Over my years of fishing in Key West, nothing surprises me much anymore when it comes to catching certain fish, in places they are seldom seen. Prime example is seeing pelagic fish such as Sailfish, Tuna, and Mahi way up on top of the shallow reefs. These fish usually dwell in deeper waters of 100 feet and much deeper, yet every year in the winter, when the Ballyhoo congregate on top of the shallow reef, these gamefish make their way into these shallows to feed on the massive schools that await. Now, I also must point out that this is also a very exciting time of year because a lot of our Sailfish are caught by sight fishing for them on the reef by pitching (casting) a live Ballyhoo at them. Very few fisheries are as exciting as sight fishing for billfish.
This being said, I bet you are already guessing by the title what is about to happen.
It was somewhat of a bit on the breezy side of the spectrum, but newlyweds Andy and Stephanie were ready to go give it a shot. We had decided that since it might not be as rough on the reef that we would start there and see what we were up against first. Once we anchored the Outer Limits, it took literally minutes for the bait to be chummed up behind the boat, and in one throw of the net the well was loaded with Ballyhoo. The bite was just as quick as the bait and in minutes Andy was hooked up to Mackerels, Jacks, Mutton Snappers, and Barracudas. The action was pretty steady for the first 15 minutes or so and in an instant show of BANG! two Sailfish piled on both of the outrigger baits and the acrobatics began. Both fish were tail walking in opposite directions screaming line off the spools. When two billfish take off in opposing directions , you usually have to take the closest one first, which was Andy’s and Cory got a great release on it and we headed back to get Stephanie’s fish. Now, let me add this, her fish had almost taken off all the line on the spool, and being that we were hooked up to this fish on 20lb test line, you never want to put a ton of drag on them, and this fish had wrapped around a lobster trap buoy. Making a drastic maneuver with the boat, I was able to get to the buoy in time, and get the line unwrapped. This was no regular Sailfish as once the line was freed from the trap rope, it went south to the off edge of the reef and went deep. Now this time of the year the lobster move across the reef in large numbers which in turn brings about multitudes of traps along the reef edge, and some of these traps have lost the floatation buoy, yet the polypropylene line is still attached and floating. These “ghost traps” can be a hassle to deal with as they cannot be seen. Stephanie’s Sailfish got wrapped into one of these ghost traps and after 10 minutes of working she was finally able to free the fish and miraculously, without breaking the line. Another 5 minutes of battling this brute and finally we had the Sailfish boat side. we got a couple great pictures and after reviving the fish for a few minutes, the Sailfish was released healthy. Now, here is the best part, not only was this her first Sailfish, BUT this was the first fish she had EVER had on, AND the first time she had ever had a fishing pole in her hands… GO FIGURE right. This is like going to a casino for the first time, dropping a quarter into the slot machine, and winning a million. AWESOME!!
We finished the morning with a few more good Mutton Snappers and released some big Cudas. What a great trip for the Bride and Groom on their Honeymoon. I love being a part of memories like this.