Peeling out of the Florida Keys in a brand new yellowfin 42, named Logan’s Revenge. We were headed out for the day to do some fun fishing with a younger crew, we started by heading east south east, we planned to run 10-13miles or so. We had the boat in open throttle and gliding over the 2ft chop in the new yellowfin 42’. As we rolled out the path headed towards the more fertile fishing grounds, we were looking at the graph to see if there were any tell tale signs as to where fish may be bitting. The water around us was deep blue, the sky had a few clouds and there was a light chop on the water when we had arrived on the scene. While headed to the spot, I was under the t-top at the console talking about the game plan & ETA with Wylie when all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, just off the port bow and beam a magical occurrence happened. During the run at 35knots a big Long Bill Spearfish had made an eruption at the surface chasing after a few flying fish. The colorful billfish with its vibrant shades of dark blue and electric indigo running down the top side of its back and its sail lit up like a neon sign, porpoised just under the surface as it prepared for flight. The relatively small billfish had rolled on its side just as it was approaching the surface. With an arching motion the billfish leaped from the crest of the 2ft wave in hot pursuit of the escaping flying fish that had also taken to the air. As the four flying fish were hovering from crest to crest, the Spearfish bolted out of the water from behind, with its elongated bill and slender body, it picked off one of the flying fish in mid air with its bill, and woofed down the flying fish, trapping it back on the waters surface. Both Wylie and I were breathless after watching the action, we both had just caught the spectacle out of the corner of our eyes. As soon as we had laid eyes on the fish we both knew by the tell tale marks, that it must have been a spearfish by the shear size and color. We looked at each other and tried to reason “maybe it was a sailfish or wahoo,” not many other fish could make such an acrobatic move out of the water as easily as this spearfish had made it look. But we knew it wasn’t a sailfish, the dorsal was way to small, we also knew it wasn’t a wahoo, this fish actually had a bill and sail, further confirming our identification. As soon as the spearfish dove back into the water after going airborne, we had already turned the boat around. Wylie ran to the back pit to pitch a lined ballyhoo at the billfish, meanwhile I took over driving to complete the tightly executed donut turn as we crossed over our original trial. Now following up in the same direction as the billfish that had jumped on our port side. We chased down the billfish from behind on the same path. We were actually able to watch the spearfish torpedo though the waves as it took off continuing on its diverted course chasing the additional flying fish. As we watched the fish take off to the deep sea, the whole crew watched in awe as the moment disappeared on the horizon. Everybody was amazed and shocked that we had just witnessed that awesome showcase of mother nature. We all agreed that it had been one of the cooler experiences that had ever occurred on the on the water. I attested that the illusive spearfish feeding was cooler than both a sailfish eating a cigar minnow, at the surface behind a shrimp boat, & even cooler than a marlin pouncing on a longline behind a dredge. The fast and acrobatic moves of the spearfish are forever ingrained in my memory. The speed, beautyand maneuver of the fish was world class, not to mention the amazing show the Spearfish had put on for us. in addition this is a rare species to find especially out in all the full spectrum of bluewater. As the day progressed we caught a few playful mahi-mahi. Even though we didn’t actually catch the covenant Spearfish, yet just to lay eyes on such a magical bluewater unicorn was second to none. Everyone on board was pretty content after seeing such an awesome event unfold right before our eyes. This was another incredible experience and memory I will never forget! -Ryan Collins
It was a brisk February evening the plan was to do some offshore fishing, I remember waiting on the dock and it being easily 15° cooler with a north wind in the harbor.
