Sunday, June 29, 2008


Had Dan Kelly and his two sons out for a day of pulling on big fish. So I hoped.

But like a 6th sense, I just had a funny feeling this morning. It was cooler, which is always welcomed. But just felt different than, last Thursday. If you aren't sweating hard at 8am in the heat, it's just not a typical late June day on the water. Greenies at the rocks, were the usual hunt and peck, to catch them.

So we sped off towards just a few Shrimp boats out dragging on a Sunday morning. There wasn't nearly the dolphins behind them. And I glanced at the water temp and wasn't shocked. Since when I was out on Thursday, the water temp seemed kinda cool. But this morning I actually marked temps ranging from 75-78 degrees. What happened to the warm 80 degree water?

So I pulled up behind a shrimp boat and pitched a dead greenie to where the few Dolphins were diving, as I usually do for the big speedy Blacktip Sharks that I promised Dan and the boys.

Not a single bite. Tried again. No bites. Again, hung the shrimp net! Again, had a small bite that ran and then came off. The sharks were basically G-O-N-E. And the Dolphins weren't even thick.
So back to the big rocks we went. And as the tide changed we jigged up greenies much better now, as they flushed out of the river.

Then off to the Southeast hole area. We arrived and were only one of only two boats there. And on the way ran through water that was 74.5 to 76 degrees. That's kinda cool for the last week in June, I'd think. But bait is everywhere under the surface and just off the bottom. So it can't be all that bad.

I ran one greenie on top and the other weighted with a two ounce lead a few feet of the leader. (also know as the down-rigger-less king rig) Yeah, low tech catches them too. Just ask Capt Fred Morrow, he prides himself in low tech. And to tell ya the truth, it's a lot easier, I think.

We slow trolled the exact same area I fished on Monday and Wednesday and had strikes. It took about 30 minutes, but one rig went off.....and it was the down line with the weight on it.

Dan Jr. was on the reel and did a good job of easing the fish to the boat. A snake King. Not huge, but a kingfish none the less, and in my mind....Finally a fish!

As we bled the fish out, cleaned up a bit and put the fish in the fish bag, I looked around and now had 11 other boats in the same area.

I told the guys, in my mind that means that there is now a 11:1 shot at catching that one big King that might come through here. My dad would always do that, count the boats in an area we were approaching as we moved from spot to spot. And figure the odds, especially during a tournament.

So we gave it a few more minutes and went back north and hit the "rip line".

No one around, but then again. No bites, either.

So we ran back to the two remaining shrimp boats, and gave the shark fishing another try.
The water temp in the chum hole was a solid 78 degrees at least. But still caught no sharks behind the shrimp boats.

Then we packed it in for the river and anchored up and dropped greenies on circle hooks inside the south jetty. No sooner one bait was on the bottom, it was getting hit. But no taker. I checked the bait and the head of the greenies was all chewed up, that's all.

We stayed close for maximizing, "baits in the water". And the one fish was it. I really have a feeling the cooler water moved in and pushed the fish and sharks somewhere else. Because I noticed on Thursday that the water seemed cooler even at PG and EF reefs.

Next up for me is Tuesday. A kids trip 1/2 day. With a dad and 6 year old that I had out last year on July 5th or 6th.

Friday, June 27, 2008

6/26 - Bent rods, from start to finish.

Had Dale H. aboard today. And I've been really looking forward to having him too. I had BIG plans for Dale. He fishes all the time, and has done several 2 trips per month with me. And we've covered everything from big fat GATOR Trout at the jetties and way up river, and now since it's the depths of summer it was time to take him out for some brute fishing versus the finesse fishing with a float-rig inshore.

And since Dale is an experienced angler.
I can really step it up a notch, with Dale.

With him on board it gave me the chance to really take some photos, which will help tell the story about our day. We departed the dock before 7am and headed straight through the jetties. Dale recently caught a good sized Cobia on a friend's boat. But I wanted to show him the "man in the other brown suit." Because if he thought that Cob could "pull". Wait till he felt what I had in store, for him.

We ran, straight to a shrimp boat. I grabbed the big tackle, pitched out a bait. And I.G. - instantaneous gratification!!!!

I handed Dale the rod, and he was hooked up.

