you have to do is bring in your dirty laundry in a bag and they will wash it. For $7.00, they washed, folded and bagged your laundry. All you have to do is put your boat name on a slip and it’s completely taken care of.
The weather was absolutely amazing with temps in the low to mid 70’s and no humidity. I strapped my Go-Pro Video camera to the front of the golf cart and off we went. The video speaks for itself and I just took in the different culture, people and way of life. We had lunch on a balcony at a place called Jax’s, overlooking the beach and ocean. Amazing.
Ruben had not shown up by the time we left, so I had Tony get on Google Translator and translate out a written note in Spanish with our plans for the day and what I would like him to work on. I left him 2 sleeves of Ritz Crackers and a 6 pack of regular coke on ice. About an hour after we left, he called me on my Mexico phone and told me he received the note and was “on the job”. He thanked me for the crackers and coke.
We toured all of the streets in downtown Isla and found a spot on the beach to take some beautiful pictures. The ocean was completely flat.
I can’t wait for Blake to get here so we can start our serious fishing! Later in the afternoon, we stumbled upon the food store. It was a two story building that looked like a factory warehouse. There was nothing on the bottom level but an escalator taking you up to the store. I’m assuming it is built this way because of tidal flooding. We grabbed a cart and took it on the escalator and found the metal panels you stand on are heavily magnetized and once the cart goes on the escalator, it does not move. We had fun with this on the way down as you can see by the video.
Food shopping in Mexico is challenging. The meats are all cut very, very thin. Steaks, pork chops and chicken are almost see thru. There are no breakfast goods and again I found the eggs to be stored in an open aisle, not refrigerated. No bueno for me. Luckilly, a lot of the products we needed had pictures on the box and packaging. Most importantly, the cerveza was easy to identify!!
It appears the major mode of travel in Mexico is a motorized scooter. They are all over but traffic laws are completely non-existant. It’s a “survival of the fittest” scenario and somewhat dangerous. One thing I don’t understand is the requirement for helmets. I see all of the adults wearing them, but they also transport their very small children on the scooters like luggage. the kids don’t wear helmets.
We returned to the boat with our bounty of supplies for the next few days to find Ruben polishing all of the “Bright Work” (metal ) on the boat. I don’t know if I mentioned this already, but Ruben is 57 years old and a wise man. He is looked up to by the other Local mates and you can just tell by the way they interact with him that he is vested and experienced in his profession. He told me the local ballyhoo fisherman would be in soon and that if we wanted any bait, we should get it now. Although we are not hard core fishing until Monday, I bought 80 ballyhoo for just under $80. They sell locally for .80 cents each and some are still alive. Most of these fish are larger and they will be used on the dredge teasers. We had to undertake a small production process in order to preserve and freeze the baits until we need them.
Another local mate, “Louise” was standing on the docks looking to earn a few bucks any way he could. One of the things you need to do to the ballyhoo is clean out their insides. This is accomplished by cutting a small slit in its pooper, then squeezing the stomach cavity starting at the head and working it down. This forces out all of the guts and waste and limbers up the ballyhoo so it swims better. After this, the eyeballs are poked out with a hunting arrow and the beaks are snipped off with cutters to facilitate the rigging wire that holds the bait to the dredge. Sounds complicated, but after rigging thousands of these things, it goes fairly quick.
Once the baits are poked, prodded and snipped, they have to be “preserved” to avoid decomposition. This is accomplished by soaking them in a mixture of saltwater and a special brining salt that contains formaldehyde. After soaking in this for a few hours, the baits are salted, then vacuum sealed in bags, labeled according to size and dated. Then they get dropped in our cockpit deep freezer for later use. Yes, it’s a lot of work for a few baits, but it is well worth the effort later on. We turned on the cockpit satellite stereo, popped a few Coronas and got to packaging. The time went by quickly.
After we were cleaned up from our bait assembly line, Chef Tony expertly charred some Mexican Hot Dogs on the grill. Throw in some “steam in the bag” string beans and some Uncle Ben’s rice and we were able to enjoy a romantic Valentine’s dinner, just the two of us. Ugh………….
Tomorrow’s weather is supposed to be a carbon copy of today. We put a deposit down on a snorkeling and lunch excursion so we hope to do that.
If the internet is working, I’ll get some more video and pics up.
Saturday Feb 15th
Today we go snorkeling. The day started off very lazy as we slept in (till 7:30) and had coffee and actually read an American paper the marina staff dropped off earlier. Wow, apparently there is a snow storm hitting up north. Huh …………………………………….
We caught a cab to the snorkeling Kiosk and made it there with plenty of time to spare. In fact, we were actually able to go for a short walk and do some more exploring. Don’t ask how I noticed this, but while sitting on a bench waiting for time to pass, I noticed a lot of religious statues situated on the other side of an 8 foot high concrete wall. Not being able to resist my curiosity, I climbed up on a few rocks to take a gander on the other side of the wall. It was a Cemetery with a LOT, and I mean a LOT of statues and graves. I have never seen so many graves piled up so close to one another. Made for an interesting picture anyways.
The time came and we made our way to the marina where we would catch our boat for our big snorkeling adventure… Can you feel the sarcasm building here ????? Interesting. The “Capitano” was a true character. Pepe’s boat was a nautical nightmare, to say the least, but we went and actually not only made it back, but had a good time. First off, the boat:
A 28’ wooden “something” with TWO engines. Yes, two engines. Now mind you, there were two engines, but actual “Twin Engines” they were not. They were both black, but that is where the similarities end. One was about a 40 hp, the other at least a 70 hp. No less than 10 years difference in their manufacturing date and linked together by a heavy coat hanger for steering linkage. YUP.
I felt very comfortable however, because just at the very last second before we untied, some dude comes running down the dock with a one gallon milk jug filled with gasoline for us. Yeah, this is gonna be good. At least his marine electronics were modern.
Under the console was a battery with several large wires going to it, one of which ran the stereo. On top of the battery was another clear container that had a couple inches of gasoline sloshing around in it. Every once in a while, Pepe (the Captain) would switch out the wires to the battery and each time he did so, a large firework display of sparks would shimy-shake about the compartment, just beneath the gasoline container. And to think I crossed a large ocean to get here and I was gonna bite the big one on a Caribbean Panga in 6 ft of water !!!! Can’t make this stuff up…………………
We went to the local reef where Pepe dumped us in the water. The Dive wasn’t too bad and we saw a lot of cool fish and coral; the 4 ft long “Houndfish” were the highlight. After an hour we went to another site along the far southern tip of Isla, where the Ocean comes in. Here we dove over many large religious relics that were deliberately placed on the bottom. In about 30 ft of water, I was able to dive down and touch a giant cross made out of pewter; really neat to see and a big feat to be able to dive down and physically touch the cross. Later on, we saw some absolutely amazing statues of dozens of life-sized people on the bottom- they were all looking up. There was another art piece of a man standing next to his dog, which appeared to have just died. Very different dive. After we came up, it was time for lunch.
Part of our fee included a privately cooked lunch for everyone on the boat. We met some interesting people from Canada, Oregon and Australia. We had all bonded within just a few hours and got to know each other rather quickly. Pepe docked the boat on a sandy beach near a building and said he would be back in 30 minutes. Little did I know, Pepe was literally cooking our lunch.
