Too lazy to tie on a new rig, I fished the dropper loop in the eddies behind the bridge pylons. There were a few grunts caught but nothing big. Michael and Bartek were waking up and they were sending out baits on their big rods.
As the sun was rising, Bartek saw some larger fish breezing through. Then there were fish chasing bait and breaking the surface about 100 yards out. Michael cast out his dropper loop with squid and started to retrieve quickly along the surface, where he was promptly hammered but a hard running fish. The fish ran him down the pier and I waited until he had some control on the fish before walking out with the pier net. When the fish finally came to colour, it was a 15-20lb Jack Crevalle. I was lowering the pier net when the hook was pulled out.
Bartek and Michael were now furiously casting for these Jacks. While I left them to their obsession, I pulled in numerous Porkfish and Yellowtail Snapper from the pylons. I was really focused on fishing the dropper loop for Parrotfish and Trunkfish, but there was an endless supply of everything else including this large and beautiful Puddingwife Wrasse.
Not long later, I heard Michael's excitement and saw his rod bent. Something picked up his live Pinfish on the big rod and it was giving him heck. Finally, the fish came to colour and it was yet another Jack Crevalle. This one was a little smaller and we estimated it around 10lbs. We decided to keep the fish and cut it up for shark bait.
If only we had been fishing at Long Key, where retrospectively reports said there were lots of annoying Blacktip Shark. All I wanted was one Blacktip Shark...but there were none at Channel 5 bridge. I had chunks of Jack Crevalle soaking for most of the day and the bait were either eaten by crabs or left untouched.
Our live shrimps are starting to weaken despite a running bubbler and a water change. The tide was about to change and this was a good time to fish for snappers, so I tied on a jighead and drifted live shrimps under the bridge. There were a couple of subtle hits that might have been small snappers, but then other fish began to strip the shrimps multiple times.
I decided to fish the dropper loop to see what might be killing the shrimps so quickly. On the first drop, I landed a Scrawled Filefish. On the next drop, I finally found one of my targets!
Spotted Trunkfish (Lactophrys bicaudalis) - Species #478
Ben found a number of Spotted Trunkfish on this pier last year, but we had not encountered them on our two previous trips. I was expecting to catch them on the sabiki rig since the ones that were caught by Ben were fairly small. It took me by complete surprise that this fish took a #8 hook. Once I caught one, I caught two others later on this day.
As the tide slacked, more and more reef fish came out to play. I hooked into a rather large Yellow Sea Chub that was probably 15" long. These bigger Sea Chub put up a decent drag pulling run. When I hooked another drag puller, I was hoping it would be a new species of Parrotfish. It was only a Blue Parrotfish but a welcomed catch any day. They pull so hard!
Just before the incoming tide began in earnest, I felt a strong thump and set into another strong fish. I was expecting another Sea Chub or Parrotfish, but then a plate sized fish came into view. My knees were now shaking and I called for the net.
"It's an Angelfish!" I shouted.
Bartek hurriedly sort out the lines on the pier net and I guided him on how to use it. The current was relatively slow so the net hung more or less straight down. After a couple of tries, I finally guided the fish into the net and it was mine!!!
Grey Angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus) - Species #479!!!
For a size reference...
If I didn't catch another lifer for the rest of the trip, I would have been happy enough. This was a species that I had been waiting for a while. I had a Grey Angelfish going for my bait in April but a Rainbow Parrotfish came in and chased it away. That was as close as I came to catching one when we saw them every day at Anglin's Pier. Mark caught one on that trip so I knew it was possible. It was just a matter of time.
Strangely, I was not expecting to catch a Grey Angelfish from the Keys. I knew they were around, but without any chum to attract them into the area, and the combination of murky green water and strong wind, I didn't think they would be active. I had planned to put in work for them at Anglin's Pier, but with the pier closed at the moment, I had all but accepted the fact that I may not get a shot at them on this trip. It was yet another lifer that jumped on my line when I cared the least.
George arrived not long after the tide had fully changed. Despite fishing hard and in around the same location, we could not find anymore Parrotfish or Angelfish. The odd Sea Chub, Scrawled Filefish and rare Trunkfish kept things interesting, but they were then replaced by Porkfish, Puddingwife Wrasse, Slippery Dick and very small Yellowtail Snappers for the rest of the afternoon.
Elijah was scheduled to meet with us at around 2pm, but he decided to check out a couple of locations on his way to the Keys. He managed to catch Hornet Tilapia, Jaguar Guapote and Peacock Bass but missed out on Pike Killifish and Black Acara. He didn't arrive until well past 5pm as the sun was about to set. With less than ideal conditions, nothing much was happening. Elijah went ahead to check into the hotel while we packed up.
After a quick dinner of conch fritters and conch chowder at Herbies, we returned to the hotel to discuss the next day's game plan. Elijah wanted to wake up early to fish one of the bridges before we pick up the rental boat. The wind was still blowing at 15kts with 4-5' seas. Getting out to the Marathon Humps was completely out of question and even the patch reefs would be a challenge. At the end, we decided to push for the patch reefs with Florida Bay as a back up plan.