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The customers I had on board today have already fished 2 full days this week. We did well both days. On the first day, we caught 3 wahoos up to about 35 lbs and about a dozen “keeper” dolphin. On the second day, we caught a 30lb Wahoo and some reef fish. So they have plenty of fish to take back home to eat and decided to go looking for a Sailfish today.

Sailfish are all “catch and release”. We don’t kill them for any reason. They are not great eating and they are just too cool and exciting to catch. It’s better to let them go to catch another day. I think the best way to catch Sailfish is with live bait. Fortunately, the live Ballyhoo, (baitfish) have been pretty easy to catch lately. So our plan was to anchor up, catch some reef fish while netting some live ballyhoo and then slow troll for a sailfish. It looked like a good day weather-wise. 1-2 ft seas and no rain.

The first part of our plan worked well We anchored on the bar, (outer reef). There were a couple of commercial boats fishing for Yellowtail Snapper already anchored in the spots I wanted to try. I didn’t want to get on top of them as they are trying to make a living too and commercial fishing is not an easy way to do it. But I found a rock nearby that looked good and anchored. It didn’t take long before we were catching some nice yellowtail snapper and we had some Ballyhoo up swimming behind the boat in range of the cast net. If Yellowtail snapper were our target species I would have stayed there. They were nice sized Yellowtails. However we were looking for a sailfish today and once we had enough bait, it was time to head offshore.

I have “trolling valves” on my boat. A trolling valve allows the propeller to turn very slow without reducing the RPMs of the engine. It’s a controlled slip in the transmission. It allows the boat to move very slowly. This is important when using live bait because even idle speed is too fast and will kill the bait.

I set up in about 130 ft of water with 4 baits out. 3 on the surface with monofilament leaders and one down below the surface on the deep troll with a wire leader. The 3 mono leaders were for the Sailfish. The wire leader down deep was for a little action while we were waiting. It is not uncommon to get a kingfish, mackerel or barracuda to bite while fishing with live bait. They like it too. If they bite one of the surface lines, you will usually lose the hook because they have sharp teeth. If they bite the deep line, you will usually catch them. It helps keep people “busy” while waiting for a sailfish. We caught one nice Black Fin Tuna and a couple of Mackerel while were waiting on our Sailfish

Black Fin Tuna caught on Southbound Sportfishing

We had one Sailfish up early, but he was what we call a “window shopper”. He swam around the bait, but would not eat it. He left after a few minutes. If they don’t bite, you can’t catch them. But it was a good sign that we were in the right neighborhood. A little while later we had a small silky shark chasing our right rigger bait around. While we were watching it another sailfish came up on our short bait. This one did eat and my mate gave it a good drop back, but the hook never stuck and the fish went away. It was a little frustrating as we were looking for a sailfish today and we had now seen 2 without a hookup.

A few moments later another sailfish came up on our left long bait. This one ate the bait also and this one got hooked. One of my customers hooked the fish himself and did a great job of fighting it. We were using  20lb spinning tackle, which is relatively light. I won’t use anything lighter for sailfish because it the tackle is too light, the fish will be so tired when you bring him boat side that his chances of survival are not good. For that reason, 20lb is the lightest I will allow.

The fish put on a great show. Jumping behind the boat. The fight lasted about 25 minutes. It was a “full-sized” sailfish. About 45-50 lbs. We released it after a quick photo next to the boat. We don’t bring Sailfish in the boat for a picture anymore. New regulations prohibit it, so we have to try to get a photo on the side of the boat. This fish was still full of energy which is good because you know he will survive when you let him go, but it does make it difficult to get a good picture.

Sailfish released in Key West fishing with Southbound Sportfishing

We were looking for a Sailfish today and we went 1for 2. Any time you catch a Sailfish it’s a good day! After that, it was time to go and we headed home happy after 3 great days of fishing.