Highs around 88, scattered showers
I took my 11 year old twin grandsons, Dylan & Devin, along with their Dad, Curt, all who are visiting from Arizona out fishing in the Boca Grande Pass (BGP).
It was a nice 20 mile run in light seas. We went through one passing shower but quickly out ran it. Once at the BGP we dropped live shrimp in and Devin was immediately hooked up. To all of our delight, he pulled up a 24" Bonnethead Shark. When a soon to be 6th grader from Phoenix goes back to school with pictures of the shark he caught, that's a great "how I spent my summer vacation" story. Throughout the day, tarpon were rolling all around us and we saw two incidents of tarpon being ambused by huge sharks at the surface.
Dylan set his own mark as a salt water legend by landing the biggest Gag Grouper ever caught on my boat, to date. Even though it was 2" short of keeper size, gags are out of season this summer so we'd have had to release him anyway. We took photos, below, and released him alive and well. I take great pride in showing the boys the importance of reviving their fish for a successful release. We have a tradition of saying, "Catch ya later!" as the fish swim back down to the bottom.
I acted as both Captain and crew, not fishing but just working for all these guys, to ensure they had the best time possible. We caught and released many red and gag grouper, the biggest of which were 18 and 19 inches long, both caught by the twins. Curt's first hook up was a little white grunt, which he allowed me to photograph for comic relief (below). He followed that up with several red and gag grouper and a cat fish.
Curt had an incredible hookup with a 30 minute fight that ended in disappointment.
The afternoon winds picked up the seas and by 2PM, Boca Grande was showing white caps. We boated over to Pelican Bay, off Cayo Costa, to get on the lee side of the island and have lunch anchored down in 24" of calm water with a light breeze, about 100 yards from a sandy beach. I took a rare swim in the Bay but no one else wanted to (perhaps those sharks were still fresh in their minds).
By 3PM we decided to try for one more hookup each and went back into the pass. Once we got into 60' of water, the twins decided they'd had enough and just wanted to watch. Curt and I baited up live pinfish on 30lb test and dropped them over. Very quickly we were both hooked up but we realized these were not grouper or small sharks. My line zipped out at the speed of light and quickly went limp. Bait gone.
Curt was in even more trouble. His 300 yards of braided line was getting spooled. I jumped into the helm and fired up the boat. We chased after the line as Curt told me he was down to the last few strands of mono at the bottom of the Penn spinning reel. I've never had this happen on my boat. Curt said he could see the loop at the end of the line. I was prepared to see it go. We used the boat to recover the line back to where we could see the green braid line on the reel and Curt did a good job directing me from his fighting chair, telling me when to go neutral and when to go forward. That green braid was really hard for me to see from the helm.
The fish would be under our boat in one second and then charge out ahead of us the next. I'm pretty sure it was a Tarpon from the way I saw the line acting. He may have also been being pursued by sharks because he was clearly in a desperation panic mode. We ended up getting back about half of our line before the line was broken and limp. The fight lasted about 15 minutes and Curt was pretty impressed with the physical battle. He'd never known fishing could be like this.
In choppy 3' seas we headed for home. The twins enjoyed the occassional "banger" as we tried to keep the boat near 20 knots. We went airborn a couple of times. We never did get anymore rain on us but saw it all around us. As we got behind the lee shore in Alligator Bay I was able to get the boat up to 36 knots, even with full bait wells, 4 guys and all our gear aboard. Not bad. I've already put more hours on this boat in 4 months than I did on the last one in 3 years.
By 5:30 we were back on my lift, exhausted but full of new memories of Messing About in South Florida. I can't help but believe that 20 years from now, the twins will be sitting together, having a beer, watching their own kids play or fish and one will say..."Remember those summers in Florida on Pappy's boat?" "Remember when you caught that shark?"
(Click on pictures for full screen image)
|Devin's Bonnethead shark. FINS UP!|
|Dylan set a grouper boat record with this 20" Gag|
|Dylan did a great job bringing this Gag up from 50' below|
|Curt shows his humble side by posing with his white grunt. |
He followed this up with several more blog worthy catches.