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By Captain Jay Miller,

Well folks what a long time since our last blog. the time screams by when so much is happening. Now, lets get to the nitty gritty. As far as July was concerned the fishing was hit or miss at best. Some days we were doing very well with Mahi-Mahi, a few Wahoo, and the occasional Billfish, as other days we only found very few bites. Many of these days were primarily smaller fish that either weren’t interested in our baits or weren’t even large enough to bite. These small fish however have brought a good food source for many Billfish such as Blue Marlin, White Marlin and a few Sailfish. The first two weeks of July were not all that great for Billfish throughout the fleet, with one Marlin or sailfish caught every couple days. When I refer to the “fleet” we are talking 30 or more boats fishing offshore every day. This equates to quite a lot of opportunities for Billfish to eat… and very few bites. But then, a change in the dynamics of the moon, and the bite was on.

That Full Moon Bite Again

If you have read any of our prior articles reguarding the full moon and its effects on the Billfish bite not only in the Florida Keys, but all over the world, you will recall that many experts believe these fish are quite a bit more active during the week prior and the week after the height of the moon. The full moon this July was deffinitely a good time for Marlin bites, with the Mr. Z’s neighbor, the Triple Time, striking first. The weekend before the full moon, Captain Joe Mecurio and mate Kyle caught a 75+ pound White Marlin on 30lb. test tackle. The next day, the Mr. Z ups the ante by catching a Blue Marlin on 30lb test. “Lady Luck” proved to be a good thing as angler Christine Cureton battled the beast to the boat, and  mate Steve successfully released the fish healthy and swimming. Then, on the very next day, which is now Tuesday, the Mr. Z adds another Blue Marlin release as angler Melissa Putnam released another healthy fish during the annual Bondi-Putnam RPOF fishing tournament.Melissa Putnam Releases a Blue Marlin Now, on Wednesday the tide turned to the Outer Limits, and angler Rob Mills battled a 200lb Blue Marlin for 45 minutes as mate Cory leadered the majestic fish boatside for some great photos. Another healthy release as the fish swam away to hopefully give another eager angler the same oppertunity as Rob. What a start to the full moon!!

Tournament Time

Coincidentally the full moon fell on the day after the annual Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament. This three day event is held every year in the third week of July and also coinsides with the annual Heminway Days, a celebration of the the life and works of the author Ernest Hemingway. This week is a very busy week in Key West. Many people come down for many of the daily activities suurounding the Hemingway Days as well as many avid anglers who are vying for the title of most Marlin releases, as well as trophies for largest Dolphin, Wahoo, and Tuna. Most years the tourney boasts as many as 75 boats, yet the ecomomy has been tough on the tournament schedule and many anglers cannot afford to compete as they did in past years. This year 31 boats competed in the tournament. Many were local boats with some travelling from as far as North Carolina, and Texas.

Thursday started the touney for both the Mr.Z and the Outer Limits. The Mr.Z just like years past was once again one of the sponsor boats for Bacardi, which distributes Drambuie, the tourney’s major sponsor. The event was not one of predicted hopes as very few Billfish were released. The first day was met with a bit of disappointment and bad weather as only one Marlin was released. Day two was not much better as only 1 Marlin and 2 Sailfish were released with a few other fish lost to pulled hooks. Day three was money for the Mr. Z. At 10:30am a Blue Marlin crushed an Aloha Lures “Mongo”.Mr.Z KWMT Angler Troy Anderson Angler Troy Anderson took control of the rod and fought the fish with perfection. Mate Steve put the final touch on the leader and the crew got the release on video. High fives all around as this fish moved the Mr.Z into 3rd place with only a few hours left to go. Two other Marlin were caught after the Mr.Z ‘s release, which left 4 boats in a tie for second. The tie breaker goes to whoever catches the fish first, second, and so on. This secured the Mr.Z in 3rd place. Captain Curly McGinn and mate Steve Liberatore stood tall at the awards ceremony as the two received their beautiful trophy. What a week for the Mr.Z as they released three blue marlin in 5 days!

