Snowstorms, frigid temperatures, torn up roads, and sluggish fish. That’s the best of what Washington, DC has to offer in late February. It has been a long winter, so the obvious solution was swinging down to Miami to visit my friend from college, Kyle. We booked an offshore trip with Captain Bouncer Smith aboard Bouncer’s Dusky 33. I have always heard such great things about Captain Bouncer, I had to get out fishing with him.
Our day started off with us running a couple minutes late to pick up some sunscreen. Josh, the mate, greeted us and loaded our lunches onto the boat. Captain Bouncer, told me that my sunscreen would be left behind. It was Banana Boat. No bananas on the boat! I guess that’s what happens why you try to get your supplies minutes before the trip. Luckily the Captain was well stocked up with sunscreen for us to use anyway.
We push off and start making our way off the docks. It doesn’t take long to add more excitement, and we haven’t even wet a line yet. We see a thick plume of black smoke up on the harbor. A sailboat was on fire! Captain Bouncer called it in, and we raced over to the scene to observe and ensure everyone was safe. Luckily, no one needed additional assistance and the fire boat was right behind us, and we got to witness the water cannons at work. After a couple minutes of gawking, we went on our way to catch bait.
Bouncer got us to the bait marker, showed us the proper way to fish the sabiki, and set us on the first drift. Nothing. Second drift, Kyle pulls up a herring. A couple more drifts, and Kyle pulls in one or two, and I don’t even get so much as a nibble. Captain Bouncer demos it again, and gets nabbed immediately. Kyle pulls up another. Bouncer pulls up a double. Kyle pulls up a double. I pull up nothing. The good-natured ribbing begins. I can’t even catch myself bait – how the heck am I going to catch something worthwhile?! Finally, after about 15 herring and pilchards were in the boat, I got my first one. That didn’t ease the ribbing though. We kept bringing in the bait with Kyle often getting a double and the occasional triple. Finally with the livewell full, we reeled in the lines and headed off to the fishing grounds. Kyle easily doubled my numbers, and didn’t let me forget that. Oh well. I guess that just makes him the Master Baiter.
Bouncer brought us a little further south than usual in search of “clean” water – and he sure found it. The beautiful deep blue water looked like something out of a painting. Combine that with the beautiful warm weather and very light seas, and it was a fantastic day on the water. Josh set the baits, and the captain gave us instructions on what to do if and when the lines pop off the wire – count to 4, flip the bail, and start reeling!
Not even five minutes in, the boat rolls, and the line comes off the wire. My immediate thought was that it was going to be a long day if the line is simply going to pop off every time the boat rolls. Just to be safe, though, I grabbed the rod, counted to 4, and started reeling. Much to my surprise, the line came tight and went into a deep bend. We were on our first sailfish for after fishing for only a few minutes! The sail took off on a tear and started dancing at the surface. The sailfish put up quite the fight, and Captain Bouncer did a great job controlling the boat, making sure the fish wasn’t running too fast, and making sure I could keep up with the line if it ran at us.
After about 10 minutes, I got the fish near the boat. This one wasn’t ready to call it a day though. For another five minutes, we played a game of tug and war. I’d get four feet of line; the sail would take back five. At one point, we got a legal tournament catch, but that wasn’t enough. Captain Bouncer and Josh were committed to actually getting this sailfish to the boat – they knew it was my first sail. You may remember from previous posts that each sailfish I had ever hooked popped off shortly after the battle started. The determination paid off. I finally got the sailfish next to the boat, and Josh was able to grab the bill and subdue the fish. We got the cameras ready, and Josh gently lifted the bill out of the water for a photo op. While Bouncer prepped the tag, Josh made sure the fish was fully in the water. Bouncer estimated this sailfish would weight in around 60 pounds – definitely an above average fish. The captain stuck the tag, and we let the fish swim off to fight another day. This would be the biggest fish of the day, but luckily, not the only one.
After the excitement of my first sailfish, we set off for more. The day was still early. The baits were reset, and Captain Bouncer and Josh started chatting with us about what we do for work, what kind of fishing we’re into, and making general conversation. We ended up uncovering from Josh – Bouncer was too humble to admit it himself – that Captain Bouncer had just been recognized in the 2014 IGFA Legendary Captain and Crews Awards Ceremony. While we were chatting, Bouncer spotted a free jumping sailfish.
Bouncer told Josh to bait a rod and pitch it out towards that direction. Josh hopped into action and stuck a herring with a circle hook. His first attempt at the pitch was thwarted by some rods in the holders behind him. Whoops. Attempt number two was much better. A few seconds after the bait was in the water, the line started peeling off the bail. With the rod now in Kyle’s hand, he flipped the bail, started reeling, and went tight on the free jumper! The fish put on another great acrobatic show, but tired much more quickly. About five minutes later, we had our second sailfish to the boat for another photo session, and Captain Bouncer tagged in before Josh released it.
The rest of our day was a bit slower than the beginning – but still a great day. We ended up with three quarters of a blackfin tuna – the rest of it was lost to a shark – and a third sailfish. Through the lulls in the afternoon, Captain Bouncer and Josh kept us entertained with jokes about swollen thumbs and stories of fishing. Listening to radio chatter, Bouncer seemed to always be the one everyone would call to figure out where to find the fish rather than Bouncer needed to call others. It is pretty clear why Captain Bouncer earned his IGFA distinction.
Captain Bouncer fishes year round for anything from tarpon to mahi mahi to snapper to swordfish. Basically, if it is swimming in the seas off South Florida, Captain Bouncer is catching it. Captain Bouncer offers full day and evening/night trips. Ready to book? Captain Bouncer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have you fished with Bouncer before? Leave a review!