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Captain's Focus

Sailfishing wasn't up to par last week off Isla Mujeres, Mexico when I fished there aboard the 61-foot Viking, Last Call, owned by my nephew, Todd Correll of Fort Lauderdale -- but there was one very memorable event that occurred while we were trying something else.  An attempt at nigh-speed wahoo trolling along an oceanic drop-off produced only barracuda before line started flying off an 80-pound outfit and we figured a big wahoo was going to provide a delicious dinner for us. Anything with some weight to it that hits a lure being trolled at 17 knots is going to take lots of line on the strike, and that fish kept fighting as Todd cranked it in. When Capt. Colin Page saw a fin pop out in the wake, he thought it might be a marlin before we identified a six-foot mako shark that had attacked a big Yo-Zuri flat-headed, high-speed plug. I'd never heard of a mako hitting a trolled plug, and especially one trolled at such a high speed. It turned out to be a fine substitute on the plate for a wahoo, and was the best mako I've ever tasted. Though I had taken my nephew sharking when he was still in grade school on Long Island, that was his first mako. My other nephew, Bob Correll of Bay Head, was also aboard along with Todd's son Connor and nephew Nico from Long Island as we fished for three days and managed to release eight Atlantic sailfish plus quite a few large little tunny (known as bonito in the south) that also attacked our trolled balao. We took some time the last day to drift over rough bottom for some fun bottom fishing, though none of the snappers and groupers (plus sand tilefish, grunts, lizardfish, and even a puffer) were large. We ended up five for eight on sails that day, but got to the most impressive shot of action just a bit too late as dozens of frigates dove on a baitball of sardines at sundown -- with raised sails cutting through against the backdrop of a red sky. Isla Mujeres is just a short ferry ride from Cancun, and a low-key attraction for those who prefer water sports to casinos. This is prime time for sailfish which should be providing double digit releases. Though every day was beautiful, rough seas prevailed. I had some warning about the slow season, as Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst had been down there a couple of weeks earlier to fish aboard the Sea Hag from N.J. when they got shut out one day. The fishing could have been better, but it was a treat for me to be fishing with my nephews who decades earlier had been hanging on in the bow of my trailered Mako 19 as I ran full speed after surfacing bluefish at Montauk. They learned to be fishermen from the ground up, and I'm proud to say they've become better anglers than their uncle as well as very successful businessmen. Saturday's Canyon Runner Seminar at the Huntington Hilton on Long Island is just about sold out. Call Adam La Rosa at 732 272-4445 to determine if any of the $99 tickets are available before making the drive. La Rosa notes that the 48 Canyon Runner has been catching giant tuna plus some yellowfins out of Oregon Inlet -- and will start running charters for those fish this week. The N.J. Marine Fishery Council meeting scheduled for March 2 has been postponed to April 13 so the advisory committees can consider the summer flounder and black sea bass actions taken at recent meetings of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The Atlantic City Boat Show is set for March 1-5. The World Fishing Expo , better known as the Suffern Show, is coming up from March 2-5 in Rockland Community College at Suffern, New York. Virtually all national tackle manufacturers will have full exhibits at that show. Adult admission is $13.  The big show for saltwater anglers is coming up from March 17-19 in the N.J. Convention Center in Somerset. I'll be doing a striped bass seminar at the Saltwater Expo on that Saturday at 11:30 a.m., and Tady will once again be providing one of their lures to each person attending the seminar. Capt. Pete Grimbilas reports Sunday's N.J. Outdoor Alliance Wild Game Dinner in Stanhope was a big success. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a lifetime member, provided a rousing address. Fine winter weather has provided the opportunity for the Ocean Explorer out of Belmar to give bottom fishing a try. There was decent life Monday as six blackfish were boated along with a few cod and ling. After a slow start Tuesday, a move out to a wreck in 170 feet produced two cod and a blackfish for the hi-hook. The big pool is over $3,800. The Jamaica from Brielle makes the last Saturday 2 a.m. trip to far offshore wrecks for jumbo porgies, but they've added a Sunday 2 a.m. departure as that will be the last shot at porgies before that season closes. Space is available on both trips at $140 by calling 732 528-5014. Capt. Charlie Fornabio, formerly of Belmar, reports "Snook fishing remains solid as the water temps remain over 70 degrees. Doctors Jack Higgins and Don Zent had a stellar day snook fishing this past week in the Ft Pierce inlet, landing 17 snook and a black grouper. Of the 17 fish landed, 5 were undersized, 10 were oversized and 2 fell into the slot.The 12 lb black grouper was released as the grouper season is closed. A few oversized redfish were also mixed in. The inshore reefs and Indian River were loaded with big sheepshead this past week. Shrimp is the prime bait for this action. The bulk of the Spanish mackerel have disappeared as of this posting. I am seeing a few pompano, but it's still not what I would have hoped for. Small trout seem to be focused on the sand bars and drop offs. Ladyfish are scattered all along the channel edges and points." Fornabio can be reached at 772 360-7647.

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