Dry Tortugas Trip Loads the Boat!
Wow what a way to start out the New Year!! The Keys seem to have finally turned back into a haven for fish!! Over the last couple of years I feel like we have been in some type of cycle which caused the East coast fishery to struggle. Just like everything else it eventually turns around, I saw this in the late 80’s, it was the same thing we struggled badly to produce and it seemed to last about three years. What causes this? I believe the weather patterns effect it the most but that’s another story for another day. Anyhow the Keys fishing has been nothing short of awesome lately. The sailfish are biting just about every day somewhere along the reef. The bait has been plentiful and the marine life along the reef edge has been a sight to see. The birds at sunrise is quite a spectacle, I bet there are half a dozen different species doing what they do and the coolest thing is each species has its own way of feeding. Some never even touch the water while others will dive and plummet 10 feet below the surface, it’s been a pretty wild show to watch while we’ve been anchored down catching bait. The Mackerel’s have been a sight to see also, one day last week the Mack’s were so thick that we couldn’t even see the sandy bottom in 60 feet of water it was jaw dropping. You would cast the bait behind the boat and you could watch 10, 15, heck 30 Mack’s attack your bait, It REALLY was that crazy. The fish have ranged anywhere from 8lb’s to 30lb’s and on 12lb and 20lb test line it has been very exciting to say the least.
Ending the year on such a positive note sure has been a great sign. With the fishing so good, what better way to start the New Year then to do a Tortugas Trip!! We left Saturday afternoon the weather was pretty good about 80 degrees with an east northeast wind blowing about 10 to 15, seas 2 to 4. We arrived about 9:00 pm that night and anchored down on a reef patch in about 70 feet of water. The water tempeture was about 74 degrees and the visibility was about 40 feet the color was a blue-green mix hence the level of visibility. The gang fished a little that night and they caught some nice 3 to 4lb Yellowtails and a hand full of 5 to 8 lb Mangrove snappers. The live baits seemed to attract some 30 to 50lb Amberjacks; we also found a few sharks. After breakfast we headed a little further down more towards the Bank. I anchored down again and fished a huge rock in about 75 feet of water. The action was quick to happen, the 2 to 5lb Yellowtails were very hungry as they began to show themselves in the chum slick. The current was very light if any at all, this made things a little tough but we just took our time until they got really happy and then it was game on.
Had two guys fishing the bottom and three yellowtailing and we had it going on, over the rail and in the pail, LOL. It was full contact for several hours, my arms still hurt. The two on the bottom caught a few nice RED Groupers, a few more AJ’s and a couple of sharks. One of the guys started to flat line dead goggle eyes and sure enough he catches a few real nice Mutton snappers.
Next we decided to take a break eat some lunch and go check out another spot. Oh boy.. Houston we have a problem! The grapple hook is stuck and I cannot get it out. Bummer we lose our chain so now we are unable to spend the night in the deep, we will never get the anchor to stick without any chain so we are pretty much obligated to fishing in about 90 feet or less. Believe me worse things could have happened. Anyhow we spend the afternoon anchored up in about 65 feet of water looking to catch some Groupers and the plan worked. The guys fished cut baits with knocker riggs on the bottom. They did great. We had a lot of Red Groupers which ranged from 6 to15 pounds, a few Black Grouper from 12 to 25 pounds, and several real nice Strawberry Grouper and even a couple Scamp Grouper. All are very yummy!! It was getting late, so I decided to make a move back towards the Marquesas and try to drift a few deep spots since I was unable to anchor there. It worked out OK we stopped on a rough bottom spot in 180 feet of water. We sent down a Chicken rig, a jig with ballyhoo, and a live bait. We caught a couple schoolie Mutton’s and a few Porgies on the Chicken rig’s. The jigs caught two nice Groupers and the live bait produced a few Sharks and a few big Mackerels. It was getting dark so we ran back inside to about 80 feet of water and anchored down for the night. The wind picked up just a touch after the sun went down but we were still pretty comfortable. The night produced yet some more Yellowtails and Mangrove snappers, however I think we were all pretty tired from the long days efforts. Sleep was more on the minds of most, so needless to say, there really wasn’t much fishing going on after midnight.
We awoke to a beautiful sunrise had some coffee and breakfast and fished till about 9:00am and headed towards home. The morning was good, a few more Muttons, and a real nice Dogtooth Snapper about 10lb’s. We probably could have caught all Cero Mackerel we wanted, they were swimming all around the boat it was fun to watch them. By now, we were pretty much out of bait ready to go. Overall it was an outstanding trip and we hit the slip at around 2:00 pm Monday afternoon with big smiles. And by the way, those of you that know me realize that I now have spare chain onboard, LOL that was a first!
Capt. John Oughton
Over Under Adventures