Not Done Yet

A few days after the Mr.Z’s last marlin, and three days after the full moon, the Outer limits strikes once more with a bang. With Captain Jay Miller out of town, Captain Curly took the helm for the day. Mid day once again the Aloha Lures “Mongo” gets crushed by a Blue Marlin. At an estimated 350 pounds, the predator screamed drag as the Suffix line peeled off the reel with ease. After a hard fought battle, the beast was brought boat side. First mate Cory did his magic on the leader and the fish was released unharmed.Blue Marlin 7-26-13 on the Outer Limits

An awesome job done by both boats in July! For a month that is primarily slow when it comes to offshore fishing, these boats have proved to be two of the best sportfishing opperations in Key West.

By Capt. Steve Liberatore

Hard to believe it has been a decade since we lost the first Mr. Z on 6/7/2003. The story has been written before but not from my point of view. It was my 27th crossing of the Gulf Stream to Cuba. We were heading south to participate in the 53rd Hemingway Billfish Tournament, the oldest billfish tournament, and we were the longest participating boat in the history of the tournament.

All the boys were on the bridge with Captain Craig Eubank talking about all the girls and all the fish they were going to catch in Havana. I had heard it all before and decided to go down on the deck for some “me” time. I was sitting in the doorway watching the ocean go by, 60 miles south of Key West, when the starboard motor dropped RPMs and started smoking. Craig instantly shut down the engine and looked down at me. I looked up and said, “We are on fire.” Don’t ask me how I knew this but the smell was not of hot oil or fuel. I smelled burning newspaper (or old dry boat wood).

Craig and our second mate for the trip, Ralph, ran down the ladder to the engine room. I was instructed to get on the radio and call the “Kilcare”. The “Kilcare” was a brand new Hatteras owned by our friends the Dickmans.  We had talked to them earlier and knew they also were on their way to the tournament and were about 10 miles behind us. “KILCARE- MR. Z COME BACK.” No response. “KILCARE-KILCARE- MR. Z MAY DAY.”  Nothing, no response.  I turned up the volume (duh) and there was Captain Mark Harris. I told Mark that we were on fire and asked him to come get us. Mark asked for our coordinates, and I stumbled through them but soon realized he could probably already see the towering column of black smoke. The radio was then handed to our regular passenger Joe, and he calmly finished the conversation with the “Kilcare” and continued the mayday call like a pro.The old Mr.Z burning down

Getting To Safety

I struggled to remove the life raft case from its cradle and tied the painter line to the rail, threw the case off the bridge and poof, the life raft opened and inflated. I looked up and everybody that was on the bridge was now on the bow of the boat. I yelled, “GET IN THE LIFE RAFT!“ I tied the life raft painter to my wrist and turned around to grab the life ring. The black toxic smoke was too overwhelming, and I could not get to the bright orange ring.  I looked up to the bow and everyone was still frozen, just standing there with a look of disbelief. “GET IN THE LIFE RAFT!” They all still stood there. Then, kind of out of character for me, I screamed “GET IN THE LIFE RAFT, GET IN THE F@#%ING LIFE RAFT!!!”  Then off the bridge I jumped.

When I surfaced, my sunglasses were gone, but I still had my visor on my head. I saw Craig and Ralph cannonball in to the life raft and the rest of the crew running down the gunnels to the raft. Now when it says 6 person raft that is it, and that is all it will fit, so 3 of us were left to hang on to the outside of the raft. This was a survival raft so it was enclosed. “Are we all here?” Head count 7, 8, 9, all here. No Shoe Lou (I’ll explain the name later), Louie, and myself were the lucky ones to now be the life rafts propellers. We all together kicked and pulled the raft upwind about 50 yards and held it there out of the way of the toxic smoke. We watched the Mr. Z as the smoke grew thicker. Right about then the port motor started up. I thought about the movie “Christine” with the haunted killer car and just knew that if the boat put itself in gear, it would all be over for us. Looking down into the crystal clear water with infinite visibility, I found myself more scared then I have ever been, even to this day.  Deciding not to do that again, I looked up and saw a white speck on the horizon and watched it grow closer.Mr.Z burning to the water line

The Ride Home

It was a warm feeling as the “Kilcare” positioned itself for the rescue. I could see friends onboard and felt safe. Vinnie and Paul helped us all aboard and for about an hour we watched, like a Viking funeral, the “Z”  burn at a safe distance until it was time to leave the “Z” and move on. We headed back to Key West seeing how most of us no longer had our passports. The crew of the “Kilcare” generously returned us to Key West without even batting an eye.

