We had a great day fishing offshore in Islamorada Florida. We live in Naples, so we keep an eye on the weather and when we see a couple of days with light winds, we plan a trip to the keys.
We were fishing with Captain Jim Hendrix on the Dauntless, a 27 foot Conch center console out of Bud & Mary's Marina in Islamorada.
We arrived at the dock at 6:45am to find Captain Jim rigging some rods. The boat was already loaded and iced down, so after asking for permission to board, we stepped onto the boat and headed out to get bait.
The bait of the day was going to be pilchards and it was only a few minutes until we were on a grassy patch just inside Alligator Reef, where the pilchards had been hanging out lately.There were a few charter boats there already when we arrived, and a steady stream continued to arrive as we were catching bait.
The charter captains all seem to help each other and work together flawlessly in a sort of organized chaos as the boats all load up from the same school of bait.
After a few tosses of the 14 foot cast net, Captain Jim had us loaded up with bait and headed to the tuna grounds.
It was a 15 to 16 mile trip to the 409 hump and when we arrived, you could see the rip where the current was flowing up and over the hump. The depth went from around 700 feet up to 55o in a hurry.
Captain Hendrix positioned the boat in the rip with the bow facing into the current and kept the engines engaged to hold us in place.
He then started chumming with the live pilchards, throwing them out behind the boat.
In a matter of minutes, we had blackfin tuna exploding behind the boat as they busted the pilchards on top of the water.
It was a sight to behold.
We baited up and tossed the hooked pilchards into the mele and we were hooked up instantly!
The next half hour was a blur, as we hooked and fought tuna after tuna, some up to around 15 pounds.
Once we had a limit of 10 tuna, we decided to see if we could find some mahi mahi. So we left the tuna and began trolling along some weed lines.
We managed to pick up 2 Mahi, one short and one keeper after about an hour of trolling.
At that point Captain Jim suggested we go back in, get some more pilchards and see if we could get some big yellowtail snappers, known as flags, on the edge of the reef.
As we were heading back in, I spotted two frigate birds circling, which usually means that they are flying over fish.
We put the trolling rods back out and in a few minutes, had a big fish on. It was only on briefly, but you could tell it was big by the first run it was making.
We continued back to the reef.
After baiting up, we headed out to 100 feet of water where there was a buoy to tie up to over a wreck.
The Captain put out some chum in the chum bag and then mixed some chum with oats and began throwing that in a little at a time.
In a matter of minutes, we had flag yellowtail behind the boat in the 2 - 4 pound range.
We baited our hooks with pilchards again and we were instantly into big yellowtails!
You know when you are catching yellowtail on big pilchards, they are going to be big yellowtail.
That action continued for about an hour, until the two big bull sharks arrived and decided to take a particularly large yellowtail that I was fighting.
I had the shark on for a brief few seconds before breaking it off.
After that the yellowtail were a little skittish. I would be too!
Then the bonito and little tunny showed up, keeping us busy and arms sore for the next hour.
Man can those fish fight!
At one point I was fighting a bonito when a goliath grouper decided that was his lunch and took the bonito straight down to the wreck. We were fishing with light tackle and there was no stopping the goliath.
We had so many fish in the chum line, it was incredible!
At one point there were filefish feeding right at the chum bag and Captain Jim, otherwise known as the "Fish Whisperer", said watch this, I can grab him with my hand.
He proceeded to quickly reach into the water and came out with a filefish in his hand!
At that point we decided to call it a day, and head back to the dock to clean our fish.
That in itself is a cool experience as the nurse sharks and tarpon gather to feed on the fish carcasses left behind after filleting.
All in all, it was a great day fishing offshore in Islamorada with Captain Jim Hendrix.
I highly recommend him if you are looking for a no nonsense fishing trip where you will catch plenty of fish. It is a smaller boat with no head, so it may not be the best choice if you have women in your fishing party.
You can reach Captain Jim Hendrix at: