May 31, 2011
We headed east from Capt Pip's to Hawks Cay resort at Duck Key to meet Capt. Lee Lucas with First Love Charters (marathonsportsfishing.com). We had told him we would meet at 7:30 but first we stopped for some breakfast. We're always so hungry fishing long days.
We had no problem finding the place, and to our surprise we had the privilege to have two captains today. We had Capt. Lucas, with his Spotless 30-foot Angler, and Capt. Jim Griffith with Angler Management Charters (AnglerManagementCharter.com). Love that name!
It was such a beautiful morning with a gorgeous sunrise. We are so glad that we waited for today to head offshore.
On our way out we saw so many tarpon just hanging out inside the marina. I wanted to catch them but I had other fish I wanted to scratch off my list today. We were on our way out to the Marathon Hump, which we found out is exactly that, a hump or mountain, in the middle of the ocean. The bottom ascends from around 1,000 feet to around 400 feet at the top. They say most of the time the Gulf Stream runs right over the hump, for off-the-hook fishing, but not today. The Gulf Stream was farther out and there was no current.
Captain Lucas set up a nice trolling spread that normally works, but not today.
So we decided to try the fun, but exhausting, technique of jigging for tuna. We went to work with spinning reels and 5-ounce jigs. What a work out! After multiple drops and a couple of drifts, I hooked up!
This fish was feeling fun. The boys thought I had a lil' blackfin, until they checked my spool and saw how much line was missing, with the tight drag. It was time to start chasing the fish. After a long fight, we saw some color, a blackfin tuna it was indeed, but no little one, a big-big one! 32.5 pounds exactly, both captains' jaws hit the deck. We don't need any Gulf Stream!
A couple drifts later, Cooney yells fish on! This fish was fighting even harder than mine. I was biting my nails hoping it wasn't a bigger tuna than mine. I wanted to keep my bragging rights. Cooney was grinning like a fool. After about 30 minutes, and a crazy hard fight, we saw color. No blackfin for Cooney, he just jigged up a 50-pound amberjack with a huge mako shark hot on his tail.
The AJ had been bit, and the shark wanted to finish the job. Captain Jim was quick on the gaff, and Captain Lucas was quick to get a shark rig ready.
We then cut a chunk out of the AJ and threw it out there in hopes of catching the mako, which they say are great to eat, but he had lost interest.
Oh well, it was still really cool to see! Cooney proceeded to hoist the AJ in the air for a picture, and told me to hurry because the fish was heavy.
The weather was starting to look bad; the static from surrounding storms was starting to build up on the outriggers. We had to move away from these storms so we set up some high speed trolling on our way off the hump. I got a skipjack tuna, yet again, another first.
On our way in we found a weedline and birds, so we trolled for dolphin.
A line from the outrigger popped and Cooney was quick to grab the rod. Dolphin! The fish was beautiful it jumped a few times then Cooney got it boat side, but we kept him in the water to help attract others to the boat. But, he had no buddies following him up so we decided to land him. Just as Cooney went to lift him in he decided to thrust out one more jump and flipped off the hook, bringing the morale on the boat way down.
Shortly after, we got another dolphin, it wasn't the size of the first, but Cooney got this one. As we continued to head in we stopped at another spot. A big weedline this time. We set up a troll next to it, immediately three lines went off with mahi mahi, and this time they weren't alone.
The water around the boat was glittered with so many shades of blue, green, yellow and silver. It looked like I could see for 50 feet or more into the water.
We kept the water around us chummed up with chunks of ballyhoo to keep them around. We landed several nice sized dolphin, both cow and bull. The guys taught us how to tell the difference between the two--it's all in the shape of their forehead. They moved on but we followed them, by following the birds that stayed right above them.
We were in them heavy once again. Captain Lucas' poor boat was completely covered with fish blood, a sure sign of a good day of fishing. After all was said and done, we ended up with a baker's dozen dolphin in the boat.
We then came upon a HUGE Hammerhead shark. I LOVE THIS WATER!
Captain Lucas took us on the grand tour through the canals of the island. We went through Duck Key, past Hawks Cay Resort, and past the dolphin tank/encounter to Captain Lee and his first love Lynn's house. (This is where his boat name came from. They were high school sweethearts who reunited at a reunion.) We cleaned fish and took our showers.
Lee and I diminished our tuna supply while we were cleaning; it's so fun to be able to eat a fish raw that you just caught.
We had a great time checking out Lynn and Lee's house and apartment rental. They have an adorable apartment adjacent to theirs that they rent. They give renters discounts on fishing.
We had to meet Capt. Benny Blanco in Flamingo at 7 a.m. the next day, and it was 6 p.m. and we were still in Duck Key. Our accommodations for the night were going to be a campground at Flamingo. Talk about being exhausted.
We hit the road and stopped at Bass Pro in Islamorada, and guess what, someone recognized us from the blog. How cool is that, we could have stayed there all night talking! We then had to make the plunge to Flamingo to get some much needed rest in a tent. The mosquitoes and no-see-ums hated the fact that we had an awesome backpacker's tent that kept them out and away from us!