TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Three members of the Max Defender 8 Weather Team love to fish on their days off, so they jumped at the chance to go fishing together on a work day.
Jeff Berardelli, Amanda Holly, and Rebecca Barry loaded up on Capt. Dave Mistretta’s boat, the Jawstoo, out of Clearwater Beach, Florida, and headed out to try to catch kingfish.
It was early November, about the time the kingfish bite turns on in the Tampa Bay area. Capt. Dave explains that the water temperature this time of the year signals that the bite is about to turn on, “I call it the magical 70s, when the water temperature gets into the 70s, in the Spring and the Fall when the kingfish are here, it’s just makes for a great month of fishing. “
We started jigging for live bait using sabiki rigs, a lightweight rig with several tiny hooks, perfect for catching a few bait fish at a time. We had about half the amount of live bait fish that we hoped for when Capt Dave made a crucial call. He saw a kingfish sky (jump out of the water) and knew that the bite would be early. So we stopped fishing for bait and put the lines out to start fishing for kingfish.
Almost immediately the drag started screaming- fish on! A large kingfish smashed our bait and jumped 7 feet in the air, shaking his head trying to throw the hook. Amanda grabbed the rod and started reeling, working the rod and trying to get the big king to the boat. After a few moments, the fish threw the hook and got away.
Capt. Dave explained the rigs we were using meant we might lose a few fish, “We’re using light tackle, 40lb cable, 30lb line, very small hooks. We’re trying to fool the fish with the lighter stuff, they can’t see all the heavy hooks and everything. So you do lose a couple of fish, it’s going to happen. But you get the bites.”
It sure didn’t take long, the drag started sounding again, but not as quickly this time. Jeff grabbed the rod and immediately knew it was a mistake. The fish wasn’t pulling hard at all, and he knew it wasn’t what we were after. He reluctantly reeled in a small Lizard Fish, drawing a few snickers from Amanda and Rebecca.
Rebecca took the next hook up and got a decent-sized kingfish in the boat for a quick picture and eternal bragging rights over Amanda and Jeff.
A few moments later another fish hooked up and Amanda grabbed the rod- determined to get this one in the boat. She fought it for quite some time before getting it close enough to the boat to see it- it was a big one, the biggest kingfish of the day. She was able to land this one and the only thing bigger than that kingfish was Amanda’s smile.
The pressure was on for Jeff to catch a big one, but when he hooked up, he may have gotten more than he bargained for. It was clear from the beginning this was one huge fish. It kept peeling drag, and Jeff couldn’t get much on the fish. After 20 minutes of fighting, Capt. Dave told us it was most likely a shark. Jeff would not give up. He wanted to catch the huge shark.
The fight got wild a few times as the shark made big runs, it was during Stone Crab season, so there were crab pot lines and buoys to dodge every 20 yards or so. If the shark wrapped his line around one of those it would most likely break off. We had a few close calls but were able to maneuver around the obstacles.
After close to an hour of fighting the shark, Jeff got him boat side. He was a big blacktip shark! He was tired, but seeing that big shark up close made it worth it.
By the end of the day, Rebecca caught the most kingfish, Amanda caught the biggest kingfish, and Jeff caught the largest species overall, the big shark – so everyone won! Most of all we enjoyed being out on the water together and getting to experience some of that beautiful Tampa Bay weather that we predict.