Waiting there we watched the sun begin to sink in the sky, we waited as the boat pulled up, a small 22 footer with a 300 outboard. We loaded up all five passengers and a cooler full of ice and drinks, now we were ready to fish. As we headed out the sun had just broken the horizon and was still setting. We pulled up to catch bait in the pass, started chumming, tossed the net a couple times. Loaded the well with bait, just as the sun was sinking over the horizon. As we made our way out the pass the sun had fully set and the moon had begun to rise, also the wind had disappeared, in return the water was glass calm as far as the eye can see, in the dark that is. The plan was to run 50 miles offshore to get on top of a hot snapper bite. As we trolleyed out through the pass, we were the only boat around, and proceeded to kick into full gear and run the 50 miles in the dark of the night. Then the captain put on some tunes as we headed out into the abyss at full throttle. The first twenty minutes of the run was fun, the air temp was warm, the underwater LED’s were giving a cool blur underwater, the water was completely slicked out, we even watched the bright moon starting to rise, it made for a nice ride. Then the following 30 minutes had a slightly different feeling. All of a sudden the air temp became quite brisk and the passing air put a chill in our bones. Swells were staring to show up at about the 40-50ft drop off and the thought of engine failure was quite concerning at about the 20 mile mark giving an eerie feeling. As we continued in the dark at full throttle we were all gladly awaiting the fishing destination. As we reached the destination, we did some idling around to locate the best bottom structure, once we marked fish on the electronics, we dropped anchor, the water around us was so calm and flat that you felt like you could have walked on it. We fished for about 15 minutes with out much luck, the once lit up fish finder screen had now gone completely empty. As some anglers lost faith and passed off rods. We continued to stick it out at that spot, I even started to drop more baits in hopes to get a school of snapper moving up in the water column, we fished that spot well into the night. Luckily we decided not to move, and better yet attempt to fish the moving tide. We watched the moon rise higher in the sky over the next couple hours. As the waxing moon hit about the 10o’clock mark in the night sky, the reflection on the waters surface became noticeably bright with moonlight. As we were continuing to drop our baits to the bottom, that empty fish finder screen from before, started to come back to life, since the first two hours at the spot the snapper finally started to bite. Good size mangrove snapper were ravenously hitting our baits, just about every drop we were getting bit in 80ft of water. It was a pretty impressive bite to say the least. By now the whole mood in the boat had changed once more, everyone was full of energy and glad to be catching fish. As the night progressed the bit started to really pick up everyone continued to boat nice 21inch mangrove snapper. As the moon rose higher in the sky, the bite slowed a tad but only the bigger fish seemed to be feeding, I myselfhad finally gotten a bite that didn’t feel like a snapper. When I felt the bite the line really jumped along the bottom as I felt a solid thump on the rod, I reeled down quickly and lifted my rod tip to the sky, in the process I solidly set the hook into a fish that was able to pull a little harder. When my friends had seen the rod bend, they started to believe it was a slightly bigger fish. The hooked fish had dogged me all the way to the surface, especially because we were using light tackle outfits, as the fish surfaced it was a solid red grouper, at the 25inch mark. As it broke the waters surface I reached down to grab it by the gills, mindful of the possible taxman lurking. As I hoisted the grouper in the air for a picture, the morale, and energy in the boat surged! We reluctantly took a picture, after all it was about 2am.
Although that would be the only grouper of the trip. As we fished on for the next hour in the 22ft boat, I decided to try a bigger bait, as I dropped a pinfish to the bottom on light line, I could feel my bait scurrying across the bottom. It suddenly stopped, and my line quickly started moving towards the aft. Again as I had done previously I started to reel down in hopes to get a quality hooks with the circle hook that I had used with the pinfish. As I came tight on this fish, it felt a a lot different, for one there was much more weight, secondly I could feel tail pulses and head shakes that felt much bigger, as the fish swam right and left, I continued to reel down and proceeded to pull the fish all the way up 80ft to the surface, not until moments before it broke the surface could we identify what fish it was in the dark, I had caught a 7ft tiger shark which was an exhilarating fight and feeling. Just as it was breaking the surface it was identifiable from the remarkable striping pattens all along its body that most sharks do not display, these incredible unmistakable markings under the moonlight shining down on them was a rare sight to see. One that ill never forget, in conjunction with an elongated tail tiger sharks are known for. All aboard were in awe of this tiger shark that I had caught, everybody was happy to witness the fish, because more times than not a shark of that size cuts through the leader, only moments after hooking one. Before we had time to leader the fish it gave a good head shake to free its self, it cut the line with a powerful head shake and tail wag with ease, the fish sank back down to the bottom in the blink of an eye. The full moon by now had seemed like it was in full affect, the shark was the last fish we caught, once he was released we couldn’t even buy a bite. The whole boat was pretty amazed after landing the tiger shark on light tackle, not to mention we also had filled the boat full of snapper and my nice red grouper. As the bite died in the waining hours of the night we decided to call it and run back into shore and safety. As we headed back east, the moon now was at our back illuminating the way back in. We rode for an hour or so all the way back in the dark with a full boat and a tired crew, and still the fear of engine failure was on our mind. When we finally got back to the dock, the fish went on ice and the boat went on the trailer as we had finally headed home to get some rest.
