3-16-2015 Fishing Report from the keys Jack H

I left the house at 8:00 AM Thursday morning, drove to Naples where I met my brother Chuck, and together we traveled down to Key West for our annual trip on the Yankee Capts, a 100 foot head boat.  We have been doing this 3 day trip for over 10 years.  After stops in Homestead for gas and Tavernier for bait ( Fresh dead goggle eyes), we arrived On Stock Island ( one island east of Key West) at about 5:30 PM.  We said hello to the Capts Captain, Greg Mercurio who we have friended, and loaded our gear.  Then dinner at the Hog Fish Grill which is located next to the boat dock.  Great Hog Fish Sandwiches.  Back on board, the boat departed at 10:000 PM in 25-30 mph winds and not a good prospect for good fishing, but Capt Greg had a plan and steamed 3 ½ hours that evening before anchoring in the lee of the Marquesas Islands for the rest of the night..  At 6:00 AM, the winds calmed to a fishable condition, with promises of dropping further throughout the trip.  the engines cranked up again and we steamed another 3 hours before the anchor dropped in 75’ of water and fishing began… This trip was crowded with 40+ customers on board.  My brother and I were located between several newbies who know very little about fishing in general, let alone fishing for mutton snapper which is the specialty of this boat.  They enjoyed their light tackle and chicken rigs, catching blue runners and barely legal yellowtail snapper.  In the meantime this type fishing was ruining the mutton snapper fishing for most of the rest of the boat.  But along about that time, with a move or two added in, the mackerel and kingfish showed up and Both my brother and I caught a King Mackerel.  I also managed to snare a large Spanish mackerel that was being chased by  40# kingfish as it was being gaffed aboard.  Capt. Greg, and Asst Capt/mate Lyndon kept the boat moving to various locations, and I managed to pull up a respectable red grouper when finally Capt Greg came on the intercom at 6:00 PM Saturday evening and said it was time to put away the chicken rigs and break out the heavier tackle, 30# line or heavier, 50# leaders and 5/0 or 6/0 hooks, we were in 160’ and fishing for MUTTONS.  10 minutes later, I had my first mutton bite of the trip and pulled in a very respectable 29 ½” Mutton.  It turned out to be the largest mutton of the trip.  Throughout the remaining portion of the trip, the weather continued to improve and the muttons continued to come over the rail, some even caught by the newbies. A highlight of the trip came at  about 4:00 AM, I had a grouper bait on the bottom( a small butterflied yellowtail) when it was picked up by a large shark.  This creature proceeded to run off about 300 years of line against 15# of drag and even burned my thumb on the line trying to stop it.  It did finally stop, but I could not budge it back toward the boat and decided to break it off, locking the spool with my thumb and walking up the side of the boat until the line broke.  It broke at my swivel as I got my double line back.    I ended the trip with 5 muttons, a porgy, a red grouper a couple kingfish and a mackerel, which was cut up and used for bait.  My brother matched my total of muttons, and also had a red grouper and a delicious Scamp Grouper.  We both had a stringer of yellow tail snapper.  This was by far not one of the better trips I’ve enjoyed on this boat, but far from the worst.