What happens when you fill the boat with fishing captains, restaurant owners and Keys locals? This past weekend it equated to big fish, tasty eats, lots of laughs and a few not-so-memorable fishing moments. Here’s how it unfolded.
Tell a guy you’re taking him to a Bon Jovi concert for his birthday and the reaction can go one of two ways. Either he is a huge Bon Jovi fan and is overjoyed by the thoughtful gift. Or, more commonly, he is terrified by the notion of spending an evening singing power ballads with a group of long-haired, tight jeans wearing men disguised as women. So when Rachel Lynn Bowman (you’ve seen her serving at the Key Colony Inn and Sparky’s Landing- tip her well!) informed local fishing guide Captain Chris Morrison (www.captchris.com) that she was taking him to see Bon Jovi in Miami on Sunday; Chris, although a good sport on the surface, was horrified.
In truth, the Bon Jovi concert was just a front. What Rachel actually had planned for Chris’ birthday was a fishing trip aboard the Best Bet II; a day where Chris could relax and enjoy the water without having to bait hooks and untangle bird’s nests. Therefore when Rachel and Chris turned into Key Colony Beach Marina Sunday and were greeted by friends waiting on the boat, Chris was relieved. He wouldn’t need to “Runaway” or take his “Bad Medicine,” he was going fishing, not to Bon Jovi.
The rest of the crew included Sparky’s Landing proprietor Matt Anthony (www.sparkyslanding.com), Key Colony Inn owner Sergei Proudnik (www.kcinn.com), Captain Ariel Medero of Top Notch Sportfishing (www.topnotchsportfishing.com), Ann Nash of Marathon Seawalls and Docks (www.marathonseawallsanddocks.com), writer/mate Drew Dinan (www.TryCharterFishing.com), and me, Captain Jason Long.
We headed west of Marathon in search of yellowtail snappers. We anchored up in 50-feet of water, got a nice chum slick flowing, and after a few minutes began catching quality yellowtails between 14 and 20 inches. While taking turns reeling in yellowtails we also fished a few live shrimp on the bottom. Like it has been the past few months the grouper bite was red hot and we landed quite a few blacks, reds and gags with a several fish of legal size. We released all grouper (it’s still illegal to harvest them), but it’s good to know that come May 1, when we’re allowed to keep them again, there are plenty of big grouper waiting to be caught. In addition, Captain Medero, despite breaking his favorite rod, reeled in a few big mangrove snappers on live shrimp as well.
While yellowtailing we also encountered a few bonitos and we decided to drop them down on the big rod. Within seconds an estimated 250-plus pound goliath grouper slammed the bait and gave Chris all he could handle. In the end, the big goliath was no match for Chris and we were able to bring the fish boat side where it was released unharmed. Next on the big rod was Rachel who battled another goliath around 80 pounds. The fish put up one heck of a fight, but Rachel fought it like a pro. After loading the coolers with snapper fillets we decided to pull the anchor and search for cobias on the way home. We found a nice pod of fish in the channel and were able to land one keeper before calling it a day.
I’d like to congratulate the Barefoot crew for winning the World Sailfish Tournament held this past week in Key West. Overall, 491 sailfish were caught and released in the 3-day event, an impressive number to say the least. In addition to the excellent sailfish bite the tarpon have begun showing up in good numbers at the bridges. Also look for the dolphin to start making an appearance very soon.
YOUR BEST BET FOR THE WEEKS AHEAD: Book a Charter with Friends!
Even charter captains who work on the water still love the opportunity to fish with friends. It’s a great way to spend the day, and it’s always better than attending a Bon Jovi concert.
Captain Chris Morrison
Captain Chris Morrison caught and released a medium sized, 250 pound, goliath grouper on his birthday.
Chris Morrison & Bandmates
“These fish sure are slippery when wet,” exclaimed birthday boy and hair band aficionado Chris Morrison. On his birthday, he fished with his bandmates, from left; Matt, Sergei, Ariel, Capt Long, Rachel, (Chris) and Drew.