Skyway Unofficial Record
Fishing just outside the Tampa bay sky way, I was sitting down cutting bait from out of the live well, we had two lines in the water baited. Sitting down thinking I couldn’t remember a current pulling as hard out of the channel as it was that day pulling out from the skyway. There must have been easily 60 other boats in the area, we had joked that this place was called the zoo, just a little too over crowded for comfort, especially when fishing! As I was slowly but surely tossing chunks of herring over gunwale one of our reels began to scream, it was ripping drag from the spool, right then I jumped up, and pulled the rod from the rod holder out of the T top above. The captain was so excited he sprang to the front of the deck to drop an anchor ball and turn the ignition. As the fish ripped more drag I could hear the excitement in the captains voice, when he said “we got a good one here, no doubt about it,” When the spool stopped, I started to wind down and pull this behemoth towards the boat, as the captain tossed the anchor ball and freed us, we knew we had hooked a dandy, after all the previous week we had jumped an absolute monster tarpon that eventually spit our hook after flying in the air 8ft soaring above the T top on the boat across the channel. That was truly a massive fish we had lost the week previous and I’ll never forget the acrobatic head to tail touch it gave us after blistering off 250yards across the channel and in the blink of an eye it was gone.
But as I reeled on this new fish it too was moving incredibly fast, right at the boat as a matter of fact, as it got closer the captain said he was anticipating a big leap or jump. The head shakes started, and I didn’t think this fish was going to jump, which he didn’t. This fish made another run and was peeling drag again, after his final run he was pretty spent, and I quickly pulled him to the boat. As he was near the transom the captain was dumbfounded that the fish was as close as it was already, the captain asked me, “did he break off? Did he spit the hook? Was he bit in half by a hammerhead?” My response was “I don’t think so.”
We couldn’t get a better mental picture because the water was murky during this outing from a rainy week, the week before you could see to the bottom in 25ft water like as if you were looking though a glass lens. But now this time we couldn’t see how big this fish truly was. The captain now believes that this monster fish hasn’t even realized he’s hooked. He tells me this fish hasn’t even begun to fight while steering through the traffic, I then promptly swing this massive Spanish Mackerel over the transom and watch this monstrous mackerel hit the deck and lay there motionless on the hull. The captain who was driving thought I kicked over the bucket by the sound of the slap it had made, when he turned around to see the mess of the spilt bucket, he was dumbfounded of the a decent sized mackerel laying there completely still. Not truly focused he told me to pitch the “king mackerel,” when he turned around again it took him a long time to realize what he was starring at, we both were looking at the fish in silence. It was unusual that this fish was not flopping all over the deck, its tail and body must have seriously built up with lactic acid. With its massive belly bulging and shoulders thicker than a grouper, it was easily 31inches. When the captain came to from astonishment he was a little upset, and I cannot blame him, it wasn’t our target species and many thought just a pesky mackerel, but this was no ordinary mackerel this was a massive Spanish mackerel. For myself though, I admired this mackerel, I had never seen one this size, I remember I had thought about keeping it for dinner, the captain reminded me he was to big to be good on the table, all blood line anyways. That’s why this mackerel had completely seized on the deck after all. Then I asked for a picture, because it was worthy. The Capt. wasn’t up for it and told me to pitch the dang thing.
I thought to myself “well I would like to know how big it was when I go back into the tackle shop on Monday!”I grabbed my Rapala scale and hung this massive Spanish mackerel, it rang in the scale at 16 and a quarter! I remember thinking it was a good sized mackerel, I should really get a photo, but the captain insisted he wouldn’t take a photo of a mackerel no matter how big. Feeling torn of just keeping this thing for my personal sake and not really wanting to toss it back at all, I gave in & released the fish to not further bother the Capt. As I went back to the tackle shop on Monday, I had a long discussion with the manager about the past two weekends of fishing. I remember we chatted about the hot tarpon bite that was in the bay and the guides that had been targeting them on fly tackle having much more success. We chatted for a while, I was then able to mention the giant Spanish mackerel that I had landed, my manager was impressed with the story and the potential size, him and the other co worker had heard of big king and Spanish mackerel that had been gorging on the bait that was pushed out of the skyway from the warm rain all week. The manager asked me If I had gotten a picture to help mentor me and make a point for another reason, but as I told him the captain wasn’t up for it, even the manager was surprised the captain wouldn’t help out. Then I told them that I had scaled it at 16 and a quarter.. both guys in the tackle shop went exstatic,saying thats an incredible catch! They both said I definitely should have gotten a picture. The one worker a long time guide said that was a gaint and the biggest one he had heard of in recent years. He then immediately went the IGFA website to find the records an compare, sure enough, that Massive Spanish Mackerel that I had caught would have qualified for a world record catch! Nobody could beleive it! Everyone in the shop errupted with merriment. Both co workers had sated that “dude you should have kept that fish regardless what the captain thought, you caught it, it was your fish, keep it!”
