What it’s all about…

Bull Jump

I happened upon a quote yesterday which certainly put the last two weeks into perspective: “When you feel like quitting, remember why you started”.

May has always been, by far, the best month to fish in Miami waters.  Nearly every big game species is in a spawning or migration pattern, the bait is plentiful, and the weather is nothing short of divine. Despite the most amazing fishing conditions of the year, i’ll be honest that we’ve faced mechanical challenges which almost put us out of business. The reality of owning a charter boat is a battle of controlling costs – managing fuel spend, marina bills, and an endless onslaught of mechanical repairs. Our business has survived at the hands of a few dedicated and loyal people who support us tirelessly – who share the same vision.  These are the people who remind me why I do this.

Yesterday was one of those days when I remembered what it’s all about.

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The weather was ominous to say the least – one of the last cold fronts of the season was bearing down with untempered ferocity. The buoy report showed a solid NW wind at 18knts, which began to feel a whole lot like 22knts once we came around the Cape Florida lighthouse.  There were no storms, but dark clouds hung low above the horizon.

Bait has been solid the past few weeks, although we’ve had a few days where clear water prevented us from catching pilchards in the net.  We recently acquired a 14ft custom made net which is one of the best investments we’ve made in a long time – having blacked out wells is the key to fishing in the month of May.  Yesterday was no exception – Stefano (aka Carlos) made short work of the pilchard schools with just two tosses.

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We charged out towards the yellow sea can hoping to find current in shallow (as it was last Sunday when the sailfish bite was red hot). To our dismay, pea green water stretched as far as we could see after crossing into 130′.  We kept pushing, out to 150′, 170′, 190′, then 200′.  By the time we hit 220′, the water began to turn blue and the waves began to roll. The gulf stream was clearly farther out then we had anticipated, which meant the bite was going to be very good…or very bad.  We’ve had many hit or miss days when the blue-water starts out deep, although it does help to keep the bonitas at bay (this time of year, it’s common to get blitzed by bonitas which will consume every bait you have in the water).  We deployed the kites and set into our first drift, being a bit overzealous with the live chum.  The radio was quiet as we got pummeled by NW waves, which at times were reaching into the 3 to 4 ft category.  At 1.6knts of northerly drift, our ride towards the county wrecks was slow.  The first set only produced two bonitas.  We removed wire tips from our leaders and changed over to flourocarbon on our second set while crossing into 210′.  With a fresh spread of baits beneath the kites, we turned our attention to rigging the bottom gear.  Stefano worked the kites while Scott and I began prepping mid-waters and our bottom rod, when just out of the corner of my eye I see the left mid cork go flying – Stefano was quick on the rod and we’re tight with our first sail of the day.  The fish rocketed inshore then made a slow steady north turn and began making his way with the current.  The fish turned towards the deep as it worked its way off our bow, and then suddenly, about faced and began gray-hounding directly for us!  The run was unbelievable – a full on snake walk directly at us.  For a second we all braced as it appeared the fish was inbound to ram the boat!

The run ended in a half spiral out of the water which turned out to be a bit too aggressive – the fish wrapped himself up in the line and SNAP! Our first sail of the day is on his way back to the blue.  At least we had some idea where the bite may be.  A report crackled over the radio that someone released a sailfish in shallow – about 100′ – an entire water column away from our 210′ drift.  We made the call to stay put and re-deployed the spread now drifting in to 190′.

With six fresh pilchards soaking beneath the kites, a mid water rod deployed, and a light tackle trick up our sleeves – we felt confident going into the next set. The clouds were growing darker as the waves began to kick up into the 3 to 5 range.  Gusts of 25 knots were definitely starting to push through – our Lewis heavy wind kites strained  once and a while as the gusts hit their peak, then faded back to a steady 18 to 20knts. The left long gets hammered and we’re tight – Maritza, still tired and mildly seasick from her first sailfish battle, grabs the rod and goes to town on the fish. I can’t imagine where that extra bit of strength came from, but she  put the heat to that blackfin and brought it boatside in about 10 minutes.  We sink the gaff and put the first blackfin in the boat.

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Not long after, the right middle gets plowed with a nice splash, but the fish didn’t make the long deep run characteristic of a tuna.  I fought the fish for a few minutes and up pops a 20lb blackfin – likely the laziest tuna i’ve fought to date.

No matter, the fish goes in the box.  With two blackfins in the hold, we’re now drifting into 140′ of water when the right long starts sneaking away into shallow water. The drag starts screaming, we lock up, and a sailfish goes dancing towards the Miami skyline. On our second sailfish of the day, Maritza begrudgingly agrees to another battle.  This fish is making a long run, and with most of our kite baits out of the water, we decide to bring the kite’s in a bit closer and chase the fish.  After following the sail int shallower water, it suddenly stops running and begins to hold position. We back down systematically, and manage to sneak up on the fish, but he’s wrapped in the leader and drifting sideways.  Todd makes the grab and quickly rights the fish before it starts to go black – exhausted, but still alive, we are careful to revive the fish before a healthy release.

