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WOW! We have been spoiled by all the calmer days we've fished so far during this Sailfish season. Sunday, was a horse of a different color! The winds were recorded at 20-23 knots dead out of the East. The seas were every bit of 6 feet for the entire day. It was the kind of day that keeps me pretty much pinned to the helm and Devon working his rear off in the pit!

We met Ethan and Lael Shapiro at the dock, quickly exchanged pleasantries, and then unleashed The BEAST. We caught about 2 dozen Hardtails quickly then headed for the Ballyhoo patch. As we were traversing the Bay, they told us of their last year's trip in Islamorada where they fished 10' seas for a whole day and only caught 1 short Mutton Snapper. Ethan and Lael expressed that they wanted to bring home some Kingfish for their Mother for dinner. Devon was quick to comment that The BEAST has good karma with Mother Ocean and getting a few Kingfish at the least, should not be a problem at all. Be careful of what you speak, grasshopper!

We arrived at the bait patch and the 'hoo came up plentiful and quick. We caught about 4 dozen "hookers" and put them in a separate live well. I tossed the Calusa net twice and topped off the other well with the Blue Runners. I'd love to say we blasted out to the "edge" but the waters inshore were capping and rough so we took our time motoring out at about 20 mph. We arrived on the "edge" to find a 3-5' washing machine chop with 6'+ ground swells and a strong north current. This was going to be "Sporty" to say the least. These conditions meant we will be working in the ditch for a good part of the day! Thankfully, my WorldCat 330TE provides a stable fishing deck, that makes this type of fishing possible.

We put out 3 top lines and one down line. Shortly thereafter, we had a taker on the d/rigger but it came unpinned. Devon reset the d/r and once again we had a bite. The line took a short run and then this fish too, shook the hook. OK! It's going to be like this, huh? Devon pulled out a Horse 'Hoo from the "hooker" well and sent it down to 80 feet. I idled this spread around for about 20 minutes in the area where we got the last 2 strikes. The Horse entices a strong bite. This one is hooked and hooked solid. Ethan jumps on the rod and quickly realizes this is going to be a fight. He is on the rod for almost 10 minutes when he passes it off to his brother, Lael. We razzed him about the switch off. Another 5 minutes and we can see some color but not make out what it is or even the shape of the fish, only seeing flashes of it about 75 feet down. The fish begins to take drag again and we are now chasing him. The whole crew was distracted with this fish when suddenly, Devon notices the right rigger has popped and the line is paying out. With half of the spool spent, he quickly begins retrieving it. Sailfish on! Ethan grabs this rod since he has never caught a Sailfish. A long belly in the line and the fish airs out! We had to convince Ethan to keep reeling until he came tight on the fish. We were using circle hooks and when he finally came tight on the fish, it went acrobatic again. This fish was huge, the largest Sailfish we've hooked this year.

Now the dilemma begins. It is really, GAME ON!!!! Both fish are heading SW and taking drag so I bump up the throttles. This scenario is going too well at this point and I guess the Sailfish realized this and changes course to the NE. Isn't this a peach?!? We have both anglers, fighting BIG fish, and each taking line 180 degrees from the other. I put the boat in neutral as there is little I can do to help either angler at this point. The "Mystery fish" is on 50 pound braid so I tell Devon to put the heat (drag) on that fish. It isn't working and the line is melting off both reels. Meanwhile I have to contend with 2 boats that begin crowding me. They aren't listening to the radio so I yell to the one that I have a very large fish strung out right behind his boat, and thankfully, he heard me and powered out of our way. The saga gets hairy right about now! As the 300 yards of braid is almost gone on the "Mystery fish" and the Sailfish has taken ¾ of the line on the 20# spinner, we have to make a choice. We are guessing the "Mystery fish" is a shark, since it is acting as if we are hooked to a submarine. We chose Ethan's first ever Sailfish! Lael begins to add thumb pressure to try and stop his fish as the braid continues to leave the spool and we are now on the mono backing. Before anyone comments that we should have put a float on one of the rods and tossed it over, I will tell you that we don't throw $400 worth of equipment over the side, on The BEAST!!!!

Down to the nitty gritty, I turn the boat slightly toward the Sailfish and begin gaining line, one painful rod pull at a time. The Mystery fish is steadily taking line and then it ends with Lael almost falling onto the deck as the line parts with about 30 yards of mono left on the spool. ****! We tried everything, but we just couldn't stop him! Dejectedly, I start tracking toward Ethan's Sailfish and bump up the throttles again to recover some line and notice the second boat is real close and about to cross my strung out fishing line. As I motioned to him, to give me room it is too late and he crosses our line only 50 yards from our boat. I grabbed Ethan and told him to stick the rod completely under the water, straight down as far as he could. Thank the Lord, it worked as the line passes the other boat cleanly. That was too close for comfort! The rest of the fight was down and dirty and after 35 minutes, we finally have his fish to the boat for a tag and release. We estimated this fish to be about 75 pounds and about 72" LJFT length. She was tired and in marginal condition due to the lengthy fight, so we revived her for over 5 minutes until she regained her mobility and swam away! The topic of conversation for the next hour was that of the lost "Mystery fish" which, unfortunately, overshadowed the event filled fight and incredible size of Ethan's monster Sail.

Later, we tried for some Muttons and were marking the fish on the recorder but they wouldn't eat. We did catch a big Caribbean Spotted Mackerel, aka Barracuda, while dropping the bottom. As the day wears on, we managed to catch 3 Bonito on speed jigs, and a small sub-legal (1 inch short) Kingfish on a hair jig / bally combo. The witching hour arrives and we are still working hard when Ethan says he saw something near the left rigger bait. The line pops out of the line clip, Lael takes the rod and is into a Sailfish. This time it was a routine catch and we had the fish to the boat in 10 minutes. We finished the day with another strong bite on the d/r which pulled the hooks after a few minutes.

We tried everything we could to get them a meat fish. Devon and I were flabbergasted! The rougher the day the better the fishing, usually, but it was sort of slow for us! Bummer! A cloud of bad Ju-Ju was definitely hanging over the Shapiro brothers!!! Lael and Ethan reassured us that they had a great time and that is just their luck on almost every fishing trip!

Capt. Jim
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