Bite the Bullet

Posted on by Captain Steve

Bonito For Live Bait

When you want to “swing for the fences,” the best way to raise a big pelagic species in the Southeast Florida area is to slow-troll a False Albacore or small Blackfin Tuna. Species such as Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Yellowfin Tuna – even larger Sailfish – cannot resist a nice, juicy “bullet” trolled right in front of them. Here at Fantastic Fishing, we love nothing more than to troll a few “bullets” to put you on the trophy fish of a lifetime.

A “Bullet” is the nickname often used to describe a False Albacore (also called Little Tunny – in Southeast Florida, many anglers and crews refer to them as “bonito”) or a Blackfin Tuna, typically weighing in at between 2 to 6 lbs. False Albacore/Little Tunny are members of the Tuna family while the Atlantic Bonito is actually a member of the Mackerel family.

During the Spring and Summer months, False Albacore/Little Tunny and Blackfins can be found mixed together in large schools up and down the coast in depths from 50 feet out to 400 feet. Wherever you find them, you’ll find predators “nibbling around the edges” of the school. So, let’s match the hatch and give the predators what they want.

The first step is the catch the bullets. Small trolling feathers or spoons – or a mix – will work. Use 20 lb. – 30 lb. trolling outfits to catch the bullets. We prefer tolling between 4.5 and 6 knots. You don’t want to spend time fighting the bullets – you need to get them to the boat quickly yet gently. The sooner to the boat, the fresher the bullet. Ideally, you want to catch multiple bullets at a time so that you can start trolling more than one bullet.

The following videos shows our crew catching and rigging up live bonito:

 

Here’s the challenge for you and your crew: Unless you have “tuna tubes” installed in your boat to keep the bullets alive, you need to bring the bullets aboard, rig them and get them back into the water so that you can being trolling them – and be quick about it!

You need to have your live bullet rods staged and ready to go. Typically, we’ll use either 50s or 80s with 2-speed features on stand-up rods to troll live bullets. Make sure that the terminal tackle includes a Bimini twist connected to a wind-on leader of at least 200 lb. test, connected to a heavy-duty ball bearing snap swivel. We prefer our leaders to be at least 150 lb. test mono connected to a trace of Number 9 wire (105 lb. test) or greater. The type of species you’re targeting will dictate whether you go lighter or heavier with your wire leader to reduce visibility. If you’re targeting yellowfin tunas, you may not want to use wire at all. If there are sharks around, you want to step up to a heavier wire.

As for hooks, we prefer to use 10/0 J hooks. Why not circle hooks? If you’re targeting Wahoo, you don’t have the luxury of the fish swallowing your bait and then letting the circle hook dig in on its way out of the fish’s mouth. You need the hook to grab and grab quickly. If you’re only targeting tunas or billfish, you can get away with circle hooks.

Once you bring the bullet aboard, cover it in a damp towel so that you can manage the bait without harming it too much. Again, you need to be quick about it. You can either run the hook from your 50 through the bullet’s nostrils, up vertically through the upper lip of the bullet or you can bridle the hook to the top of the bullet’s head by running a rigging needle through the eye sockets. Once done, get the bullet back into the water with the boat slightly in gear.

At this point, you hopefully have 2 fresh bullets swimming behind the boat and you’re making less than 2 knots of forward speed. Slowly drop both bullets back and be sure to stagger them: One bullet short and one bullet long. The trick here is to troll the bullets with enough speed to keep them swimming and to make your way to deeper water but also not so much speed that you kill the bullets and cause them to spin/. You will likely need to do “in and outs” with the throttle to avoid drowning the bullets. A dead bullet does you no good – you will be firing “blanks.”

The next step is to make your way out of shallower water to deeper water to find the Wahoo, Tuna or billfish. You want to do this as quickly as possible – all while not killing the bullets – so as to minimize the possibility of having a bullet bitten in half by a Barracuda or Kingfish. This is typically a depth of 250 – 500 feet. Slow troll your bullets until a) you get a shot or b) your bullets die. Once you catch a fish or your baits die, you get to head back to shallower water to start the process all over again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

You will be amazed at the size of the species that will attack the bullets and the ferocity of the bites. Most strikes are top-water bites that will make you weak in the knees. When you’re “swinging for the fences,” don’t be surprised when you hit a Grand Slam.

Call us to book your Fantastic Fishing Trip today!

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Father’s Day Fishing Trip

Posted on by Captain Steve

You know, Dad likes to fish anytime, not just on Father’s Day. However, the Father’s Day fishing trip always has us busy and this year is no exception.

 

We had a great family on board and when asked what they would like to catch? Just put us on some fish was the answer… My favorite answer to this question. But today we struggled at first with this somewhat easy task.

