Wednesday, March 26, 2008

3/26 - 3 - Fold Trip...R&D on a beautiful day

Okay, I'll admit. I'm always excited by new tackle and techniques. So I'm sort of fascinated by a system that's all the rage. You can call it Butterfly jigging, or Free style jigging. Actually it's nothing new as I discussed before. But I have never done it. It's nothing more than vertical jigging with long thin shaped heavy jigs. Letting them go straight to the bottom and then jig them, so you basically "walk the dog" with them as you reel them to the surface.

Here's a link with video's that will explain it: http://www.spanishflytv.com/theater/sponsors-butterfly-jigs-1.php

So not expecting to catch anything in March with 65 degree water at Montgomery's reef, I still wanted to head out and try my new jigs and technique. While there, I had to learn how to use my RayMarine C-120 Chartplotter/GPS/Sounder, I use it every day in the river. But in the year and a half I've owned my boat and the electronics, I have yet used the GPS/Plotter to head offshore, find a reef area, and go from spot to spot. You may say, "so whats...the big deal." But let me tell ya, the more dollars you spend on electronics, the more you need to learn to get the most out of them. And going from one waypoint to another is something I haven't yet done. No need to do that when your in the river all the time.

And then there's the third thing I wanted to play with, and it's my parachute size sea anchor that I picked up at Strike Zone, at their side walk sale last week. Where I paid literally pennies on the dollar for it. And actually went there, hoping to see one for sale. Because this summer when I go offshore, there won't be any trolling. Spending big dollars on fuel driving around. I'll be slow drift fishing instead, and wanted a parachute type sea anchor to slow me down during high current or wind conditions.

So Nick Watson and I got to Montgomery's reef, in the residual from yesterday's small craft caution conditions. The swell this morning was big and close, but not a huge deal. First spot was all small Triggerfish and small Red Snappers at first using cut Boston Mackerel for bait. Nick did most of the bait fishing as I practiced with my jig rod and technique.




















I had to keep my cool as Nick was working on the fish and I had my eyes on figuring out all my Chart plotter/sounder/ GPS had to offer. Nothing like learning with no instruction manual, I left that at home! And cussing every time I hear Nick set the hook on another fish, even though the first spot didn't produce any keepers.

We didn't anchor, that would have just been more work, so we just drift fished. And as Nick said on the way out..."We may need the luck of the Irish" Being lucky and Irish, he ended up with a 21" Gag Grouper.

Nicks the drummer for the Celtic Rock Band, RATHKELTAIR, and originator of the now 2nd annual Jacksonville Irish Music Festival at the fair grounds down town April 26th. Here's the link to his band http://www.rathkeltair.com/ and the festival http://www.jaxirishfest.com/ I hope to See you there, if you're tired of what you hear on the radio these days.
I figured a lot that I didn't know about my RayMarine electronics pretty quickly. Learned I probably wasn't gonna catch any Snapper or Grouper like Capt Jose Wejebe in Key West on my economy versions of the butterfly jig. So we moved on to another reef area that I always fished with success back in my offshore days.

So after a quick 5 mile run in now almost slick calm seas, I ran over a big ledge on the way to a spot I had punched in to the GPS. I quickly stopped, spun around and went to take a look.


"Ahhhh, this has to be the south breaks", I told Nick. Every since going to GPS latitude and longitude, I have no real waypoints. I never converted all my 1000 offshore fishing spots over from LORAN numbers. So we were kinda flying by the seat of my pants today. But this 10' relief lime rock ledge had to be my old Snapper spot. I baited up and played "catch up". And they were home. I got slammed on my first drop. And caught the first legal Red Snapper.

It's been a long, long time since I had caught a Snapper, let alone a legal over 20 incher. It wasn't much over 20 inches, but I didn't care. We had a Snapper in the fish box!

We end up fishing this spot for hours, and I even
got to mark the whole length of the ledge on my GPS. My own spots, on my own plotter! I believe this is the same area I fished for years. And have pulled a thousand pounds of Snapper off of years ago. So I was excited.


Nick and I caught a bunch of small Seabass, 3- Sharks, and probably 10 Snapper off these set of ledges, and caught 5 keepers. Which we could keep 2 each, for supper.

We finished up the day, that had us drifting really fast all the time due to the ground swell and breeze, using my big parachute sea-anchor, which I was dieing to try. And it worked like a dream slowing our drift, which led to easier catching, of more Snapper.

I can't even remember when my last offshore trip was. It should be memorable, but isn't. I vowed to not mix inshore and offshore trips while doing charters. It's too much work doing one day offshore, and then the next in the river. Especially when I have day after day reserved.

But this summer I may do some mixed trips, for King Mackerel, Cuda's, and whatever bites. As long as I have my electronics mastered, working flawlessly and can remember what button to push to do what!

I never caught anything on my jig rod and nock-off butterfly jigs. But I think when summer gets here, I'll get my chance then.

Snapper dinner tomorrow, and then time to get ready for Friday through Monday charters. Good reports came from the Trout chasers today, even though I heard the current was very weak. Yep, don't expect any incoming tide current this weekend. Check your tide books...after the full moon is over, comes really weak tides. Believe me, all it's gonna do is make my job harder this weekend.

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