[u]Executive Summary[/b] Temps - upper 70's to lower 80's, winds 6-10 (15 at the end), water temps mid 70's, 5-6 gags, couple large macks, and one big something never to be seen - more than likely the men in grey.
[u]Details[/b] With the last day ever of High School done for Wonderboy and his (and my) affinity for poon we opted to take the powerboat out and see if we could round up something that pulled harder than an upper 20's red.
We left home to ONiels Marina at 0'dark thirty and were on the water at around 6:30 or so. Even at the single ramp at O'Niels it's an easy in with Wonderboy. I cut him loose on the helm and I parked the truck. The in/out is typically the duration of cranking the engine and pulling the trailer out. The Amanda Buff hadn't been cranked in a bit - so it took 30 seconds versus the normal first time fire up routine.
We head for the North span of the Skyway looking for bait, but it was a rough go and with nothing being Sabiki'ed up we moved to the South pier. I threw time after time and Wonderboy managed to get some Sabiki'ed up, but after an hour we had nothing much to show for it. Finally the tide slackened up and after several more throws of the net we blacked out the bait well with smaller threadfins and filled up the 5 gallon buck with chummers.
By this time tides were wacky and we weren't seeing any poon rolling at The Bridge so we opted to troll for some Mack in the Skyway channel - us and what seemed was every other boat in Tampa. We had heard Capt Mike Anderson on his AM 970 Radio show talking about King of the Beach
tourney so we figured quite a few of the boats were looking for Kings. We trolled on the way out but with all that boat traffic it wasn't surprising that there wasn't much action.
We did see two HUGE cargo shipping coming out of the Bay and we cleared out of the channel, but were quite surprised to see a red paddle powered kayak about 1 mile from shore and 1 mile from Egmont Key. I'm hoping he was with a mother ship, because with the full moon the water was moving pretty quickly. Regardless the closer to the Kingfish armada we got the more powerboats were churning up the water. With somewhat calm winds we opted to go grab a bite over at the Sandbar Grill off of AMI.
On the way over we came across about 6 boats anchored up and figuring something was up we decided to take a peek. Coming in under trolling motor power we found ourselves about 75 yards from two boats and dropped anchor. I was hoping for some Kingfish action so I started chumming the water immediately. I wanted to cover the column so we put one line on the bottom but before we could get a second line we heard the baitrunner singing. I clicked over and pulled in a decent group - call it 20". I re-rigged and threw out again; just as I grabbed for the second rod the story repeated itself. Wonderboy grabbed the line this time and pulled in a nice grouper again.
Still not able to get the second line in the water we threw out once more, but this time Wonderboy kept the rod in his hand ("mama didn't raise no fool"). I finally managed to get my line in the water and I chummed some more. Sure enough Wonderboy brought in a much nice gag.
I kept chumming and I then pulled yet another nice gag.
We kept doing this for another 20 minutes and we started laughing at the non stop action. After a bit a fellow angler hollered over - "You boys getting tired of catching all those fish?" I was looking over at them in their open bay boat, and was pretty thankful for the T-Top. One of the best investments for the Amanda Buff for sure.
We wished we could have taken some Gag Grouper home - but it wasn't meant to be. Gag Season opens 7/1.
Still hoping for a big mack or king I threw out yet a third line, and put the rod up high in the T-Top. With Wonderboy holding his rig, and mine now in the rod holder, I threw out a couple more chunks of bait. Then proverbially it all happened. My rod doubled over, Wonderboy hooked up, and then the rod up top double over as well. I cranked on on the bait runner in the rod holder hooking the fish. The rod went into a deep C and drag started REALLY peeling - clearly not a small gag. Wonderboy's line was humming and up top I quasi looked at it and hoped for a King. Executing some quick triage of the situation I saw that Wonderboy had been broken off. I grabbed the rod singing, and told Wonderboy to grab the rod up top and start clearing the fish out. Meanwhile my fish had settled into a steady pull and he and I started going mano-a-mano. I was huffing and puffing (as the picture shows) and realized that this wasn't a tarpon, but was either a Jewfish (aka Goliath Grouper) or a big shark. I can clear out the small sharks (3'-4') pretty quickly. This guy had no intention of going quickly or quietly.
Wonderboy grabbed the King rig and found it cut cleanly - this left me on something big. We danced the dance - you go that way, I pull this way. You stop pulling; I pull sideways. After several minutes of this game I was pretty confident I was on a big shark and figured this gig was up. I didn't have wire on. I started to really apply the heat and you can see above I was feathering the spool. I suspect that had I played nicely we had an outside chance on getting it to the boat, but I wanted it in faster than he wanted to come in. Eventually the line just frayed and snapped. Checking the line there was several feet of frayed line - pretty much confirming it was a shark - and not a small one. Since it didn't jump I suspect it was a Bull or Hammerhead. I've seen some big ones around this area - +10'. This one wasn't that big, but it was big nonetheless.
We tried fishing 15 more minutes, but all that action had spooked all the fish out and we threw in the towel. We head over to AMI, but I opted to try a burger at the City Pier. I realized I didn't bring enough boat bumpers and with all the extra boat traffic I ended up using a cheap PDF for a bumper. I was really glad I had done so as some huge boats came by and created a decent splash. Boat secured we had the City Burger and swapped out to some of the best Onion Rings I've had. I'm not sure it was the fact that we were starving or if the burger was that good, but it was worth every penny of the $9. We'll go back for sure.
Here's the Amanda Buff secured in clear water and gives a good feel for the day. The restaurant is at the end of the pier over the water. Here's a panoramic view
. It's not my photo, but you get an idea of the setting.
After hydrating and full of chow we checked the tides and decided to drift by Bean's Point and see if anything was going on. We got on a couple macks, but the quest for Kings was up. The weather showed up and we (like many others out there) decided to not push our luck. We boogied back to ONiels and loaded up.
Closing in on home we agreed that as slow as the day started it ended at a great pace and we had a great time. I marked the Gag location on the new fish finder so hopefully they'll still be there in July. I have my doubts, but you never know.