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During all this unstable weather we had 2 outings that we were fortunate enough to miss all that lousy weather. Fortunate?… Oh, really? The weather this past week has been feast or famine with incredibly lumpy seas, followed by very calm, and then throw in the largest full moon of the year with a dribbling north current. We did the best we could with what we had. Our customers were happy but Devon and I didn't think it was up to Beast standards. It could've been much better but I guess it could've been a whole lot worse.

We met Alex and his buds at the dock at 7 AM for a ¾ day trip. The moon that night was twice the size of normal, or so it appeared, and the seas were calm. We headed out the channel while exchanging information. Our first stop for bait proved fruitless for Hardtails so we blasted out to the patch reefs. We arrived to find an almost slack tide but thankfully the bait came up and we could hold them there long enough to collect enough for the day.

We made the short run offshore and got setup. To say the fishing was slow, would be an understatement. Even the downrigger was silent like deaf ears. We finally managed to find a Kingfish or two, that would bite the baits and tear them up, but not get hooked up. Finally Devon had a hair jig working and got a bite. As it was coming up to the boat, way to easy, we were hoping it was something worthwhile. A Sand Tile. Oh Boy! Time seemed to drag on and we were making plans to regroup and change strategies. The radio was eerily silent, and we never saw a boat working a fish. Then as we were about to pull the baits, we got a bite on the left long. Nice hit, man that fished crashed the bait. Alex jumped on the rod and was into a decent Dolphin. A little while later and the fish felt the steel of the gaff and flopped into the fish box. Well that's a little better.

We stayed with the decision to change the game plan and forsake a shot at a "Snooter". Instead we went to work on a wreck to see if anything was happening. The fish were marking on the sounder but we couldn't buy a bite. We made several drifts only to come up empty, when finally something took the bait as they were cranking it up. The fish felt solid and then for a split second it felt even more solid. We saw color and then the unmistakable image of the dreaded Caribbean Spotted Mackerel appeared. That's a Barracuda to those who don't know BEAST lingo. As we pulled it into the boat for an unceremonious dehooking we noticed that the second pull was that of a shark. The Cuda was shredded from the anal/dorsal area south to the tail. We tossed it over and wished him luck in getting home. Speaking of home… we called it a day and tucked our tails between our legs as we ran for the barn. This day broke our string of successive trips with a Sailfish catch. The next day, I heard the seas got snotty and those that went out, absolutely tore up the Sailfish. In all my days, I've never heard the saying… You should've been here tomorrow!

Mark and Mike, a father and son team, called on Friday to check in for their Saturday trip. Since I was open on Sunday we switched the ¾ trip to Sunday since their stomach survival rate on Saturday's forecasted seas, would've probably been measured in minutes. Sunday had a much better forecast of 2-4' but forecasts being what they are, they missed the mark by about 2-4'. Flat calm! Oh boy… here we go again!

Devon and I met up at the dock and readied the boat. Mike and Mark arrived a short time later and we fired up The BEAST, heading out for the bait. We were pleasantly surprised when we collected some Hardtails, quickly. I ran a faster cruise speed to get to the ballyhoo reef because I was anxious to redeem myself from the last trip. We scored quickly on the bally's and we were off and set up. Once again the current was only trickling to the North and the weeds were everywhere. GREAT! Here we go again! We spent a considerable amount of time clearing lines and looking for clean water to fish effectively. The grass, finally moved out! The down line was working better today, although we missed the first 2 fish. Then the hair/bally combo jig gets another Sand Tile. Whoopee! Well at least the skunk is off the boat. Then the deep rod sounds off and Mark brings a decent 10# Kingfish to the boat. That's better.

Mike is up next, and a short while later, the d/r fires off again. With minimal resistance an 8# Kingfish greets the boat. Once again everything is in position and we worked the area but this time we dropped the down rod much deeper. 15 minutes passes, then 30 minutes, then fish on! This time the clicker is singing and the fish takes a 50 yard run. Mike takes the rod and we are guessing the species. Well, we were hoping it was something other than a Kingfish this time, but it wasn't. Even though it was another Kingfish, it was a nice 15# fish.

With that last fish behind us the bite turned off. Through all this time we saw no boats jockeying on Sailffish, and heard nothing on the radio except of a straggler Dolphin or two. I asked the M&M boys if they wanted to go hit the wreck and try for some bottom fish or keep plugging away for a Sailfish. They opted for the bottom fishing. We arrived at the spot and setup. Little current and a light easterly breeze made for long drifts over the productive zones, but would the fish eat today? First drift is a test drift with one line. Nothing doing! I got my mark and we set out 2 lines on the second drift. Nothing doing… Until I started cranking up the bait. Bam, fish on! Mark grabs the rod and the fish pulls his knuckle toward the gunnel. Next run and Mark, being from Pittsburgh (no ocean there), is not ready for the power of our wreck fish. With over 20#'s of drag pressure, I thought this long, lanky, 15 year old was going to be pulled overboard. He finally gets it up to color and we see it is a chubby Almaco Jack.

We vented the fish and sent it home to grow up. This drift was working out, so I headed back for my starting point. We baited and dropped the lines again. OK guys, approaching ground zero, get ready. Bada bing! Mikes rod twitches and then starts bending. This one is acting like the fish we were after. There's color. Yes sir! Mr. Mutton Snapper is home. We leadered it to the boat and after a picture or two, we iced down a nice 12#er.

The next drift was uneventful so we decided to try 2 more drifts before we called it a day. The next drift we were on line and the spot showed profoundly on the sounder and Marks rod started pulling down slowly. He reached for it but I told him it was the bottom and quickly cranked up a turn or two. It tipped again and I took one more turn. After a couple more times I saw the drop off and I quickly set the rod in free spool so the bait could fall down the drop to the bottom. I locked the spool and the rod bent over double. Mark was into a nice fish. We were speculating we had another nice Mutton, judging by the fight. Here comes color! What the…. Cubera? Yes sir, not the 30-50# fish we catch on live lobster in the summer, but definitely a respectable Cubera Snapper caught on a Ballyhoo.

The last drift was a zero so we stowed our gear and got ready to make our run back to the garage. The Sailfish bite turned on as we powered up and the radio was sounding off with singles, doubles, and a triple. The M&M guys didn't care at that point, they were happy with the day and their Pittsburgh Steelers were going to play for the AFC Championship in a few hours. I'm sure they are ecstatic now… their Steelers are going to the Super Bowl.

Capt. Jim
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