It was just that simple. Dale was into a Blacktip Shark. Turns out, it was a smaller one than we've had lately. Only around 50-60 pounds. But none the less, super strong!

The fight didn't take as long as the larger 100 pound plus sharks. But we weren't done yet!

And neither was Dale. This fish was just a crack of dawn warm up tug of war. It was a really beautiful morning. And what made it really great is there wasn't a soul around. Just three shrimpers and us.

Then we went for round TWO. And it was as simple as pitching a bait up to the shrimp boat, waiting for the line to come tight. And HANG ON! But this time it was a big Blacktip. And we got the full show. From 100 yards away, the shark would jump and cork screw through the air. I'm not talking half hearted little jumps, but rather 10 feet in the air leaps while twisting too. And this is where you have to keep a super tight line, or the shark will spin up in any slack and break the line. I tried my best to get a photo of a flying shark during that battle. But we all know how slow a digital camera is when trying to catch the action.

After two arm straining battles, Dale was in need of a break. And the second half of our day was to commence. So while 'shakin it out', Dale got a rest while we headed to a close in reef to jig up some live baits. But when we got there, the water temp. seemed low at 78 degrees on the surface. The baits, Spanish Sardines were really tiny and very hard to catch. So we broke out the Butterfly jigging rods and gave vertical jigging a try over a few reefs. And the bites and only hook up was a big Blue Runner. So, we came this far and only caught maybe 5 sardines. So I had a plan. Run out a bit further offshore, get on top of some big structure maybe find better bait, or just work the jigs. So that's what we did.
The Ocean was slick. And even passed a Submarine on the way to the next spot.

Drawing from my experience from years ago when I fished offshore as much as I did inshore. We pulled up to a spot, that should have just what we were looking for, on the butterfly jigs.

And as we tried for live baits, we still came up with none and never really saw much activity on the surface either.

Butterfly jigging or Free style jigging is when you use specialized rods and tackle, and jig flat sided heavy metal lures vertically, imitating a wounded bait fish. It's not easy, and you have to acquire some rhythm and technique. Plus, be able to see on your bottom scope right where the fish are, over a natural or artificial reef. Then send the jig straight to them. Hoping that the most aggressive fish can't stand to see the sight of the lure right in their face. And when hooks up occur. You end up going toe to toe with them on extremely light but unbelievably durable rods, reels, leaders, hooks and line. So to keep the fish out of the structure. And one of the most aggressive schooling fish on a reef is usually an Amberjack! Known for being a fish that schools, chases lures, and is the MULE of the reef. An Amberjack of any size is a blast, unless you hook into a really big one. Many years ago it wasn't uncommon to catch 100 pounders. But over the years of excessive commercial harvest, the fish sizes have dwindled. Today, a really big one seems to be 50-60 pounds off Jacksonville's coast . My personal best is about 5o pounds or so, many years ago. Amberjack's can be teased to the surface, and are curious fish, willing to eat about anything, any time.

I was the first to hook up, and quickly figured out the rhythm the fish were wanting my jig to do, so to stimulate viscous attacks from atop the reef. The first hook up was really big, and this fish was handing my my butt on a silver platter! After several heated minutes, the hook pulled. But I was ADDICTED INSTANTLY! I knew I would be. And I have dreamed about this moment. I had made a pretty big investment in Jigging rods, jigs, hooks, and leaders over this last winter. And today I was finally using what I invested hundreds of dollars in. And it was down right exciting as hell! This was like hooking up the Blacktip sharks like we did this morning, over a reef and on much, much lighter tackle, which makes it so fun! But I would have loved to see what I hooked.

I of course now figured out what kinda of jigging action the fish preferred. And then it was Dale's turn for a complete knock-down drag out battle. Which ended in a broke leader and lost jig, too.

They say, watch out! Because the biggest and meanest and most aggressive are the first fish to strike, when the jig goes down for the first time over a reef. And Dale and I soon learned that. Holy smokes we got "schooled".

But after a very quick learning curve, we started hooking up Amberjack's left and right. And man was it fun. I was so happy. You may have read in prior reports about how "into" this I could be, if I could just find the day to get out there and do it. Well, today was the day. And I was so glad to share it with Dale.

