This snow-bird season, I am continuing in my evolution as a Florida fisherwoman newbie. After bottom fishing for Grunts and landing a sweet 22-inch White Margate described in my February 1st blog; I progressed to learn two new skills: Yellowtail and King Mackerel fishing.
My yellowtailing adventure begun with handling chum, the most awful mish-mash of smelly, scrambled fish guts and God knows what else. I placed a frozen brick of chum in a bag which floated behind our boat. As chum melted and dissolved into the current, it attracted fish. After about 20 minutes there was a nice slick line of chum floating in the current behind our boat. I put a light hook onto my fishing pole and used silversides as bait (glass minnows are also good). I threw the bait into the chum slick and let line of the reel allowing it to float freely with the chum. Minutes later action! A yellowtail hooked on and took off. I started reeling fast so that no shark could contest my catch.
When the catch was safely in the boat it was time for an analysis. The minimum “total length” requirement for a yellow tail is 12 inches. “Total length” of a fish is measured from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. (Unlike “fork length” measured from the tip of the nose to the V point in the tail). I was told that yellowtails longer than 15 inches are called “flags.” (Designation of a “flag” varies based on locale.)
In summary, during my first day yellowtailing, between two actively fishing people and one non-active guest, we caught 13 yellowtails (bag limit is 10 per person). I am so excited to report that I caught a 20-inch flag.
The next day after yellowtailing, I hoped to experience another type of fishing. This time, I wanted a King Mackerel. Fishing for Mackerel is yet another technique. Again, we used chum but this time the hook was placed on a metal leader which was then attached to my fishing line. I had a meaningful weight on my setup that pulled the hook with live shrimp bait down into the depths of a 26 feet hole in the ocean floor. Initially nothing was going on except for a few little grunts and Blue Runners, neither species caused us excitement. I got so bored that I went to the front of the boat and closed my eyes. Then one of my fishing buddies hooked a Mackerel and a fight begun. The fish took off and the fisherman let the line run. Then the fish got tired and stopped running, the fisherman wiped sweat of his forehead and reeled a few feet of line. But the fish regained energy and swiftly took off again spinning more of the line out. Seconds later it stopped, the fisherman started reeling and gained a few feet on the line. This action went on and on, moving the fisherman around the boat and …. snap, the fish broke the line and got away. Even though the fisherman did not pull the fish into our boat, he was visibly excited; adrenaline secreted from his glands and traveled through his system. He was exhilarated! I wanted to experience that feeling.
I put a shrimp on my hook and threw the bait out. Without having to wait too long the hook and my line took off and I started my fight. With incredible energy the fish spun feet of line out. When it rested, I bend my knees, put the fishing pole under my right arm and pulled a few feet in. The fish moved to the opposite side of the boat and I traveled with it. I gained on the fish and then the fish gained on me. This action went on for a while. Muscles in my lower arms were hurting as the battle went on. Then I felt a snap and the line got loose but not completely flabby. Sadness engulfed my brain, I knew that I lost the biggest fish of my lifetime. But I was still pulling something into the boat. But the something was not very exciting. It was a chopped-off head with my hook still lodged in its mouth and the head was not that of a Mackerel as the spirited fight suggested.
My buddies and I sat down in the boat to evaluate the evidence; we discussed until a conclusion was reached. We believed that I caught the smaller fish first which then was gobbled by a Mackerel or a small shark which I fought. The Mackerel or the small Shark wanted the fish and was willing to fight me for it. At the end, we split the small fish; I got the head and the Mackerel or the small Shark got the better half.
While I did not reel anything into our boat, the fight was spectacular. I was thrilled, my nervous system was floated with adrenaline and all the hormones indicating a tremendous level of excitement and physical exhaustion. I absolutely will go back to experience this feeling again. Hopefully the next time I will reel a giant King Mackerel into our boat then smoke it and have some fish dip.