After leaving the marina we bought ballyhoo from a bait seller and then motored over to a marker platform where herring and pinfish could be easily caught. Our mate Josh set us up with sabikis, and we filled up the livewell with bait for the day. Atlantic thread herring was a new lifer for me, and I desperately wanted a photo of one, but Captain Bouncer wouldn't have it. When I got out my camera, he barked out, "Get that herring in the livewell NOW! We don't have time to take photos of bait!" Being a species fishing guy, it tortured me all day that I didn't have a photo of that herring, haha.
We headed offshore a few miles, trolling as we went. Reminiscent of our previous charter, the morning started off slow. Once we set up over a wreck though, we started jigging up interesting species. Terry started us off with the first fish.
Pluma Porgy (Calamus pennatula)
We only had one jigging rod set up, so we took turns catching fish. After a few nibbles with no hookups, something big took my bait. Whatever it was was making me work to get it to the surface! It turned out to be a red grouper with a notch in its back where something had tried to take a bite out of it when it was younger.
Red Grouper (Epinephelus morio) - new hook & line species #256
Terry followed up with this snapper.
Mutton Snapper (Lutjanus analis)
Ruoxi took a turn and soon had a fish on as well. She caught a pretty cool species, a sand tilefish!
Sand Tilefish (Malacanthus plumieri)
While Ruoxi and I were jigging, Terry and Kayla each hooked up with a kingfish that took drifted baits (one of them may have been on the kite). Kayla got hers to the boat, but it came off while they were waiting to see if it would attract more fish. When Terry got his to the boat they brought it in right away to avoid losing a second fish.
King Mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla)
Terry also caught a bonito at some point, but I can't remember if it was drifting or trolling. Meanwhile, I continued jigging and caught another cool fish, a grey triggerfish.
Grey Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) - new hook & line species #257
We moved to another spot that was deeper - over 200 feet if I remember correctly. As I was jigging this spot, I kept feeling small tugs, but I didn't want to reel my bait all the way up if it was just a small fish nibbling at my bait. Finally I felt a good solid tug and I reeled my line in. The first hook of the chicken rig had a small yellowtail snapper on it, which was probably responsible for the small tugs. On the bottom hook was an enormous lionfish! Lionfish, which are invasive to the Atlantic Ocean, are rarely caught on hook & line. Captain Bouncer was impressed with its size, and when we got back to the marina he checked the record online, weighed the fish, and told me I tentatively have the new all tackle world record!
Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) - new hook & line species #258
At this point we set up a second rod with a whole pinfish suspended near the bottom. The targets were grouper, large amberjack, and sharks. Black grouper were in the mood for pinfish that day, because over the next few hours Kayla, Ruoxi, and I each caught one. We released mine because it was smaller than the two big ones Kayla and Ruoxi caught.
Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci)
Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci)
Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci) - new hook & line species #259
It was getting late in the day, so we pulled up our lines and set up to troll on the way back. I think this photo captures the moment adequately.
Fortunately, trolling in the afternoon was better than in the morning! We started hooking up with blackfin tuna and frigate tuna. Each person caught one or two, and we ended up with seven in the boat. They fought as hard as they could, but they were small fish and came in pretty easily.
Blackfin Tuna (Thunnus atlanticus) - new hook & line species #260
To finish up the day, Terry and Kayla pulled in a double!
Once we arrived back at the marina, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when I saw a couple of our thread herring still in the livewell. Captain Bouncer didn't yell at me this time when I took a few photos for my lifelist.
Atlantic Thread Herring (Opisthonema oglinum) - new hook & line species #255
The remainder of our bait was enjoyed by the resident tarpon that hang around Captain Bouncer's dock. They put on quite a show grabbing the fish as soon as they hit the water.
Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)
We were also visited by a manatee. It approached Captain Bouncer's dock with a sense of purpose, and Captain Bouncer told us to put the freshwater hose in the water. Like an oil tanker filling up, the manatee sat there for nearly a half hour sucking on the hose.
Manatee (Trichechus manatus)
Before hitting the road, we brought the kingfish and a small piece of grouper into the restaurant at the marina. The restaurant cooked them up for us, and we enjoyed them thoroughly after a long day of fishing. I want to thank Captain Bouncer for running an excellent charter, and I also want to thank our mate Josh for working his butt off all day setting up gear and making sure that our fish made it into the boat.
I know a number of species fishermen who look down on charters. They see them as nothing more than buying new species with money. This way of thinking isn't necessarily wrong, but if you write off charters completely you'll probably never get to see many of the species we were able to see on this trip. I don't regret it in the least. Chartered trips are not cheap, so I am certainly not going to make a habit of doing them. With that said though, I can't wait to go after some of the larger pelagic species such as sailfish, wahoo, and mahi and deep dropping for tilefish and other deep water oddballs.