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Fishbuster Dave
6/6/08 07:26 PM
Tortugas Tales and Goliaths on Bonita Beach Reefs [Post#: 2668 ] Reply to this post

I left Sunday morning, 6/1, for Key West, where six of us spent the night before taking off for the Tortugas on a boat we chartered. For once, I was the charter’s customer rather than the captain. Fishing that area has always been on my list of things to do but, in all these years, I had never managed to do it.

We all had visions of 25 pound groupers and huge mutton snapper like we had heard about from others who had fished the Tortugas, But when we hooked up with our captain, he informed us that bottom fishing hadn’t been so good lately and that our best bet was going to be trolling for dolphin (mahi). So we trolled by day and bottom fished at night. We left Key West about 12:30 in the afternoon on Monday, June 2nd. We began trolling about an hour later, and 45 minutes after that, we put lines out. Suddenly, a sailfish appeared on a flat line—I looked up and saw the bill of the sail fish—It had hit the wire in front of the lure, then kinked it and was gone. Fifteen minutes later, we had four take-downs with dolphin on all four lines. We continued to catch 30 inch-plus schoolies for about two hours, then we headed out to 2600 feet in search of granders. We trolled and picked up a few more smaller dolphin until about 8:30 PM, and ended up on the “Pill Box,” where we anchored in 70 feet about fifteen miles from the Marquesas. There, we caught some nice, twenty-inch yellowtail snapper and a few mangrove snapper and released a few short grouper.

At first light, after watching the sun rise over the Atlantic, we free-lined bait and fished for yellowtail, but we ended up with three cero mackerel instead, to 35 inches. We ate a quick breakfast and headed out deeper to troll in 35o feet. Fifteen minutes later, three lines went down, all with skipjack tunas. We trolled a couple more hours with little action. All of a sudden, a rigger knocked down on the port side of the boat—A 350 pound blue marlin was greyhounding toward the boat, screaming the line off the reel! Unfortunately, the fish was about six times faster than the boat we were in. Its bill wrapped the 80 lb. leader and snapped it (of course, it had hit one of the smaller reels.) Still, the sight of that marlin was a heart-pounding, once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us. That fish was just 30 yards off the side of the boat. It covered 200 feet in two leaps, completely out of the water, just like I have always seen on T.V.

We trolled along and ended up with a 25 pound bull dolphin as our biggest catch, but limits of quality dolphin from five to fifteen pounds were caught by all (photo below.) We elected to anchor up early, about 35 miles west of the Marquesas to indulge in a fresh fish dinner in calmer water where we could cook. Then we anchored up for another night of yellowtailing. We caught fifteen nice yellowtail and a few more mangroves and released lots of smaller keepers before the sharks closed in on us.

We were up Wednesday morning at first light again ready to troll but we awoke to squall-lines and rough conditions so we decided to start the five hour journey back to Key West, where about three hours of fish-cleaning awaited us. All in all, it was a great time with good friends, great fishing and an adventure to remember always.

With my feet planted on terra firma for a day, I was ready by Friday to resume my regular, local fishing. I fished the artificial reefs off Bonita Beach Friday morning with William Smith, son Walker, daughter Audrey and friend, Aaron Peets. We used shrimp at first to catch our table-fare—nine Spanish mackerel to 25 inches, and we released blue runners and cravalle jacks. Next, we baited with blue runners for some sport-fishing for goliath grouper. We released two of those, a 60-pounder caught by Walker and a 100-pounder caught by Aaron.

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