 

The radio for the fleet was reporting plenty of Kings and Bonito in the area. And yet, it had been over an hour of fishing and we still had nothing in our box. We’ve had the hits but missed every fish. It seemed an eternity before we finally stayed connected and just catching one King gave me hope our drought was over.

 

Now some folks like Kingfish, others aren’t too fond of them. Our group could take or leave them so after boating 6 or so, we opted for some off shore Dolphin fishing.

 

In order to catch Dolphin, you must find something to fish to. Plenty of seaweed has been around and with it being Father’s day, plenty of boats were out too. We got to the pretty blue water and began our search. Scattered grass and some big patches of weed were in our area. Little Bar Jacks that hide beneath the weed were also present. And finally, a Mahi! Easily too small to keep as was the second.

 

But we continued and finally began catching some we could keep. No real big ones but the action was consistent as 1 after another made it into our box. They weren’t together, just coming one at a time.  And being about 7 miles from shore, our time had come to go home.

 

In the end, we had 6 Kings, 8 keeper Dolphin, we had released some 15 Jacks and probably almost as many small Mahis. But our group was quite pleased with the Father’s day fishing trip.

 

Remember, dad will go fishing anytime! LOL

 

Captain Steve

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The Bite Is On

Posted on by Captain Steve

If you are looking for fish to bend the rod, you should be fishing right now! The bite is on here in south Florida. Mahi-mahi, Tuna, Kingfish and others are bending our rods with frequency. And all this action has been within a few miles of shore.

 

While I try to spin whatever we’re catching into good news, I don’t have to work at it this month. The picture above is from our Southwest Airline group. Each year they come for their annual get together and always need fish for their fish fry on the last evening. They won’t go hungry this year, that’s for sure.

 

Kings and Bonitos, along with some Tuna are mixed in the reef area. Depending on the water color, Mahi-mahi and Wahoo may also be there. But that’s not all we’ve been getting. A few sharks and Sails have been mixed in as well. Most of these fish are being caught trolling.

 

And after all the time I’ve been doing this, I still get a thrill when someone catches a Sail and says they can scratch that off their bucket list. It just makes me smile as it did with this gentleman and his prize.

If you are looking for action, for edible fish or just to bend the rod, now is the time. The bite is on!

 

Captain Steve

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Springtime Fishing Begins

Posted on by Captain Steve

While some of you are living where the weather has been unseasonable, here in south Florida our springtime fishing started about a week ago. And our all day trip today was proof positive of this.

 

Our 3 guests had but one day before heading to Bolivia. They are volunteering to help build churches in areas that cannot afford them. Certainly a noble cause and perhaps even lending to a fun, fish filled day.

 

With the forecast of rain, we opted to catch our own bait. Chum and the usual areas were not providing so our trolling gear was deployed. It took maybe 20 minutes for our first bite and the action was near nonstop the rest of the day.

 

First were the Kingfish in the reef area. Bites were coming one or two at a time. While our guests had never used this kind of tackle before, they adapted quickly and soon were beating Dom to the rod when a bite came. They were having so much fun, even after the 2 per person limit was reached, we continued catch and release for a while before venturing just a bit further off shore.

 

The top picture is Dom holding a Yellowfin Tuna. This small Tuna was schooling with the Blackfin Tuna. We had stumbled into Tuna Topia and some nice sized fish were biting. Yellowfin are rare in our area and we ended up with 2 along with a hoard of Blackfin.

 

We took a break from this action to put the boys on something bigger. The Amberjacks cooperated nicely for this purpose and the guys enjoyed posing with their catches before releasing those back to the sea.

Our troll home was still producing more Tuna but these were considerably smaller than the ones from earlier. We had plenty and were releasing them as we went until the time came to return to the dock.

 

This is the kind of action you expect from springtime fishing. I look forward to fishing again today.

 

Captain Steve

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Best Time To Fish

Posted on by Captain Steve

Almost every day people call for information and one of the questions they ask is “When is the BEST time to fish”. In some cases, they are asking about a particular month or time of year. But mostly, it is more about the morning or afternoon trip. Which is better? Well, let me give you some tips about the best time to fish…

 

First and foremost you should know we fish year round here in Fort Lauderdale. Unlike hunting, which has open and closed seasons, fishing can be done 365 days a year. It is true that some species might be off limits at times… Groupers are closed right now until May 1. But many other species are available.

 

Twice each day, as the sun climbs and falls, the morning and afternoon bite is the strongest. When the sun is high in the sky, fish feeding near the surface cast a shadow down into the water. Predators use this for their feeding pattern. So, the lower the sun, the better your chances. Early morning and the late afternoon are usually the best.

 

If you are here on vacation and have the ability to avoid the weekend, that can be advantageous. With spring break going on, lots of people are out there fishing.  If you cannot avoid the weekend, I recommend a 6 hour with an early start or an afternoon 6 hour. Both give you that early morning, late afternoon bite.

