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$EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

September 1st, 2019

seadollarscrew $EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

The winning crew of $EA DOLLAR$, from left to right, Mark Yamaguchi, Mark Budzise, Brandon Rowan, Brandon Nelson, Adam Lewis, Brad Bull, Gary Hervey, Scott Pantle, Randy King, Kurt Pantle, Matt Taylor, Jack Beal, Ace Nelson and Fred Pyle.

Good karma and tuna tenacity fuel a continued tradition of wins at the Texas Billfish Classic

By Brandon Rowan

High stakes and hot fishing are the name of the game every year at the Texas Billfish Classic and 2019 was no different. I was back on board Jack Beal’s 60’ Bertram, $EA DOLLAR$, to keep the night crew’s tuna win streak going. Last year, we hauled in a 90 lb yellowfin tuna that fell just three pounds short of first place. That was tough. We had our sights set on being No. 1 this time around.

Jasen Gast and the whole TBC team put on a killer kick-off party at Freeport RiverPlace the night before fishing started. The next day, we were locked, loaded and ready to head out far into the wild blue of the Gulf. We had a game plan and wasted no time putting it into action.

There were old and new faces on board for this year’s tourney. Introductions and catching up were in order as we roared out to pelagic possibilities. Plenty of laughs and colorful conversation (you guys know who you are) kept us entertained as we neared our first stop.

juvenile mahi mahi $EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

You never know what you will find out there. Adam Lewis holds up our “trophy” mahi.

TUNA MACHINE

As the sun set on our fishing destination, the night crew geared up and went to work. We had Capt. Mark Yamaguchi at the wheel, Matt Taylor, Kurt Pantle, his cousin Scott, and myself down in the cockpit. Several of the guys on the day crew helped out early in the night and first mate Adam Lewis made many important gaff shots.

It didn’t take long for us to put a nice yellowfin on the deck and crack open the celebration brews. $EA DOLLAR$’ night crew is a well-oiled machine of jig, pop, chum, drift, catch, gaff, rinse and repeat.

The night stayed lively as schools of fish periodically found their way into our chum line and lights. Multiple hook ups on yellowfin and big bruiser 20-30 lb blackfin tuna kept us going until sunrise.

I was absolutely stoked for Kurt’s cousin, Scott, when he landed his first yellowfin tuna, on topwater no less!

“I saw tuna busting on top, luckily I had the popper rod right next to me. I quickly cast it out and after the second pop it was on!” Scott Pantle said.

I’m real happy he got a warm welcome to Texas

 tuna fishing. Scott is from Florida, where blackfin tuna is the target species, not the bait. I was lucky enough to witness that tuna crush the OTI Wombat Popper he had tied on and oh man, it was a beautiful sight to behold.

Every one of us put a yellow on the deck that night. At sunrise, it was time to tally things up. We had 6 yellowfin in the box, including an odd fish I caught on a Williamson Benthos jig. All other fish came from drifting chunks and Scott’s one on the popper. The flying fish piercing parlor was open for business but the tuna were indifferent to our winged offerings.

After a hot shower and a good meal, I hit the bunk with explicit instructions for the trolling guys to come smack me awake if they got into a good fish. The chance to photograph a big blue marlin jumping for the sky takes priority over sleep. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

MEET JJ: The legend himself, JJ. We rescued this Pelican from the middle of the Gulf during the tournament. We were ready to turn him over to Parks & Wildlife but he jumped ship when we reached land.

FREE BIRD FRIDAY

After a good day’s rest, I was back up with camera in hand, waiting for the afternoon billfish bite. The marlin never materialized, but things stayed interesting nonetheless. We spotted a brown pelican bobbing up and down near the rig as we trolled around. We were a good 170 miles out in the middle of the ocean. This bird was in trouble.

We maneuvered over and tried to lure the pelican in through the tuna door with some bait. The poor guy was so weak, he couldn’t even muster the energy to come on board. Our flying fish net became a bird net and we scooped him up and in. We made a cozy spot in the corner with an old towel and named him “Jack Jr.”

We fed JJ as much fish as he wanted and after about 10 pieces and some water, he was content. We don’t know how he got so far out, but this lucky bird nearly became shark bait. JJ rested happily in the corner and regained his strength as he oversaw our tuna operation.

This night began much the same as the last one with a hot bite early. Line peeled away from my reel on the first drift and after a surprisingly short fight I had a respectable yellowfin tuna on the deck. The wheels of our tuna machine kept turning but that was the last yellow of the trip. But again, things stayed interesting.