Fish is a huge part of the Mexican culture and sharing it with friends is a big deal. Pepe has a deal cut with this facility where he can barbeque food for his crew as long as they patronize the bar and shops. “No Problemo aqui. Tres cervezas pour favor.” I bought Pepe a beer and took it to him back at the barbeque pit. I wish I hadn’t gone there. …
You all know how anal I am about fresh fish and how it is handled, cleaned and prepared… Just as I handed Pepe his beer, he showed me the fish he was making us for lunch. A King mackerel that I am very confident lost its fight for life no less than 3 weeks ago. When I expressed my slight concern about the fish’s color, specifically the eyeballs, Pepe assured me the “Salting” they did to the fish when it was caught made it very safe to eat. Yeah ! By the way, the fish was whole. Eyeballs, gills and all the rest of the ingredients in place. Yeah, I shudda never bought Pepe that beer.
We sat at a community table with the rest of our crew, which gave us some time to talk with the folks from different parts of the world. It’s amazing how different we all are, yet similar in so many ways. After 45 minutes, Pepe presented us with our lunch. It looked absolutely amazing and the color of the seasoning really polished that turd of a fish. It was presented with some sort of ceviche cole-slaw and a Caribbean rice and pasta. Let’s just say I ate lots of rice and pasta. I did actually try a piece of the fish, but immediately bit into a bone. Why wouldn’t I? After all, they did not clean the damn fish and it was looking at me when I took a bite of its ribcage. It really did look nice and this was an opportunity to experience a different culture. Most of all, Pepe and the other people were really nice.
The location we had lunch was very close to our Marina, so I bartered a deal with Pepe. I really did not want to ride in his “Bomb Boat” any longer so I told him if he let me drive and he just dropped us off at our boat, I would trade him my scuba mask. Deal; delivered right to “Loud Enuff” dock where more cold cervezas safely awaited us, without fear of an explosion! Pepe could not have been happier about getting a high quality mask and snorkel, so it was a good deal for us both.
Tony is leaving tomorrow, so I promised him I would cook him the steak of a lifetime. Not much beats a perfectly cooked “Omaha Steak Company” filet mignon on the grill. While I cooked the steaks, Tony heated up some baked beans and pasta. We enjoyed a nice steak dinner while watching all of the other fishing boats return to the docks. It’s neat to see the docks come to life this time of the day- anglers, mates and captains telling fish stories, having cocktails and living the dream ! This is why I do what I do. We are bummed that tomorrow, Tony has to leave but I am equally excited to have Blake and his guest arriving. Tomorrow will see a complete detail of the inside of the boat.
Sunday Feb 16th
Today was kind of a boring day, sorry. We fired up the boat and took Tony over to the “La Amada” Marina in Cancun. Here, Ruben’s son, Miguel, picked him up and gave him a ride to the Cancun Airport for his flight home. He had to actually fly to Atlanta for a 3 hour layover before flying to Tampa.
Blake was scheduled to get in at 1:00 pm, so I brokered a deal with the resort where I would buy some fuel if they gave me a slip and shore power for a few hours until he arrived. I had to do laundry and running a clothes dryer and all of the A/C’s on the generator really puts a strain on the electrical system.
Ruben prepared the dredge baits while we waited for Blake to get in. The front office called me on my portable VHF radio to tell me that Blake was in and they were sending a golf cart. I met Blake and his guest (Greg) in the parking lot and hopped a ride back to the boat.
A short ride later and we were backing into our slip At Isla Mujeres. The guys unpacked while Ruben and I made some last minute adjustments to our fishing gear. Around 6:00 we were all hungry so we got in a cab and headed to Rolandi’s. We had the obligatory shots of world-class tequila, Pacifico cervezas, squid, calamari, shrimp ceviche and a grilled chicken breast. A little bit more tequila, then we grabbed another cab back to the marina. By the way, I don’t do tequilla.
All of the boats were back from fishing and the docks were like a giant tail-gate party. One crew made some fresh conch ceviche they insisted we try; it was truly amazing!
We passed a couple hours on the docks then hit the hay for a good nights’ sleep. Hopefully tomorrow, we will have some pics and Video of our target.
Monday February 17th
Incredible. No other word can describe the fishing we had today. The internet is extremely bad today so I cannot upload videos. I hope this one picture makes it on the page.
It took a few hours, but I found the birds on the radar. Fine tuning the gain and range settings on the radar can be a tricky thing, but once it is dialed in you can pick up birds. Once I started getting returns on the screen I was able to plot a course to the birds and they led us to the sailfish. The big frigate birds hover above the pods of sailfish as they “Ball” up the schools of sardines. One by one, the sailfish work in perfect harmony, taking turns slicing through the bait. As the sails chase the bait up towards the surface, the frigate birds get a chance at an easy meal. The birds then force the baitfish back down, where the sails await. It’s an amazing harmonic rhythm. There are no less than 10 sailfish in this pic.
We were in hundreds of sailfish for several hours. Believe it or not though, it can be challenging to get them to bite your dead baits. There is so much good live bait at their disposal that they do not always want to break off to chase a dead bait. When our dredges manage to get the sailfish’s attention, they break away from the bait ball and pile on the dredges. It’s awesome to see two dozen sails chasing your dredge then picking off your ballyhoo.
We managed to pull a decent blackfin tuna out of the packs of sails which immediately went on ice for sashimi and steaks later.
We also lost a nice wahoo right at the boat, but nothing we could do when it bit through the mono leader just as Ruben grabbed it.
Back at the dock, I hired two local kids to wash the entire boat for $50. Not bad, especially after a long day. I am very tired and we are back at it early again in the morning.
Tuesday Feb 18th
We were again up early and ready to go. After yesterday’s success, we had a pretty good idea of where to go and what to do. We are running about 35 miles to the north each day which takes just over an hour. I know this may be hard to believe, but the weathermen here in Mexico are wrong too. They were calling for winds to be 10 knots out of the east with seas of 2-3 ft. NOT. Winds 20 knots, seas 4-6 feet allllllll day! The ride to the north was wet, as the spray from every wave went over the top of the boat and drenched the cockpit. The guys hunkered down in the salon while Ruben and I cruised along listening to the stereo.
We found the bite to be very slow at first, with only a missed wahoo all morning long. There were hundreds of frigate birds in the area, but they were very high in the sky. They do this to help them see a larger field of view and it tells us that even they are having difficulty finding fish. Around 10:30, one of the rigger clips pops and Greg is tight on a sailfish. We got him to the boat in just under 5 minutes for a few pics and the release.
The next couple of hours were slow, but at 1:30 someone threw the “Sailfish” button. All hell broke loose and we had dozens of sailfish tailing us in the top of the waves and they chased down our dredges and baits. For the next two hours we were thick in sailfish and Blake also caught a fat blackfin tuna.
Being up on the bridge really gives me an advantage to seeing the sailfish so I had the guys rig me up a bait and hand me up a rod. Within 1 minute, I was tight on a sail from up top. We repeated this several times as I would hook the fish upstairs, then hand the rod down to the guys. This was epic.
At 3:30 we left the fish biting for a long ride back as the seas picked up even more. I took my time and went easy on the boat, cruising at 1600 rpm’s and 23 knots. The guys cleaned up the salon and Ruben took all of the unused baits off the hooks and cleaned the cockpit. As soon as my lines were on the boat and we were docked, my boat washers showed up and got to work. We all took showers and headed to a local Mexican Restaurant for burritos and margaritas.
