Tidelines – June 7, 2018
Alex has 2000 problems but a mahi ain’t one, was the best on-the-spot creativity the Fish Post crew could come up with in trying to brainstorm a title for this issue’s Tidelines. Never mind that Tidelines never has a title, we were just excited to be filling the fish box with mahi after mahi.
By Alex, we were referring to Alex Stanley, the mate on the charter boat Predator, captained by Chris Barnett and docked in Hatteras Harbor Marina, and the 2000 problems was the quick count Alex had come up with when I asked him how many baits in the spread he had de-grassed already just this season.
Everyone was in a great mood and for several reasons. For starters, we had road tripped out of Wilmington the day before, making all kinds of bad jokes along the way before pulling into The Villas of Hatteras Landing where we would grab a few comfortable hours of sleep in a place less than five minutes from the marina. Also, we were on Predator, a beautiful 57’ custom Carolina, for the second year in a row, enjoying once again both the company and the expertise of Mate Alex and Captain Chris.
However, the biggest good mood kicker had to be that after the short 20-ish mile run out of Hatteras Inlet to the Gulf Stream, Chris and Alex had thrown out the spread near a weather buoy in roughly 250’ of water, and less than five minutes later (by 7:05 am) all five in our party had put a mahi in the boat.
Our first two bites had come back to back on the troll, the second fish hitting before we could get the first to the boat, and then we used these first two fish as decoys and left them in the water just off the stern. The two mahi brought more to the boat, and that’s when the other three of us in the party pitched out cut bait, in this case cut albacore on a bare hook behind an inline sinker, and soon all five of us were hooked up.
The two gaffers went in the fish box, and we left the three bailers in the water as decoys. Apparently no other mahi on that weather buoy wanted to come out and play, so we boxed the three bailers, too, and then started heading further offshore to the deeper water.
Before long, Chris had pulled us through one of the best grass lines he had seen yet this season, wanting to first target the deeper edge of the grass line, the side that typically holds the bigger fish, and while Chris was clearing the lines, I asked him how many baits he typically clears.
His number for the season so far (our trip was late May) was based on quick math—he’s been offshore trolling for basically one month, so 30 days at 50-75 baits being cleared per trip was the formula that brought him to 2000.
Our first shot at this weed line didn’t produce as readily as the weather buoy, so Chris and Alex used this as an invitation to move even further off to try and raise a billfish in what has already proven to be a high-number billfish season. Billfishing is risk/reward fishing, and on our day the risk was rewarded.
A big blue marlin suddenly showed up on the right teaser, a pink Express, for a moment, but then faded off. It moved to the flat line, a blue/black Sail Lure, swiped at the lure, bit it, missed the hook, faded off again, and then reappeared on the other flat line.
The blue charged the second flat line, and this time found the hook. It screamed off about 100 yards, but then made a quick turn back to the boat, and it was this bad angle that allowed our blue to shake the hook and disappear into the blue water.
We thanked the blue for the heart-pumping show and then headed back inshore to our weed line, and this time the weed line gave us all the action we could legally keep.
“Grave digger up ahead,” came Chris’ call from the bridge, referring to a mahi that gives away its location by showing itself on the surface, hence digging its own grave.
At the site of the grave digger, once again our first mahi came on the troll, another gaffer, and this hooked gaffer once again served as a decoy to bring the rest of the school to us. We began bailing dolphin, and this time the action didn’t stop after a few fish. This time the action kept coming.
The goals when bailing mahi, Alex explained, are built around efficiency. First, he explained, you have to have baits in the water. You can’t catch any fish without baits in the water.
Second, the party needs to work in circles. Anglers should be on the outside when pitching bait. Then move closer to the center of the stern when hooked up. Finally, move in directly beside the fish box when it’s time for your fish to come out of the water.
Another goal, he added, is to not to try and set the hook. He advises his anglers just crank tight. Setting a hook (or trying to horse the fish in once hooked instead of just steady cranking) runs the risk of pulling the hook out of the mahi’s mouth, and sore-lipping can shut down the bite.
On our 60th mahi, the limit for our five-person party, we celebrated, held our last couple of fish in the water long enough for one of Chris’ fellow charter boat captains to come over and pick up on the school where we left off.
Our trip was Predator’s first trip of this season limiting out, but they’ve repeated the accomplishment, and will continue to complete this accomplishment, numerous times over. Capt. Chris Barnett and Mate Alex Stanley, of the charter boat Predator, are highly motivated to find fish and create memories for all of their clients, and Fisherman’s Post is lucky enough to be on the long list of satisfied Predator anglers.
There’s still plenty of grass out there for Alex to clear, but that’s okay because that grass is often holding limits of mahi. My suggestion is for you to put together your party and head to Hatteras to fish with Chris and Alex. When you fish with Predator will determine your own math—4000 problems but a mahi ain’t one, 6000, …