 

But… I’m on vacation. I don’t want to get up early. Or… We have dinner plans and need to be back by 5. The fact is no matter WHEN you fish, your crew is going to do their very best to find and catch you some fish!

And if you live here, get up for that early morning bite. Or push your dinner plans back an hour. But in all truth, the absolute BEST time to fish is when you can.

 

Captain Steve

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Fort Lauderdale Fishing Report

Posted on by Captain Steve

With some changing weather and spring just around the corner, things are changing as the ocean warms. While some fish are still migrating south, others have started their return to the north and cooler waters. The next few months should make for some exciting fishing.

 

Tuna, Wahoo and Dolphin should become more plentiful. Kingfish and Bonito should also show their presence in the reef area. But you’ll have to be on your game and get the fish into the boat quickly. Sharks will also be around and while have a fish is better than none? They usually eat the good half.

On our sport boat, we have been having excellent action on the wrecks and reefs with Barracuda and Amberjack. Mostly light tackle is being used with live bait for some great fights! A few Kingfish and Wahoo are also being caught this way. You just never know.

Our most recent Swordfish trip was a huge disappointment. Making 4 drops during the day netted one hook up and one miss. The hook up was a big fish and we fought it for almost an hour. We got the weight off and had the leader twice but this fish was not to be caught. His final run parted the main line. I’ve learned this is part of the game but absolute hate not seeing what we had on.

 

Our drift boat is have some good action as well. Captain Patrick’s most recent catch is posted on our Facebook page. Snapper, Triggerfish and other reef fish are plentiful. You can find the page here: https://www.facebook.com/Fanntastic-Fishing-1476203306014764/

 

Whatever you choose as far as fishing? Be it sport or drift, things are improving and fish are cooperating. Enjoy the day, keep the rod bent and you’ll be rewarded. Tight lines.

 

Captain Steve

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Daytime Swordfish Fishing

Posted on by Captain Steve

Fort Lauderdale Fishing

Our most recent daytime Swordfish fishing trip was a HUGE success! The word from the Swordfish grounds had been great for the last week or so. And it just so happened we have a trip booked just for that!

Daytiming for Swordfish is highly specialized fishing. You’ll be between 1500 and 2000’ of water with a bait on or near the bottom. We use an electric reel for this. The main reason is… No one wants to wind up all that line and weight if you don’t get a bite and have to reset.

Our guests are local and it turns out the money they paid for their trip with was some lucky money won at the local Casino, compliments of the Indians. So we loaded up early and were off to the grounds.

Our boat make this trip in about 90 minutes from the dock. We did see a few things that looked promising on the way out but nothing panned out and our first drop got us a near instabite! The rod bent, the drag stalled and we were on!

This fish was a small one but still legal and it seemed like the bite was still good as we boated the fish without the use of a gaff. 50” lower jaw fork length and into the box he goes! A quick run in the boat to get back to our previous position and the second drop of the day was on its way down.

This time it took a bit longer to get a bite. We are tight again. This time it took 40 minutes before seeing this fish. He jumped about 150 yards from the boat and then again maybe 200’ from the boat.

This fish was bigger with a 57”LJF and we used the dart and then the gaff to boat him. It’s only 11:30 and we have 2 in the box!

Fort Lauderdale Fishing

All good things must come to an end. We again positioned ourselves in front of the fish and did get 2 more bites. But both came off around 800’ out. This was the story on the radio as well, bites but not staying hooked. None the less, our group was extremely happy with their bounty.

Daytime Swordfish fishing isn’t exciting when you’re doing it, not till you get that bite… Wait, that’s ALL fishing. LOL It’s the excitement of that coming bite that keeps us coming back.

Captain Steve

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This Week’s Drift & Sport Fishing

Posted on by Captain Steve

Both our drift and sport fishing boats have been busy. We’ve been sailing and catching fish! Not always fast packed action but sizable fish on the sport boat as well as our drift boat.

 

With the wind blowing for the next few days, fishing bottom on the drift boat will be tough. The boat moves across the area too quickly so only the most tenacious anglers will be rewarded. On the up side, drifting baits will be the best. Kingfish, Bonito, Tuna and even an occasional Sailfish could be on the table for those who venture out.

On the sport fishing boats, we have more control over the weather. Live bait has been the best with some fish too large for the light tackle we use. It’s not that you can’t catch a 200 or 300 lbs. shark on light tackle, it just takes some time. Like hours as in multiple. Light tackle is more suited for Sailfish, Barracuda, Wahoo and big Kings.

 

Trolling on the sport boats has had success with some smaller Sailfish, a few Kings and a Wahoo or two. But both the deep and shallow wrecks have been teaming with fish. Large Barracuda as seen in the pictures here and Amberjacks have been keeping our rods bent. And that occasional BIG bite that usually escapes has you thinking “What did I have on there”?