After dinner, we had a “What’s on your I-Pod?” contest and everyone on the dock knew why the boat’s name is “Loud Enuff”. We are taking tomorrow off to re-group, get some sleep and get some more food supplies at the store. I think we will rent another golf cart to go around town again. Here is another sailfish video
I’m in the process of editing many hours worth of video from the fishing so far. I was able to find this EPIC video of a sailfish coming up on one of our mullet dredges, then peeling off and eating one of the ballyhoo baits and getting hooked. this is exactly how it is supposed to work.
Wednesday Feb Something
Internet is horrible and extremely difficult to post updates. I hope these links come through. Watch the videos on the G2B You Tube Channel and they will speak for themselves
Saturday February 22
Apologies for the delay in updating but the entire wi- fi and internet system has been down. I am currently in Cancun at La Amada Marina. Blake and Greg had a flight home and I needed to re-fuel the boat so it was just easier to come here. I had a taxi waiting for them and are full of diesel.
The next step is now to clear OUT of Mexico. I have to basically reverse the clearing in process and schedule appointments with the government officials to get all of my paperwork signed. The “Clearing Agent” arrived at the boat at 10:00 and had me sign a bunch of documents. He took my Passport and Captain’s License and said he would be back in a couple of hours. Not a comfortable feeling, but he’s been trustworthy so far.
Just some updates from the days I missed the reports. The fishing was great and we caught a lot of sailfish. We saw giant Manta Rays, whales, and a giant school of whale sharks nearly every day. We were able to get a lot of it on video, but uploading it has been a challenge. If you click on the video links above, they will take you to our Fishing Club You Tube page. Scroll down as some of the videos may be there. When I get home, I will get them uploaded.
I flew over another mate to help me get the boat home. Devon Rigsby has fished with us before when we took the boat to Orange Beach, Alabama and is a hoot to be around. After we clear out with Customs and Immigration, we will go back to the marina in Isla Mujeres and pack up our fort and get ready for a Sunday departure. We will most likely leave around noon and I expect it to take us 24 hours to get to Key West. We will re-fuel there and rest for a day or so, then head back to Venice.
This trip has been absolutely amazing and I have seen things I have never seen before. We are definitely coming back ! As the internet allows, I will update…
Well, I had some time and a wi-fi signal today so I figured I’d write a bit more. After I refueled in Cancun, I got put back in Time-out and had to play to game with Customs and Immigration. Before you leave most of these countries, the Captain of the boat needs to obtain what’s called a “Zarpe” (pronounced zarpay). This is an official government form which lists your last port of call. It must be surrendered to either Customs or the Port Captain at the next country you visit. The officials will not let you in to their country without a Zarpe. Caveat- The United States does not require me to have this and could care less. Mexico demands you get it before leaving ($$$$$$$$$$$).
Turns out the Clearing Agent supposedly had “Nine other boats” to either clear in or out of the country and I was down on the list. Yeah, OK, how much?????? He wouldn’t give me a number but said he would take care of it as soon as he could, but it would be a few hours.
After two hours, the official from Mexico Immigration made it to the boat. She filled out 37 forms then re-stamped our Passports- which luckily the Clearing Agent returned to us. The clearing agent still had my Captain’s license though and he was on his way to the Mexican Port Captain’s Office downtown. Immigration cleared us just fine, but I had to wait on the Zarpe forms to arrive. After a while and over $340, I had my forms and was free to leave the country!
We headed back over to Isla Mujeres and started to pack up all of our dock gear. We had dock boxes, fenders, lines, a big folding table and our gas grill. All had to be strategically packed in a certain order and secured in specific places to accommodate any issues we may have at sea. You don’t want to have to move a full dock box from the bilge pump access while underway…
I met with the Dockmaster and the administrative accountant at the Resort to settle up my bills. When you visit these countries, you are completely identified by your boat name. They don’t care about a driver’s license or anything official like that, just what boat are you on. I settled up my bill and paid for our last night. Believe it or not, the dockage bills, electric and water charges were accurate and not too expensive (considering). I returned to the boat and found that Devon had most of the gear stowed and I got online and filed another Float Plan with Customs and Border Protection. This has to be filed 24 hours prior to leaving another country. I guess this gives them plenty of time to interdict me on the way home….. The weather is looking pretty good for the trip with seas at 5 feet, but with a 9 second period. We will just bob along. I have a three day window to get the boat from here to Key West for a night, then back to Venice on Tuesday. I guess the weather is going to crap on Wednesday from what little information we get here. By the way, we have not had any TV service since I left. Direct TV does not own any satellites in the Central America area and we are outside of our global coverage area.
The plan is to leave Isla Mujeres sometime between 10:00 am and noon tomorrow. We will run hard until dark, the chug at 10 knots through the night. It is just Devin and I, so it will be a long trip. I’m certain I will not sleep. At daybreak, we will get up and run the balance of the way to Key West. Here, I will have to clear back into our country with Customs. We’ll see how that goes. We will spend Monday night in Key West and catch up on our lost sleep. First thing Tuesday morning we are off the dock and headed for a 6 hour trip to Venice.
So far, I have logged 1,000 nautical miles and burned more than 2,600 gallons of fuel on this trip.
Monday Feb 24th
We made it safe to Key West !!! It was a very long night with just Devin and I on the boat. When we left Isla Mujeres, the seas were about 3 ft on our beam, so it wasn’t too bad as we rode in trough until about 4:00. At 4:30 we were situated off the western tip of Cuba and decided to slow down and cook some dinner. We put the boat on auto-pilot while Devin cooked up some steaks and I just had to put a couple lures in the water to troll till dark. We didn’t get any hits, but we ate well.
We were very close to Cuba and the sight of the mountains was amazing. It was only outdone by the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.
The first couple of hours after dark weren’t too bad, especially since the seas laid down completely flat (finally a break with wind and waves!). The further up the Cuban coast we moved, we started to encounter a lot of large ships and cruise lines. A lot of them were staged and just sitting still waiting their turn to come into port. These things are extremely large and look like a city lit up at night.
I had one radar set up at a 24 nm range and the other set up at only a 3 mile range. Targets (ships) would first appear on the long range radar and I would assign a waypoint mark to it. As we moved closer, this would allow me to actually track its movement help me plot a course around the ship. As we got closer, the short range radar would pick it up and I could fine-tune our course to avoid a collision. We passed some of these ships with just a mile or so to spare. That may seem like a lot, but at sea and dealing with a 700′ ship, it doesn’t leave any room for error.
Devin got some shut eye from 11:30 till about 4:30 am while I stayed on the wheel dodging ships. At 4: 30 am I had to shut my eyes and he took over until the sun came up. At 6:30 and just an hour and a half of sleep, I was back on the wheel for the ride to Key West.
At sunup we were just 80 miles offshore of Key West and the ocean was completely flat. The ride from here was boring. We made it in to the Conch Harbor Marina at 10:30. We re-fueled the boat and got a slip for the day. I had to clear our Customs and Immigration now. I have what’s called a “Local Boater’s Option” card issued by Customs which allows me to clear back in to the country without physically going to Customs and Immigration. This is done through this card and by filing a Float Plan with them prior to your departure. Devon did not have this card, so he had to physically show up at the Key West Customs Office to clear in. I washed the boat while he did that and got things squared away. By the time he got back, I was tired. A Hot shower and a nap were in order.
At 6:30, we both had a craving for some good Cuban food, probably brought on by the fact that were so close to Cuba you could practically smell it. We hopped in a cap and went to a great Cuban restaurant in Key West and had a great dinner.
After dinner, we were both full and exhausted so we went to bed early. Tomorrow we are bringing the “Loud Enuff” back to the barn. The winds and seas are flat, thank goodness!
