MIAMI — Two days before the season’s first cool front and two days after the new moon, the Free Spool’s charter customers failed to show up at Haulover Marina for their afternoon trip. But captain Dennis Forgione and mate Silvio Sotolongo already had filled the sportfisher’s live wells with pilchards in preparation. It seemed a shame to let all that live bait go to waste.
So they invited part-time captain Leo Lombero to hop on board and headed out of Haulover Inlet on a marine version of a busman’s holiday.
Since it was already mid-afternoon, Forgione decided to anchor on the Andro, a 105-foot-deep artificial reef only a short distance east of the inlet. Positioning the anchor so that the boat would sit up-current of the sunken ship wasn’t difficult because seas were calm and there was very little current.
But light current has its drawbacks — mainly, that many fish don’t feel like feeding when there’s little or no water movement. They don’t really like to chase after bait if they don’t have to; they conserve energy if they lie in wait for the current to bring the bait to them.
So, despite the crew tossing out plentiful live pilchards, there were no strikes on either the bottom rods or the free-line rigs. However, a sailfish free-jumped about 50 yards north of the boat and several man o’ war birds circled overhead.
Lombero got bored with the lack of action and began casting a 1 1/2-ounce silver Crocodile spoon on a 12-pound spinning outfit behind the boat, hoping that something, anything would bite.
Just to the south, a kingfish skyrocketed, followed by a second. But the only bite on the Free Spool was a mangrove snapper that ate one of the bottom baits. Still, it was a nice one, way big enough to keep.
Sotolongo watched Lombero casting the spoon, and suggested, “Why don’t you let it sink?”
Lombero did, and all of a sudden the 12-pound line came tight and the drag began to squeal.
As is normal with unseen fish, everyone on board started guessing as to what it was. Some of the nominees included gag grouper and kingfish. The fight lasted probably 10 minutes. And then, surprise! What popped to the surface was a large, pink mutton snapper over 10 pounds.
“Pretty cool, huh?” Forgione remarked.
Suddenly it was like nature had turned on a light switch. Every rod — bottom, surface or mid-water — bent over. The crew spent a frenetic half-hour side-stepping and dodging each other to keep lines from tangling. Amazingly, only one unseen fish broke off.
At the end of the frenzy, the Free Spool had boated a total of four muttons—Lombero’s was still the largest — three kingfish to 14 pounds; three lesser amberjacks, a yellowtail, a rainbow runner and the lone mangrove.
Then as quickly as it began, the bite shut off.
The crew hung out for another 45 minutes to see if something else would happen, and when it didn’t, decided to head to port.
“As soon as the current started going north, that’s when we got ’em,” Forgione explained.
When the current stopped, so did the fish.
The captain said bait has been abundant in Biscayne Bay since August’s passage of Hurricane Irene well offshore. Revolving cold fronts should help maintain the supply.
Now if only the current would keep on running. Anglers’ arms would be falling off all over the place.
(c)2011 The Miami Herald
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