Other less popular fish species are abundant, fighters
Most avid anglers have heard of or actually achieved a “Grand Slam.” In Key West this would consist of a billfish, a mahi and either a tuna or wahoo all caught on the same day. Oh, the awesome photos that have been taken of such great days of fishing, and the memories that last a lifetime. What makes this so special is that it just doesn’t happen every day. Some days, no matter how favorable the conditions, and no matter how well you did yesterday, the glory fish just will not cooperate. Many of the “elite” anglers will chalk it up to one of the countless excuses used in this situation and head back to the dock with a clean boat and a bunch of unused bait.
I enjoy fishing far too much to limit myself to such refined quality. On the days when the excuse book rears its ugly head, we usually turn our interests toward catching other more willing species. There are certain fish which don’t require the pristine conditions and are out to attack anything they can find. The water temperature is too cold, no problem. The water is too green, no problem. There is not enough current, no problem. Throw a dead ballyhoo to a Jack Crevalle and watch what happens. You guessed it, he’s gonna eat it.
After he eats it, all of his buddies are going to chase him trying to steal the bait from his mouth. Yes, they will quickly eat ballyhoo too. All of a sudden what was a boring day of trolling or drifting has turned into an exciting battle with an aggressive predator. Far too many times a fish that wasn’t seen on the initial strike is believed to be a tuna or a wahoo only to find out after a grueling battle that a bonita or a kingfish was the actual culprit. I always cringe when I hear the angler shout a foul word when it’s discovered his wahoo turned out to be a kingfish. I admit they are not nearly as pretty, or good to eat, but that king fought like a champ.
Trash fish, as they are called, are always welcome on my boat. I am a fisherman, I catch fish, it’s that simple. I have never not enjoyed catching a fish. I’ll take a big barracuda over nothing everyday. I can assure you that a blindfolded angler will not be able to tell you the difference between a black tip shark and a big bull dolphin.
One of the best things about trash fish is they are usually pretty easy to catch. I fish with a lot of first-time anglers who are unsure if they have what it takes to make the perfect cast to a very smart and picky sportfish. With most of these street thug species, this worry quickly passes because when you find one, you have usually found 100 so every cast lands right in front of one of them. A freshwater bass fisherman is in another world watching cero mackerels explode on a surface plug time after time every cast. Fly fisherman looking for a worthy participant can find what they are looking for when a school of bonita or jack crevalles are feeding on balls of baitfish. The true fly fishing purist would turn his nose up at such lunacy, but they are missing out on an opportunity to catch a fish on a fly and that is a shame.
How did these fish earn such a bad rap? Well, it could be many things. For one they are usually not the best table fare. Second, I would say is that they are ugly. They also crash the party when you are trying to catch the glamour fish. Fortunately most of these trash fish are released to fight another day. I will admit that there is no better bait than a bonita chunk and a kingfish fits in my smoker right next to the amberjack, so I will throw a couple in the fishbox, but most are released. I like catching the magazine fish as much as the next guy, but I am always thankful for the other less popular species we have here in the keys. They can certainly be a day saver. You can create your very own combination of species to call the trash can slam, but no matter how you look at it you have had the opportunity to get out on the water and experience nature first hand and that is what it’s really all about. Hope to see you out there.
Capt. Vinny Argiro has been chartering in Key West since 1989. His number is 305-849-2367. His website is www.captvinny.com