Devin and I left Key West at 8:00 am with no drama. The ride back to Venice was very nice, albeit somewhat boring. The seas were 2 ft or less and the wind was out of the north at 10 knots. We cleared the Venice Inlet at 2:15 pm where we saw several of you guys waving at us from your boats.
I logged 1,508 nautical miles and burned about 4,200 gallons of diesel for the entire trip. I am still in the process of editing videos, but here are few extra pictures from the trip.
We are in the final stages of prepping the Hatteras for the 7 hour trip from Venice to Key West. For the past week, the boat has been completely detailed and waxed, engines tuned up and filled with supplies. I am fortunate to have Stephanie and our close friends Pat and Sandy Ryan coming along for a few days. We will update this blog each day to keep you updated on our progress.
Tuesday (Christmas Eve)
Being Christmas Eve, my hope is to spend only 1/2 the day getting things ready. Tackle, rods and reels will be the focus as will turning on all the boat’s freezers. It takes a good day or two to get them cold enough for frozen baits and foods, especially the freezer out in the cockpit. Between all of the ballyhoo we have for bait, we also have a lot of dredge mullet and dredge ballyhoo that I ordered. These are used as teasers and are pulled behind the boat from the outriggers. More on this later. I will be tying sailfish rigs today and I expect my fingers to be numb by the time I am done.
Wednesday (Christmas Day)
I hope nobody read this blog today, but instead spent it with family opening gifts and enjoying the day. We all had a wonderful Christmas and we are very fortunate to have all that we do in our lives. After a huge Christmas dinner, it was final packing of clothes, rain gear and toothpaste. Tomorrow we will stock the freezers with the mullet, ballyhoo and Omaha Steaks!! So far (dare I say it), the weather forecast is not looking bad. I cut and pasted it below, just so I can look back after the ride and compare the accuracy:
Sorry for taking a couple days off, but not much has been happening-at least fishing wise. Blake and the boys got in on Monday and we just walked the docks and had dinner at the A&B Lobster house. After dinner I rigged 36 ballyhoo and got the dredges ready for an early departure for the fishing grounds Tuesday morning.
About 3am on Tuesday, I woke up to the constant slapping of water against the hull of the boat up by my room. This sound only means one thing – WIND! At 6am I couldn’t take it anymore and fired up the computer. I logged onto several weather websites and they all confirmed what was now happening outside. High winds with gusts to 30+ by noon. Blake and I spent some time over coffee discussing our options and we decided to bag it for the day. The boat could obviously handle 6-8 ft seas, but we weren’t sure the boys could. When I made the statement to Blake that not much on the boat has the potential to break at the dock, as opposed to pushing through 6-8 ft seas all day, the icing was put on the cake. If we were fishing a tournament, it’s a no brainer-we’re going. Simply on vacation and “fun” fishing, I don’t think so.
Being it was New Year’s Eve, and we are in Key West, the practical thing to do was go to Irish Kevin’s. None of them have ever been there and Blake didn’t make it 10 minutes before the guy on stage called him out about being on his cell phone…
The night was spent on the docks and at the boat. The boys went downtown to experience the madness, while Blake and I welcomed in the New Year in the cockpit watching the freaks walk by.
Wednesday was spent watching everyone else nurse hangovers and praying we could fish on Thursday. Regardless of the weather, the boat is coming off the dock. I rigged yet another 3 dozen ballyhoo baits and got the dredge teasers ready.
Hopefully Thursday is our day !
Well, we managed to get out and fish today, but it wasn’t all that great. The amount of grass and sea-weed in the water was unbelievable. The lines and dredges were constantly covered up with weeds and after a few hours of that it gets frustrating. For the guys in the cockpit it was a perpetual circus. No matter how hard or fast they worked all the lines managed to get covered up.
After about two hours of trolling we did manage to run over a school of dolphin. We had 5 fish on all at the same time, lost two immediately and boated three. At least we had dinner.
The rest of the day was spent cleaning lines and trying to find clean water. We couldn’t do it.
We got back to the dock around 3:30 and I cleaned the fish while Blake and the boys washed the boat. We had the whole family on board and I made them a fresh fish dinner like they’ve never had before. Bed came early.
Tomorrow’s Marine Forecast:
North winds around 25 knots with gusts to 35 knots becoming northeast around 20 knots in the afternoon. Seas 6 to 10 feet. Carry on……….
Didn’t sleep all night. Howling winds racing through the rigging of the Blow-Boat docked next to me and the constant slapping of the waves against the hull made it impossible to sleep. Was out of bed at 5am to get my first look at gale force winds causing havoc on all of the boats in the marina. My trash can was blown off the dock, portable grill blown off the table, shoes and flip-flops everywhere and a lot of debris floating in the water. Guess what? We’re not fishing today either.
The temperatures dropped into the mid to upper 60’s which made it nice for a walk around Key West. I had a pretty awesome cheeseburger at the Hard-Rock Café on Duvall Street as I watched the freaks walk by. You can always tell when a new cruise ship docks or a plane lands…
The only thing you can do when a fishing trip is ruined by the weather is to laugh. So I guess I’ll tell a joke. “A Priest walks into a bar (Irish Kevin’s, of course!)…”
No, it actually wasn’t a joke, but a real priest walked into the bar and enjoyed a couple of pints of Guiness. Felt bad for him because the guy up on the stage really capitalized on this- starting off with a “Christian Mingle” website joke. Later, I told Stephanie that I went and saw a priest today. When I told her where, and that I thought it was a good idea to visit bars more often because of the good company they keep, she failed to see my sense of humor. Oh well…
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the weather has been really bad for us. Blake and the family left for the airport early, just as a massive storm swallowed Key West.
I hope their flights get out on time. They are flying back to Indiana where they will be getting another massive snow storm tomorrow. I guess I can’t bitch too much.
Despite torrential rain all day, I had to pack up the boat and organize the cockpit. At some point I have to put fuel in the boat, but do not want to do it while it’s pouring. I had enough issues with water in fuel on the way down here. Hopefully it will let up by the end of the day.
The weather has not only been horrible, but it is getting worse on Monday with a very strong cold front hitting our region. 35 knot winds and gale force gusts are expected with seas to double digits. It is supposed to be very bad for about 5 days after the front passes through which only leaves me a very small window to get home. The plan is to leave early Sunday morning and head for Venice before anything bad happens. The Marine Forecast forMonday:
Northwest winds 13 to 18 knots becoming north northwest 25 to 30 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet building to 8 to 10 feet with occasional seas to 13 feet.
Sunday (the ride home)
I awoke to bright, sunny skies with a slight southeast breeze. A perfect day to be in Key West, but as my luck would have it, it was time to leave and head back north to Venice. My buddies Mike and Steve arrived Saturday afternoon to help me get the boat back home. We weren’t able to do anything but watch massive amounts of rain fall once they arrived at the boat, but we did enjoy some great steaks I grilled on the dock in a full rain suit.
We were all packed up and off the dock by 9am and we watched the cruise ships become smaller and smaller as we motored north through the Key West approach channel. The seas were flat calm, with a slight groundswell and following sea on our stern. While I was not glad to be leaving the Keys, I was grateful I was finally given a break with the weather for the ride home. The forecast for Monday is really bad.