After arriving at the A&B Marina, we all unloaded off the boat and went our separate ways. Lou went to buy some shoes. I found myself standing on the dock with no keys, driver’s license, money, or credit cards and feeling kind of somber. Looking down the dock I could see Joe Mac, Robbie, and Erin at the tee dock washing the sides of the “Triple Time.”  Erin said, “I know what will cheer you up,” and she proudly flashed me her new set of boobs… and it worked.

Some of the people in this story have moved on in other directions, some have left us and passed on, and some of us are still here. I am sure we will all never forget that day or the day at the Captains meeting in Cuba when they rang the bell three times for the Mr. Z.

“Catching Marlin on light tackle”, and I emphasize “Catching”. For many places around the world catching Marlin on light tackle can be quite different from each other. In some places, a 50 lb. setup would be as light as almost anyone would go. Other places, anglers will drop down to 20 lb. gear for battle. Here in Key West 30 lb. test is light tackle for the Marlin we catch. The speed of these fish is amazing. To see the line pealing off the spool in mere seconds is as blood pumping as it gets. Light tackle also tests the captain as most likely the fish will have to be chased down to gain the line back on the reel. The angler, whether in a fighting chair, or a belt-harness, will also have their hands full. Constant, and sometimes furious winding on the reel, then to watch all you just gained in the last 30 minutes go back off the spool in 30 seconds.KC Blue Marlin

There is an art to releasing Billfish on light tackle. Some techniques however differ quite a bit. These techniques are no way the “right” or “wrong” way to do accomplish the task at hand. I believe the best way is how you want to do it. Some like to hook fish on light gear, with light drag, and once the fish is engaged (hooked), the boat runs up or backs up to the fish and the leader is grabbed and there you have it. Some fish are fought for less than a minute. I prefer to get a bit more of a fight myself, but I do understand why fish are released like that. I just feel its a little more sporting to truly catch the fish. With a Blue Marlin if you are lucky enough to have it stay close to the surface the fight can be 20 or 30 minutes and be filled with some amazing acrobatics. However if your experience is anything like mine only a few act like this, and whats left is the fish that hooks up, and goes “down and dirty” on you. This happens quite often for us, and an hour or hours on the rod can be expected. We have fought fish for upwards of 4 and 5 hours. When a big fish expels lots of energy during the fight, their body heat rises. As they dig down to deeper water they cool off much quicker as the water temp in the depths is much lower. This can help the fish stay in the fight longer.

Seeing the Bottom of the Spool

Rich Bronson from Kansas City, along with his son Brian chartered the Outer Limits in late May this year. Hoping mostly for  Dolphin, Wahoo, or Tuna, the boat worked an area to the south east of Key West known as the “Ups and Downs”. This area is scattered with hills on the bottom that create upwelling or rips as the currents move across them. These upwelling push bait fish and predators closer to the surface and higher in the water column. One of these rips in particular made the whole day. A weed-line had formed on the edge of the rip, and as soon as the lines were set, we started hooking up. Nice schoolies met the ice as one after another made the way over the gunwales. Then a giant explosion behind the left rigger created a crater in the water. Blue Marlin On!! The fish greyhounds across the surface trowing walls of water every which way.  100 yards, 200 yards, 300 yards, of line peeled off the Shimano Tyrnos and was still going. Cory yelled up, “we need to get some line back or we are going to get spooled!” The boat is immediately turned directly to the fish and sped up. “Faster he’s still taking”, “We are down to almost nothing!!” Rich cranks with the quickness and finally we are able to gain line back on the reel. Now with almost half the 30 lb. Suffix line back on the reel, Rich got settled in and the true fight begins. The majority of the first hour passes with only a small gain in either direction. We gain 100 feet the fish takes 50. We gain 50 the fish takes 100. And so on.