JJ quickly regained his vigor and, well, actually became something of a terror. He bit Fred and a few others as they walked past. Them birds have some range with that neck! JJ’s happy little corner was on top of the livewell, so depositing flying fish in the tank became a careful procedure.

They say you don’t bite the hand that feeds you, but we forgive you JJ. A sportfisher is no place for a pelican.

JJ stayed on board for the rest of the night and watched the day crew score a white marlin and wahoo at sunrise. He didn’t care at all for the way we screamed back towards land for the weigh-in. Jack Sr. had Parks and Wildlife on the phone, but once we broke the jetties, JJ spotted some of his pelican brethren and left us behind.

“Fishermen and hunters always get a bad rap but we’re all about conservation,” Jack Beal said.

Matt Taylor, Scott Pantle and Kurt Pantle at the Texas Billfish Classic weigh in.

MOMENT OF TRUTH

Good karma paid off. When it was all said and done, we had 7 yellowfin tuna on ice, although no hundred pounders. We weren’t sure what to expect since our 90 lb fish last year was only good enough for second place. We held our breath at the weigh-in as they hung up our first fish. The scales’ flashed “49” and it was high fives and shouts all around! Not only was our win confirmed, but we also took second place with a 47 lb fish.

“If your next paycheck depended on catching a big yellowfin tuna, I would recommend you call the night crew of $EA DOLLAR$!” Matt Taylor said.

$EA DOLLAR$ was presented with a check for a cool $40,500 at the TBC awards dinner later that night. As a bonus, the whole crew walked away with bags of fresh tuna and a story we won’t soon forget.

You never know what you may see when you venture out into the Gulf of Mexico. I can’t help but imagine the sideways and disbelieving glances the other pelicans throw at JJ when he tells his tale. He came away with a strange new story to tell his buddies and so did we.

Fred Pyle and Jack Beal show off the goods.

Dolce Coco Wins Swordfish Cup in the Dominican Republic

August 13th, 2019

DulceCoco 683x1024 Dolce Coco Wins Swordfish Cup in the Dominican RepublicThe 1st Annual Swordfish Cup, a single-species tournament with a 24-hour global format, was held July 27-28, 2019, with 23 boats in the initial fleet. Paco Vela and his crew aboard Dulce Coco, a Hatteras based in the Dominican Republic, were declared the winners with a 381-pound broadbill. The Swordfish Cup was presented by Fly Zone Fishing and RJ Boyle Studio. Updates were broadcast on FaceBook every two hours during the 24-hour tournament.

Dulce Coco’s fish was caught on a whole de-boned and butterflied bonita near Isla Saona off the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic. The 95-inch sword was boated late the first night and was weighed at Casa de Campo in the early hours of the morning. Vela and his team won a cash prize and the $1,500 Hooker Electric Bounty for their efforts.

With boats fishing Grand Cayman, St. Maarten, Cancun, the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys and East Coast, competition was intense. Luna Tico brought a 291-pounder to the Sailfish Marina in Palm Beach at 11 am. Tournament sponsor and local expert RJ Boyle, competing aboard Hooked Up, brought an 80-inch 250-pound entry to the Lighthouse Marina in Pompano Beach around 6 pm.

Aussie Rules fished during the day off Cancun, Mexico and caught a non-qualifying fish. The minimum weight was 200 pounds. The crew reported a very low-key, fun and relaxing day of fishing, however. Because of the time-zone differences, many boats communicated with tournament control via text or WhatsApp.

In the Gulf of Mexico, The Duke captured some smaller swords along with a very large mako shark. Tighten Up, based on the Texas coast, went five for five on swordfish with the largest measuring 72 inches from the fork of the tail to the tip of the lower jaw. All line class weights were allowed. Anglers could only use conventional rods and reels, including electric mounted on rods. Weigh-ins were conducted at approved scales certified by governmental authorities within the last year.

Yellow Whip, fishing out of St. Maarten, staged a determined and late challenge. After the crew fished all day in extremely rough conditions, they returned to port to rest and eat. The boat went back out around midnight and hooked up right around dawn. After a battle lasting 2 hours and 40 minutes, they finally boated the swordfish which tipped the scales at 291 pounds.

“Everything went really, really well for a first-time event,” says Tournament Director Robert “Fly” Navarro. “I’m happy with the participation and the geographic spread. All the teams reported having a good time and the number of boats will only increase based on the feedback and inquiries. Congratulations to Dulce Coco and thanks to all the teams and our sponsors. I look forward to the second edition next summer.”