Once out over Florida Bay, in the middle of nowhere, we came across a small center console dead in the water. The boat had a make-shift sail stretched between the antennas on the T-Top and they were waving an international distress flag feverishly. There were seven people on board and they did not look happy. We approached them with caution because we did not know what we were getting into 50 miles from nowhere. Turns out, they were out of gas and asked me to relay a radio message to the Captain’s friend who operates the Sea-Tow boat in Fort Myers. I tried calling them, but because we were so far out, I did not get a response. I ended up calling the captain’s wife and another friend of his on the Satellite phone and gave them the boat’s position. The captain did NOT want me to call the Coast Guard (ask me in person my opinion as to why). Once the messages were delivered, I asked if they needed any food, water or anything else. They declined all other assistance and stated they would just wait for their friend to come get them. I told the captain the only way I would agree was if he committed to calling me once they were safe and within cell phone range. I gave him my personal number and told him that if I didn’t hear from him by 9 pm, I was calling the Coast Guard and launching an all out search. I took a bunch of pictures of the boat so the search crews would know exactly what they were looking for before we continued on. Just at 9:00 pm that night, he called and said they were all home safe. Never a dull moment……
This situation and “Safety and Survival at Sea” will be discussed in detail at our Course next Tuesday (Jan 14th). We will discuss the good and bad decisions the captain made and how things could have turned out differently. See our home page for the course details.
They Gulf was like a pond and we made good time, clearing the Venice Inlet at 3:00 pm (right at 6 hours). By 4 pm, she was docked and put to bed until our next trip in February.
It might not have been an exciting fishing trip but as always, it was an adventure!
We decided to make a trip yesterday before the cold front came in and knew that the sea’s would be rough in the morning and calming down by noon. I had checked marine weather n Venice surf report . Well Harry, Pat, Rich and myself headed out to catch some live bait out of Stump Pass. Off we go to our spots! One problem …we lost our weight for our Sure Marker!!!! Sea’s were bad with 5 ft swells, but Harry got us to our first spot with expert boat handling. I used some skills Frank (another fishing club member) told me about to get on the spot without the Sure Marker. . We caught several keeper RG’s n two on a free line!! Next spot the rest of the keepers of RG’s with Harry catching all of the Lane Snappers!!!! Rich and Pat hooked up too . We caught a total of 7 RG keepers and about 12 LS. Good day, good friends, good eats too!!Pat was unavailable for pic due to his Top Secret Security clearance.
Thanks again Kevin for having the get to gather at the dock.
Sorry we didn’t get back in time to get some fish on the grill .Can’t blame it on the weather, it was great. But the urge to catch just one more was strong. This trip was made with Bruce , Gary, Frank and Tom. The grouper action was good as always and with many snappers . But this trip produced more Porgies than normal with a couple trigger fish throne in. Also a lot of Ramore’s hanging around which was a pain. Saw some Little Tuna action out there and trolled for a little bit but with no hook up’s. Another great day on the water, Thank Guys.
Took an offshore trip Monday with Frank, Gary , Mike. This was Mike’s first time out offshore in the Gulf. Great day with great fishing friends too. We could do no wrong. Fish were biting great. Here are some of the hero pics!!!
Made another trip out this Saturday with two club members Harry and Frank. Started trolling for a while with no luck. Started fishing in about 70 feet of water, drifting and hunting around with not much luck. But we did picked up two grouper. Came back to a spot about 55 feet and things turned around for the best. A lot of shorts and 3 good Groupers and large Porgies. The big surprise was two lane snapper .One 16″ and the other 18″. The biggest I ever saw .You never know what you will bring up next. Made it back safe, caught some nice fish and spent time with some great guys. What more could one ask for.
Today was like fishing in the summer without the heat. The seas were calm with afternoon clouds building up . I ran out to the water in the 80′s ft. area with a crew of three. Tom, Gary and his friend Ken. Ken never was off shore and it was all new to him. Gary was showing him how to work the reel and while lowering just a hook in the water came up with a blue runner. I new from that point that this was going to be a great trip. After tying a couple spots we hit on the number one and boated 10 Grouper, 8 8 Porgies, 6 lane snappers ,10 vermillion snappers, large grunts and one kingfish. Also had a visit from a large Nurse Shark that Tom had to work at to bring him to the boat. That’s a 7 ft. rod I’m holding alongside . Coming back we make it sooner than normal with the seas being as calm as it could get. Weather like this you really appreciate and with great guys to fish with and catch fish as we do only makes it better. Thanks again guys for a great day on the water.
For those that may not already know, I grew up in southern New Jersey and started my fishing career chasing striped bass, bluefish and fluke along the Jersey Shore. No, this is not the “Jersey Shore” made infamous on the ridiculous T.V. show a few years back, and the area is, in fact, iconic. If you are unfamiliar with New Jersey, it’s nickname is the “Garden State” and aptly so due to the large numbers of farms and huge land parcels that most people live on. Mind you, this is the southern half of the state, as anything north of Trenton is very populated and less attractive (choosing words carefully here).
The main area I fished is called Island Beach State Park, which is a very long barrier island running from Seaside Heights, south to the treacherous Barnegat Inlet and the world famous Barnegat Lighthouse. The area is gated and the most unique attribute about it is that a properly equipped 4 wheel drive truck can actually drive on the beach. This helps tremendously as you search out and pursue fish as they school up and chase bait through the many sand bars and cuts that are formed by the waves of the surf. Here, you don’t have the luxury of a 60′ hatteras, modern electronics, and satellite imagery. It is the angler alone, standing in the crashing surf, face to face with Mother Ocean with the best cast he can muster up in the face of northeast winds. The park is nothing short of magical. There are no houses, buildings, businesses or convenience stores. Just miles and miles of pristine ocean front beach, sand dunes and wildlife (including a large population of red foxes). Once you enter the park, you are in a different world and life’s troubles are easily left behind.
The nucleus to fishing in this area is the local bait shop, Betty and Nick’s Bait and Tackle which is located just outside the park’s entrance. Each day anglers from all over come to the shop to talk with John the owner about what is biting and where. John’s mom Beth and wife Tammy work on the other side of the shop in the restaurant and keep all of the anglers’ coffee thermoses full and bellies satisfied with Jersey Scrapple, Pork-Roll and “Hoagies.”.
Island Beach State Park is a very special place for me. I learned to fish here with my father many moons ago. As a child, I craved this place and my time with him. It is what kept me out of trouble as a kid and it was my reward. Many, many years later, this place is still very special to me, and still my reward…
Day 1 (the drive)
Early wake up which was made much better by the fact that Steph made me chipped beef and toast for breakfast. Final packing was complete and by 8am I was ready to jump in the Feeding Frenzy Land Yacht for my 18 hour drive north to the Jersey Shore.
I decided to get started right away with the shenanigans, so I ensured that when I turned the key to actually start said Land Yacht, I was met with a completely dead battery. Yeah !!! Every trip has to have some drama, so I figured I’d get a head start.
Luckily, I was smart enough to charge my jump pack and after retrieving it from the back of the truck, I was able to jump-start the truck and drive it right to Walmart Automotive. A late start by an hour, but at least I had battery issues (and future problems) resolved.
After fueling up by I75, I headed north and settled in for a long drive by putting one of four (4) “Frank Sinatra Greatest Hits” CD’s into the CD player. Yes, I like Old Blue Eyes as that was what my grandmother listened to every Sunday morning (Sid Mark). I think I know every word to every one of his songs.
The ride was very uneventful (thankfully) and I was able to get 25 MPG in my 4-wheel drive Tahoe. I added a large container of “Sea-Foam” additive to the tank prior to filling it with the Super-Unleaded 93 Octane gas. I truly believe this made the difference. I made it 500.5 miles, well into South Carolina, before I stopped for fuel. Even at that point, my fuel management said I still had a range of 183 miles to go. No sense it pushing that limit after my somewhat stumbled start.