Besides the "AJ's" we had Barracuda's lurking under the boat, along with Spadefish, and Remora's (shark suckers). The Cuda's are there because they are smart. They know hooked fish will show up at boats. And like the Pelican's, Seagulls, Herron's and Egrets back at the boat ramp. Have learned boats mean a free meal. Or at least like to wrap their jaws with those snaggly teeth around a fishes tail at boat side. Dale and I had numerous double hook-ups on AJ's so one cuda got the taste of an AJ at least. But later met his demise, via my gaff hook as he thought it was safe to go for a second bite. But not really. Because I free-gaffed that dude, right at the side of the boat. It thought it was sneaky, but not nearly as sneaky as Capt Dave is.

We whooped up on these Amberjacks, in the 31" range. Hooking and loosing, becoming entangled with fish crossing each other. It was pure mayhem for several hours. When you get back to back on hook ups like we were the size of the AJ's wasn't a concern. They weren't the big ones of yesteryear. But provided plenty of action. Dale and I both think we might of had some Grouper or Snapper hooked up. Because we both lost several fish when jigging just off the bottom, and only got them when concentrating our efforts just off the bottom. All the AJ's came between 10-30 feet below the boat. We were also hoping for a possible King Mackerel, and made casts out away from the boat, to cover as much water column in hopes of snagging a king. But it never happened.

The bite seemed to just stop around 2pm, so we packed it in and headed back to the dock to clean fish.

With arms and backs sore. With a really good feeling of accomplishment. This is the kind of ache, that makes anglers happy!

And this is the kind of trip I don't mind doing when I have one person who has shown me that he has what it takes to last through bent rod after bent rod. The kind of trip you usually see on a cable TV fishing show. It was one heck of a great day.


But I got home and cleaned up the boat and put all the tackle away. Had my dog, Dusky out in the yard with me, like I always do. And when I was done we both went inside to have a cold drink and make something to eat

But as Dusky came inside, I could tell something was wrong with her. She was disoriented, and wasn't acting her spunky self. Spunky, for a 15 year old dog, I mean. I took some of the Amberjack, sliced it into thin pieces and her and I went to the back porch so I could make some Blackened fish, to add to my usual "big" salad, for dinner. When she was in the back yard with me, she just didn't seem right. So after I was done, I called for her to come back inside the house with me. And she acted as if she couldn't see. And was falling over. I quickly picked her up and laid her in the kitchen.

She was shaking and her eyes were twitching with her neck all bent to her side. I thought she had a stroke. I called my dad for help and he and mom came over. We rushed her to the emergency Vet clinic, and they were so busy being after hours that we sat for 4 hours in the car, waiting to see the doctor....reminds of a human emergency room! The place was so busy, we were shocked. Dad and I sat with her in the car, hoping she was going to make it

We got there at 6pm and by almost 10pm we finally took her in to see the doctor. The Vet told us she had Canine geriatric vestibular syndrome, basically called "old Dog" vestibular disease.

Which is cause by a lesion in either the brain or inner ear. And within 72 hrs and up to a week, the dog will return to normal, with maybe only a slight head tilt still present. We arrived home at nearly mid-night. I was so tired, but so upset I couldn't sleep. But Dusky slept through the night, not being able to get up and move.

As I am doing this report, I go check on her every couple minutes. If she doesn't return to normal with the help of a prescription in a week. Then comes the decision, that will hurt me the worst.

It was one hell of a day. With a terrible finish.

It's been just me and her for so long. And she's such a great dog, that's even named after a Shark.

This is going to be a long hard week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

6/24 - Breakin' in a greenhorn.

Had Patricia M. and her 14 yr. old grandson Brendan visiting from Texas, aboard today. When I talked to her yesterday evening I said, "tell your grandson to eat his Wheaties...he's gonna need it".

Well, he needed more than Wheaties. Because to use an ole 'Celtic' term (inside joke) used by my friend Nick Watson...Brendan didn't seem too "Sprightly", even as we pulled away from the dock at 7am.

I jigged up bait, for possible live bait King Fishing (King Mackerel) after we paid a visit to the man in the big brown suit...the BlackTip Sharks, that are infesting the waters behind the shrimp boats. Again, big fat greenies at the inlet were a real bear to catch. Their small, and far and few between. Probably because I haven't been out there on the best tide to catch them.