The 2020 Swordfish Cup will be held July 25-26, 2020. For more information, please visit www.swordfishcup.com

Relentless Pursuit Repeats as Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion

July 12th, 2019

Relentless Pursuit Triple Crown hi res 1024x819 Relentless Pursuit Repeats as Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion

Photo courtesy of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

In another close finish, Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith based in Venice, Louisiana, was named the 2019 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion. This season marks the second time the boat has earned top honors, following a 2015 championship run. Relentless Pursuit is owned by Dennis Pastentine, with Capt. Robbie Doggett the boat’s long-time skipper. In addition to bragging rights for another season, the team takes home a custom Frank Ledbetter metal marlin sculpture and $31,625 in cash including optional entry categories.

The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship is composed of the top five big-game tournaments in the region. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship is historically the last leg, but with Tropical Storm Barry moving west across the prime offshore waters, the tournament was cancelled for safety reasons. Done Deal, a three-time Triple Crown Champion, was tied with Relentless Pursuit before fishing started. Ties are determined by the largest marlin landed, which gave Relentless Pursuit the winning combination.

“During the Orange Beach Billfish Classic we left the dock at noon and ran four hours to reach 130 miles offshore,” Doggett explained. “Within 45 minutes we were already hooked up by the time other boats got there. The fight lasted an hour and 45 minutes. We slowly eased back in and weighed the fish the next morning.” That winning 658.2-pound blue marlin was caught on a trolled ballyhoo skirted with a pink Islander lure.

“We call it Stinky Pinky once the ballyhoo is added,” Doggett says with a laugh. “We strictly troll to cover more water and have an arsenal of 60 lures in various shades of blue, silver, purple, green and yellow. We run two rods each off the outriggers and two flat lines. We don’t have the patience to live bait, but we’ve been pretty successful with our style of fishing.”

In addition to the OBBC win, Relentless Pursuit won the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic with three blue marlin releases (no billfish were weighed) and earned series bonus participation points. Done Deal also finished with 625 points from second place release awards in the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic and the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, plus bonus points. Katie Gonsoulin was the angler on Done Deal’s big fish, a 535.5-pound blue, good for a second-place finish in the CCBC. Jason Buck is the boat’s captain and Jon Gonsoulin is the owner.

Fleur de Lis, a 72 Viking run by Capt. Scooter Porto and owned by Jeff Landry, was the third-place team in the 2019 GCTC standings with 500 points. The boat weighed the heaviest blue (602.7 pounds, angler Hunter Myers) in the CCBC, along with bonus points. Fleur de Lis is based in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

“This was a total team effort,” Doggett says of the 2019 Championship run. “This season was all about our former team mate, Dale Artigue, who passed away just before the holidays. His spirit was always with us in the cockpit. There are so many talented and hard-working crews fishing the Gulf that it makes competing against guys of this caliber such an incredible experience.”

Marking its ninth season, the 2019 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship was presented by Invincible Boats and Grander Marine. The five legs include the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.

For 2019 GCTC Director Scott Burt commissioned a commemorative trophy that will be on permanent display at The Wharf Marina’s Outfitter’s Store. Created by marine metal artist Frank Ledbetter, the perpetual trophy will sit atop a rotating base and will feature all previous Triple Crown Champions. Relentless Pursuit will now have to decide where to display its second GCTC Championship blue marlin.

“It was a tough season with all the weather issues, but Capt. Robbie, Dennis and Team Relentless Pursuit once again lived up to the boat’s name and came out on top,” Burt said.  “Congratulations to them and well done to all the competing boats. We look forward to another exciting finish as the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020.”

Fishing Offshore Weedlines

June 29th, 2019

bull dorado Fishing Offshore Weedlines

A well formed weed line is a favorite sight for many offshore fisherman. They are known best for holding Dorado (pictured) but ling, wahoo, sailfish and marlin can be caught here as well.

By Capt. Joe Kent

For the last 20 years or more offshore seaweed, which forms weedlines in the Gulf of Mexico, has been either over abundant or virtually nonexistent.  When abundant, many species of fish follow the sargassum, or seaweed as it is more commonly called, as the patches, clumps and organized lines reflect the basics of the marine food chain.

During lean times, such as offshore Galveston anglers have experienced for several years now, there is a conspicuous absence in the number of pelagic fish in the nearshore waters of the Gulf.  Most notably absent are the Dorado, Dolphin fish or mahi-mahi, as they are called interchangeably.

Dorado of all sizes hover around masses of seaweed and along with them are just about all other fish that roam the Gulf waters.

This year it appears that we may have more seaweed in our near shore waters and if so, look for a banner year of offshore fishing along the upper Texas Coast.

