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May 23, 2007

Coconuts Dolphin Tournament

3 days of tournament fishing

This past weekend was a fish hard, all out weekend. The Beastie Girls and their other half's spent the weekend in the Keys while we fished the Coconuts Dolphin tournament. Amy and I ran The BEAST down to Indian Key Channel, just south of Bud & Mary's marina. We spent 4 days at La Siesta, a very nice place with comfortable accommodations. Our marina accommodations were on the bayside in a small little hole in the mangroves, which at first glance, was intimidating for my 33' WorldCat. The twin opposed motors allowed me to spin The BEAST into place every day and it truly worked out better than anticipated. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and prepared for the grueling 3-day event. This has got to be one of the largest tournaments held in South Florida drawing anglers from other states as well. Last year there were 620 anglers and on Thursday there were already over 600 registered this year.

We signed up and joined in the festivities Thursday night but went back to the apartment, and after a torrential rain, we turned in around midnight. 5AM comes quick and we were sucking down our coffees, grabbing a bite to eat, and we arranged The BEAST for the day. We shoved off at 7AM and made our way through the mangrove hole and into the channel and out into the ocean for the warm up day mini tournament. The seas were calm, flat to be exact, and I turned the 300 Suzuki's up to 4100 rpm's and set my sights on one of our preferred locations. We pulled up short of our preferred location approximately 25 miles offshore, opting instead to fish an area that looked too good to pass up. 8 AM and lines in time we put out our spread and worked some birds which resulted in a school of chubby Dolphin starting us off. They were so hungry that Missy was catching them on bare hooks. Since we were in a "biggest fish" tournament we pulled away from them and started hunting birds again. We made it to our original planned destination and we got bit up again and this time a pitch bait brought up a nice 16# Cow. A little more searching and things slowed down a bit. We worked this area for an hour or so and then decided to trek off to another spot. We got into some scattered weeds and got slammed by a 26# Cow. The afternoon was becoming uneventful when we spotted a couple of orange fender balls off to a distance and a boat fishing them. We ran over there to investigate and found it was 2 anchor balls coiled up in discarded rope. A sportfish boat that was working this floater was trying to block us out but we had no intentions to be rude. We worked the outskirts and caught a couple more school Dolphin. When the sportfish boat gave up on his attempts and moved on, we made a few passes close to the floating balls and rope which resulted in 2 Wahoo out of 5 bites on the deep rods. 3PM lines out and our total was 18 Dolphin and 2 Wahoo.

We took the largest Dolphin to the weigh in but we were too shy in weight to make the leader board. We hung out and socialized for a bit and then headed back to the room for day 2 of fishing which was Day 1 of the main event.

The same morning rituals at the apartment and we are off again. The seas were once again light and comfortable. This time we were running late and I cranked down on the motors a little harder. I didn't stop until we hit the waters that produced well the day before. Good scattered weeds, Sooty Terns working, and over the lines went. Almost immediately the short rigger fires off with a screaming drag. This was a big fish but as it head shakes we see what appears to be a glimpse of a Wahoo and then the rod goes slack. All the terminal tackle held properly, just a good maneuver by a desperate fish fighting for his freedom and the hooks pulled loose. We spent the next 3 hours in flat calm seas with nothing happening. BAM! The down rod goes off and so does the flat line. Good fish! 2 nice Cows. We pitched a bait and within seconds another fish is hooked up. With the original 2 fish in the box we now have another Cow on and we dropped back a naked ballyhoo to a fish swimming in with the 3rd Cow. Pick up, hook up, and off to the races it goes. The Bull to this harem was hooked up. Blood everywhere and tackle askew, but we had 4 nice fish in the fish box. Everything went smooth and exactly as planned. We got things back to order after all the high fives and moved along looking for THE BIG ONE. About 20 minute later we got the strike and he was a good one but the hook never really struck. The Cow on the other hand was not that lucky and we added another fish to the box. Somewhere along the way we managed to pick up 2 more school fish. Saturdays total was 7 Dolphin, 5 over 16 pounds and 2 schoolies.

The Beastie Girls took the 19, and 20 pound Cows along with the 22 pound Bull to the weigh in but ended up about a pound short of making the board in the ladies division with the Bull. The Beastie Girls have fished this tournament since 1995. Amy & Sharon said that never had they had such a welcome as they struggled to carry the canyon bag with 3 fish to the scales. The cheers were heart warming and made them feel like they had won anyway.

We awoke to a typical Coconuts Sunday. An abnormal cold front for May in South Florida had passed in the night and left us with Blustery wind conditions and building seas. We stopped by a frigate working the water and waited the few minutes until lines in time. We worked this bird for 30 minutes until he soared up and gone, with no results. We ran the 25 miles offshore to our spot. Approximately a half hour later we got caught up in a cell that once upon us grew to over 6 miles in diameter according to my radar. Every time I saw an opening it would close again because of the air temp cooling and condensing the moisture in the air. We struggled through 30-40 knot winds and occasional hail mixed in the rain for almost 2 hours. All I could do was put the bow into the wind and wait it out. When the squall finally gave up it left ugly seas of 6-8' and around the ups & downs they were like a washing machine. I am thankful that I was in a WorldCat 330TE, that's for sure. The day went quickly and uneventful. Nothing to weigh in but we were glad to see this day come to and end as we rode in at 22 mph in the slop.

We leisurely ran the boat back home on Monday. We'll get them next year. This tournament has eluded us every year and we vow to continue our quest to conquer in the 22nd annual Coconuts Tournament. We had a good weekend, none-the-less. Our largest Dolphin was 16,16, 18, 19, 20, 22, and 26 with 18 school fish and 2 Wahoo in the low teens.

Capt. Jim