Sunday, July 29, 2012


Home in Port Charlotte
75* at wake up, going to a high of 92

After a week of work that had me gone from 4AM Monday until 7PM Friday I was ready for some fishing.

My friend Al and I launched my boat from the Gasparilla boat ramp at 7:30 AM.  We returned at 7:40 to get my handheld GPS (again) from my truck.  At least this time I didn't have to go all the way back to the house for it.  We went back out from the ramp area again and I used my cast net to try and catch live bait.  Although my throws were better than ever before, we didn't catch any bait.  I had bought rigged ballyhoo for trolling so we figured we'd catch Bonito tuna and cut that up for bait.

The Gulf seas were as calm as you could ask for, with nearly flat conditions I was able to run the boat at 25 knots the whole way out.  And we went way out.  We ventured further than ever before; 30 miles off-shore to a shipwreck known as the Bayronto.  She's a 400 foot long, 52 foot wide, French flagged freighter that went down in a hurricane on September 13, 1919.  She was carrying a load of wheat from Galveston to Marseilles.  All 48 crewmen were accounted for, although some had spent days drifting at sea in lifeboats.

The site is very popular with divers and spear fishermen.  Our day was no exception, as there were divers from 2 boats there with us.  Al and I drifted the site, using my bottom machine to chart out the structure below.  The wreck sits upside down in about 100 feet of water.  There are spots where the vessel rises up 30 feet and changes our depth to 70 something feet.

We'd not had any luck trolling on the way out but we did stop and catch some grunts to use as cut bait.
We caught and released several short red grouper (20" minimum limit) and we numerous large barracuda stalking our boat for their release.  I saw them get at least 2 and one was bit in half on my line on the way up.

There were schools of Bonito tuna feeding all around us for most of the day.  I've never seen the water "boil" the way I saw it today.  The rushing sound of water during the surface feeding frenzy was spectacular.  We cast into the school many times but never hooked up.

I deployed my trolling motor in an effort to control our drift but it literally fried.  I powered it up and it made a big popping sound and smoke poured out of it.  I quickly yanked the plug and pronounced it dead at 11:30 AM.  I bought this thing (gently used) online and it's been nothing but a money pit.  After paying 700 for it and putting another 400 into it, I'm done with that.  I could have bought a small outboard to install as a kicker motor on the back of my boat for that kind of money.  Meanwhile, back to the fishing...

At about 12 noon I had a major strike from the wreck below.  The fish was big, strong and made several runs.  I knew it wasn't a grouper because I've never had one run on me.  They just hunker down and hold on.  This fish made us move the boat in order to get line back from him.  I stood on the bow for the fight while Al took the helm.  After about 10 minutes I started winning the battle and was able to pull up and reel down.  Al could see it was something big and even the Barracuda were spooked by it when they would try to get close.  I got it to the surface and Al recognized it as a Greater Amberjack.  This was my first of this species and the 31st different species I've landed since moving to Florida.

Even though the fish was over 35 inches long and likely over 30 pounds, we had to let him go.  Harvest season for Amberjack was still 5 days away, beginning August 1.  We each took a couple of photos with the fish and sent him back to the wreck below.  You can see from the photos below, I didn't have the experience of handling one of these big boys.  I was better behind the camera for Al's poses.  Al also caught a Lane Snapper, which I'd never seen before.

We moved on to a couple of other locations and had marginal success with catching smaller fish.  We moved to a couple of Al's favorite spots and found the Grouper.  Finally, after 4 years and countless tries, I got my first Grouper big enough to keep.  Al caught 2 keepers of his own, one being a real fatty at about at 27" long.

Just after 5PM we decided to head for the ramp.  Seas were nearly as smooth on the way in and I ran about 30 knots the entire way in.  I got home at about 7PM and by the time I cleaned the fish, flushed out the motor, showered and sat down for dinner it was 9:00.  I think I lost consciousness at 10:30.

Click on pictures for full screen image.  Notice how flat the seas are, 30 miles off shore.