Seaweed attracts and is a refuge for small crustaceans and fin fish.  Watching carefully from close range are larger fish waiting for an opportunity to feast.  Behind those are billfish, huge Dorado, ling, wahoo, sharks and as mentioned earlier almost every species of pelagic fish in the Gulf.

Just about all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico waters can be found in the vicinity of this vegetation.

Now that we know what is offered in the way of fish around the seaweed, how do we take advantage of it and catch some of the fish?

chicken dorado Fishing Offshore Weedlines

Chicken Dorado can provide fast action on weedlines.

Dorado, especially the smaller chicken Dorado, are one of the most common fish hanging around the shade and protection.  Tripletail, small amberjack, king, ling, shark, wahoo and sailfish are others that are commonly found just outside of the masses of weed.

Anglers experienced at fishing the weed lines know that there are two ways to find the fish.  One is to quietly move close to big concentrations of weeds and toss out small pieces of squid or cut bait.  Any chicken Dorado close by likely will come out of hiding to pursue a quick and easy meal.

When this occurs, anglers using light to medium tackle will toss free-lined squid or other bait toward the seaweed and bingo, most of the time a group of small Dorado will inhale it.  While battling the small Dorado many others will follow close by and the key is to keep the fish hooked while others in your party toss similar baits into the water.

On one occasion years ago my group of four landed over 100 while employing this technique.

Once the Dorado have scattered, slowly maneuver your boat along the edges of the weed line and look for either more Dorado or tripletail.

Often at some point large Dorado and ling will appear searching for the same chicken Dorado you are pursuing.  Both ling and Dorado are curious fish and tend to check out noise.  One technique that works in getting their attention is to pound the side of the boat with your hands.

If no fish appear, move on to another clump or line or begin trolling. Trolling is another way to find the fish.  Try trolling the outer edges of the weed concentrations keeping enough distance to prevent the trolling lure for getting tangled in the seaweed.

The most active seaweed lines are going to be found in blue or blue/green waters.  Lines found in off color water are hardly worth the time to check out.

Most of the strikes are going to be near the surface and visible.  Every ling I have caught while working seaweed has come to the surface to check out the bait.  Sometimes they just smell it and take off, other times they take it.

One mistake that newcomers make when larger fish like ling first take the bait is to try to set the hook too quickly.  Free spool enough line that the large fish can take the bait and start swimming away before setting the hook.

For the chicken Dorado and smaller fish, setting the hook immediately is imperative.

One pointer for boats, especially those propelled by outboard engines, is that when working seaweed areas often the props get tangled in the vegetation.  When this occurs put the engine in reverse and it should remove the clutter.

Hopefully we will see a good balance of weed lines in the Gulf this summer and we can enjoy the bounties of seafood they offer.

Winter Wahoo

March 2nd, 2019

 

DSC 0012 300x200 Winter Wahoo

Photo: Kelly Groce

DSC 0067 227x300 Winter Wahoo

My first wahoo weighed in at 36 pounds. (Check out those seas behind me). Photo: Shayne Ellis

BY KELLY GROCE

I was lucky enough to tag along with Team Pay Czech as they went searching for wahoo out of Freeport Marina for the 2019 Winter Wahoo Championship. Despite the howling winds and 4-6’ seas, we caught wahoo, blackfin tuna, amberjack and barracuda and had an absolute blast while doing so. Huge thanks again to Joe Schiller, Joey Schiller, Shayne Ellis and Collin Ferrera for inviting me along my first overnight offshore trip as well as my first wahoo. Go Team Pay Czech!

 

Collin Ferrera stuck this beautiful wahoo. Photo: Kelly Groce

Fishing Cabo San Lucas

September 1st, 2018

Blue marlin, wahoo and scenic Pacific views from one of the world’s hottest sportfishing destinations.

Photography by Brandon and Meagan Rowan

pueblo bonito beach Fishing Cabo San Lucas

The Pacific thunders against the beach outside of the Pueblo Bontio Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort

mr cabo Fishing Cabo San Lucas

EL ARCO: Meagan in front of “Land’s End” – Cabo’s famous rock arch formation.

The sun rises over Cabo San Lucas as the sportfishing boats make their way offshore.

We were greeted with calm seas on our outing.

This marlin hit a naked caballito (Bigeye Scad) on the shotgun line and absolutely lit up with color next to the boat. Capt. Ramone and First Mate Julio of RedRum Sportfishing were absolute pros and put us on the fish.

 

My first blue marlin breaks the surface. Caught with RedRum Sportfishing on the ‘ReelRum’

A pair of remoras are revealed on the underside of this marlin.

 

This wahoo hit a skirted plunger on the port rigger line. We had unbelievable ceviche and grilled wahoo that night.

