The weather forecast was keeping us at the docks this Saturday with the forecast for isolated thunderstorms with damaging winds and large hail through Saturday night. We had hoped to run out and fish the ledge in the afternoon, spend the night and fish Sunday as well.
By 2:00 in the afternoon I didn’t see anything on the local forecast for Savannah that looked threatening so we left the dock at 4:00 and headed for the R8 Navy tower. We haled a sport fisher over the vhf that we saw coming in from the stream and they said the Triple ledge did well for them with two wahoo in the box.
I set a new heading for the Triple Ledge and pushed the throttles down for the 70 mile run. We had hoped to make it to the ledge in time for the evening wahoo bite but it was going to be close. We watched the sunset until it was completely gone and we were still nearly 6 miles from the ledge. I had forgotten that it would get darker earlier being so far East. The water temp was 72 degrees and Zack wanted me to stop so we could at least troll for a while before it was dark. I wanted us to be over structure at the ledge so we kept on as the light faded. The guys were more than ready to put out a spread when I finally pulled back on the throttles.
I figured we had enough time to make two passes over the ledge before it was just too dark. We had our six favorite ballyhoo rigs out as I bumped us up to about 8 knots when we made our first pass. The far outrigger on the port side sounded like a gun shot when it snapped out of the clip and the reel started screaming line. Brendin was closest and grabbed the rod out of the rod holder as we watched a sailfish grayhounding across our spread. Everyone scrambled to clear the other lines but it was too late. Three other lines went off and we had a major tangle. After the acrobatic show the sailfish was able to shake the hook. Everyone had to reel in at the same time to bring the tangle in. While all this was happening, the rod that Zane grabbed was still losing line at a quick pace. We got the tangle in the boat and I was able to turn the boat and help Zane with fighting his fish. It was now dark and we were slowly working the fish towards the boat. I grabbed the gaff while Brendin took the wheel. Zack leadered the fish while Kyle manned the spotlight. I swung with one motion and pulled a 35lb wahoo over the side as everyone started hootin’ and hollerin’. We only got one pass at the ledge but it was well worth the long run out.
We drifted over some good looking bottom as the green light hanging in the water lit up the underside of the boat. It didn’t take long for creatures of the night to show up. We first had some worm looking things swimming in the light followed by some fish that weren’t more than 2” long. Finally some squid showed up along with the flying fish. We netted a few squid and about 2 dozen flying fish for the live well. Off the bottom we caught a few vermillion and a few short big-eyes. We kept one vermillion from the cooler and stuck him in the live well also.
Running another dozen miles or so offshore Zane and Brendin prepared their swordfish rigs as we came to a stop in 1600 feet of water. As they deployed their rigs I went down below for a nap. What a nice touch to have Grateful Dead on the Sirius radio all night. I tossed and turned for a while when I heard Brendin and Zane shout “swordfish”. By the time I got top side Zack was standing at the ready with a gaff. While Brendin was slowly reeling in his vermillion they saw what they thought was a shark following the bait to the boat. Once it got into the green light they could see it was a swordfish but it wasn’t eating. It swam around for about 15 seconds and then sunk into the darkness. I went back down below to try and sleep a little more while the rest of the gang was pumped more than ever. Zane had a flying fish free lined on a light wire rig when the rod went off. They got me up again so we could chase and fight the fish that Zane had on a rod spooled with 15lb test. After an hour we had a shark boat side so we brought him in for a few pictures before releasing him back into the dark.
It was time to head back to the ledge and get ready for the morning bite. So much for my nap.
Once again we were trolling just as there was a hint of light on the horizon. I think it was our second pass of the morning when a fish hit and stripped line from the reel faster than I have ever seen. What an awesome sound! Again Brendin was first man to the rod. (I think he practices when no one is home) There were no other boats in sight but a large container ship way off in the distance. As we fought the fish, the container ship continued getting closer. After a lot of give and take we still had several hundred yards of line out when I realized the container ship was heading directly at us. I tried to turn the boat slowly and work the fish away but I ran out of time. I had to throttle up and get out of the way to keep from getting run over. As I did this more line peeled of the reel. Once we were at a safe distance Brendin feverishly fought the fish in hopes of keeping the container ship from cutting us off. Fortunately the fish was still on and we worked him to the boat for Zack’s quick gaff shot. What a hog. He was too big to fit in the fish box so we had to break out the fish bag and pack him in ice. What a great way to start the day!
Our greenhorn Chip Lewis did a great job his first trip and landed a Mahi Mahi and a wahoo. We thought the wahoo was a giant because we had a hard time working him to the boat. Once the fish got close enough we saw that after he got hooked he managed to wrap the line around his tail and was coming to the boat sideways.
Before our trip I painted a few cedar plugs and rigged them a little differently than you would find them at West Marine. I was anxious to try one out so I deployed it on the “shotgun” line about 250 yards behind the boat. I put the rod in a holder on the “tuna tower” and climbed back down to drive the boat. The nice thing about this shotgun line is that it doesn’t interfere the with the other lines that are running closer to the boat as I try to skirt along weed lines and rips. Everyone forgot about it until that wonderful sound of the clicker “screaming” at us. Kyle was quickest to climb to the tower and had the pleasure of fighting the fish that was probably 400 yards from the boat. We cleared the other lines and worked the fish to the boat. Everyone was guessing that it was another bonita until it got close enough to his colors. It was our first black fin of the day.
The fishing was hot and cold but the bonita were keeping us busy in between bites. We talked with other boats over the radio and it sounded like the black fin tuna bite was on fire about 15 miles south of us. We were low on fuel from sword fishing the night before so we couldn’t make the run south.
At the end of the day we ended up with 4 wahoo, 2 mahi, 1 black fin tuna and a few vermillion snapper in the box. We also jumped a sailfish and had a sword fish swim around our boat. The two larger wahoo bottomed out our 50lb scale and the other two were 35 and 24lbs. The larger mahi and the tuna weighed in at 14 lbs. The wind picked up in the afternoon as we started our long trip back to the hill in a choppy rolling swell. Sure wish I was able to “catch” that nap.