John and I have done quite a bit of fishing since we arrived back at the Jolly Roger, December 29th. This January has been no comparison to the January of 2014. Last year the fishing was excellent on the bay side. We were regularly getting our limit on Mangrove Snapper in the range of seventeen and eighteen inches. Not so this year and I don’t know why. The Snappers are plentiful, but we are lucky if we get one that is sixteen inches. The majority are throw backs and the ones we have been keeping are twelve to thirteen inches. John did have a nice surprise when he caught a fifteen inch Yellowtail Snapper! That is rare on the bay side. The water temperature is a little warmer this January, so I am thinking the bigger Mangroves have not moved into the bay yet.
Just recently, we have been seeing great catches coming in from the Atlantic. We haven’t even tried fishing the Atlantic this year, but we sure got to thinking about it when we started seeing all the Hogfish at the cleaning station. Just had to wait for a calm enough day. I’m not fishing in the Atlantic when it is rough. It is so hard to keep your balance in a rocking and rolling boat while holding a fishing rod.
Finally, calm winds were in the forecast for Sunday morning with them picking up a little in the afternoon. We decided to get an early start to take advantage of the calmness and did manage to leave the dock by eight thirty. As we left the dock, well prepare with rods, tackle, bait and ice, visions of Hogfish were swimming in my head. Hogfish must be very plentiful this year. I have never seen so many coming into the cleaning station. In the past, John has caught a Hogfish here and there, but they have eluded me. That was about to change.
It was a fairly smooth, six-mile ride out into the Atlantic. We drifted a bit while fishing, waiting to find a good spot to anchor on. The bites started immediately, but they were Porgies and Grouper, not the much sought after Hogfish. Once we anchored, it wasn’t long before we started pulling in Hogfish. I caught my first one ever and made John stop fishing for a photo opt. He was only thirteen inches, but I was proud and he went in the cooler. Then John caught a fifteen inch one, and I thought to myself, I need one like that. Woo-hoo, was I ever excited when I pulled in my very own fifteen inch Hogfish! No more keeping the shorter ones, we were going for the big boys. We came back with eight Hogfish, just two short of our limit, and five of them were fifteen and sixteen inches. The Porgies were plentiful and they are good eating as well, so we brought back a good many of them. There is not a size or bag limit on Porgies. John also caught five decent size Yellowtails.
As predicted, the winds did pick up after lunch. By two o’clock, it had gotten quite choppy and the ride home would be into the wind. The bites had greatly decrease along with the size of Hogfish, so it was time to pull anchor. I really didn’t want to wait to see the Atlantic get any rougher. Another friend of ours was fishing near by and he also pulled anchor. His boat is a little bigger, so we road in behind him, letting his boat smooth out the water for us. Otherwise, it would had been a bumpy ride for us.
John had a lot of fish cleaning ahead of him. I don’t clean fish. We put up several quarts of Hogfish in the freezer and cooked some for dinner as well. So delicious! It looks like the winds will be in our favor this week. I’ll be dreaming of another fun fishing day and HOGFISH!
We went fishing in the Atlantic three more times. Now I have to eat my previous words about not fishing in a rough ocean. It looked to be calm enough on Monday, but once we passed under the Long Key Bridge I knew it might not be good. Three miles out it really became rough and I had thoughts of heading back. The going was slow the next three miles, but we made it out there and we decided to see how it would go. It was a cloudy day, which made it on the cool side and there was a good chance of rain in the afternoon. The boat was rocking and rolling, making it a challenge to walk around. I pretty much stayed seated. It was real slow going on catching fish. We moved around a lot trying to find where the fish were, but to no prevail. Once, the anchor became hung up and we spent at least thirty minutes trying to get it up. At one point I was in fear of the boat sinking as the back of the boat was filling up with water. John had the anchor rope tied to the transum then and was using the motor to pull the anchor up. The anchor held and started pulling the boat backwards causing water to come over the transum. I scrambled to the front of the boat with my phone ready to call my friend who was fishing near by. John got it under control, worked more on releasing the anchor and was at the point of giving up and cutting it loose, when it finally released. Whew! Glad that was over. We continued fishing, even through some light rain, catching only two Hogfish for the day. Not such a good day of fishing. The ride back wasn’t too good either.
The next day was super weather. Calm winds and sunny skies! It was a beautiful ride out in an almost flat Atlantic. We caught three Hogfish fairly quickly, but after that, just about nothing was biting. We couldn’t even give away our bait. It was so frustrating. Our friends did better than that, so now we are rethinking our gear. They were using lighter line and maybe that is the problem. Some people in the campground swear by smearing peanut butter on your bait. The fish love it, they say. I can understand that, I am a peanut butter addict. Just might have to try that. I will let you know how it works.
Today the fishing was better, well, at least we were catching a lot of fish even if they were mostly Grunts and Porgies. I did catch two keeper Hogfish. The ocean waves were big today. We rode the six miles out to our spot only to decide it was way too rough to be out there. I suggested another Hogfish spot closer to shore thinking it would be somewhat better there. That put us about three miles off shore. The waves were still pretty big but they were goiong from the front of the boat to the back, which is better than them going from side to side. I guess I felt more comfortable being closer to shore with the bigger waves. John says I must be getting tough. Oh, I did try the peanut butter today and can not say that I saw any improvement on bites. They took my bait with or without peanut butter. Spreading it on sure made me hungry though. One plus for sure, my hands smelled yummy.