So after putting maybe (10) Greenies in the live well we headed toward the Shrimp boats dragging beyond the inlet.

Being totally unaware of any one's fishing experience, I give as quick a lesson as I can. But this is really an O.J.T. fishing. When hooked up to a 100 pounder, dumping 3/4's the spool of line on the reel. There's no explaining every aspect. Ya just have to do it.

I pulled up on a shrimp boat just as they were hauling back the nets. I took about 3 casts before I put the bait in the right spot........then it was game on! I handed Brendan the rod.

It was about the only time that he looked "sprightly" as he held on for, my tackles sake!
He started pumping and reeling as I coached him.

I never know if the kids I take are really into what we're doing. I certainly cannot ever get a read on many of them. And the ones that I do feel are having a ball, of course tell me. But most are blank pages of paper. If I only got to go on a private charter to go after Trout to Sharks when I was their age. I'd probably be more addicted than I am now.

Brendan worked the shark closer to the boat and than had enough. He did good. But his arms were giving out on him. So now I gave some instruction of how to handle these bad dudes at boat side. But this Blacktip wanted no parts of us or the boat. The rod was doubled over into a horseshoe shape for probably 20 minutes before I could hand the rod back to Brendan, so we could get a photo and then a release.

We had the shark boil the surface, then come up and see us. Then splash us, then smack the side of the boat with it's tail, then splash us again, then finally I handed the rod off to Brendan, and immediately the shark would take advantage of it and go south again. So I pulled it up from under the boat, and would attempt a hand off again. Then I realized I needed my leadering glove (btw, a Kevlar filleting glove makes a great leadering glove for these fish). So Pat while trying to take a few photos got me my glove and Brendan and I went for it.

I usually want the shark to flip over and give the "I'm really tired sign" before going for the photo and release. And we barely got it.

Brendan was suppose to stick his head somewhere in the photo, but between the shark fight and the un-Sprightly-ness, we missed him and just got my big _ _ _ in there holding the shark at boat side.

I say, let'em chew on this.... does Aluminum alloy taste good?

In my old boat I had marks in the fiberglass where these same Sharks chewed on the gunnel of the boat. But before I could pull this one any closer it copped a bad attitude, so I just cut the leader....quick!

We regrouped, and packed in the chasing shrimp boats and headed to the kingfish spot.
By now Brendan was in the head down, looking kinda pukey stage of life. But we proceeded.

I decided to forget about trolling these tiny live Greenies for Kings and instead I set up a good slow drift, with two sea anchors. The wind was blowing SW so if we drifted we cover the same ground as on a troll.

I pitched out two live greenies had the boat laying nicely. And commenced to waiting for a load ZZZZZZing on the clicker of my mini B-197 Accurate twin drag reels. Brendan was what I call a, d-e-a-d soldier by now. Sea sick? We just couldn't tell. But lifeless, Yes.

So Pat and I sat and talked. And as I was reeling in a line to check my mighty but tiny live baits, one of the rods bent over and the line took off with a Kingfish on it. And by the time I was handing the rod to Pat.......The fish was off the hook.

Dang, I'm not having much luck lately keeping these fish hooked, and getting them to the boat is almost like asking too much. Of course the fish hit right when I was in the middle of checking the baits. Perfect timing.

I put on all new fresh baits and continued to drift. Pat was concerned for Brendan, and he was pretty lifeless. So we gave it a few more minutes and headed back to the dock.

Damn, two days in a row with strikes. Two days in a row with lost Kings. And a brand new fish bag, that I haven't even used yet.

Well, I have Dale H. on board Thursday and he's a healthy and strong fishing animal. So I expect to see all this turn around. I just hope he doesn't get to wore out on after joining the Hundred pounder club, first. Because we ain't gonna be quitting after just one.

Monday, June 23, 2008

6/23 - Fun in the big water

I had the Green's aboard today. Can't remember every one's name. Probably because there were 5 of them. Fran, Dan, Dan's Mom, Dan's Dad, and 9 yr. old Mariah.

We left out early, because as usual the wind and seas start kickin' in the late afternoon.

First stop, North Jetty. Time to get some "Greenies", aka: Threadfin herring. Catching them on a bait rig. And as I was doing this, I spied the shrimp boats dragging out in the "chum hole". Just north of the inlet. The word on the water is that the big bad Black tip Sharks are ferocious out there.

