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Newlyweds Get A Double Surprise

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.Newlywed Jumper

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!!Stephanie's First Sailfish

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.

 

The Newlyweds

 

 

Down West KW Sunset

Here are some great photos of some of the many Key West sunsets I have witnessed over the years. While all of them are stunning in their own right, some happen to just melt the soul and make you stop and think about this beautiful every day occurrence passes us by with little to no acknowledgment. Sunsets for me are one of my favorite parts of my day, and as you can see, this is why. Enjoy,

Captain Jay Miller

November Sunset 2016

Key West Harbor Sunset

 

Toward Muds

Slick Sunset

 

 

Harbor Set

The Mutton Snapper, a fish under extreme scrutiny by both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Deemed to be a healthy stock, and not overfished, or undergoing any overfishing, new regulations have been placed upon Mutton Snapper in the state waters of Florida. These new regulations include raising the minimum size limit from 16 inches to 18 inches, reducing the bag limit from 10 fish per angler to 5 fish per angler (within the 10 snapper aggregate), and changing the commercial trip limit to 5 fish per person/ per day during the months of April, May, and June, with a 500 pound trip limit during the rest of the year.

Over the last 20 or so years these fish, and their massive spawning congregations to a handful of Florida Keys reefs, have been the target of many heated conversations. During the full moon, These spawning fish move into areas of the reef and become easy targets to fishermen from late April thru June. Earlier regulations allowed for a 10 fish per person bag limit, creating a stir when boats would show catches of 100’s of spawning fish going to freezers and fish houses everywhere. Many debates as to whether or not allow fishermen to catch these fish as they are spawning, or as to reducing the bag limits during the spawn have been at the front line, but the fire was stoked when these organizations along with the Florida Keys Sanctuary, began looking into closing areas of reef to protect these fish during their spawn. Measures were taken and a very popular reef south of the Dry Tortugas named Riley’s Hump was completely closed to fishing. Not just for Mutton Snapper, but for any and all species of sea life. Now, years later these powers have brought up ideas of closing even more sections of reef, one of them being Western Dry Rocks, a widely fished area southwest of Key West located in state waters. These ideas of closing more waters of the Keys have been met with extreme opposition from the majority of the fishing community, arguing that closing an area for a fish that spawns during three months out of the year shouldn’t be closed year round, and that more closures will inevitably create more pressure in other areas. Over the course of the last couple years, many public workshops have been held by these organizations to hear what the public has to say and comment about these regulation changes. During the FWC’s latest meeting in St. Augustine, actions to further special management of Western Dry Rocks were not taken.John's Monster Muttons

This has been a slightly odd year to say the least. Whether its El Nino to blame or whatever, it has been strange nonetheless. More so than anything has been the lack of Mahi-Mahi this summer in Key West waters. Generally one of our most highly abundant species offshore of the Lower Keys during the summer months, these tasty gamefish have been very few and far between this year. Yes, granted we have had a few days where we have had a decent catch one day or two here and there, but nothing even close to the norm. This lack of Dolphin offshore, has pushed many Keys captains back inshore, where better action can be had.Max-imum Snapper

“When the bluewater gets tough, the tough go to the reef!” The Outer Limits has had some great catches on the edge of the reef this summer, which has kept the rods bent and the clients very happy. Species such as Yellowtail Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, and Grouper have all been consistent visitors to our ice box. Along with these fish, others such as Cobia, Jacks, and Sharks have made appearances as well. Regardless of the weather, the reef has been quite consistent the last couple months, giving anglers fun fishing on light tackle.5 Pound Flag YT

With the autumn months approaching, and cooler temperatures ahead, the reef will be getting even more active, as more predatory fish move to shallower waters. Look forward to some great fishing in the near future!Chicago meets the Reef

As funny as it sounds catching a shark while trolling is actually quite uncommon. As much fishing as we do offshore, we very rarely catch sharks while on the troll, and when we do most of the time it happens to be a Silky Shark no more than about 10 to 15 pounds. However, every once in a great while we happen to tie into a few big sharks trolling natural baits. Only a few of these times in my 15 years of fishing out of Key West have I hooked a Mako Shark.

Over the last few months, my deckhand Cory has been turning teasers out on his wood lathe, and we have been testing them out extensively onboard the Outer Limits. He also has been turning a few topwater poppers as well. By painting them and then adding resin he has made some that really catch some nice fish.Do the Mako Shako

The weather was calm 20 miles offshore, with a sky pretty much overcast all day. The Dolphin fishing has been a little slow lately, but that hasn’t deterred our clients from wanting to go give it a shot anyway. Our Texas crew was eager and ready to see what the Ocean had in store for us, which we found out was going to be unexpected. Mid morning, and still having not had a bite yet, we were visited by a very energetic Mako. First it came up on one of Cory’s bowling pin teasers, as quick as I could I tried to wind it away before the shark was able to bite it and possibly cut it off. While I wound the teaser up, Cory took a few cranks on the popper that was being trolled a few yards behind the teaser, and the 200 pound shark took no time in deciding to crush the lure. In seconds Tommy was in the chair and the long battle ensued. Thirty minutes transpired and the toothy creature was to the leader, but nowhere close to done. Once the shark got a good look at Tommy it was seconds later and the shark was a few hunted yards away. Sweating and worked, our angler finally was able to get an edge on the Shark. Mako on the leaderNow at boat side, a measurement was taken and high fives all around. Not very often do you get to catch a Mako out of Key West, and and even less often on the troll,  and on a homemade lure… Priceless!