In late November I got an invitation to fish aboard the Freedom which is 65 ft. American Custom Yacht. The Freedom had been having some luck on the North Drop out of St. Thomas so we decided to give it a shot. Traditionally June through October is the most productive time for that area so it was a bit of a gamble as to whether or not the marlin would still be around. Fishing is a little like a couple other things that I can think of in that the worst it can be is still wonderful so it really wasn't much of a gamble.
Capt. Albert Miller is the captain of the Freedom and he has Jimmy Brasher working the deck. These are both great guys and good fishermen to boot. We charged out of the American Yacht harbor with high expectations. I was going to be doing some of the angling and Simone Vernichek was going to try to catch her first ever billfish. Simone normally spends her days cutting hair at Linda Lee's Hair Salon in Key Largo, Florida. Key Largo is about as fishy as a place can get and being from there it seemed a shame she had never had the opportunity to latch on to a billfish so I was really hoping this wasn't going to be a boat ride. Anyone who has done much fishing for billfish, marlin in particular knows that a blank day is always a possibility; fortunately this wasn't one of those days.
Capt Albert and Jimmy were pulling a pretty typical spread for the Caribbean. A couple of bowling pin teaser rigs short off the transom. A pair of teasers were set a couple of waves behind the bowling pins. One of these teasers was a Moldcraft wide-ranged softhead and the other was a Black Bart Braziliano. These would be operated by Capt Al on the bridge. They ran two Black Bart lures rigged with single stainless hooks off the riggers and an Islander lure with a ballyhoo straight down the middle behind everything else. Just to be on the safe side they also had three pitch baits ready. One pitchie was small for the white marlin or sailfish and the other two were medium size ones for the marlin. The pitch baits would be deployed if a fish showed up on the teasers.
One of the things that I love about the North Drop is that marlin not only seem to raise to teasers well but they also will stay on the teaser until you take it out of the water.
This gives you plenty of time to get a pitchie over the side and back to it.
I took the first marlin that came up because Simone was a bit nervous about jumping into the chair right off the bat. After a lesson on using a fighting chair and bucket harness Simone was set for the next fish. She didn't have to wait long. This was a nice 250 lb marlin that behaved pretty well and Simone did a good job angling until it got close to the boat and then it's good manners went south. A couple of cranks before Jimmy could grab the leader it took off jumping away from the boat ripping about half a spool of line off the reel. Then it went down, down, down very close to the bottom a thousand feet below us getting tail wrapped in the process. That is not a good place for a tail wrapped marlin to hang out. The sharks that were down there would disagree with me on that. From the look of things when we got the line and what was left of the leader back on the reel a shark had taken a chomp on the marlins' tail cutting the leader. Nice fish, good fight, bad result.
The next fish was a bit smaller, maybe a hundred and a half or so. This one Simone handled like a pro. She worked the marlin up to where Jimmy could get the leader. I put a TBF tag in it and we turned it loose.
Before we were done we had caught another marlin and a sailfish. A great trip by any ones standards. We finished of the trip in the traditional manner by tossing Simone into the drink for catching her first billfish. Due to the more than adequate supply of sharks we waited until she got a little two close to the pool at the hotel. Tradition was observed and Simone doesn't have to cut hair standing on one leg because a shark ate the other one. Besides, loosing appendages always puts a bit of a damper on an otherwise great trip.
Good fishing and tight lines,
Capt. Norm Isaacs