I decided to head out for an afternoon of fishing on my new Yellowfin 24 CE bay boat on Thursday, March 31st. The temperature was mild with a stiff SE wind.
First, I stopped to catch some ballyhoo with the cast net. These are one of my favorite baits, and they’re useful for a variety of species like mutton snapper.
After setting up on the edge of a flat, I casted live ballyhoo rigged on knocker rigs with sliding egg sinkers, into the deeper channels.
I didn’t get a bite on the ballyhoo, but 2 300-400 lb. bull sharks swam towards my boat on the edge of the flat. I casted out a small piece of jack and it was game on! Here’s short a clip of me fighting from the tower.
Last week I got the chance to try my new Yellowfin 24 CE bay boat out. This boat runs extremely well with my Mercury 300 verado and Raymarine electronics. This boat is over 1,000 lbs. lighter than my previous Yellowfin 24 and it is fast!
I had the opportunity to get out and do some fishing on 3/17. First, we loaded up on bait catching threadfin herring near Stiltsville. We had heard there were some sailfish around, and on this calm day I wanted to head offshore and try to catch one. While heading offshore. We saw a school of BIG jack crevalles busting up the surface underneath a frigate bird…I had to catch one! I tossed out a threadfin herring and it was game on!
Offshore, we ran into a once-in-a-lifetime scene. Sailfish balling bait with dorsal fins out of the water, with the Miami skyline in the background. I have only seen this a few times.
Here’s a video of the sailfish balling bait, sight casting, hooking and releasing a sailfish. Enjoy 🙂
Although sometimes overlooked and considered less desirable than some of the other great game fish we have in Florida. Jack crevalle one of the toughest fighting, abundant species around. I’ve heard captains affectionately call this fish a “muscle with a tail,” “canal tuna” or “tourist tuna” because the jack crevalle is a crowd pleaser and can save the day when nothing else is biting. Here’s the scoop on one of Florida’s favorite gamefish.
Jacks range in size from about 1 lb. to their max size around 30 lbs. Their geographical range spans the entire Florida coastline, with the largest species caught traveling in pairs or small schools near offshore wrecks and reefs. Smaller fish in larger schools can be found virtually anywhere including the intracoastal waterway. A great place to find jacks is the entrance to inlets, canals and waterways. A great way to find jacks is to look for the birds. A hungry school of jacks will drive schools of baitfish to the surface. Pelicans and seagulls will dive and pick up scraps and baitfish.
Jack’s are not picky when it comes to bait. They can be caught on a variety of live and dead baits, lures and on fly. One of the most exciting times to catch these fish is during the mullet migrations. As mullet migrate down the coast, all types of predators capitalize. Jacks are particularly abundant and during the mullet run you can catch jacks off the beach and on piers and seawalls. One quick tip – a hungry jack school will push baits against a seawall and will strike multiple times. Reel your bait and lure all the way to the rod tip before taking another cast.
Generally speaking, they like their baits to be fast moving – especially larger fish. Smaller fish can be taken on light spinning or baitcasting gear. Larger fish require heavier tackle and a 20-30 lb. leader. As for lures and flies – jerkbaits, soft plastic (zoom flukes) and poppers work very well in a fast-paced STOP-GO, STOP-GO method. On fly, any type of clouser, deceiver or streamer will work the key is to strip very fast.
Perhaps the reason jacks are considered less desirable than some other species we have in our waters because they’re frowned upon as table fare. Jack crevalle’s flesh is blood-red due to muscle content. The appearance turns most away…but if you do decide to cook your catch, keep the smaller fish. Ice your catch quickly, fillet them, cut out the blood line and soak the fillets in milk. This will draw the blood out of the flesh. Although there are plenty of other better eating inshore fish in Florida like redfish, trout and black drum…if you are adventurous, give jack crevalle a shot on the grill.
Atlantic tripletail are like tropical nomads. With a definitively unique appearance and behavior, these animals spend their lives on the surface of the water column. They aren’t particularly boat shy, yet are still a challenge to find and entice to eat. Similar to dolphin, tripletail can be found by locating floating debris and weedlines. Here in Florida, these fish provide great opportunity in both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters…both inshore and offshore. If you’re a seafood lover, you’re in for a delicious surprise…tripletail provide stellar table fare, comparable to grouper. Here is the how-to on fishing for Florida tripletail.
