Capt. Tris Fishing Report
Inshore Offshore Fort Pierce, Florida
Five Sails for Six Swedes
After a summer where a significant number of 'resident sails' made both offshore trolling and 'live bait fishing' quite a bit more exciting for many anglers, our winter sail bite on the Treasure Coast has been a little spotty. While the season started off well with a strong showing of fish from east of Vero down to Ft. Pierce 'and' off the St Lucie Inlet in mid December, it appears that the milder weather that has made for such a glorious winter in some regard has caused the main body of sailfish to remain up to the north for much of January. This was evidenced in particular during the 'Pelican Sailfish Tournament' where the majority of the entrants fished all three days on the northern boundary / 'fence' set by this years tournament committee. A 50 mile run to the north produced the most fish for those who made that effort to find the best conditions and largest concentrations of sails.
That's not to say that we havn't had some incredible days east of Ft. Pierce Inlet where in late December and early January there were some exceptional fishing days. Sea conditions once again proved to be challenging more often than not, but determination and a bit of luck have made for many a great day. One of our more successful trips on the Mango included an extended Swedish family made up of Vero Beach 'winter resident' Dan Airosto & his son's Christopher and Alexander all from Vetland, Sweden, their extended family Anton Topcov and Jorgen Carlsson also from Vetland and Dan's other son Adam Airosto originally from Jonkoping but now living in Oslo, Norway.
Based on slow fishing conditions from the previous day, and knowing that these guys wanted to take fish home for the table (....and thinking to myself that in Sweden they eat a lot fish dishes that I might find a bit too exotic?), we began our day on the offshore bar where I had hoped to bend some rods on a good kingfish bite, provide some action and then push offshore to look for sailfish. Thanks to Capt Fox on the charter boat 'Ruby Gene' we knew right where to find the kings that morning and our day was off to a fine start with a steady bite of kingfish creating lots of action in the cockpit.
Just as we were reaching our limit of two kings per person the release clip popped on one of our flat lines (that the kings were ignoring) and the drag began to sing. Thinking that it was just an ambitious and/or extremely large king, we fought and boated the two kings already hooked and then went after the fish on our flat line. By then he was stretched out 100 plus yards and we angled toward him with our Swedish fisherman enjoying every minute of the battle. As we closed in on our quary, this over zealous king came out of the water with a sail on his back and a spindle beak on his nose. Yes, we had a home grown sail bite in the middle of our kingfish circle! On a day when I wasn't sure we would see a sail, this was perfect and anglers were ecstatic.
Once we released this fish it wasn't hard to switch our effort over to an afternoon of sailfishing.
As I pointed the bow eastward and away from the toothy kingfish bite, the mate put out our spread of ballyhoo and deployed our dredge and teasers. Capt.Fox had radioed us that he caught a sail just offshore of us in 110' and we worked that way hoping to leave the kings behind. We covered a lot of ground the next few hours finding a few bonita bites and a fearsome barracuda that captivated our foreign visitors with his viscous grin, but we could not bring a sail into the spread.
Just when it looked like we would have to settle for the morning action to explain our day of fishing, a sail came up off the dredge and onto our left flat. My mate T-Bone, with steadfast alacrity, fed our ballhoo back to the sail and 'he was hooked' and handed off to one of our charter guests. As that action was taking place the left rigger went off and that fish was fed and hooked. There were at least two more sailfish darting between the dredge and our squid chains both 'lit up and ready to eat'. In succession we hooked them both and had our first 'quad' hooked up to the Mango.
Four sailfish headed 'who knows where', four Swedish anglers whose previous experience was ice fishing, and don't forget the other brother Christopher who was translating for all of us, all made for one hell of frenzy in the cockpit. The obvious difficulty of communicating with my anglers my have actually saved the day. Unable to shout directions from the tower, I focused on the situation at hand and the proper boat maneuvering became clear as crystal in an otherwise hectic situation. One after the other all four knots came through the rod tips and each fish was captured and released.
A happy group of anglers returned to the Ft. Pierce City Marina with 5 release flags flying and a day to remember under their belts. I can only imagine my Swedish friends recounting their day of sailfishing while sitting around a hole in the ice on a Swedish lake with their winter temperatures hovering around 17 degrees Celsius. They may be back in Florida sooner than they think!
On a different note, NMFS was unable to implement their grouper/snapper regulatory ammendment Jan 1st, so we are good to go 'on the bottom' for the time being. Look for a good grouper bite on the inside edge of the offshore bar in February. Twenty-seven fathoms should continue to provide action for amberjack and grouper enthusiasts while the wrecks will be holding AJ's, grouper, snapper and kingfish from time to time. Let's hope that the manta ray migration and their resident schools of cobia make it down past Cape Canaveral this year. Some good cold weather could help us out in that regard and not be all that difficult to bear considering the difference it might make to our fishing.