The news spread like wildfire around that tackle shop that month, at the following captains party I had some friends jokingly mention to me I had a potential world record spanish mackerel that I let go. Which was actually a funny yet agonizing story at the same time. Even to this day the fellas, friends and mentors in tackle shop, we still joke around about the world record Spanish Mackerel that was caught and released just outside the sunshine skyway bridge during tarpon season! Sometimes you never know where your passion can carry you!
Early morning grouper trip, we started off with 100 lbs of ice and bait, & decided to run 70 miles out to the Bluewater grouper spots. As we rigged up the electric Shimano reel and heavy duty tackle we rolled out offshore, as we headed out in the crisp September morning we flew past our competition in the 36’ yellowfin center console. Riding across the glass calm Gulf of Mexico with the sun shinning bright on our backs. Half way to the spot we reached a school of porpoise that decided to ride and play in our wake for about 10 miles or so. As we began to rig up some tackle we were a few minutes from our first waypoint. The choice baits of the day were very big 8-9inch pinfish hooked in the shoulder on a 6ott circle hook, with 120lb fluorocarbon leader. The captain dropped anchor and gave the all clear to drop to the bottom, I scooped up a giant pinfish as big as my hand from the livewell. I then proceeded to stick the circle hook through the shoulders of this beefy pinfish and fire it down to the ocean floor. The bite did not take long after 20 seconds on the bottom I felt a big thump on the end of my line. I wasn’t sure what fish it was, so I clicked the electric Shimano reel into high gear and buried the hook in the corner of the fishes mouth, after the line came tight on a flawless hookset, the reel could not gain much line and the rod begin to double over. I pushed the reel to the max with very little results. Then the big fish decided to dig really hard and pull back to the ocean floor. The reel than began to make decent progress but this fish wasn’t done. I pulled the rod from the rod holder and began to manually crank in 30 inches of line at a time, my arms fully locked, pulling harder and harder wearing the beast to the surface. When the fish rose further off the bottom I pulled the fish with all my strength, but this massive fish would peel line back down. It was a tedious and strenuous fight getting this fish past the breaking point. As the fish ran out of steam the electric Shimano reel hoisted the fish to the surface with ease. As the fish began to surface a huge air bubble and swirl arose to the surface just before the fishes debut. As the fish made it to the surface I was happily greeted with large black and grey camouflaged skin. A massive 40 lb gag grouper had risen to the surface after 15minutes or so. As I gazed down on the fish in amazement it slowly flapped its pectoral out of the water signaling its surrender. I knew this was a fish from the depths, one that was sitting in 120ft of water even. This big bulky grouper and one that was a trophy catch. All in all, it was a behemoth weighing in at 45lbs. A personal record for myself. ——-Ryan Collins
Micro Swordfish ~ 300 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico we were slowly drifting along as the sun was setting along the horizon. Once the sun had set we continued to drift with the current as the transom lights turned on. Once on all sorts of life started to ascend to the lights! Small crabs showed up in the lights and then some small squid began to appear we even noticed two small sail fish swimming amongst the lights & about 20 minutes later we noticed another small billfish had entered the transom lights, we simply scooped down with the dip net, picked up & observed the micro swordfish with a closer glance. How amazing and how rare to have seen such a small yet significant specimen, all the way out, 300 miles in the Gulf of Mexico. As we examined the bill we had noticed that the length was almost as long as half of its overall length, A feature found on any swordfish is the sheer length of its bill. The dark color patterns and silvery belly match that of a swordfish as well. Such a unique and rare specimen to find in all that Bluewater. I am great full for that micro catch as it is a closer look into the fisheries future. I’m greatful to have seen this little guy just swimming in the transom lights! -Ryan Collins