Then, we get a surprise. While backing the boat up slowly I felt an odd pop in the shifter while shifting into reverse. Then as I tried to go back into neutral, there was no shift control, the motor was stuck in reverse. The engine was immediately shut down. Now on only one engine and a choppy sea this was a huge handicap. Very few boats with twin engines operate very well on one. With a sportfish vessel, where the fight is done from the back of the boat, keeping the boat positioned right is extremely tough on one engine, and with a Blue marlin on light tackle this is even harder. For another hour, Rich battled the fish like a tug of war gaining only inches at a time. Then after two hours of hard work and lots of sweat, the leader came into view. We were able to get a good  handle on the leader and Cory worked it up to the side of the boat. What a great fish! The Marlin was estimated at 350+ lbs. and released healthy and swimming. High fives all around!!

A Few More for the Box

After eating up two hours and 6 miles fighting the Blue, we started heading back down the rip towards home. Now, more defined than earlier, the rip was producing better than before. A few Dolphin, then a Wahoo graced our presence. Then a nice Dolphin swam up while fighting a schoolie and was able to get away unharmed. As we trolled the line a few pieces of debris held a few more Wahoo. We put about half as many Wahoo into the box as we had on and called it a day. I jumped down into the engine room and manually switched the transmission into forward and got us home safe. What a great day of fishing, a little hairy, but a great day in our book :-)KC Blue  Marlin for Rich

by Captain Jay Miller

On this Memorial Day, 2013, we observe the holiday only to give thanks for the brave Heroes who died serving our country. They proudly served their duty, whichever branch or organisation they were in, to the furthest extent. This country would never be what it is if it were not for these men and women. Our pride as a great nation is carried throughout the world to this day be cause of them. Our freedoms and liberties have been protected for hundreds of years by the heroes of our country.  We here at the Mr. Z and the Outer Limits thank all these wonderful men and women and their families. We also would like to keep those who are in service, have served, and serving overseas now in our thoughts. Thank you. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!Memorial Day Flag

By Capt Jay Miller

Over the last few years I have pondered a lot of questions about the ocean. There is so much that we know, or think we know, yet there is even more that we know nothing about. We have explored only a mere percentage of all the oceans and its inhabitants.  Now, there is one question I have always felt I had the answer to. “Who is on the top of the food chain?” My answer, “Sharks”. This opinion is based on experience and not on the media’s portrayal of the species. Sharks themselves have a naturally eerie look to them. The mannerisms in which they exhibit will strike fear into the majority of people. From the Discovery Channel’s  “Shark Week”s and the many other programs about shark attacks and so on, I think these fish are portrayed by the media as extremely dangerous man eaters. This I don’t believe. Sharks are far and away one of the most important species in the ocean. they first and foremost are the “cleaners” of the sea. Without sharks dead, dying, or sickly sea creatures of all shapes and sizes would litter the ocean. Sharks keep a balance of life for the oceans. Think of them as the C.I.A. of the SEA so to speak. These agents are responsible for the stealthy taking of individuals that need to go. They can smell one drop of blood in millions of parts water, so they get a whiff of something from a long way away they come to investigate.

Looking For A Meal

Of all the shark species I think Hammerheads have to be my favorite. Just the cool look of the “hammer” part of the head is what does it for me. The eyes are on the outside of the “hammer” which has a somewhat alien appearance to it. Not to mention the speed, these animals are extremely fast and can turn 180 degrees on a dime. From time to time I have witnessed some amazing behaviors of Hammerhead Sharks. When a Hammerhead keys in on a scent or impulses, “look out buddy!” this fish is coming in hot!!

Here is a video that was taken with our GoPro, on an evening trip targeting Blackfin Tuna. Along with the Tuna, many schools of Little Tunny, or Bonito as most call them here in the Keys, were eating our baits as well. While fighting a Bonito, the impulses of the fighting fish alerted a nearby Hammerhead, and well, I’m sure you have a good idea what happens.