By Capt Jay
I am often amazed how life’s outcomes can sometimes turn out to be better than what your expectations are. I have seen this so many times throughout my many years of fishing in Key West. You leave the dock with goals and aspirations of this or that specific species, only to come back to the dock with something amazingly better and completely unexpected. All of your planning and work put forth to catch this specific fish such as a Sailfish or Dolphin is all but lost when that giant Wahoo or Marlin gets hooked and is screaming drag. Then, other times as you fight what you think is a certain fish, you are totally blown away when it finally surfaces next to the boat. This is exactly what happened the other day with Gene Stevens from St. Mary’s, Georgia by way of Westchester, PA.
Gene chartered the Outer Limits for a half day by himself to catch that specific “bucket list” Sailfish. This day unfortunately did not hold great conditions for Sailfish. But that was no reason not to give it 100% either. We have caught plenty of Sailfish on days where you would never expect to see one. The weather was absolutely beautiful though. As the rest of the country is suffering the wrath of all this crazy Polar Vortex weather that has put its nasty grasp around the United States, Key West is the nicest in the land with light winds and highs in the upper 70’s and lows in the upper 60’s. I’m telling you it is fabulous here right now. Generally we tend to like a Northeast to East wind for Sailfish and definitely a good amount of eastbound current. So, our conditions were no wind, flat clam, and no current… Great Sailfish fishing conditions (sarcasm). Either way we had a goal. Now, Gene was no stranger to catching trophy fish. On the way out he proudly showed Cory and I photos of his 525 pound Bluefin Tuna he caught off of Morehead City, NC a few years back. A very impressive catch I must say, but today we were after a Sailfish.
We started out catching bait. As calm as it was I decided rather than try and catch live Ballyhoo which we had been catching almost every trip, today wasn’t going to be a great day for trying to catch these frantic little freak-a-zoids. When there is no wind and no current, Ballyhoo can be a very tough bait to get, and get a lot of. So, I opted for trying to catch some Threadfin Hearing. Being as calm as it was these little baitfish tend to feed near the surface. When they come to the top they leave little rings in the water almost like a large rain drop giving away their position. Using a sabiki rig we were able to put close to three dozen in the live well and we were on our way fishing.
As it was, the action to begin with was nothing short of deathly. And I’m not talking about the fish. Literally we fished for two straight hours with not as much as a nibble. Working an area of about 3 miles east from Sand Key we focused mostly in the range of 100- 150 foot of water. After no luck here we picked up and made a move farther down the reef edge. Starting out a bit deeper this time we found ourselves in the vicinity of a well known wreck just south of Key West. Now with only a half of the day to fish, and very little time left at that, we were nearing the dreaded smell of skunk age. But then, the magic happened.
First bite of the day came from a King Mackerel around 12 pounds or so. Then, we had a bait stolen, then another , and then yet another was cut in half. It wasn’t long though before the next bite was “the” bite. As Gene was instructed, the bait was let back to the appropriate distance and the bail shut. Not 5 seconds after, the spinning rod in Gene’s hand doubled over with a screamer. Line peeled off the Penn Battle with ease as Gene could only hold on and hope to slow the beast. Once the fish had made enough of a run the back and forth battle began. Like a tug-o-war these two went at it. The fish would take 50 yards, then Gene 30. Then Gene would gain 40 yards , and the fish would take 30. over half an hour they dueled until finally the best prevailed. Little did we realize what Gene was tangled up with. Another Kingfish was both of our expectations as we had already caught and lost others. Then, as the fish came to the top, those beautiful navy blue tiger stripes shined out from the water like a diamond in the rough. WAHOO! was the scream. After a short back and forth near the boat, like boxers in the final round, the match was over and the gaff finally sank into the 40lb. Wahoo’s side. What a great fight and an awesome fish on light tackle spinning gear as well. Gene will never forget this day as long as he lives and I’ll tell you neither will we. It may not have been a Sailfish, but I guarantee it was just as awesome!!