Filling the freezer

Our passage north was interrupted a couple times today by stops to see if we could put more fish in the freezer. As the sun was coming up, Karen was in bed asleep after her night watch. The winds were light, and we were sailing slowly when I noticed the telling signs on our sonar display of large fish near the bottom in 200 feet of water.

I figured it was worth a try, so I furled sails, and stopped the boat, figuring I’d give it 15 or 20 minutes, and then move on. I dropped a jig to the bottom, and tried a couple slow pitches with no response, so I tried moving it fast. In an instant, I was tied to a freight train. Once I was sure I was hooked tight, I needed to wake Karen, who was quite soundly asleep. A couple yells of her name got no response, some pounding on deck—still nothing. Finally, knowing I was probably going to frighten her awake, I yelled loud enough to wake the dead. She had time to come up, check out the situation, and get dressed, and still had to wait while I fought with the fish. Eventually, we brought to net a 38 lb amberjack. Not at all a bad catch in deep water on 20 lb tackle. While an impressive catch, amberjack are not impressive as table fair, so we released him to continue terrorizing the smaller fish in the neighborhood.

With the first fish of the day taken care of, we got underway again, moving out to the edge of the Gulf Stream trolling an assortment of lures for tuna and wahoo. Although we missed a wahoo strike, we didn’t hook a fish. We sailed further north, and had one more fishing spot I wanted to try.

We stopped at an area known as the “Charleston Bump” where the continental shelf juts out into the Gulf Stream diverting it eastward. The temperature contrasts, swirling currents, and nutrient rich water make a rich fishing ground.

A couple initial drifts resulted in a lizard fish, and a Bank Sea Bass, both hardly longer than the jig I was using. Moving out into deeper water, at the shelf drop off, and I hooked a large fish near the bottom. It wasn’t the fast and repeated runs of the amberjacks, but a steady, stubborn pull. Karen had plenty of time to get the net ready, and eventually we saw a 30 lb gag grouper come to the surface. Our freezers are now full with some of the best eating fish in the ocean!

The wind is picking up, and we are now sailing at a much quicker pace. Most of the late afternoon we were hosts to a large group of spotted dolphin who had as much fun as a dolphin can have riding our bow wave.

We want to be in a secure anchorage in the Chesapeake by Friday morning, since the next front is expected then. The weather continues delightful, although a bit cooler at night then these two tropical sailors are used to.

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