The word also is that our beloved "pogies-pods" are no where to be found, really. With meager sighting of their trade mark flip & splat jumps on the surface, just a memory from years past. At least anywhere near the St. Johns River inlet. So what's new?
I caught about 10 Greenies, and figured since they are 10 times the baitfish a Pogie is anyhow we had enough for a few Kingfish later on. The Greenies live so much better in my live well...(really designed for mullet)
I did troll a few Greenies at first, waiting for the Shrimp boats to slow down and pull in the nets. That's when I'd POUNCE! And no sooner I had the Greenies out behind the boat for 5 minutes. I see two shrimp nets come up. And go back down just as fast. So I sped on over.
The crew was all up on the bow, watching the Dolphins going crazy chasing the shrimp boat, when I made a cast off the side of the boat, with a dead Greenie. It no sooner sank 2 feet and it was game on as the reel spool smoked with a monster fish hooked up. I yelled to Dan, and right then it bit through the leader. I grabbed another rig and we ran up to the shrimp boat again, and I made a cast and it happened all over again. What the hell...
That shrimp boat took off fast and I re-rigged and pulled up to another one going slower. Made a cast and 2 seconds after the bait hit the water, I was yelling DAN...HERE YA GO!!!

The fish smoked line off the B-870 twin drag Accurate reel like a missile. Dan, was in shock!
45 minutes later and a bucket of sweat, Dan go the Black tip Shark to the side of the boat. It was about a 125 pounder. WELCOME TO THE HUNDRED POUNDER CLUB.

Those Bass in a Georgia pond, are a bit different than these, it takes serious muscle or technique to land one of these any time soon. The photo's don't do these 6 foot long and powerful Sharks much justice. So, since it was Dan's Dad's trip, it was time for the ole man to give a try.

So we ran up behind the shrimp boat again, I pitched a bait out, and was instantly hooked up.
It proved too much, so Dan took over again. (poor guy) And he went back to back on another bruiser. This one was about 80-90 pounds, a tad shorter than the last.
So now it was time for a King Mackerel. So we stayed right there and trolled some Greenies in the chum hole, without a sniff.

That's okay. I knew where we could go and be in much better conditions.
Once there, we had no less that 4 kingfish strikes, and three great runs, and even had one right up to the boat about 12-14 pounds, that ran off, and the line hit the gaff handle that was in my hand pointing towards the sky, how that happened was weird, and the hooks pulled.

Then, as we put more baits out it started raining, the wind picked up and it got choppy. Plus the sky over the beach was looking dark. Time to head in.

It was an action packed day, to say the least with 5 people aboard. But we managed just fine in the BIG METAL, boat. Damn can this boat handle some weight. It should with a 2.5 ton capacity.
Here's the pics from today. And I'll be doing all over again tomarrow, too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

6/18 - Stupidity at it's all time highest.


Monday, June 16, 2008

6/16 - Fishin' with Dad trip

Had Jim & Sophie on board today for a Fathers Day trip. Initially, had to weigh going early and fishing higher water, or go later in the day and possibly fish in heat and wind. I finally came up with, go earlier and deal with the high we left out at 8:30am.

It was a beautiful morning. The request was for
calm inshore waters, so I started in the ICW, pitching crabs, up along the grass line. Bait stealers were incessant. And although the water was high but falling, as we fished just outside a small Redfish highway that led up into the grass.

We never got bit by anything but bait stealers. Anything on the bottom just doesn't stand a chance in the summer. In the river it's StingRays, and Sharks, at the jetties it's StingRays and Sharks and in the shallows it's Pinfish, Mangrove Snappers and tiny Jacks, that will not leave a bait alone for two seconds.

So we switched to the float rig, and still of course got bit by Pinfish galore, but end up catching a few Jacks, a Ladyfish, a Trout, and a few Reds....and even a really small Red for a really small Sophie.

It was 1/2 day trip, so there's not much wiggle room. I gave big fish a try, then fell back to action instead. Sophie did real good running her float-rig rod, although her hands were so very tiny.

Recieved a pic from a friend that's sort of self explainable. But, I can't help thinking what came first?
  • Did the pole get in the way, first?
  • Or did the pole get in the way, after the boat decided it wanted to ride up front?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

6/14 - In Jacksonville??