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We’ve now wandered into 110′ and it’s time to reset.

The run back to the southern edge of the county wrecks was a bit of a rollercoaster ride – the swells had built into the 4 to 6′ range.  We surfed our way south east through the waves, setting up at the southern most wrecks.  The blue water we enjoyed in 210′ was gone, so we drop the sea anchor in 185′ and deploy the spread.

Now, this is a good time to mention that Scott’s been on a light tackle kick recently.  Maybe it’s that we don’t get to use light tackle offshore all that often, or maybe it was the month of May which drives us all to reminisce about catching snook, redfish, and trout on the flats, Scott made the executive decision to bring his new 7′ spinning outfit onboard.  A new Quantum Cabo with 15lb braid paired with a Shimano Tallus.  We get the kite baits out, bobbing along in unison, and Scott pitches a pilchard on 30lb flouro off the bow.  We stay focused on the kite baits for a few minutes when Scott starts hollering.  He’s on!  Not more then 10 minutes into free lining a pilchard on his light tackle outfit, the cabo is sizzling! Line is ripping and a nice 15lb cow starts hopping along between the waves.  We’re all stoked, but keep our attention fixed on the kites. Todd, who was in the middle of deploying the right short kite bait, got a bit distracted by the commotion and left it hanging right by the boat. I turned my attention from Scott battling the cow dolphin on the bow to grabbing a pitch bait in case other fish were there when a HUGE bull comes swimming by the boat.  I could not believe my eyes!  This enormous neon blue Bull – all of 50lbs – comes cruising less than 6 ft from me.  Slightly stunned and paralyzed by the site, I manage a few grunts and shouts.  The fish makes a hard right turn at the back of the boat, going right behind the engines – and then ROCKETS forward to crush the kite bait that Todd left hanging in the water! It was controlled chaos – Todd grabs the short and the fish is on! The Bull goes bounding towards the skyline crossing directly under Scott, still hooked up on the cow! We are losing our minds as this giant dolphin goes leaping into the distance.  Scott has his fish closer to the boat now and begins working it towards the stern.  I go for the gaff and get ready – on 30lb flouro with 15lb braid there isn’t much room for error.  The fish comes right to the hook and WHAM!  I slam the gaff and drag the fish into the boat.  The cow starts flipping out on the deck when I hear Todd hollering from the bow: “Here he is! Here he is!”.  I don’t believe it – the bull swam right to the boat and was just paddling along.  In less than 10 minutes!  <*edit by capt. todd – it was less than TWO minutes… just felt like eternity…see the video.>

Capt. Todd Malicoat with a giant Mahi mahi

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That’s what it’s all about.

With two nice blackfins, the cow, the bull, and a sailfish release after just three hours of fishing – we couldn’t give up quite yet.  We deployed the kite spread once again and Scott, looking for more pain, pitches another pilchard off the bow on his light tackle outfit.  Not five minutes later – he is tight – AGAIN.  This time the fish is sounding hard – it’s fighting like a nice blackfin.

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We start pitching chummers and 10 t0 20lb blackfin start erupting around the boat. It was just, stupid. Our kite baits are dangling in the middle of the frenzy but not getting hit – we’re stunned.  Footballs leaping all around us – we pitch flat lines, jigs – nothing.  Scott remains locked in battle as the school of tunas goes bounding off into the distance. Dismayed, we turn our attention back to the kites and ANOTHER sailfish grabs the left middle. Todd is right on it – gets tight, and sets into the battle.  What a sight to behold – todd fighting a tail walking sailfish while Scott is putting the hurt on a tuna with 15lb braid on an inshore outfit.  After about ten minutes, Todd brings the sail to the boat for a quick release while Scott is STILL working the fish.  We’re thinking it’s a 30lb tuna at this point – slowly, steadily, Scott works the fish up from the depths.  And there it is.  27 minutes later.  A fat blackfin tuna, all of 25lbs.  I sink the hook and over the rail it comes.  We are overjoyed.

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We call it quits at 6:40 and dash back to the dock.  Stunned from the absurdly amazing fishing which just unfolded.

What stands out to me the most from this trip – is that everything worked out perfectly.  No mechanical issues.  No pressure to catch fish for our customers.  No angling errors.  No failed rigs. No missed gaff shots.  Everything just unfolded in a seamless chain events. Those experiences are few and far between, but in the end, these are the times which keep me motivated – the times when I remember why I started.

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And we still have two more weeks of this amazing fishing to enjoy.

That’s what it’s all about.

The video…

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Captain at Miami Fishing Charters LLC
Capt. Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL has 25 years experience fishing for big game species like Bluefin Tuna, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Sharks. Capt. Charlie is also an avid scuba diver, world traveler, writer, and entrepreneur.
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