Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Warming Means Fish

Sails and Billfish make a closer pass to shallower water this time of year

By Ron Brooks

It looks like the beginnings of a great summer offshore – at least here in North Florida. My son took his family fishing this weekend, and along with two other boats, went fifty miles offshore from St Augustine, looking for dolphin and billfish.

The “21” bottom, as it is commonly known, was covered up with bait and fish. Named for the 21-fathom line, this area is normally fished by the bigger boats. Heading out here alone in a single engine outboard is not the wisest thing to do – regardless of the weather forecast.

This day, however, three boats went together and the day turned out to be a good one. A call from my son as he headed home told me what wondered.

“How many sailfish have you caught in South Florida?” he asked.

Anxious to hear that he had one, I told him we had caught quite a few but normally would cut a sail off if we hooked one while dolphin fishing. People don’t believe me, but we did just that. Fishing with twenty pound spinning gear and looking for dolphin, we had no desire to chase a six-foot sail around the ocean for an hour. That was a wasted hour of fishing as far as we were concerned. I guess the fact that I had caught a few sails and that we were looking for food fish made the cutoff decision easy for us – who knows.

Regardless, Tom told me he had a big sail slap a ballyhoo in the prop wash while he was trolling for dolphin. A few minutes of fighting and three or four thrilling jumps later left him with a bare hook. The fish was not hooked well, as is the case for most straight, flat line hooked billfish, and the fish pulled away, but not before my grandson was able to witness the fight and the aerial acrobatics for a few minutes.

Billfish feed by slapping their intended prey with their bill, then circling back and eating the dead fish. Unless you are awfully quick at releasing the line, a straight flat line, when slapped by a billfish, usually goes uneaten. Hookups occur when the fish slaps the bait, more often by accident. This was the case with Tom’s sail.

Warm water temperatures, weedlines and plenty of bait are making the offshore fishing hot right now. After two years of cold water upwelling that basically shutdown the close in summer fishing, the warm water trend is a welcome sign.

Tom and the other boats managed to catch a number of dolphin and marked some really good ledges covered up with bottom fish. I see another trip coming – this one with the big bottom rods!

Summer is heating up fast – literally. Water temperatures are on the rise and the fish are turning on. It’s time to get out there and get some!

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