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.|