Offshore Fishing Checklist

March 1st, 2017

yamaha 150 outboard Offshore Fishing Checklist

Get ready, summer will be here before you know it.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Not too long ago, offshore fishing was a year-round sport.  While the peak of the season is from around the Fourth of July to not long after Labor Day, red snapper and other reef fish provided action all year long.

When tight regulations began being imposed on the recreational sector in Federal Waters, winter fishing for red snapper was virtually eliminated.

While recreational anglers do have a short window of time to catch their two fish per day limit of red snapper, the timeframe usually begins on June 1 and lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks or so.  The season usually ends about the time when action on pelagic fish such as king mackerel, ling and Dorado begins to get hot.

With the exception of anglers owning large vessels, those in the 45 foot and larger range, most of the offshore boats are used on a limited basis or sit up a good part of the winter months.

The same can be said of fishing equipment and tackle, all of which leads to the point of this article and this is now is the time to get prepared for the offshore fishing season.

Many offshore anglers postpone their preparations until close to the time when they will make that first venture of the year to the rigs and other areas offshore.  In doing so, often it is discovered that the boat and/or fishing equipment is in need of repairs or service.

While there is normally no problem getting the gear in shape, it usually takes much longer than it would have earlier in the year.

March and April are excellent months to address all of this and here are some suggestions on what you should look for and respond to during the process.

Let’s start with the boat.  The gasoline tank is one of the biggest problems and it is not the tank itself, but the contents.  Gasoline that has been in the tank for several months should have a special treatment added before venturing out for the first time.  Ethanol blended fuel is the main culprit.

Although a stabilizer may have been added before storage, over time it loses its effectiveness and water will build in the tank. This is largely due to the absorption aspects of ethanol.  Water and gasoline do not mix and can cause big problems that are expensive to repair.  Check with your mechanic for a recommended gas treatment and if the gas has been in the tank for a long period of time, it may be recommended that the fuel be removed and replaced. That is much cheaper than a major engine repair.

If the gasoline is not an issue, one of the best ways to check out the other boating and fishing equipment is to make a trial run offshore.  March and April are the two windiest months of the year and the number of days offering tolerable conditions offshore is limited.

Regardless, a bay run is a good substitute.  The main thing is to be able to open up the engines and run them at cruising speed for at least thirty minutes.  During the process, check out the fresh and saltwater pumps and all other electronics.  Fuel indicators are one of the more frequent items to become stuck during storage.

Next would be the fishing equipment.  Look for rust and corrosion on tackle and if suitable for cleaning, do so, if not replace.  Reels and line are the two items of fishing gear than normally need the most attention.  If the line has been used much or has been on the reel for two seasons or more, replace it.

Reels will need to be cleaned and oiled and if you are not comfortable taking them apart and putting them back together, take them to a professional.  The cost is worth it.

You have often heard the old expression of “a stitch in time saves nine,” well nothing could be truer when preparing for the upcoming offshore fishing season.

Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

August 6th, 2015

pinkblueflatfalljig Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

Shimano 200g Flat Fall Jig in Pink/Blue

Shimano unveiled new, heavier weights of 200g and 250g for their innovative Flat Fall Jigs at this year’s ICAST.  These jigs are designed to entice strikes as they flutter down through the water column. Speed jigging is, no doubt, an effective way to catch fish, but can also be physically taxing. These Flat Fall Jigs take the work out of jigging and let you conserve energy for fighting fish.

We were eager to try out the new 200g in Pink/Blue offshore the Texas coast. On a trip 30-40 miles out of Galveston, we hooked up on red snapper, dorado and kingfish while fishing near platform structure and reefs. This jig falls through the water column slower than other jigs of the same weight so keep a mindful thumb to prevent backlashes.

flatfalljigdorado Shimano Flat Fall Jig Review

The Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine crew hooked up on a dorado 40 miles offshore Galveston.

As designed, the jig drew fish strikes as it fluttered through the water column, but this lure can also be worked up back to the surface in typical speed jig fashion. Hook ups on dorado mostly occurred 10-30ft under water as the jig was ripped back to the boat. Keeping it near the bottom was productive when fishing for red snapper.

The 200g and 250g flat fall jigs should also be perfect for other Gulf species like amberjack, grouper and tuna. These lures could be very effective when jigging for tuna at night near the ‘floaters’ or semi-submersible drilling platforms in the Gulf. Blackfin tuna, and occasionally yellowfin tuna, have no problem hitting diamond and speed jigs on the drop near this structure.

Check out the video below for a Texas-sized red snapper brought up on Shimano’s new 200g Flat Fall Jig.