The Flying Kayak

Hunting, Fishing, Rambling, and Complete Outdoor Hilarity

Category: Offshore

The Offshore Drag

There’s something refreshing about running offshore to fish. Maybe it’s the change of scenery, species, or even the tackle. But it’s something that I love to do. 
Unfortunately, I’m poor. Most of my fishing consists of inshore fishing not because it’s ALL I like to do, or I’m some inshore purist. Alas, it’s merely because running offshore is so freaking expensive and I can’t afford it all the time. Gas, chum, bait, etc. It all adds up and before you know it, you’ve had to take out a loan with the bank to cover your fishing trip. 
It’d been well over a year since I had a chance to venture offshore. And it –just- so happened that during the week I ran home to visit family, the Red Snapper season had been re-opened. After getting hold of my brother, I convinced him that taking his boat offshore would be an awesome brotherly thing to do, and before I knew it, we were on our way out of Pensacola pass in route to slay the snapper. 
Our first stop was to pick up some live bait. It was here that we discovered the live well wasn’t working. Rather than simply not have any live bait, we opted to fill the live well the old fashioned way and I quickly found myself leaning over the gunnel with a five gallon bucket to fill the well.
After a short trip out to the wreck, we anchored up surprisingly well (it never goes smoothly) and started fishing. This is where I often note the subtle differences between offshore fishing and other types of fishing. Rather than throwing out an elaborately designed fly, or an artificial that perfectly mimics a small shrimp, I was looking down at an entire cigar minnow which was hooked brutally through the eyes. There was a giant bag of chum hanging off the back of the boat, and with the rough seas, every step was more of a controlled stagger. These are things you miss while wade fishing inshore, or trout fishing in a stream. 
It only took a few seconds after my first drop to feel a bump. I quickly reeled up, and was immediately doubled back over. Pinned to the gunnel, I watched as my line slipped away almost instantly, and before I knew it “Snap”. I was cut off on the wreck. There was nothing I could have done to stop the fish. I checked my reel and confirmed that I absolutely could not tighten my drag any tighter, and upon reeling up what was left of my rig, I noted that my 80# leader had been easily broken off. Whatever was down there was big. 
After rerigging, I dropped back down and it wasn’t long before we started putting fish in the boat. With the limit being only two red snapper per person, it took no time for my brother and I to limit out. 
In addition to four Reds, my brother also caught a Mingo and a Black snapper. At one point, I felt a small nibble and reeled up my rig to discover I had a small ruby red lips on my line. But rather than unhooking him and tossing him back into the drink, I opted to lower him on my line about half way to the bottom. And sure enough, it took only a minute before my rod was doubled over, and the fight was on. 
Behold the world’s luckiest Amberjack. Measuring in at 29.5 inches, he was exactly one half inch too short to keep. Reluctantly, I had to throw him back, and in the course of only a few seconds, watched this fish transform from the luckiest to the unluckiest fish in the world. There was a sudden flash, a cloud of red, and then half of an Amberjack floated up to the surface. Barracuda at their finest. It’s actually infuriating to see this. Rather than us get to keep the Amberjack, I let it go (to live) only to watch it get fed to a barracuda. 
With our Red Snapper limit reached, we decided it was time to see what we could get in the chum slick behind the boat. We began cutting up small pieces of frozen bait, and in combination with shaking the chum back, it wasn’t long before we were seeing fish under the boat. They –looked- like big Red and Black snapper. The problem was that we couldn’t catch them. Using a small hook and fluorocarbon leader, we fly-lined small pieces of bait into the chum line, watched the fish pick it up, and then proceed to never stop them. Straight down to the wreck, drag screaming, the fish just couldn’t be stopped before cutting us off on the wreck below. This happened several times, even with the heavy tackle we were using. It was almost like our drag just didn’t exist. 
Unfortunately, we were unable to solve the mystery as to what was kicking our butts behind the boat. A look at the clock told us it was time to go as my brother had a work meeting that he needed to get back to. Just before cranking the motors, however, he happened to look down in the water and see some monofilament floating near the props. We climbed over the gunnels and began pulling on it to discover it was completely wrapped around the port motor’s prop. 
Taking everything even remotely valuable off of my body, we raised the motors and I climbed out onto the foot of one and began unwrapping line. It wasn’t our line, just someone’s that had been left floating around near the wreck. After quite a bit of unwrapping, I discovered that it wasn’t just mono. It had wire leader attached to it as well. I was sure I was never going to get it all unwrapped, but as I sat there on the starboard motor’s foot, leaned over in 4 foot swells while trying to cut away mono from the adjacent prop, I noticed it started coming loose. To both mine and my brother’s shock, it suddenly all came right out. Disaster averted. Getting back INTO the boat proved to be much more difficult than getting out of the boat, but I somehow managed to do it without killing myself. And after a minor issue that involved us losing the anchor, we left the wreck on our way back to dock with a cooler full of fish. 
Overall the trip was awesome. I very rarely get to run offshore so I was overly thankful that I had the opportunity to do so. I really do enjoy everything about it. Big fish, big bait, big tackle, big boats, big water. It’s a unique way of fishing and something I wish I could do more of. Hopefully I can make it out again soon. And maybe next time we can stop those fish.

