Here we have the notorious barracuda. This fish has a popular muscle car named after it, the Plymouth Barracuda, and "Barracuda" is also the title of a hit song by the rock band Heart, but the barracuda that we know is a vicious predator that can be found lurking almost anywhere in the ocean. Barracuda stalk Haulover Inlet, cruise along Miami Beach, hover over wrecks and dive spots, and turn up in deeper water way offshore. They have an impressive set of extremely wicked teeth and this fish must be handled very carefully at the boat...
When fishing for barracuda we use a wire leader with a lure or live bait. A barracuda will give you a powerful fight, will sometimes go airborne, and is capable of taking a chunk out of you once landed. Barracuda are often called the tigers of the sea due to their coloration, their aggressive attitude and their very unique and dangerous teeth. Besides looking to attack you, barracuda are a nasty menace to everything else that swims in the ocean and they are known for their tendency to commit real crimes of opportunity...they will gash and cut off other nice fish that you have hooked on your line, sometimes snatching your whole fish or chomping down and leaving you with nothing but the mutilated head!
DOLPHIN (MAHI, DORADO)
Mammal, and you may catch dolphin, the fish. The mammal is also known as porpoise and the fish is also known as mahi-mahi or dorado. You do not have to worry about hooking the mammal; they are very smart and seem to know that playing in the wake of the boat is fun but that eating our bait is a bad idea. The same can't be said for dolphin, the fish.
We troll for dolphin and you may catch a solo fish or a pair, a cow and a bull. At other times we may come across a whole school of dolphin, usually taking cover under some floating debris or patches of seaweed, and every rod will go down. If we get into a school of dolphin expect it to get a little messy. We make every effort to keep everyone and everything clean while we're fishing (we have both a fresh and saltwater washdown in the cockpit), but sometimes fish can do some wild and unpredictable things. The cockpit can become quite hectic as multiple fish are caught, checked for size and released or boated, while at the same time we're also putting out more bait to keep the school around..
Dolphin can be very acrobatic and they are also one of the most colorful game fish swimming in the ocean, with beautiful shades of iridescent yellow, green and blue. Dolphin are delicious to eat and you will find dolphin on the menu in many restaurants. Dolphin is very versatile and can be prepared almost every way you can think of with excellent results; it has a mild flavor and fairly firm texture. Enjoy dolphin broiled, grilled, fried, baked, blackened, sautéed, steamed, escoveitched Jamaican-style, in Baja tacos, in curry and vindaloo, in a chowder, stew or soup...did we leave something out? Any way you like it...it's all good!
There are several species of grouper that make the reef and wrecks of South Florida their home. Groupers are rather solitary bottom-dwellers and they are usually found around coral, rocks and sunken wrecks. For this reason they can be a challenge to catch. Here is the scenario. First we must navigate to one of our secret grouper spots. Next we assess the direction and speed of the current and adjust the rig accordingly. Grouper are attracted to structure so the idea is to get the bait in the vicinity of the structure...this also means that even when just setting up you run the risk of getting your bait and rig hung up in the sharp edges and irregular contours of the structure. Don’t be alarmed if you or the mate end up having to break off your rig...this happens to the best of us and does not mean that you did anything wrong. So now you’re waiting for a bite and here is the next problem. Grouper have big gaping mouths and you want to be sure that they take the bait, but at the same time the grouper wants to snatch the bait and hide in the structure and enjoy his meal. So you don’t want to yank the bait out of the grouper’s mouth, but you also don’t want to give him enough time to drag you into the structure and chafe your line and tangle your rig. So wind, wind, wind! If not anchored, the captain may even bump the boat a little bit forward to keep the grouper away from the structure.
Research shows that grouper are a very slow-growing species; they are also one the finest eating fish that you may ever have the pleasure to eat, with moist and delicious flaky white flesh. Consequently, there is tremendous pressure on this fishery resulting in very strict regulations including seasonal closures, bag limits and depth restrictions. These regulations are constantly changing as researchers study the stock and do their best to manage the fishery. Be prepared to carefully return some grouper to the ocean but also know that the grouper that you get to keep is a very special catch.
Pound for pound, fish in the jack family are some of the hardest fighting fish in the ocean. We fish for jacks on or near the bottom using live bait or deep jigs. Jacks are especially fun and challenging to catch on a light tackle outfit. Greater amberjack are like the donkeys of the sea on account of their stubborn demeanor. When you're fighting an AJ you'll have to figure out how to win the standoff as the fish is exerting all its energy to dig back down and you’re working just as hard to reel him back up. Win or lose, your arms will ache after fighting an amberjack. We also catch other jacks including almaco jack, crevalle jack, and yellow jack...all fun to fight, but the greater amberjack is the real beast.
We catch kingfish, also known as king mackerel, trolling the reef between Miami Beach and Hollywood or drifting live baits while at anchor. Kingfish have very sharp teeth that will cut right through fishing line (and you, too, if you're not careful) so a wire leader is a requirement when putting together a kingfish rig. Kingfish are fun to catch, sometimes they skyrocket when they're trying to take the bait, and every so often you'll catch a "smoker," a really hugekingfish. Kingfish are excellent table fare, either steaked or filleted. Kingfish are also commonly used to make delicious smoked fish and home chefs enjoy experimenting with their own special brines, seasonings and rubs.
Mackerel are a lot of fun to catch on light tackle. We generally troll for mackerel nearshore with spoons, feathers and little artificial lures or we might also drift or anchor up with live bait. Spanish mackerel are identified by their gold spots, butwe also catch cero mackerel, identified by their gold lines and dashes. Juvenile kingfish, or king mackerel, resemble Spanish mackerel at first glance, but you can tell the difference by checking the front of the dorsal fin which is charcoal gray on the Spanish mackerel but light gray throughout on the kingfish. You can also look at the lateral line which is gently sloping on the Spanish mackerel but has a much more pronounced dip on the kingfish.
Mackerel, like salmon and sardines, have a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, a class of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids that benefit heart health; if you handle the fillets you can actually feel the richness of the fat in the flesh of the fish and there will be a residue left on your skin. Mackerel are great table fare; when cooked the meat is pure white with a fine flake and delicate flavor. If you want to totally negate the health benefits, you’ll find mackerel to be especially delicious when fried...but that can be said of almost anything!