As you can see above and below, Al is the better handler and I'm the better photographer.

Where we fished:  these pins indicate where I was when checked in on my SPOT satellite locator.  The cluster at the far left is the location of the Bayronto wreck. If you look to the far right, you can see how far we are from home, in Port Charlotte.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


73* at wakeup in Wellington, FL

I haven't been on the boat since July 6.  Too busy working during the week and working at home on the weekends.  I've been seeing pictures of people catching Red Fish and I'm thinking it's time to hit the spot where I got my 26"er last labor day.  Maybe this weekend?

The Florida rainy season is in full swing, with daily rains and occasional thunder storms.
I'm working the Atlantic coastline this week, from Ft. Pierce to Miami.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 92, light winds on the water

I arrived at the boat ramp just after 7AM for a day of fishing alone.  I launched the boat without incident, taking the second to last parking spot in the park.  I pulled away from the ramp area and then pinned the boat down in 2' of water so that I could rig up my lines.  While parked there my GPS kept shutting off on it's own.  After 30 minutes of this nonsense I tried to use my handheld back up GPS but couldn't find it.

I'd apparently left it at home.  There are a few things you can do without on your boat in these waters but not having electronic navigation to keep you off the sandbars is not a good idea.  Besides, I wanted to head off-shore and not having GPS would be like being blind out there.

I decided to return to the ramp, tied up the boat, disconnected my trailer to save my parking spot and I headed for home.  I was home in 20 minutes, found the handheld Garmin and was back on the boat after a 45 minute false start.

I launched out of Gasparilla boat ramp at 9AM and headed west, into the Gulf.  At about the 50' mark I began trolling a rigged ballyhoo at 7 knots.  In 70' of water there were targets all over the bottom.  At 72' the trolling line went off.  Love that clicker sound, don't you?  I was hoping against all odds to find a lost dolphin fish but this ended up being my first ever Bonito/False Albacore/Little Tunny.  He had some some size and when he got close to the boat he spooked and went on another long run.  I finally landed him and dropped him in the live well.  After he stopped jumping around I measured him at 24".  I hooked into another one, almost immediately upon getting back to 7 knots.  This one jumped off the hook and lived to see another day.

I anchored down in 80' and used both Gulp shrimp and cut Bonito.  I caught a white Grunt on the Gulp and used it as bottom bait.   The fish finder showed a lot of fish on the rocky bottom.  The Grunt was swallowed by something that put up the biggest fight I've ever had.  I don't know what it was, how big it was or what it was hiding under but I tried to work him up for 45 minutes without success.  Every time I suspected I could have my lead weight snagged on a rock, the big fish would tug, tug, tug...reaffirming I was hooked up.  Being alone on the boat made it tough because I seriously needed a drink of water.  After well over an hour I decided I'd had enough.  I was thinking that perhaps he'd stuck my lead in a rock and was using it to his advantage.  I had 40 pound braided power pro with an 80 pound floro leader and I couldn't break it off easily.

Remora were feasting on my chum bag throughout the day.  I snapped a couple of photos of them.

I stuck my rod in a holder and grabbed a couple of Gatorades out of the cooler.  I pulled up anchor and then used the power of the boat to break the braided line free.  I re-rigged a ballyhoo on my trolling rod and slowly headed back to civilization.  I had another quick blast to my trolled line but it was gone just like that.

The weather and the wind were cooperative all day.  When I returned through Gasparilla Pass the wave action had picked up from all the boats on the intercoastal.  I got the boat on the trailer by 430 and was home by 5.

Not a great day fishing but it was a very enjoyable day on the water.  Photos are below.  Click on pics for full size image.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 93, afternoon/evening storms

I didn't get picked for the jury but it was still a good reason to be close to home for a few days.

We recently completed a remodel of our kitchen, getting rid of the old Formica counters and plain tile back splash.  We updated the home using Italian Porcelain Ceramic tile on the counters and colored glass for the back splash.  Some before/after photos are below.  Click on each photo for full screen.