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My mate, Devon, and my daughter, Amy, are getting married on Saturday. Coming from a fishing family, they decided they wanted to serve fresh fish at their Keys wedding. The best way to make sure the fish is fresh is to go out and catch it yourself. Problem #1 was that the weather forecast was for less than comfortable winds and seas all week. Devon has a 19' CudaCraft and the mission was looking bleak. Being the good father/father-in-law that I am, we decided to give the 33' WorldCat a workout and give it a go on Monday.

Devon and I met at the dock at 8 AM and quickly loaded the boat. We couldn't find any of our friends or family that could make this Monday morning trip with us. They had trivial nonsense excuses like work or something of that nature, so we decided to go by ourselves. With absolutely no game plan set in stone, we unleashed The BEAST and headed out. My thoughts were to set sights for my Ballyhoo patch that had a majority of "dinks". I figured it would be much better, to have more versatile small baits to catch anything that we might encounter. The winds were huffing about 18-20 knots but were out of the NW which gave us some smaller seas than anticipated. Arriving at the patch we deployed a chum bag and within minutes the "dinks" were congregated behind the boat. They were ravenous feeders and oblivious to the boat. We caught a few dozen on hook and then I broke out the Calusa cast net. A couple throws with the net and we had plenty of bait for the day. I fired up the Suzuki outboards and headed offshore on our quest. As we were making our way out we heard some chatter on the radio of a few Sails and some Dolphin. Dolphin? Hmmm. Now there's a thought!

We hit the edge and found 4' seas, the winds were solid, and the weeds were scattered along the edge to the 130' depths. I shut down to an idle and we immediately put out 4 surface baits and 1 down rod. The seas, current, and wind, made me keep a fistful of steering wheel to keep the boat in position. About a dozen Frigate's were circling around the area. Within a few minutes our first visitors came into our spread. A couple of fat school Dolphin which we quickly dispatched into the fish box. By noon, the winds were laying back a bit and the seas were slacking off. Devon and I had pulled the hooks on 2 mystery fish on the down rod and boated 8 Dolphin. Then a Sail came tailing towards the right rigger and ate the bait. Devon worked the rod quickly and in 10 minutes we had a good tag & release. Less than 5 minutes after setting the lines out again and we had another Sailfish up and eating the short flat line. I jumped on this one and approximately 15 minutes later the fish came boatside. We noticed it had a tag in it, and another line had become severely tangled around the bill and pec fins of the fish. I reached over the side and freed the fish of all the line and we clipped off the tag. I retagged it with one of mine and Devon held the fish boatside as I idled along to insure it was in good condition before we released it. Dang! I never thought I would NOT want to catch Sailfish but this was a grocery type meat day for us.

After the 2 Sailfish catches, we caught 2 Sharks (ugh) and the Dolphin continued to be relentless. We had doubles, triples, quads, and even had 2 of them eat baits 50-75' down on the down rod. Several times we had fish pinned in the rod holders while we were working another rod. The cockpit was a mess and lines were everywhere, more times than I care to count. I believe we lost as many fish as we had caught. We had to stop several times to clear the cockpit, cleanup a bit, and recount our catch. Now it's 2 PM and we have a boat limit (20) of nice fat Dolphin. It sure would've been nice to have had at least one more angler! We could've easily limited out with 4 anglers!

Rather than continuing to work the top, just to release fish, Devon stored away the spinning rods as I set my sights for a favored bottom wreck. Arriving there I checked the drift, rapidly to the north, and reset for our first drift. Whoop there it is! Up comes a nice Mutton snapper! We're thinking we could spend the next hour or so, working this spot for a few more Muttons. Not to be! The next drift I hooked up and the line got very heavy, then it went slack. My Mutton just got eaten and the leader was bit off clean. WOW! It didn't take long for the sharks to home in and take advantage of the free meal. We made 4 more drifts and each time we would get the tug, only to have the fish pulled loose of the hooks. Devon managed to catch a very large Spotted Caribbean Mackerel (aka. Barracuda) that ate his bait as he was bringing it up. We gave up and called it a day.

As we were making our way across the Bay, we remarked of the fact that we would be in before dark, for a change! We also considered that we might try to get out one more time, weather permitting, while the Dolphin are still here. I told Devon that he already had a good mess of fish, to clean and pack, for the wedding reception. He looked at me smiling and said, " Yep! Thank God my father-in-law is a charter captain!"

Capt. Jim
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