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Sometimes you have to make things worse before they can get better. I believe such is going to be the case with our local fishing.
This summer has been fair fishing, but nothing spectacular. After the wind of July, August was actually a good weather month, but most of the offshore fisheries were lacking. The water temperatures had risen into the mid- 80s, and despite clear waters with lots of baitfish, the predators just weren’t present.
Then along came Irene. Although we did not get a direct hit here on land, the storm did make a direct hit on our offshore waters. The result is “milky” water, whether green or blue, that is full of sediment and unsavory to offshore gamefish.
The good news is that the water temperatures dropped several degrees. It only took a few days for the waters to settle down enough for the bottom fish to begin biting again, and by the weekend the Spanish mackerel and bluefish were feeding nearshore again.
However, the waters from 60-100 feet were turned upside down, and this range, which typically holds king mackerel and other species, were devoid of topwater action.
Which leads me to the shining light at the end of the tunnel. During Sept. 3-4, my family—dad Rube, brother Barrett and daughter Caroline—and I participated in the South Brunswick Islands King Mackerel Tournament. The weather forecast was for near calm seas, and having knowledge that the waters had been stirred by Irene, we had a game plan to head offshore to 100 feet to find clean water and slowly troll live baits over bottom structures in hopes of finding king mackerel.
We stopped in 100 feet at the spot where we caught the winning fish in this exact tournament last year, a 43-pound whopper. However, this year the water was dirty and there was no action.
We punched in another location a mile away. Still no luck. We had burned half the day and had yet to get a bite.
We pushed offshore another couple of miles, where we found a beautiful color change, where the water went from silty blue-green to a clear blue. It happened that the color change was set up right over an area of good bottom, so we decided to deploy.
It took about 15 minutes, but we were quickly brought to life from the sound of a screaming reel. The speed of the run indicated a possible king, but we also knew that as deep as we were fishing, we could likely encounter wahoo as well. And wouldn’t you know it, a tense battle was ended when we found out we had a 30- pound wahoo instead of a king. It was a nice catch, but in a king tournament, it wasn’t going to bring the money.
The funniest thing happened with this fish. Barrett was in the bow doing picture poses with the fish in an attempt to make the cover of the Beacon when he realized that his wedding ring had slipped off inside the Wahoo’s gills. He dug through the gills and then shook it upside down by the tail, but the ring wasn’t coming out; the wahoo had swallowed it. So, Barrett pulled out the fillet knife and performed a gastro bypass on the Wahoo in an attempt to find the ring. All the while, we’re back slowly trolling in 3-feet seas. Blood was all over the front deck and Barrett, but he finally found the ring at the very bottom of the Wahoo’s stomach. It wasn’t quite as romantic as the initial setting of the ring, but I did place it back on his finger for him.
We continued trolling and again got another smoking run. We hoped for king but knew it could be wahoo. Surely enough, Rube battled a 40-pound wahoo to boatside this time. We were having fun, although slightly disappointed with no action from kings. It was still a blast catching the wahoo on the live bait gear.
We again reset and a few minutes later the downrigger at 60 feet came tight and again Barrett was on the end of a screaming reel. This fish we knew was a wahoo immediately from the speed and quick direction changes it displayed. We gave chase and while doing so, we got another bite on a flat line. I grabbed this rod and it, too, was tight to high-speed retreating fish.
Both fish were stretched in different directions, but Barrett’s was faster, so we worked toward it. Meanwhile, Caroline set up shop next to me and we worked on the mystery fish from the stern. Barrett and Rube eventually subdued a 50-pound wahoo from the bow, while Caroline and I battled.
The fish began making deep circles and I was suspicious this might not be a wahoo. I kept quiet and glanced into the depth for a visual. I finally caught sight of a lateral line and greenish tint and it was on—this was a nice king. Barrett stood by with the gaff while Caroline and I worked the king to the surface. A few tense minutes later the fish was on the deck and we were high-fiving.
It was a solid 30-pounder, and given the conditions, we felt it might be good enough for the win. And when weighmaster called 36.45 pounds—and a 29-pounder was in the lead and no one was in line to weigh—we knew we had done it. Not just once or twice, but we won this same tournament for the third consecutive year. Each year we won in different locations in different ways; it was just meant to be I guess. In 2009, with a 29-pounder; in 2010, with a 43-pounder; and now in 2011, with a 36-pounder.
The best part of it was that my daughter Caroline was part of the 2010 and 2011 wins, and she has become quite the tournament fisherwoman.
So, as this relates to a local fishing report, the wahoo are starting to bite offshore in 110 to 200 feet of water. Several boats fished the Black Jack and 100/400 areas this weekend. All caught wahoo and several also caught Mahi-mahi and even a few white marlin. The Gulf Stream is set for some great action, and I hope to report on it for the coming weeks.