At midnight Friday, I headed down to the Merry Pier to meet up with a fishing ‘Dream Team’ – Cap’t Dick, Cap’t Brett, Joe, Pat and Rich. We headed due west in the wee hours to fish the Mike Alstott Charity Fishing Tournament. On the way out, we encountered pounding rain, but the winds stayed pretty calm throughout.
A couple of bait stops provided slim pickings, so we continued west, content in the knowledge that we had about a million pounds of frozen bait, along with dozens of pinfish and a few pass crabs. Since this was a tournament, we headed deep, stopping in about 160′ of water. The first drop was slow, so we moved to a nice ledge. BAM! Up came an American Red Snapper. Then another. And another. We kept a few of the larger ones, releasing the rest.
After a few minutes, Rich’s rod bowed over in a serious arc. Fish on! He proceeded to expertly battle a big red grouper to the gaff. It was a nice fish, around 13 pounds. The Brett hooked up on a monster. TheÂ brief fight ended with the fish snapping the 80 pound test line. The sun began to rise, the bite slowed, and we moved on.
The rest of the morning was spent in a series of deep water drops, but we just couldn’t get the big fish to bite. We managed some smaller red grouper, along with more ARS and a nice Lane Sanpper. But the big grouper proved elusive. We tried trolling for a while, hoping for a kingfish, wahoo or a blackfin tuna. We did have one nice hit, with Cap’t Dick on the rod as the drag screamed out. Alas, it proved to be just a bonita.
We dropped crabs down on a wreck, looking for permit or cobia. No dice. Even the amberjack shunned our small pinfish. I did manage a kingfish, but it measured a half inch short. On several spots, we had a great showing of fish on the bottom, but the sharks were thick and aggressive, and we lost a fair amount of tackle. Our usual mangrove snapper spots alsoÂ showed fish, but lockjaw had set in. So, we popped open a beer and headed back for the weigh-in, arriving with just a few minutes to spare.
We didn’t win. We weren’t in the top 3. But, hey we all had a great time, and a cooler full of grouper, Lane, and American Red Snapper. I can honestly say I’m already looking forward to next year’s tournament.