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April 17, 2007

El Nino is gone!

Dolphin, Kingfish, and Sails!

Global warming???? We are still experiencing cold fronts making their way through Florida. By the time they get to South Florida they are not much of a "cold" front but still remain a significant pressure front, with lows in the lower 50's, and that is cold for us in mid April. These high pressure fronts affect our fishing dramatically. The day before or the day after a frontal pattern can be feast or famine, a feeding frenzy or lockjaw shutdown. The coastal and offshore fishermen, fishing deeper water, realize the bite is almost non-existent during the approach of a front and dramatically increases after its arrival.

Yesterday my trip reflected this fact in a big way. It also had a few other quirks thrown in for good measure. Kevin and Kate arrived at 9 AM instead of the normal 7 AM shove off time. We exchanged introductions quickly as we departed the dock. We arrived at a preferred bait patch only to find the mooring ball gone. Rather than taking a chance of throwing the anchor into the coral, I opted for another patch close by. GREAT! Our late departure found us with a ripping offshore current and the winds laying me towards shore. The chum is running under the boat as we scan the surface looking for bait, only seeing a few Chubs rising to the chum. The incoming tide wasn't due for another 3 hours, so I pulled up everything, fired up the Hondas, and pointed The BEAST offshore. The decision was to try and troll up some of the many Dolphin that have been showing up in fish boxes at the docks. We worked offshore in the 200' to 600' depths, SE of the Whistle Buoy. The farther we went, the more the ocean looked like a desert barren of cacti (weeds). The radio traffic was quiet, and infrequent information was not good. Someone asked if anyone was catching at all, and the answer was total radio silence. After plying the waters for a couple hours with only one strike on the long rigger, I made my way shoreward surmising that the strong SE wind must have the fish tight against the edge. We worked northward fishing the 120-200' depths and finally got a double hook up on Bonitos. Shortly thereafter, we hooked up a double on "schoolie" Dolphin. The fishing was slow to say the least. I pulled lines and blasted into the bait patch again to make a second attempt at catching some live bait. The tide had changed and the bait popped up quickly. As we began catching bait, the radio chatter picked up. Many were packing it in and heading home. One Captain cited the incoming front as the culprit to this mediocre fishing, but when fishing a charter you must try and make the best of a bad situation. Kevin suddenly announces that he wanted to be back at the dock by 4 PM so they could hit South Beach that evening. OK! Now the fishing time narrows to only 1-½ hours. I figured 12 baits would be sufficient for this limited time. As we were unhooking bait #10, Kate felt seasick and by bait # 11 she was done. Just as suddenly, I get the "word" and we're headed back to the barn. By the time we arrived at the dock, Kate was feeling better. They both agreed that I did all I could do, a valiant effort on a bad day. Que sera' sera', what will be will be!

This was not the case on the 2 previous trips, thank God! Those trips had much better results with no hiccups. Bob and his friends caught 12 Dolphin up to 30# with 3 Kingfish over 20# in the mix. Jeff and his crew caught 7 Kingfish up to 23# and went 0 for 2 on Sails.

This is the story of 2007 so far. El Nino weather blocked most of the usual frontal passages during the winter. El Nino lifted and now we are getting cold fronts when we should be having spring like weather. That is the just the way it is sometimes. We give it our best shot and let the chips fall where they may. Most of the time it works out very well and everyone leaves the dock with a smile. Today as I write this report it is 56 degrees with the winds howling out of the NW at 24 knots. I have mixed feelings. I am warm, dry, and comfortable, but I wish I was out there chasing fish on a frontal feeding frenzy. I guess I'm just ate up with it, huh?

Capt. Jim