By 8 pm, I was still driving and my eyes were getting tired. Just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina I decided to pull off and check into a hotel. After a fair steak dinner, I crashed for the night.
Tomorrow will be met by another 10 hours of driving and hopefully I can make the shore by day’s end. Thank goodness I renewed my Sirius XM Satellite subscription because while I like Old Blue Eyes, even he can wear on ya after 10 hours …
Day 2 (Mostly driving and some fishing)
Man, that’s a long drive from south Florida to the Jersey Shore, especially by yourself. All in all, the drive was uneventful other than the fact that the further north you get, the worse the drivers become. I have forgotten how nuts Jersey drivers are…
About half way through Virginia, I began to feel the air temps falling. I stopped for fuel and decided to also change from my shorts to a pair of jeans. Smart move. By the time I hit the beach, I was in full sweatshirt and hoodie mode.
I arrived at the Island Beach Motor Lodge at around 6 pm and quickly checked in and threw my stuff in my room. I wanted to get in a couple hours of fishing before it got too late and I was already pretty tired from all the driving. I set up my rods and reels and picked out a couple lures appropriate for night time fishing in this area. I will go more into the tackle I use tomorrow.
At the first “Beach Buggy” access road, I pulled over to deflate my truck’s tires so I could drive on the beach. While doing so, I could feel something behind me in the complete darkness. I turned around to see a wild red fox standing about 10 feet behind me, apparently looking for a free hand-out of bait. While the fox are wild, they are very used to fisherman and know they often dispose of extra bait in these areas.
I put my chest waders on, along with a heavy sweat shirt and ski hat (this Florida boy doesn’t do cold) and headed onto the beach. As I crossed over the dunes, I was met with an amazing full moon, as it rose up over the Atlantic. Simply one of those moments.
I drove down the beach scouting the breaking surf until I saw a “Cut” This is an area between two sand bars that acts as a corridor for bait and striped bass. Once I found a cut, I broke out a pitch black swimming plug and began casting away.
Within twenty minutes, I got slammed by a decent fish. Striped bass are great fighters under most circumstances, but when you fight them in a crashing surf with an under-tow; it adds a completely different fish-fighting dynamic to the equation. You must time the fight and position the fish as best as you can and pull on it as a wave is crashing towards shore. If you mis-time it, you will pull on the fish as the wave and under-tow will add a strong amount of force against the fish’s body, usually resulting in a pulled hook.
The bright moonlight helped me see the fish in the darkness and I was able to play it perfectly with the waves and surfed a nice 28” bass onto the beach. The bass’ stomach was absolutely full of sand eels, which are the main forage fish this time of year. I took a couple quick pics and sent the fish back into the suds.
A few minutes later, I got slammed again and was able to bag another striper of about 30” (about 9 lbs). This fish was also released to fight another day. I may keep one fish, as stripers are great on the table, but I don’t want to keep one so early in the trip. Hopefully a bigger bass comes my way.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) I will be up at 4am for a good breakfast and back in the surf before the sky turns pink. I need a 30 lb plus bass. That is my goal !
Day 3 (Epic Fishing)
I awoke to an outside air temperature that started with a “3”. Not good for this Florida boy. Got to Betty and Nick’s around 5:00 am where John’s mom Beth cooked me breakfast. After woofing down a few eggs, potatoes and a hot cup of coffee, I headed to the beach.
The beach was littered with 4-wheel drive trucks and fishermen as everyone awaited that magic hour just before sunrise. As soon as the sun came up, I could see thousands of sea gulls picking bait off the surface that bass were forcing up. As far as I could in either direction north and south there were trucks, fishermen and bass flopping all over the beach. Apparently, the entire northeastern section of the United States called in sick today.
I immediately began catching stripers from 8 lbs to 22 pounds for about 2 ½ hours straight. They were hitting both teasers and green Ava 27’s, which is a large silver jig with a rubber curly tail. Fighting fish of this size in the surf is a challenge and because I never get to actually catch fish myself much anymore, it was very much appreciated on my part.
My brand new Penn Battle 6000 reels got some use today. Unfortunately, between the cold temperatures, rough surf, saltwater, sand and the pull of a real fish the drags and main gears began to give out and there was significant amounts of corrosion showing on the back of the reel frame. Penn reels are No LONGER what they once were and I literally had a piece of spring fall out from under the spool. They may be OK for fishing a back bay from a boat, but simply cannot withstand the rigors of a harsh fishing environment. I don’t care what the “compensated with discounted price- Pro-Staff wanna be guides” say.
I had to switch out to the best reel ever made for surf fishing, a Van Staal 200. I have a LOT of fishing reels of many makes and models, but none compare to the Van Staal. This reel is made specifically for the rigors of surf fishing, where cold saltwater and heavy sand frequently meet on and penetrate into a fishing reel. If you can afford one of these reels, they change your fishing experience.
Rods consist of either 9 ft long “Tica” sticks or 10’6” St. Croix “Mojo” models. These long rods allow you to cast the lures out well past the breaking waves where the bass cruise along the bottom. In addition to the long rods, 30 lb test braided line is a must. The idea is to cast the jig/tail out as far as you can and slowly reel it along the bottom to imitate a fleeing sand eel. The strike is very impressive and there is no wondering if you have a nibble. I compare the strike of a striper to that of a pissed off amberjack. The fight is very similar also, except that the striper has the advantage of the crashing surf and under-tow that he uses to his advantage. While I caught more than a dozen bass between 8 and 22 lbs, I also lost as many. After landing the first few fish, it simply becomes all about “the bite” anyway. I caught fish steady until about 11:00 am then headed back in to town to pick up my buddy James who drove down to fish with me the balance of the afternoon and the first half of the day tomorrow (Wednesday). Just for the record, James is very bad luck when it comes to fishing. We shall see if that changes tomorrow… BTW, it is cold here !
Day 4 (very cold fishing)
I woke up to an outside air temperature of 35 degrees with winds blowing at 20 knots out of the northeast. Not good for a guy who gets cold and puts on blue jeans when the Florida air dips below 80 degrees. Wow was that air cold-especially with the wind chill !!!
Well as I said, my buddy James showed up and he is bad luck. One thing about James is that he is consistent. So, by rule of habit, the fishing today was not nearly as good as yesterday and James still has his elusive Striped Bass on his bucket list of fish to catch.
We had breakfast of course at Betty and Nick’s. Beth made me some awesome Jersey chipped beef on toast and James had a pork roll, egg and cheese on a kaiser roll. It’s a Jersey thing ! The bait shop and restaurant were absolutely slammed as word of the great fishing from yesterday obviously spread throughout the entire northeast region of the country. Poor Beth and Tammy could not keep up with the pork roll, scrapple and coffee orders.
We hit the beach just as the sun was turning the eastern sky orange. It always amazes me that just when you can make out the horizon over the Atlantic, you can see thousands of seagulls chasing bait over the ocean. I have no idea how they can see the bait in such low light conditions, especially when it is rough, but thousands of sky rats littered the sky. The ocean was churned up much worse than yesterday, as the northeast wind honked along. With each cast, an extra 50 yards of line would come screaming off your reel just from the wind and your line would be in the wash at the feet of the guy standing next to you to the right. This makes for challenging fishing as keeping a feel on your line is paramount to hooking up.
