fishing

Isla Mujeres, Mexico Fishing Trip

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!

 

Thursday 2/5

 

   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. 

Fog to KW

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.

bearing line

   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!

USCG

   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. 

sunset over cuba

GPS Near Cuba

red lights cross

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! 

cuba current 2

cuba currents

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).

fuel receipt

   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 !

time out

For yet another night, we ate sandwiches.  At least I would get a good night’s sleep, and Ruben kept us entertained…

Ruben Praying

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!

ruben pork

   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. 

isla dock 1st night

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.

Ruben rigging baits

   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

fish walmart 1

fish walmart 3 fish walmart 2

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…………

Pelican 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. 

stripteaser_billfish_dredge

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.

  Video 2

   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:

 Repair

   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…..

loud enuff isla night

  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! 

flowers

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.

laundry

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.

Tour of Isla

   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. 

me isla rocks small

rocks small

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.

Escalator 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.

kids no helmets

kid no helmet 2

   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.

louise ballyhoo 1

Louise ballyhoo 3  

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.

bait seal 3

bait seal 1

bait seal 2

   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.

L8R

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.

cemetary

   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.

dive boat engines

  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.

dive boat electronics

   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.

Mackerel dish 2mackerel dish

me tony snorkel lunch

   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.

me drive snorkel boat 2me drive snorkel boat

   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.

L8R

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.

L8R

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.

sails tailing frigates small size

   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.   

tuna over side

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.

sail best 1sail jump 3sail jump good 1

Sailfish Video

   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. 

blake BFT

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

Sailfish Video 2

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.

Dredge Video

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 Vid Vid 2 Vid 3 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… sail jump 1 Sail jump 3 whale shark pic 1

Continued.

   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.

cuba sunset cuban sunset 2

    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. 20140224_183639_resized 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! Trip End 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. 116_2802 116_2804 116_2805 20140219_131700_resized deep ledge isla devon ruben sail boatside DSCN2410 DSCN2412 DSCN2414 frigates high sky frigates low GPS Near Cuba Sailfish Video 4

Awesome Snapper Day !!

Today, I was able to align all of the stars and pull off a fantastic day fishing!  The plan was to do nothing but some serious “Technical” fishing on some ledges about 11 miles out.  Just in cell phone range and within sight of land.

The weather was absolutely perfect with flat calm seas, no wind and not a single wave.  I had the opportunity to hook up with Greg Dunley who was born and raised in Florida and fished with me in the Islands a few moons ago.  Greg has wired and put his hands on a lot of BIG fish and is also really good at bottom fishing here in S/W Florida.  Also on board was Captain Tim, who teaches many of our classes in both the classroom and on the water.  Tim has evolved into one of the best snapper fishermen I’ve seen on our coast and he has a unique knack for putting quality snapper in the boat.  Also accompanying us today were Shaun and Kyle Luloffs from the Gulf to Bay Fishing Club.  These brothers have also turned into great fishermen over the years and have an absolute passion for bottom fishing.  They are always the last people to leave after our monthly meetings and stay to help clean up.  I wanted to show them a great time for their commitment to our club.

At 6:30 am, I fired up the big CAT engines on the “Loud Enuff” and we headed out the Venice Inlet.  What is great about this time of year is that you do not have to run far to put quality fish in the boat.  This would be proven on the first and second drop of the day.  As soon as Captain Tim’s cut bait hit the bottom, he was tight on a fat 3 lb mangrove snapper.  Immediately following that, I hooked into one of those “endangered” and “threatened” Gag groupers that went about 13 lbs.   This is a great time to explain what I mean by “Technical” fishing.  Our tackle today consisted of medium/heavy action INSHORE fishing rods.  Line was 10 lb test Suffix 832 braid, leader 25lb test Fluorocarbon, size 1/0 circle hooks, and split shots for weight (if we used any at all).  The big gag was caught on this exact outfit and goes against the grain with regard to typical “grouper tackle”.

tim mang 1gag1

There was a fairly strong current over the ledge, and our chum was pulled away rather quickly.  This was both good and bad in that I was able to anchor the boat very close to the ledge (by the way, anchoring a 60′ sport fisherman in a precise spot is not as easy as you think) and the fish were directly below us, but the drifting chum also helped to pull in fish that were on the other side of the structure.

