It had now reached the season where Florida's cold fronts were more wind direction "around-the-clock" changes without any deeply meaningful temperature drops. But that very span from late winter into early spring can still generate the kinds of high winds capable of cancelling the best-planned forays into marine waters. And those were the conditions that Miami Herald outdoor writer Sue Cocking, friend Don Eichin, and I were hoping to avoid as we planned to sample the near-beach fishing from Stuart to Jupiter, Florida.
So we contacted top guide Captain Butch Constable and kept our fingers crossed for either west winds or light winds that would make such a foray possible. We also looked forward to returning to fish out of Butch's 29-foot Twin Vee catamaran. This vessel is not just incredibly stable but had the all-around roominess to make casting lures or flies a simple carefree tactic. In addition, Butch had a flying bridge (tower) installed on his Twin Vee to make spotting gamefish as effective as possible.
We met at the appointed day at Black Pearl Marina in Tequesta, Florida, where Butch keeps his vessel. Mother Nature had smiled on us that morning. Though the air was a bit chilly, only a slight breeze was coming off the landmass to the ocean.
Before we headed out Jupiter Inlet, Butch took some time to net glass minnows as live chum for mackerel, bluefish and perhaps small kingfish. Heading out the inlet with a full livewell over a mild groundswell was reassuring and exciting at the same time. On our way north, we passed a huge stretch of beachfront where blacktip sharks were leaping seemingly every few seconds. Though this was a tantalizing sight, we passed by them in favor of smaller gamesters that would allow us manageable triple hookups.
Though we saw a few birds diving en route, Butch decided to go straight to Stuart in an area called Peck's Lake where the mackerel put on a seasonal feeding frenzy. Once we got there, Butch immediately got the mackerel fired up with live chum. The fishing was high pandemonium as we fired our casts around the diving birds and into the mackerel boils. I used a baitcasting outfit and artificial lures like SPRO bucktails and Clarkspoons. Triple hookups were common and in an hour we were exhausted.
We were ready for other species, so Butch turned his vessel south and we searched the beaches close to shore. In a half hour of catching jacks and ladyfish where birds were diving, Butch spotted a school of bluefish on the surface straight off his bow. I quickly changed my lure to a Yo-Zuri popper and fired into their midst with an immediate hookup.
After the three of us caught about a dozen blues, Butch announced we'd try for some pompano for what I call a "beach slam."
He moved us a few hundred yards to an area outside the waves that intersected with a water color change. We changed to spinning rods rigged with yellow or orange Doc's Goofy jigs. We had to slow down the lures right to the bottom to bounce in order to attract the pompano. In about twenty minutes, I struck silver and reeled in a nice 3-pound specimen.
We spent the remaining hour looking for cobia schools, but the water was a bit too turbid to see them anywhere but on the surface of the water column. It was a wonderful day with Butch and we all vowed to fish together again soon.