Fishing so good you’ll want to cry

Last Friday I called up my brother to see if he was interested in a possible kayak trip the next day. He responded with:

“Well, I was actually thinking of taking my boat offshore…wanna go?”

Does a bear…Nevermind. “Absolutely”

After buying some frozen bait, I met him at his house at 0630 the next morning. In my haste the evening before, I wasn’t exactly sure what to bring so I practically brought everything I had: Enough rods for eight people and chum to last us until 2013. Once there, we loaded up his truck and headed out.

Problems started early when my brother told me that he couldn’t get hold of the marina to tell them to put the boat in the water. Rather than go pick up the pinfish trap that had been set the night before, we were forced to make a detour and stop by the marina to tell them firsthand. After telling them, we drove off to get the live bait. Sure enough, we pull the pinfish trap out of the water and…No pinfish. Just some old stinky squid left over as bait.

Not wanting to waste anymore time, we headed back to the marina and got onto the boat. My brother’s friend Lee was tagging along on this trip and he brought two more rods to add to the arsenal of fishing gear we had accumulated. With the boat loaded up, bait in the cooler, and gas in the tanks, we undocked and headed out into the bay.

 The water was perfectly calm and aside from a few patches of fog, the weather couldn’t have been better. About two miles out, Lee mentioned something to my brother about oil. My brother abruptly stopped the boat as he suddenly remembered that he’d left the oil needed for the boat in the bed of the truck. He checked the oil levels and realized they were quite low. The decision was soon made to just motor back to dock, and pick up the oil. No sense in going 10 miles offshore to suddenly realize you’re completely out of oil. No sooner had we turned the boat around then the alarms started ringing…No oil. We puttered the rest of the way back to dock, being forced to listen to the alarms as they blared across Pensacola bay. After what felt like an eternity (the alarms sounded much like a fire alarm in an empty hallway…which couldn’t be turned off), we got to dock and refilled the oil.

Back out on the water again, we soon ran about eight miles offshore. As luck would have it, the one spot we decided to fish already had someone fishing on it. Not caring at this point, we decided to fish it anyways and after seeing the wreck on the bottom machine, I threw out the wreck bouy.

We soon turned around to pick up the bouy and successfully ran it over…tangling the line in the prop during the process. Off came everything valuable I didn’t want to lose, and I soon found myself straddling one of the outboards, tilted downward at a 45 degree angle, and had someone holding onto my belt as I tried to free the line. After quite a bit of stretching, cursing, and maneuvering we freed the line and were -finally- able to set up anchor. Good thing we brought beer.

The next three hours consisted of possibly the best Red Snapper fishing I’ve ever been on a boat for. I managed to chum them up directly behind the boat and freeline pieces of chum for hook ups. I watched as snapper the size of “Welcome Home” mats cruised around behind the engines. My brother and I both hooked these behemoths and were soon cut off.

Everything worked on these snapper: Frozen Cigar Minnows, cut squid, jigging, live bait (we caught some finally). My brother caught one of the biggest snapper I’ve ever seen on a jig and I proceeded to accidentally break him off as I helped land the fish boatside. In these three hours, we easily caught over 30 Red Snapper with only 2 or 3 under the legal limit. And we were so upset we could have cried.

Why cry? You ask.

Snapper season lasts from the beginning of June until the end of July here in Florida. To make matters worse, you can’t keep more than two per person. So we were forced to throw every single one of these fish back into the water. Huge snapper. Bigger than any I’ve ever caught. And each one got returned. We almost didn’t catch anything else for all the Red Snapper. My personal opinion is that the Red Snapper population is doing MUCH better than the state thinks. Flawed/inaccurate data has managed to reduce recreational limits and seasons to the point that it’s almost not worth it to chase Red Snapper. Are these laws good for the Red Snapper? Well of course…but now there seems to be too many of them.

It really is a strange feeling to be upset as you pull in one huge Red Snapper after another, but we found ourselves getting more and more upset every time we landed one. Of course, we could have been catching nothing, so really the complaints were kept to a minimum.