Tripletail received their name for obvious reasons. Their dorsal and anal fin extend far back on their body, and appear to be attached to the fish’s tail. Tripletail resemble freshwater crappie-with a sloping forehead and small forward facing eyes. Coloring on these fish is highly dependent on water color and their surroundings. They can range from a mottled dark brown or blackish, to a yellow tint, or a mixture of all three. Tripletail camouflage themselves in order to ambush and stalk their prey. They’ll often float on their side-just beneath the surface, resembling a floating trash bag or a mangrove leaf. My first time seeing a tripletail floating on it’s side; it was motionless with a pale yellow color. I thought the fish was sick or dying…I have since learned this is typical behavior for this species.
For tackle, a medium class 7 foot rod and a 3000 size reel loaded with 10-15 lb. test will suit most tripletail fishing perfectly. However if you are fishing heavy structure, beef up your tackle to pull stubborn fish away from debris. Tripletail are clever, scrappy and will do their best to foul your line. That being said-20-30 lb. fluorocarbon is a good choice. Use a number #4 hook with a shrimp, crab or small baitfish. Tripletail are not picky. Also, ¼ to ½ oz bucktail jigs, or a D.O.A. shrimp are great artificials to try. Tripletail will also willingly take a fly. A 6 or 7 weight rod will fit the bill. Any shrimp or crab pattern, or a white and green streamer can work.
Offshore in both the Gulf and the Atlantic ; tripletail can be found hovering around weed lines or debris. The longer a piece of debris has been floating in the water, the more likely fish will be present. Algae growth on flotsam will draw in the entire food chain. In inshore waters in Southwest Florida; October 15th marks the beginning of stone crab season. Crabbers set out thousands of pots that will stay put until May 15th. Again, the longer the crab buoys soak, the more likely there are to be tripletail on them. Fishing the crab buoys takes patience and persistence, not every buoy will hold fish. When fishing buoy lines-run past the buoys on a plane, but slow enough to spot fish. If you spot a tripletail, drive past the buoy. Don’t pull back the throttle right on top of the fish. Idle or use a trolling motor to slowly make your way back to the buoy. Try to let your offering drift naturally.. If that does not work, drop it right on their nose.
During the spring and fall, Cape Canaveral in the Florida Space Coast holds the title for sheer numbers of big tripletail. Anglers here fish the sargassum weeds and buoy lines. When the fish are in the sargassum, light tackle or fly fishing works wonders and will provide great sport. When the fish are holding on buoys, heavy braided lines gives you with added security. Near Cape Canaveral, fish average under 10 lbs. but there’s a great chance you might have a shot at a 15-20 lb. beast.
Recently, I fished out of South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island with Capt. Ozzie Fischer. Running the beaches, we came across multiple tripletail floating sideways along swim buoys. We used my trolling motor to idle to the fish from down current and pitched weightless, small pilchards with great success. For one fish, a 12 lber that had spooked and dived-a small split shot placed right above the hook was the ticket for getting a bite. Again, patience and persistence is key. Devote some time to each fish and mix it up with your fishing style, using baits or lures. If it’s just not happening-return to that fish later on, after they have settled down. Tripletail will not stray far from the structure they are holding on.
If you decide to keep some tripletail for the dinner table, Florida regulations in both Gulf and Atlantic state waters put a minimum size limit of 15’’ and a daily bag limit of 2 fish per person. Tripletail provide some of the best table fare of any of the species we catch. However, they can be difficult to clean, with giant scales that act like armor. A long sharp knife is key. In between fish-make sure to sharpen your blade. Here’s the process: press down hard with your blade and make a clean cut from the top of the head, in back of the pectoral fin, down to the gut. Run your blade down the back, and then along the bottom of the fish. Now make long strokes, slicing the fillet away from the backbone. Remember to take your time! When cooking tripletail, the less preparation the better. Tripletail fillets are white, flaky and mild…best suited to being sautéing quickly or broiled.