Something you'll never see here....the Cops are still using 18' Boston Whalers, and the FWC use whatever they can get there hands on.

WOW.....From Virginia, or Maryland, I think.

Orange and Silver never looked so good.....(to me).

Pacific, 23 Super Top - w/ walk in console.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday the 13th....

Superstition, has nothing to do with the 13th.

But the 11th? Maybe....

I had Pete M. out with me on the 11th. It was after a week of "loosing touch" with my speckled fishes. Because I had my good ole Honda in the shop. Ya know, I've never owned an outboard that hasn't let me down. And I lost about $700 in that week to boot.

We literally scoured the river for big Trout bites, and never found any. All in the same areas that a week earlier, they were chewin' big time. Which is where it's about the limit of my venturing up river in a 6 hr. charter, also.

Well, after working the areas quick and thoroughly for 2 dink Jacks and 2 or 3 small Trout. We ended up at the jetties. I could tell that either it just wasn't going to happen this day, or they had moved.

At the inlet we barely got some greenies (threadfin herring) for bottom fishing baits. And all that ate them was two stingrays and one shark. We float-rigged the rocks, and couldn't even loose a live shrimp.

Needless to say, the funk was all over us. And I traveled approximately 24 miles back and forth on the river, for this????

So with that miserable day behind me. My next day up to bat was Friday the 13th. (Actually the 11th should have been the 13th!!)

I met Joe and his two sons on the morning of the 13th, geared up for some float-rig fishing, a bunch of live shrimp. Two Kingfish rods, rigged up. And my bait catching rod with a new rig tied on. And we head to the jetties. There hasn't been any Pogies anywhere around, as usual. So everyone is crowding the ends of the rocks jigging up Greenies to take offshore. And so was I.

But, the horn bellied Jacks were way thicker than the greenies, and are not any good for trolling baits either. And for every greenie I caught, I caught 25 horn-belly Jacks. I don't know the real name of these lil' bastards, and don't care. They were ferocius, is all I know. And after an hour of going back and forth between the south and north jetty looking for greenies. I only had 5 of them. So I gave up and took off to an area that's been giving up some Kingfish, and it's close to the inlet. So we blasted out there in the 2-4' seas and a stiff east south east wind.

I stopped before we even arrived near the spot, because time was ticking away. I pinned on a Greenie and pitched it behind the boat on a wire rig and let it go way, way out behind us. Then pinned on another, and set it a bit closer.

We hadn't had both baits in the water for five minutes when the longest line took off and the clicker on my mini 197 Accurate reel started screaming. One of the boys jumped up to the rod and started working on the fish. When it got closer to the boat it looked like a decent King. And since we discussed it earlier, would only keep one fish. The fish swam down the side of the boat and I stuck the gaff in the first King Mackerel I've had caught on my boat in probably 8 years.

It weighed in at 21 pounds.
(damn, the wrong dates on the camera even)

Yep, it's been a long time since I've went and dragged live or dead baits for Kingfish. And when I left out this morning, wasn't sure if we were gonna give it a try or go up river and float-rig fish.

We had 4 live greenies left in the livewell. So we continued.

We ended up getting a few strikes, having Kings sky rocket the baits and fly through the air behind the boat, lost an unknown fish, and had fish boil behind the boat. Then our bait was gone. So we headed back to the jetties and ran up river to do some float-rigging.

By now the wind inshore was howling almost due east. Sustained, not gusting 15 knots is what it felt like to me. And to top it off, the falling tide was about dead, so we lacked any good current. And all the boat did was blow around in the wind. The guys caught jacks, Mangrove snappers, Bluefish, and small Sea Bass. Then we called it a day and headed back to the dock.

But that one Kingfish, made our day. And with the lack of bait, and making due with what we had felt as if the superstition of Friday the 13th, didn't beat us. The fellas were all from Colorado, so the sights, smells and action of the day was new and enjoyable to them.

Next up and coming soon might be a Tarpon-Shark trip, with a side bar of Kingfish as a back up.

But until then, I have a father and daughter (8 years old) on Monday in the river.

I even got in a photo of the first King Mackerel on the BIG MEDAL boat. And if the gator Trout are hard to find... it won't be the last.