Fishing ReportsSoutheast

Lower Miami and the Upper Keys

We had our good friends from Indiana come down to hit some of this spring time fishing. Chris Kelly, her husband Drew, Mason, and “PoPo” Steve arrived at the dock for a 2 day adventure. Yes, any time you get on The BEAST with Devon and I, it is an adventure. We all were glad to see each other again, for sure! We pulled the leashes off The BEAST and turned that puppy out. We did our usual run to get some Hardtails and then blasted out to the worm hole to get some Ballyworms. The bait was not the easiest catch we’ve had but an extra 15-30 minutes and we had enough for the day.


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Photo: beastcharters

We made the short run out to the edge and set up shop. Devon got the spread out and within 4 minutes the down rod sounded off. Drew was on deck so he grabbed the rod. It was a stout fish and we were hoping it wasn’t one of those “Caribbean Spotted Mackerel” again He fought the fish for about 5 minutes when we saw color down there. Dang! Sure enough it was a big Barracuda. I can’t imagine what others are talking about when they tell me that they are getting scarce. I can’t hardly keep them off my baits at times. The good thing about them is most of my clients are mesmerized by the ferocious temperament and intimidating appearance of these fish.

We didn’t have time for any pictures and barely got the fish back in the water when we had a rigger line go down hard! Dolphin! It’s a nice cow! Chris took the spinner and began doing some work on the fish. Bull on the flat! No, he spit the bait. Chris kept focused on her lady mahi. 3 minutes later and the cows partner is back in the spread terrorizing the 2 baits we left out. He took the short line and ripped it right off the hook and then pounded the longer bait. Hooked up! Well, let’s not cheer yet, because it only lasted about 30 seconds and he managed to come loose again. We cleared the empty lines and kept our attention turned toward the nice cow that is definitely hooked up solid. Uh, yeah, Devon and I kept glancing to see if the Bull had come back. He didn’t. Chris was getting her butt handed to her by this Dolphin. She was growing a bit weary but she hung in there and brought this big girl up to Devon. Whack! Devon puts the cold steel to her and she comes aboard. Nice fish, Chris!

After the picture shoot we cleaned up the deck and got back to business. I worked in and out and noticed that Chris was acting a bit sick. She has never been sea sick on the boat before, so our guess wasn’t sea sickness but rather an adrenaline rush. 15 minutes passed and she was having some strange symptoms so Drew asked if we could take her in. Of course, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It ended up being a very short day but we did have some good Mahi filets for them.

Drew and the guys arrived the next day. He told me that Chris was staying behind because she was still a bit under the weather and didn’t want to aggravate the condition. We headed out to collect our daily baits. Hardtails came easily but the worms were quite reluctant. We managed to coax them in and get enough on the hooks and then I nailed them with a pancake Calusa net. Off we go to the wild blue yonder. Yes, an Air Force vet!

I pulled up a bit deeper than we normally start, trying to locate some of those nice Dolphin. The spread went out and within 10 minutes we had the down rod singing. Mason jumped on the rod and the fish was giving him a tussle. He had his hands full but he worked the fish like a pro. There’s color! Really? Take a guess what it could’ve been. Yes sir… a Barracuda!

After resetting the lines I worked in closer along the deeper edge. I was intent on watching the water and the sonar. Nothing was happening on the top and the Kingfish weren’t eating the down rod. I started marking some good blips on the sonar, closer to the bottom. I asked Devon to drop one down there and see what happens. Bam! The rod bends and “PoPo” Steve takes it. This fish is smaller and fighting like a snapper. This fish gave up and soon Devon whooped “Mutton! Not a big’un but a good’un!”

I love it when a plan comes together. We kept seeing good marks in the area so I worked it. Drop down and let the bait dance. Bada Bing! The rod goes slack and then doubles over. Drew takes this one and it is a better fish. We’re thinking another Mutton but this would be much bigger than the last. Well it wasn’t a Mutton at all but a nice Black Grouper instead. Yowser!

This place is on fire! Devon resets the deep line and we noticed that this is the only bite in town. Nothing whatsoever was happening on the top. Devon finds another frisky bait and down it goes. This is Mason’s turn and it doesn’t take too awful long when the rod doubles over again. Once again it is good fish and we are thinking it might be another Grouper. Mason says it was fighting hard but he worked it like a master. Color up! Well gag me with a shovel as a nice Gag Grouper slides to the surface.

The guys were having fun but just as we were really getting excited the tide went slack and so did the bite. I didn’t waste a lot of time plugging away at this so we pulled up and headed for the nearby Grunt & Sweat wreck. I wanted to keep the guys busy until we had tidal flow again. Devon was set up and dropped the first bait for Drew. KaPow! The rod doubles over and the tip almost touches the water which is a feat in itself on a World Cat (high sides). Drew muscles the fish up and it is a good 40+ pound AJ. We dropped 2 more times to get Mason and Steve a wreck donkey too. Not a problem. Mason got a nice 30+ lb’er and Steve got a big pile of fish muscle that tipped the 60# mark.

They had enough just catching 1 each so Devon put up the big gun and broke out the smaller stuff again, I went back to where we had left off before we took the guys out to sweat them up. The tide was moving again and we set up there. The day was wearing thin but we had some time to work it. Peck, peck, got ‘em. Not much of a fight for Steve but it was definitely a fish. You don’t see this too often but we managed to hook up an Ocean Trigger aka “Tally”. The fish weren’t quite as active as before but I noticed some marks and relayed the info to Devon so he could adjust. BOOM! The rod bends over and almost stays in place, Do we have bottom? No, it’s moving but it is strong on our light tackle. OK, we’re guessing small shark, reef AJ, Yellow Jack. I start maneuvering the boat to move the fish and it works. Drew is putting as much as he can on the light rod with only 30# test line. This goes on for about 10 minutes and by the short lunges we have crossed off the previous 3 guesses and narrowed it down to a Monster Mutton or a Good Grouper. We finally see color and Devon shouts, “Nice Black!” Yes sir, yes sir indeed! We’ll take that!

Everyone is happy and we reset the lines for the final hoorah! We were working our way up the edge, about to call it a day, when a Sailfish started free jumping toward the boat. 75 yards… jump… 50 yards… another jump… and Devon pins on a Ballyhoo to pitch at him. The Sail jumped again at 25 yards and Devon makes a cast in front of him. Bust! The fish sounds down and we never see it again. We dumped the leftover baits and nothing happens. Hey, you can’t win ‘em all… but you never win if you don’t try!

With a heavy fish box and a lot of fish cleaning ahead of us, we stuck a fork in this trip. Everyone was extremely happy with their day. The smiles were rampant. I turned The BEAST westward and made the run back to the barn. A good day!

Capt. Jim