To add to the endless amount of snapper, I managed to catch one Mingo that was too small, one Triggerfish that was too small, and a Bonito. I finally broke out the GoPro and shot a quick video of catching a snapper on a jig.

Well over a hundred pounds of fish, and we’d still yet to put anything into the cooler. The decision was made to move to a different wreck.

Once there, we had a flawless repeat of our wreck bouy malfunction and I was once again forced to climb onto the outboard to free the line. We soon anchored up and realized that our drift was wrong. We pulled anchor (in 100ft of water) and tried again. This time we were spot on, but noticed that the anchor was now dragging. We were, however, moving very slowly so we decided to fish. Lee dropped a live ruby red lips down to the bottom and shortly thereafter caught an enormous Red Snapper.

Notice someone else’s rig broken off in its mouth

A few minutes later, we dropped a frozen cigar minnow down and I hooked something that gave me a run for my money. It was a relatively short fight, but I realized how out of shape I was afterward. The fish nearly whooped me and I was relieved to see the gaff stick this Amberjack.

With a fish -finally- in the cooler, we called it a day and ran back to dock.

Even though we couldn’t keep any of the Red Snapper we caught, I had an absolute blast. It was one of the best offshore fishing trips I’ve ever had and I really look forward to the June season. Then all I’ll have to do is beg my brother for another trip! Maybe then catching those fish won’t hurt quite so bad.

The Maritime Wrecking Ball

Ask any saltwater fisherman which fish they -never- green gaff and the answer will always be:

Cobia Dolphin

Wait…Dolphin…like Mahi-Mahi Dolphin?

Yes, that Dolphin.

OK OK, so the answer isn’t Dolphin…it’s actually Cobia. After all, a green gaffed Cobia has been known to break coolers, bilges, rods, rod holders, tackle boxes, unfortunate limbs, and all around do its best to sink the boat. But after a recent trip offshore, there’s a new species that comes in close second: Dolphin.

I was lucky enough to get invited to go offshore in my brother’s boat this past weekend. Prior to this, I hadn’t been offshore since I was a junior in highschool (I’m now a super-senior in college). I was stoked and was really hoping to get into some king/cobia/black snapper/whatever else is legal to keep with Florida’s ridiculous seasons. After casting to a few schools of spanish out in the pass, we motored out to an area of live bottom to start bottom fishing. We drifted over the area and proceeded to feed the snapper. I managed to pull up two enormous ruby red lips that I used for bait, and that was it. My brother’s king rig went off but the hooks pulled and my dad managed to land a little red snapper.

Soon, we spotted something floating in the water. After driving close to it, we saw that it was a sea turtle. A HUGE sea turtle…the biggest I’ve ever seen. I quickly cast a dead cig to the turtle in hopes that a cobia was following it. A few seconds later, something took the bait and the fight was on. It almost immediately jumped and at the angle I was at, it looked like a little tarpon.

Upon close inspection…it wasn’t.

A Dolphin! Only a few miles offshore and my first one -ever-! After a short malfunction with the gaff, we got the fish in the boat and took a quick photo.

My First Dolphin

Then all hell broke loose. The Dolphin managed to wiggle its way off the gaff and flop onto the deck with treble hooks still shaking about. The scaly ball of death then proceeded to flop its way over to the only two rods laying on the deck and began to thrash them. All during this, the fish tried its best to imitate The Shining and sling blood onto anything within a 15ft radius. Standard protocol for such events is to move around the deck like someone dropped a live grenade, wave your hands wildly, and shout as many obscenities as you can before the fish dies.

We tried to grab the rods, but the fish managed to tangle itself in them and started to bash them. Finally, my dad gaffed it a second time and we all breathed a sigh of relief once the fish was under control.

So that it could get a second wind….

Off the gaff it came again and made another B line for the rods. We all were forced to complete the standard protocol again before the fish was gaffed a -third- time and quickly put into the cooler before more damage could be done.

Total damage done:

Two broken guides on the rod I caught my Tarpon on

A broken bail on an antique reel. (sorry, no picture)

And enough blood splatter to keep us busy cleaning. I’m just glad it wasn’t any bigger. The damage could have been -alot- worse.

After that fiasco, we saw numerous chicken dolphin,  but were unable to keep any on the line and land the whole school. Luckily it was a gorgeous day out and the water slicked off and became glassy around 11:00. We ended the day with one Dolphin and a little spanish. Overall, I had a blast. I certainly never expected to pull a Dolphin out from under a turtle that close to shore. Gotta give a big thanks to my brother for the trip and my first Dolphin.

Till next time,

Fish on.

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