It wasn’t long before a large flock of seagulls swooped down just in front of me and I was able to get a cast into them. Mind you however, I had to cast about 100 ft to the left of them to compensate for the wind factor. After only two or three turns of the reel the 10 ft St. Croix surf stick doubled over when a fat striper inhaled the green tailed Ava 47 on the other end.
The fish gave an awesome fight, especially in the pounding surf and strong undertow. I was able to subdue the fish in a few minutes and had it quickly released back into the ocean. James on the other hand, well that’s another story…
One of the highlights of Betty and Nick’s is being asked by John the owner to sign his fishing log book. It is a true account of what is biting and where by the anglers themselves. I remember as a kid John’s dad kept a log book on the counter of the shop when it was much smaller than it is now. On several occasions back in the day I was fortunate enough to have signed the book. This trip, I was able to sign it on several occasions.
Striper HOOK UP
I grew up with James and I probably know him better than most. The one thing I can confirm is that James does indeed like fishing. His passion for fishing is only trumped by his bad luck for same. Yeah he loves it, but my gawd does he sucks at it! So, as the story goes and after what seemed like endless casts, James finally got a hit from a bass. I even managed to capture it on video. Yup, I captured James hooking up to his first Bass, and then promptly losing his first Bass! All we could both do was laugh. James and I have had a lot of fun together growing up here in NJ and we’ve shared many laughs. This one, albeit bad for his bucket list wishes, was just as good as all the others. When you’re this bad at fishing, all you can do is laugh. So laugh we did!
I did not know James’ lost fish would be the highlight of our day. The wind continued to gain strength and only a few bass were caught in our area. The crowds were insane with 4-wheel drive trucks and fishermen on just about every inch of the beach. We did see a guy dressed up in a shark suit, standing in the surf fishing away. I can’t explain it other than that. It was just a guy in a furry shark suit (seriously). I did not get a pic of the shark suit, but here is what the beach looked like where we were fishing today.
At around 11:30 am, we decided to pack it in for the day and head back to the hotel to warm up. James had to get back home and I needed another hot meal. As much as I miss James, and enjoy fishing with him, it obviously was time for him to go because I had fish to catch. He needed to take his bad luck ass back over the bridge and onto the mainland. Once he left, I could not resist the warmth of the bed and a 3 hour nap. I woke up at 3:30 and decided to give it a rest for the evening, grab a hot shower, good dinner and rest up for tomorrow’s adventure. I really hope both the fishing and air temps warm up.
Day 5 (Sorry for skipping today)
I was back up at 4am and having breakfast by 4:30. It’s amazing how productive that magic “Witching Hour” at false dawn can be. Just as in days past, as soon as you could make out the horizon you could see thousands of seagulls working the water’s surface. The problem however was that they were much further out today as we had a wind shift. The east/northeast winds we had for the past 2 days pushed the bait and stripers in tight against the beach, but today I knew I would have my work cut out for me. The fact that my “black cat” (James) was no longer here certainly had me feeling optimistic though.
Well just to add credence to James’ reputation, I started catching stripers. Three in total, one hitting the 19 lb mark and the other two between 10 and 13 pounds. Not too shabby. I am however starting to get very tired at this point from all the casting and the cold taking its toll on my Florida bones. I have some friends back in town that have been dying for fresh striped bass and I promised them a fish this trip. I had put the biggest of my three bass in the cooler and called it a day around 11:00 am. I was for now, “Over It”, and the thought of a home cooked chicken Parmesan and pasta dinner took priority over standing in the pounding surf with 35 degree winds blowing in my face. I cleaned up the truck as best I could, got a hot shower and headed for a good dinner and relaxing evening in a warm and cozy house. Dinner was awesome and I was fast asleep by 8:30 (hence no update last night, sorry).
Day 6 (Dead slow, then awesome!)
The idea of sleeping in at my friend’s house in a warm snuggly bed sounded like a great idea (I actually woke up in the same exact position I passed out in last night) but my body is now programmed to be up at 4am. So, of course, you know what happens here - I’m wide awake at 4:15 am drinking coffee. My friend’s home is on a huge piece of property in the heart of farming country here in N.J., and they have 5 horses and some other critters they care for. There is a large wooded area just behind their fence line and as soon as it began to get light, I could make out the silhouette of 7 whitetail deer feeding behind the house. Add in a couple wild turkeys and some other feathered mammals and it made for a nice morning as I sipped on the coffee.
Once the cup of coffee was gone however, I was itching to get back into it and jumped back in the truck and headed for the beach. The weather today is changing and there is a significant change in the very near future. Without going into it now, it looks like it is going to get COLDER.
I arrived at the beach and found the Atlantic to be pretty darn flat, with minimal waves and surf. The wind had switched to the southwest, which tends to calm the crashing waves. This is both good and bad because it makes it much easier to cast a long distance, but it also pushes the bait and stripers further away from the shoreline. This scenario was gonna take some thinking…
Reminding myself of my own slogan, “Fish smarter, not harder” got me thinking about where a fish might be if there was one nearby along the shoreline. Structure is always the key and surf fishing is no different. That being said, there is not any traditional structure (reefs, rocks, ledges) in the surf, but there are sandbars and “cuts” that are formed by waves, currents and strong undertows. The trick is finding them and making good use of them. The key to finding bars and cuts is to scout out the beach at the very bottom of the low tide. When the tide is out, the sandbars are very shallow, causing the waves to break differently than at high tide. What you look for is how the wave breaks and what the whitewater produced by the wave does as it moves over the shallow sand. The more white water, the shallower the bottom and the less white water, the deeper the water is. Therefore, the key is to find clean, non foamy water at the lowest tide and mark it on your handheld GPS for later reference when the tide begins to come in.
Just as the tide was about to come in, I found a very shallow bar with cuts on both the north and south sides of it. The shallow bar would allow me to wade out further than normal and cast my lures into the deeper cuts where the bait and stripers travel. This homework and effort paid off !! As soon as it got dark and the tide began to come in, I began catching stripers. Seven total, ranging in size from 26” to 33” (about 13 pounds). I was able to use my lightest rod and reel combo because the light west wind allowed me to cast a small Daiwa SP Minnow a pretty good distance. Catching bass is great. Catching them in the surf, on light tackle, in the pitch black is even more exciting!
Talk about being one with your surroundings. It takes a while to acquire your night vision when night fishing in the surf and you have to study the cadence of the breaking waves as you wade out as far as possible in the 50 degree water. Too far and a wave will get you soaked, or worse, knock you down and into the water. This is not a good scenario when wearing chest waders. You must always pay close attention to the incoming waves as they come at you in the dark. At the same time, you are casting as hard and as far as you can out into the black abyss. Again, timing and a sensitive feel on the rod is all that lets you know your lure has landed and you can flip the bail and start reeling. The next challenge is not reeling your lure up into your rod tip because, again, you cannot see when your lure is close by and at the end of the retrieve. It’s all timing and I even go as far as counting the amount of time it takes to retrieve the lure in from an average cast. After some time of taking this all in without seeing anything really gets you in tune with your surroundings. Your sense of sight is obviously gone, but it’s amazing how acute the balance of your senses become to make up for the lost vision.
Fishing for bass in the dark is all about the strike. You cannot see it, or anticipate it. You just know it can happen at any second. When it does it’s so easy to get excited. The initial strike and run from a striper is so powerful it’s almost indescribable. Again, the lack of vision really adds to the excitement because you have no idea where your fish is going or how far out it is, especially when they burn line off the drag. You must really be one with your fishing rod and understand how every angle of the rod bending and line pulling feels because this is the only way to gauge where the fish is. It is fun!
