Fishing with a large group like Corporate outings,
bachelor parties and family outings, just to name a few, any group over 6 is a
large group. You have two options, either charter enough 6 passenger boats for your
group or put your entire group on one boat. We can do either and today’s group
opted for 6 boats to accommodate everyone.
Today’s forecast was for 50% rain… It drizzled for
about 5 minutes. But it didn’t dampen the groups spirit or their fishing.
You see, fish kind of like overcast skies. They can
swim up near and on the surface of the water without casting a shadow. Today
was no different, all the boats did well in the reef area with Kingfish, Bonito
and Tuna. Bonito and Tuna are in the same family and occasionally school
Along with the bounty of fish providing plenty of
action, a Sailfish decided to join the fray on our boat. Having a line come
down, screaming line off and then seeing this large fish jumping behind the
boat still thrills me, even after all these years.
A 20-minute battle is the norm and boating the fish
has to be done carefully. We prefer to release these fish so we take care in
handling them. A hose with running saltwater on board helps them breath as we
take measurements and pictures. And, of course, that last picture before the
fish is placed back in the water for release.
Sometimes we must coach them along, holding beside the
boat helping them rest while they breath in the water for oxygen. Others you
can barely get them back in the water before they bolt. It is an awesome
feeling watching your fish swim away, if he gives you the chance.
Whether you want everyone on the same boat or multiple
boats to cover your group, fishing with large groups is best back at the dock.
Bragging rights and all.
In my last fishing report I mentioned reeling fast to
land the fish, the ENTIRE fish. One reason is the Greater Barracuda as seen
here in this picture.
Barracuda are fairly prominent in our area, although
recently laws have been passed to limit the size and number that can be taken.
They like rock piles, reef areas and wrecks for their habitat. It offers them
protection from larger predators as well as providing a great place to catch
smaller fish that find the same attributes of protection of structures.
Barracudas are known for their speed and agility to
chase down fish. They prefer fish that have been injured or struggling… say on
the end of a fishing line?
A heart-breaking story from a few years ago… We were
fishing for bait at the sea buoy on very light tackle. One customer hooked a
large Blackfin Tuna on the 8 lbs. test line and a battle began. He fought this
fish for over 30 minutes. We were getting close… The Tuna was doing his spin,
they swim sideways when tired, in small circles. We could see the fish down 30’,
then 20’ and then…
Mr. Barracuda comes along and bites off his tail! Now,
without the fish able to swim, he is just dead weight at the end of the line.
Our angler can barely gain line but is doing a great job with what he has.
Another strike has the Cuda eat the mid-section… Still a good chunk of meat
there but getting smaller.
It was that last bite, the one right behind the head
that broke our hearts. We boated the head that remained and could see the
Barracuda just lazing around below the boat, probably too full to swim much as
we estimated the Tuna between 25 and 30 lbs.
Many times this story has been repeated by fishermen
all over the world. But this is the one I remember like it was yesterday.
The goal in fishing is to entice a fish to eat your
bait, fight that fish and land it. That’s called a catch. Right now, the
catching is GREAT off the shore of Fort Lauderdale.
Within just 2 miles from shore our boat is giving the
guests plenty of fish to fight. Starting with small bait fish, up to those
Kings, Bonitos and Tunas and then on to some larger predators. Truth be told,
you’d better land your fish quickly or you may not get the entire fish. While
it is disappointing to lose some of your fish, there is that “WOW” factor as we
wonder what it was that ate it.
Trolling has been the main stay lately. Cover some
ground and see what pops up. Those Kings, Bonitos and Tunas I spoke of have
been ranging from 6 to 20 lbs. and even bigger. The occasional Sailfish or Mahi
is also possible. We expect this to continue into and through the summer.
While on the charter boat the mates go to extremes
rigging baits to entice that bite, even the drift boat has been reaping the
rewards. Just the standard 3 hook rig with a Sardine or Ballyhoo on it produced
the catch in the picture above. And that is just the fish that were boated. Some
do escape at any point between that initial bite and reaching the boat. Or they
are taken from you by that predator laying in wait.
So, whether it is sport fishing or drift fishing, the
catching is great! I guess that makes the fishing even better…
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!
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!
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
Most of our fishing this week has been done in what we here in south Florida consider cold. OK, try not to laugh. You bundle up with winter clothes or are scraping ice or snow from your windows. As your temperatures hit 20’s or less, we thin blooded people prepare to brave 50’s! Ok, go ahead and laugh. LOL
But our Florida sun comes out and things get warm quickly. These cold snaps really help our fishing and keep things moving south. Just like many of you from up north. We’ll be seeing some of you soon.
Our area here off the shore is like a virtual highway for fish migrating. Drops in sea temperatures have fish traveling for warmer waters. And just a few miles from shore everything from small to large will pass by. Sometimes they come in spurts of one species or another. Other times it can be like rush hour.
Sailfish are what we are expecting soon. They ride the waves and sea swells south against the current. It is known as “tailing” as they surf down sea on their travels south. It hasn’t happened just yet but will soon.
Dolphin have been making appearances as well. While some sea weed helps, they too are just moving south and can be caught just out of the blue. Li8ve bait has been the best for these but trolling has also had good results.
Our wrecks have been producing both bottom fish and some large predators as in the picture of Mike holding his monster Barracuda. Almost 30 minutes on light tackle to land this beast, a true trophy!
We always try to provide our guests with what they hope to catch. But our main goal is to catch fish! And this “cool” weather has been helping our fishing this week.