by Capt. Tom Bailas
Each year after our busy spring run of fishing charters, we take our annual vacation to relax and fish in Islamorada for the whole month of June. We rent a beautiful house located on the bayside with beautiful views and sunsets. We take the whole month and spend different weeks taking out family and friends on fishing and snorkeling trips. Each year before I get there I try and predict the weight of the biggest Mahi we might catch while we are there. I had predicted that a 50lb’er would come our way this year, as I have been wanting a big one my entire life of fishing there. The first week we had my kids and some other friends staying with us. We had fished several days and caught a steady school of mahi and some decent size gaffer mahi. We also had fished the humps of Islamorada and caught some football size blackfin tuna as well.
Two other friends were arriving for only 2 days and wanted to fish for one day with us, while they were in town. Our plans were to leave right at sunrise to get the early bite. The seas were less than 2’ that day. I decided to run out until we found some bird activity or a floating structure. At about 800’ of water, I spotted some birds working. We put out the lines and immediately hooked a mahi. My buddy Brian spotted a log floating nearby and within 10 minutes we had another 11 fish in the box. We continued to spot birds working in the distance and trolled towards them. I was watching the spread of lines in the water behind the boat and anticipating another bite. We made a pass by the birds and I see the biggest bull dolphin I had ever seen pushing water towards one of the long baits. Within seconds, the bull erupts on the lure with a solid hook up. The drag is now screaming and I can hardly get the rod out of the holder. The excitement is intense on the boat as everyone knows this is the fish I have been waiting for and predicted. After about a 20-minute battle, the huge bull mahi makes it near the side of the boat. Brian then makes a perfect gaff shot to the head. We all were screaming with excitement, high fives and a few tears of joy.
After that fish was in the boat, we decided to run out a little deeper to get away from the crowd of boats that came upon us. We went to 1200’ and spotted more birds working the area. Back out went the lines and we now had all 4 rods going off simultaneously. It was epic to say the least and everyone was catching fish continuously! The mahi brought up a huge school of fish with them and it was a crazy time getting the fish all in and we quickly caught our limit. There were fish all over the deck and blood was everywhere. Everyone knows what a mess they make after being caught and gaffed. We filled both fish boxes, cleaned the mess up, and headed into land to celebrate the Catch of the Day.
The rest of the month consisted of more epic fish catches. My wife Trisha landed her largest mahi, as well. All of our guests had a great time catching fish and went home with plenty of fresh fish to enjoy with others. We look forward to our Keys vacation each year and to be able to catch some mahi that we don’t have available here in the gulf where we live and work out. We also enjoy the time spent taking our friends and family out to enjoy the beautiful waters that the Florida Keys have to offer.
Remember to always follow the state and federal regulations as they change frequently when quotas are met. You should only take only what need to ensure the fishing for future generations to come.