All of my fish came of the same lure, the “Daiwa SP Minnow”. This is a hard plastic swimming plug that only dives a foot or so below the surface. The lure color was all black. Amazing how a bass can see a black lure in the dark, with white, foamy water churning all around him, but they do. This lure started off pristine, but the bass saw to it that it earn some battle scars by night’s end.
Just when I thought I was going to have to post up a picture of a skunk, I was able to pull off a great night by applying the basic principles of what we teach in our classes. Structure is the key…
Tomorrow morning may be my last day because as I mentioned, we are in for a major weather change. Colder and windier is not in my plans, so I will have to make a decision at some point about whether to keep fishing or go visit family and friends and just watch football on Sunday. I am going to give it a shot tomorrow (Saturday) though. Hopefully the weekend crowds won’t be too bad.
As I mentioned yesterday, we were in for a major weather change and I had a strong feeling the best of my trip was behind me. I awoke to much colder temps and a major wind shift, along with countless weekend warriors that descended upon the beach from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania. I decided to give it a try for a few hours anyway, just to see what would happen.
After my last awesome breakfast at Betty and Nick’s, I made it into the park to find a zoo. Fishermen and 4-wheel drive trucks were everywhere and none of them appeared to be catching fish. I decided the smartest thing to do was to head directly to the spot I caught the stripers just a few hours ago and see what happens. I knew I only had a few hours of fishing as the air was getting colder by the minute as a major weather pattern took over the region. The temp’s were forecasted to be in the twenties (20’S) by day’s end with winds at 30 mph dropping the wind chill factor down to single digits. Remember, I don’t do cold.
Well, to end this part quickly, I got nothing, nodda-but maybe a slight case of frostbite on my casting finger. It’s amazing how cold the base of the reel gets where it attaches to the fishing rod reel seat. I gave it a couple hours and then just sat in my truck looking out over the ocean and took it all in for a few more minutes. The fishing was awesome, the weather not too bad for the trip and the experience and opportunity of coming back here was awesome. It was time to pack up the fishing gear, check out of my room and head into town to visit some friends and warm up.
A couple hours later I arrived at James’ house where he and his wife had the fireplace going. I spent the afternoon with them, and then went to visit some other friends in the evening. One thing I always promise myself when I get back home is to treat myself to a true Philadelphia Cheese steak. James and I ran down to the local Italian joint and ordered up a couple then sat down in front of the tube to watch the Flyers game (Jersey people are diehard Philles, Flyers and Eagles fans so this was mandatory). I had a great visit and enjoyed the cheese steak and the Flyers actually beat the Islanders!
23 degrees. That’s what I awoke to. That’s all I’m saying about that. (freakin cold weather!) I did in fact bring warm clothes, but not multiple arctic survival suits! I had the chance to visit some family in the morning and drive around my old neighborhood where I and my friends played street hockey. You hated being the goalie because you were the one responsible for yelling “Car!” and removing the goal from the street. God help you if your mom had to run multiple errands while there was a major neighborhood game taking place because the other guys would really let you have it about the game stoppages. Great place to grow up and a lot of memories. Most kids today (mine included) will never get to experience that as the world has changed so much…
James and I watched the Dallas Cowgirls beat up on the New York Gi Ants Sunday afternoon and I was in bed after his wife made us some awesome lasagna. My plan was to get up early as possible and get as many miles behind me as of course, yet another weather system was blasting towards me from Texas. Torrential rain and gusty winds are expected all day Tuesday. I left James’ house just before 6 am and made it all the way to South Carolina before that morning coffee got the better of me and the flashing “Low Fuel” alarm blinked faster.
Nine and a half hours without stopping or re-fueling is pretty good, I think. Aside from a traffic crash on 95 in Washington that slowed me down for about 45 minutes the ride was uneventful.
At about 7:00 pm, my eyes were starting to burn and the forecasted rain was starting to fall. Just after I crossed over the Georgia border, I took the first exit and checked into a hotel. I made it a bit further today, which was what I planned, and I won’t have as far to drive in the rain tomorrow. My plan tomorrow is to actually drive to Stetson University and pick up Casey for his Thanksgiving break. I hope to be at his dorm around 4 o’clock and after we grab a quick bite to eat, we will hit I4 (ugh) and head west towards the left side of Florida.
The rain is supposed to be bad, so I’m just going to sit in the right hand lane at 55 mph and putts along. I just wanna get home in one piece.
I will finalize the trip stats with mileage, fish, etc after the holiday. Thx for watching up to now !
I hit the road again at 6am and left Georgia for the Florida line. The weather was not as bad (yet) and I was able to make it all the way to Jacksonville before it got ugly. Travelling I95 in Jacksonville is not a nice experience, especially with blinding rain and Thanksgiving traffic. Why people feel the need to drive at 85 mph like idiots in the rain is beyond me, but they do.
I made it to Stetson without any drama and picked Casey up. We left his dorm and got onto I4 just in time for the Orlando rush-hour traffic, Yeah !! Actually the traffic wasn’t too bad until we hit I75 and the Tampa exchange. The rain finally caught up to us and the drive got pretty sketchy. We just took our time in the right hand lane and did it smart. It took us almost four hours to get home, but we arrived safe!
Tallied 2,670.8 miles
Averaged 21.8 mpg (Driving in 4-wheel drive on the beach skews this number).
Averaged 25 mpg on the highway before hitting the beach.
Used only 128.4 gallons of gas (BTW, gas is much cheaper in NJ)
Drove a total of 52 hours and 9 minutes
I caught more than 3 dozen bass, some shad, one herring and one very fat winter flounder. I experienced no mechanical or equipment failures, with the exception of the crappy Penn Reels.
It was a great trip and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a different fishing experience without a fancy boat, electronics and all the advantages of modern technology. If anyone is interested, I may be going back up in the Spring when the giant stripers run!
The best thing about fishing is the time spent with great guys and having a good time. Today was one of those days. I had a boat full of members . Joe , Gary, Tom and Dirk . Going out to only 58′ of water we boated Grouper ,Lane snapper , large Grunts and hooked up with a undersize Cobia . We lost a smoker king free lining taken most of my line out to only to snap at the reel ?. Also lost a large groper at boat side ( the one that got away ). On the way back we picked up two kingfish trolling. It was another great day, Thanks guys for making it. Bob
I had been looking for a day when calmer weather and my schedule would allow getting back out on the Gulf. The choice of today turned out to be a good one. I worked some structure out at 45 feet. The water temps were down to 75 degrees. I threw out the hook, but the wind and the current kept landing me off of my mark. Fortunately, the fish didn’t care — they were scattered everywhere. I moved to 4-5 different spots and they were all productive. I sabiki’ed a half dozen baitfish off of the bottom, until they quit cooperating. They took turns being free-lined off of the side of the boat, while I worked shrimp off of the bottom. They hooked up of a couple of sharks, a barracuda, and two more good runs ending in break-offs. The shrimp got consistent action and quite a mixed bag. That added to the final tally at least four limits of Mangrove Snapper, some grunts, a flounder, yellowtail snapper, Spanish Mackerel, undersize red and gag grouper, and surprisingly a parrotfish. Four dozen shrimp exhausted, I thought I would troll some artificials a while, but the seas had built up enough to make that effort wet and annoying, and instead, opted to get back to the dock with plenty of daylight to begin the fish, gear and boat cleaning ritual.