The bite would get hot, then slow for a bit.  Kyle Luloffs put on a “Porgy Catching Clinic” as he, for some reason, was catching one after the other of these great eating reef fish.  Nobody else caught a Porgy, but him.

Kyle porgy 1

Our baits consisted of both cut mullet and ballyhoo, along with 10 dozen live shrimp from Mahi Mac’s Bait and Tackle.  Kyle then decided the add some variety to the fish box and threw in a fat Red Grouper, also caught on light spinning gear.

Kyle rg 1

Captain Tim somehow found yet another one of those “endangered” and “threatened” Gag Grouper on a tiny piece of cut mullet.

tim gag 1

Then the snapper bite turned on.  It took a while, but we were able to pick at QUALITY mangrove snapper for the next few hours.  I made the comment that : “You almost have to be stupidly stubborn in waiting the snapper out.”  This is where a LOT of bottom fishermen fail in snapper fishing because they are not patient enough and simply move onto another spot because they haven’t caught any snapper.  Like we teach in all of our snapper classes, you have to wait snapper out.  Just when you think you should  move is when you need to try harder.  Most likely, they are there…..  Today, they were there !

shawn mang1

me lane 1

tim mang 7tim mang 6

tim greg mang 1

Greg mang 1greg big mang 3

greg bent rod 1

tim mang 4

bucket o fish

Today was just one of those really rare fishing days where it all came together.  Best part was I actually got to “Fun Fish” with a great group of guys!

 

Lessons to take away:  Remember from our classes, when the water cools and is clear, you must reduce your tackle and BAIT.

Fish get lethargic when the water cools and we have had nothing but one cold front after the next hitting our area.

Use small baits (Cut pieces of mullet and ballyhoo).

Lighten all your leader, sinkers and hooks.

Be patient!!  The fish’s metabolism slows as the water cools and they are not really interested in a big bait.

Today, based on our past weather patterns, small baits and light tackle were the key to success!

Offshore Sarasota Jan 6th

Went out today with the intentions to put my friends cousins from New York on some Goliath Grouper just to watch them struggle…… :) . So we started out the day at M5 to load up on spanish mackeral and with in a short amount of time we had about 15 in the cooler and off we went  to our goliath spot. After an hour we had one pull off within seconds and no other takers……..darn! So we decided to change things up and look for some new spots in the area, after about 30 minutes of crusing around we came across what looked like a really nice ledge. So first drift over the spot and instant tripple hook up!!!!! Ended up being two gag grouper and one nice fat red grouper, so after we took some photos, released the gags and boxed the red I decided to anchor on this spot to see what else it had to offer. After about 2 hours we ended with countless red grouper and mangrove snapper! I was very suprised to see the snapper bitting the way they were because of the full moon coming up and the fact that we had no chum at all, they must have been hungry. We called it a day around 1pm, ended up keeping 3 red grouper and 16 snappers for the dinner table not too bad for a day when we wernt even going for food fish…lol.

Here are some pictures from today

Slick calm conditions all day, bait cut bonita, fishing depth 65ft

Offshore Sarasota

Headed out today with snapper and grouper in mind, as Aaron from orlando wanted to have a day on the water and some fresh fillets. Left the inlet around 7am to a proven snapper spot of mine. Well we ended up with 30 Mangrove, 7 trigger fish, 10 porgy, 6 lane snapper, 3 Aj’s and one lucky Scamp grouper that went home with me :)    .After our limit of snapper was reached we picked up and headed over to a nice ledge that I found a few years ago that always produces to see what the red grouper were up to ……. well they were coming over the gunnel as fast as we could get  our bait down. Ended up with 12 red grouper up to 15lbs and let go atleast 30 or more shorts. All in all a great day on the water, ended up with 65lbs of cleaned fillets, lots of gag grouper were caught and released today as well. Here are a few pictures from today.

Every thing but the grouper were caught on live shrimp, red grouper were caught on bonita strips and frozen sardines.

hope you enjoy

Captain Tim