"Bitter Ends"

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    john martin
    john martin

    Catching live bait has been a bit of a challenge as the heat slows both fish and fishermen alike. Fishing with my friend Omar we struggled to catch 40 between us so we reluctantly bought another 5 dozen just to get by. The trip started with yours truly doing the pre-trip seminar. Dylan Hubbard usually does this but I am honored to be his under study when called upon. While I was sweltering in the heat Dylan was hobnobbing with the famous at ICAST in Orlando.

    *With a full boat and a long way to go we got under way. As this was the last weekend of American Red Snapper there was much excitement and anticipation in the air. Captain Bryon said his plan was to go back to the general area we slammed the Mangrove Snapper on the last trip and then work out to a little deeper water during the day where he’d caught large ARS in the past.

    *We started around 1:30 AM, the Big Goozers and Fat Vermilion bit steady right from the start. I say bit steady but they were tricky as I could tell they were holing it in their mouth and then pulling. When they are doing this it is difficult to get a hook in them. By the time you feel your rod tip move it is often too late. When this is happening you have to feel the bite through the line. *This can lead to an interesting problem. You can see the Goozers are there because some anglers are catching them but the boat in general is not. By the end of the night I had a dozen nice Mangos while most around me struggled to break out of single digits.* I did the best I could to show others what I was doing and some seemed to get it but there is no substitute for experience.
    *AS reported, during the Mid-Week trip the Mango’s bit all day. This didn’t happen during this trip but I did manage to pick enough over the day to get my limit. During the first half of the day the ARS bite was few and far between but not for me. For some reason I was on them and caught at least a dozen “keepers” **I released some, gave some away and managed to keep two around 8 LBS. *Along the way two decent Red Grouper blessed me with their presence.

    * Midafternoon the Capt. announced we were going to fish a wreck he hadn’t hit all summer. He said there would likely be some Amber Jacks on it so we should start with dead bait and target ARS and Gags.* I immediately started landing huge Vermillion in the 2-3 LB class.* About 15 minutes into the stop first mate Will said we could try a live bait. I fired down a small Pin hoping to get it past any AJ’s. I got nailed by something big. In fact so big it made two long runs before it got hung in some lines and I got cut off. During my fight someone on the stern landed an AJ that looked to be every bit of 100 LBS. It was successfully released so I’m hoping it will breed many little Reef Donkeys.
    * On the next stop the current was running strong off the Port side which meant my line was going hard under the boat. Seeing there was room to move I switched sides. I picked a couple of Mangos and more ARS. During the stop Will told me a couple nice Gags came up on the starboard side. I quickly went back to my normal spot and fired down a live Pin. It barely hit the bottom when Bang! FISH ON! After an epic fight I pulled in a GAG that was legal by an inch. Epic because it was legal. The bitter Gag less streak had finally ended.
    *The next couple of stops saw multiple Red Snapper in the 15 LB. range come in. The bigger ones were hitting live bait so I fired down a big one. I usually like to let ARS eat the bait pretty good before I wind on them but I got hit so hard I had no choice but to crank down on it. It was obviously a big fish but just as I thought I had it coming my way it spit the bait. *A few minutes later a young man on the bow got a big strike and landed a beautiful ARS that wound up winning the “Jack Pot” it weighed in around 17 LBS. When it hit the deck it spit out the very bait I’d just lost.* Over the rest of the trip when he got word of a nice snapper being caught he’d run back to the stern and compare it to his. Nice to see a young man passionate about fishing.
    *Time to go home and get ready for the last ARS trip of the season coming Tuesday.
    *See you out there!
    *Did I mention I GOT A GAG!

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