Fishing Adventures on Miami’s Biscayne Bay
By Captain Jim “Jimbo” Hobales
Photos By Jan S. Maizler & Captain Ken Collette
Jan Maizler contacted me by phone in terms wanting me to do a variety-themed fishing story on the often-fruitful waters of North Biscayne Bay. His timing could not have been better since this time of year was featuring all the best of the winter and spring Miami inshore species. For those of you that don’t know, North Biscayne Bay -or North Bay- is roughly boundaried by Dumbfoundling Bay on the north and Government Cut on the south.
Though I also fish South Biscayne Bay, the Everglades National Park, and the Flamingo backcountry, I’m also involved in the North Bay fishery with a high level of success. By all means was I happy to guide Jan, make the right moves, and also write this story! When we finalized our trip soon thereafter, Jan mentioned he was bringing along his friend and my colleague Captain Ken Colette with him. I looked forward to fishing with them and as time flies, I was soon meeting them with handshakes 7 a.m. at the Haulover boat ramp.
As we idled out of the marina and turned south, both of my guests said they were impressed by my vessel. I was proud to be running a 22-foot Pathfinder Tournament bay boat powered by a Yamaha 250 H.P. four-stroke engine. My boat is rigged with a Power Pole, which is an indispensable item for all the inshore stealth and position-based fishing that I do.
Our next step was to get a large amount of live pilchards to use as insurance. As we got southwest of Haulover Cut on the ICW, the numerous diving birds tipped us off to an enormous concentration of bait schools. All it took were three throws of my cast net to completely fill my livewell. We were all set.
Begin with Seatrout
The fact that we were in the middle of an early springtime persuaded me to make our first stop for seatrout. The conditions featured a good low light dawn setting plus enough water temperature- mid seventies- that would bring those spottails out of their winter lethargy. Although we could have used live pilchards, I had a hunch that my two guests would want to opt for artificials. My inquiry was affirmed as Jan and Ken were more than happy to try the more sporting approach first.
As we sped south along Meloy channel and through the Broad Causeway, I slowed down my Pathfinder and slowly idled over to the grassflats. I rigged three spinning outfits with a yellow suspending plug, a plastic swim bait, and a lipped swimming plug respectively. I told my anglers to look into the five or so feet of water that we were in and cast to the mottled bottom of both sand and grass. It’s been my experience that a lot of nice seatrout use the edges and periphery of sandy holes as ambush points.
My hope was that this nice array of artificial baits presented enough diversity that would increase the likelihood of catching some good trout. I grabbed the rod with the yellow plug and fired it towards some potholes near a spoil island. After a few turns of the reel handle I got a solid thump and reeled in a small trout. Everyone noticed that the trout was small and hit a plug easily half his size. I love the way seatrout often show that lovable bad-intention aggression on lures and baits that make them so much fun to target. Jan remarked that more than a few times in his angling career, the stomach contents of seatrout at the cleaning table turned up a remarkable variety of forage food which included medium needlefish and baby seatrout as well!
Shortly thereafter, Ken hooked up and released a bigger trout on the plastic bait. Jan quickly followed suit on his swimming plug. We had a couple times in the next twenty minutes when we had double headers. I knew that time would be of the essence in a variety story, so I encouraged my anglers to catch a few more and then we’d leave.
After my anglers had their fill of trout- about fifteen-they were more than ready to have a go at the numerous Spanish mackerel that were bending anglers’ rods in Government Cut. Yesterday, the fish had been holding well inside the Cut not far off the Coast Guard station. As we were underway, I asked Ken to grab the wheel as I re-rigged two of the spinning rods with light gauge wire leaders and small Rapala swimming plugs.
When we arrived at the Cut, it was obvious where the fish were, as gulls wheeled and dived over bustups and skyrocketing mackerel of very nice size. Though my guests expected to cast, I told them with all the boats and traffic patterns, it was far safer and more effective to troll. They were happy to comply. I had them each let out long lines of at least 100 feet. As soon as the plugs reached that trolling distance, both rods heeled over and the drags on the reels began to sing the blues.
Ken and Jan were both delighted to be hooked up to these gamesters. As soon as the fish were alongside my vessel, my guests declined keeping them for food, so, back they went. The mackerel were so numerous that every time the plugs hit that magic mark behind the stern, we had smashing strikes. After releasing about twenty nice mackerel, I again pushed my anglers to stop so we could pursue the numerous rolling tarpon and chunky bottom fish that were east of us nearer the mouth of the Cut.
Bottom Fish Blastoff
When we arrived close to the mouth of the Cut, we saw tarpon rolling everywhere. But also, like tarpon everywhere, they had lockjaw despite a variety of natural and artificial baits that we employed. I told Jan and Ken we were headed halfway back to try for the bottom fish I knew that were striking from the prior day.
When my recorder as well as naked eye told me we’d reached our honey hole, I had them make drops with live pilchards on snapper knocker rigs on heavy spinning rods. Both of them had hard strikes but missed them. I repositioned the boat in the strong tide and we made another drop over the spot. Jan hooked up instantly, and then, so did Ken. Both anglers fought their fish off the bottom. Both of them were respectable red groupers. Using this method we took another dozen or so.
While I started rigging a plug rod with a jighead and large Berkley Gulp molting shrimp, Ken asked if he could give the outfit a try. I complied and he dropped the jig to the bottom. On the second upward sweep of his rod, the blank slammed over with the weight of a good strike. Though Jan and I both thought it was a bigger grouper, Ken reeled up a big beautiful hogfish, which he promptly kept for dinner- lucky man!
Rumble Time Near the Mangroves
Since Jan had asked if we could try for a snook, I told them we’d have to leave, as this would mean a longer run to the north. When we finally got there, I lowered the Power Pole on the shallow side of a bridge fringed on one side by mangroves. I started live chumming with pilchards to try to excite some snook up from the bridge pilings.
Instead of snook pops, we succeeded in chumming up a massive school of medium-sized jack crevalles. The ensuing melee lasted as long as the chum enhanced the arties Jan and Ken were throwing. We probably released fifty before both anglers sat down exhausted but clearly satisfied.
At this last stop, there was no snook, but we had a great day, and I had my story!
Captain Jim Hobales
Cell Phone: 305-333-8149
Web Site: www.caughtlookincharters.com