Just got back from my second Pulley Ridge Lite trip on the Yankee Capts.... Before I go into the fishing report, I just want to make a few general statements about my own personal experiences on this trip as well as a few suggestions to those looking to do this or one of the other "deeper than usual" Gulf/Tortugas trips that the Yankee Capts offers...
These trips beyond the Tortugas are not your typical 60-100' bottom fishing trips.
The fishing conditions in deeper water can be challenging and require anglers with a little more experience, (or at least the willingness and aptitude to learn) if you want to have any kind of success. On the Yankee Capts website, Capt Greg offers very clear recommendations for the tackle & techniques necessary for your success. I strongly encourage you to follow these suggestions. In his website reports, Capt Greg preaches the need to put in your time at the rails, work hard, and most importantly, pay attention to what is going on... Listen to him! The most successful anglers on these trips are the ones who put their time in, fish hard, and observe the changing conditions and adapt to them.... Especially the guys dedicated to the deep jigs.
Jigging is proving to be tremendously successful on these trips, but at the same time, it's a lot of hard work. I hate to sound harsh, but the reality is that you are not going to catch much on your $20 vertical jig with a squid pinned on each of the 4 assist hooks, dropped half way down and held there like a sinker & bait rig... Similarly, drifting a bait & sinker rig is different than fishing the same rig on anchor. You have to stay on, or at least near, the bottom to get bit.
We fish both jigs and bait as conditions dictate. That said, fisherman of all techniques need to be considerate and aware of what is going on with the drift. When you walk up to the rail and see all the lines next to you scoping out at a 45 degree angle toward the stern, please don't cast your rig over the top of everyone! Assigned rail spots on these trips are not the same as they are for the anchor trips. Everyone on board needs to understand the conditions and be willing work together moving up and down the rail as the current (or fish) moves your line.
Some common sense and cooperation goes a long way to keep the lines clear and everyone fishing. If you are not sure of what rig to use, or how, or when to fish it, the crew or many of of your fellow fisherman will be glad to assist. I am always happy to help with a rig or give out some advice on techniques on these trips. The way I see it, any knowledge I can pass on to others will only help me keep my own rig fishing and out of tangles....
One last comment in regard to tangles and crossed lines.... Tangles will inevitably happen no matter what..But with that, also be aware that there are things we all can do to minimize these occurrences with the best example stated previously in regard to paying attention to conditions and knowing when and where to drop your line. Another big help would be to control your fish. If your fish is heading down the rail, follow it! There is nothing worse or more frustrating than someone taking out the whole rail with a shark or bonito that they cannot control because they have 2lbs. of drag on their reel and they won't move their feet. And lastly, listen to the mates when they give directions. If they ask you to quit pulling on a tangle, fish the correct side of the boat, or walk your fish down, please do it! We will all have a better, more enjoyable trip.
On to the fishing.... Overall we had decent conditions and "calm-ish" seas. Capt. Greg did a great job keeping us out of the thunderstorms that threatened the entire week. For the most part, we had decent, fishable drifts, and those who paid attention and worked hard (sound familiar?) were rewarded with nice catches. There was a group of 5-6 dedicated jig fishermen on the bow, who were all courteous, experienced anglers. It was a pleasure fishing next to them. They put on a clinic on how the slow pitch presentation works. As a group, they were collectively steady in picking at the fish on every drift, and they all had nice coolers in the end. But, they worked for their bites.
My buddy and I fished a mix of bait and jigs. I personally love to fish jigs but I don't always have the endurance to move that rod up and down all day and night. We picked at fish pretty good on fresh goggleyes and ballyhoo on the standard sinker & bait rig that Capt Greg illustrates on the website.
We also caught plenty of nice fish on 10 & 12oz. Diamond hammered jigs, and several more on big old school bucktail deep jigs also 10-12oz. We did equally well on jigs and bait. I would usually fish bait until the jig guys got into a bite, then I would grab the jig rod and work that until the action tapered off. I love pitching that jig, but I just can't do it all day...
The prevalent species coming over the rail on this trip was a nice mix of muttons, red grouper of all sizes (with some slammer-size fire trucks on the second day), big blackfin snapper, scamp grouper, a couple of African pompano, just a few blackfin tunas, and a really nice black grouper caught on a jig. We did exceptionally well on the muttons and firetruck reds, and had a few good blackfin snappers as well. My buddy also got a giant bonus wahoo on a bait at night which is just icing on the cake!
As always, Capt. Greg worked very hard keeping us in the fish and find the best ways to fish the conditions.The mates were all friendly helpful, and hard-working. Other's have already said this and it and it's worth repeating that you really can't beat the meal plan Chef Chad offers. For the time and expense of shopping for groceries and packing and hauling a food cooler, you have already spent more on food than you would have on the meal plan, and I guarantee you the quality of Chef Chad's cuisine will exceed any cold, soggy cooler food you can bring!
I think we ended up with either 16-18 totes of fish which may sound slow for a Pulley Ridge trip, but the catch was in no way reflective of the diligent effort by Capt Greg and the crew who worked their **** off to keep us in fish.
I think our catch was better than average considering the conditions, and the anglers on board.
Overall, we had a friendly group of very nice folks, but about 8-10 of our fisherman either would not or could pay attention and follow the advice of the crew or other anglers. They had the rods, the reels and the jigs, but had no clue how to use them. All the folks that were able to follow the program and put in the time and effort, had nice coolers of fish to take home. I personally had my best mutton trip ever on this one, and I caught about half of them on the jig which was even more fun.