 

One of the fish you might have had on could be this! We opted for heavier tackle to land this 9+’ Bull shark. And it still took an hour to get it boat side.

The afternoons have been better for Sailfish. There is a video clip on our Facebook page. While this fish was very acrobatic when we hooked him, by the time I got the video going, the touched leader was all I got. You can find he video at https://www.facebook.com/Fanntastic-Fishing-1476203306014764/ .

 

That’s all for this week’s fishing. Hope to see you soon.

 

Captain Steve

Posted in Sport

Wisconsin Badger’s Hammerhead Shark

Posted on by Captain Steve

With the week between Christmas and New Year behind us, we’ve found that one of our trips created a bit of a stir. The Wisconsin Badger’s Hammerhead Shark is what we’ll call this.

 

5 of the players and one of the coaches from Wisconsin joined us for some fishing before the Orange Bowl game. The late afternoon trip set out around 4 pm. We are looking for BIG fish, after all, these were big boys. LOL

 

Sitting in deep water over 600’, we waited and I was about to try in shallower water when we got as bite. It was funny because we had the boys try and pull line off the reel. They had a tough time with where the drag was set. This fish did not have that problem and pulled off about 100 yards quickly.

 

Our angler never faded and stayed set on his goal. It took a little over 30 minutes to see what we had caught, a 9’ Hammerhead shark. We boated the fish for measurement, tagging and pictures before releasing him. But that’s not what caused a stir.

 

It seems at the game they posted a picture I had taken from the fly bridge of the shark and the crew on the Jumbo Tron. Hammerhead sharks are protected in state waters because they are endangered. The public and media were calling the FWC, our fish and game people.

 

An agent contacted me some days later for an interview of what occurred. I explained we go to great lengths to take care of the game fish we catch and release. We have a hose that pumps sea water for our catches to breath and this helps us release them in good shape.

 

When you see game fish caught on our boat in a picture, if it’s not edible, it is released. And it was the same with the Wisconsin Badger’s Hammerhead Shark.

 

Happy New Year

Captain Steve

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Santa Has Delivered Awesome Fishing This Christmas

Posted on by Captain Steve

Kingfish

What a great past week it has been for our Sportfishing Charters here in Fort Lauderdale.  Not only is the weather absolutely beautiful with calm seas and sunny skies, but we are also experiencing some very rare catches right now including white marlin and some big wahoo.

The morning have started out with a chill in the air and a very light breeze leaving the seas glassy.  As we push away from the dock, we look forward to watch mother nature paints each day offshore.  The picture is always different and the start of our winter season is officially under way.

Clearing the Port Everglades inlet puts us about 2 miles away from the fishing grounds.  Did I mention we are the closest boat to the fishing in Fort Lauderdale? This gives our 4 hour trips much more fishing time than most of the fleet.  As we break the 90 feet of water edge, we are looking for current, birds, weed lines, and debris to give away signs of fish in the area.  It hasn’t been taking long until a school of ballyhoo or flying fish goes under the boat, letting us know there are gamefish nearby.

As my mate sets out the lines, we have been hooking up quickly on kingfish from 10 to 20 pounds along with a plentiful bonita bite which make great fights and even better bait for our monster shark charters.

Check out this nice smoker going from the ocean right to the smoke house for excellent fish dip:

Kingfish

The limit on kingfish is 2 per person and with limits early in the am, I move on to deeper water to look for mahi.  The past few days there has been a beautiful rip in about 400 feet of water with small terns feeding in the weed patches.  From up in the tower I spot the mahi schools and ask our anglers to pitch live baits behind the boat.  It wasn’t long before we loaded up on some nice 5 to 10 pound mahi.

With a nice box of mahi and king mackerel, we still had about 2 hours left on our 6 hour sportfishing trip.  I am hearing on the radio that there is a sailfish bite going on near the anchored cargo ships.  These ships stay at anchor for weeks, even months on end and the bait fish congregate under them.  It makes for great fishing and easy feeding for sailfish, white marlin, wahoo, jacks and much more!

I didn’t have enough wind to get out the kites, so decided to troll around the ship using live baits that we caught earlier in the trip to see if anyone was home.  It didn’t take long to get our first bite, but unfortunately the fish got off. About 20 minutes later we had another fish on and got a good hook into her for a nice catch and release.

Fort Lauderdale Fishing

While not every trip can be as exciting as this one and there are no guarantees in fishing, we can guarantee that you will get an expert high level captain and mate that want to catch fish more than you do.  We are passionate about putting you on fish and having fun while doing it.

We still have dates open here in the 2017 as we wrap up the year and we are booking out the winter and spring season of 2018.  We are also still running the $550 special for 4 hours, so please give us a call if you are ready to go fishing.

Tight Lines,
Captain Steve

 

Posted in Sport