It was already hot and humid as we moved rods and tackle from the truck to the docks. Five of us were busy getting ready for a day of chasing sea monsters with Josh Jorgensen, also known as BlacktipH to YouTubers everywhere. Josh had invited frogg toggs® and The Brandon Agency down to experience a day of chasing and catching giant sharks, bonitas, and goliath grouper. Anticipation was high as we finished loading camera gear, rods, tackle, frogg toggs® Pilot II™ raingear, and lots of frogg toggs® Chilly pads® into the 38-foot center console. Personally, I was soaking wet as I climbed aboard the boat and we shoved off and headed for the mouth of Jupiter Inlet. Wearing the frogg toggs® performance tee, it didn’t take long to be dry again as the forward motion of the boat created an artificial breeze from the still, heavy air.
As we cleared the mouth of the inlet, Josh decided the first order of business would be high-speed trolling for wahoo. The mate donned his Pilot II™ bibs to protect from spray as he worked to get 2 trolling rigs sorted behind the boat. After 30 minutes of uneventful trolling, the right flatline had a huge boil and explosion as a toothy predator crushed the trolled bait. After a lengthy battle, the fish gave up and came to boatside where we discovered that it was a giant barracuda and not the prized wahoo we sought. Oh well, more shark bait for Josh.
The sun was well above the horizon at this point and as the boat slowed to drift over some prime bonita water, the heat and humidity joined the crew on the deck of the boat. The Chilly pads® were doused with fresh water and were donned by all aboard. Providing instant relief from the heat and the suns strengthening rays, the chilly pad® was counted as a blessing by all the anglers. With the cooling provided by the Chilly pads®, the anglers went to work with a purpose. Deep jigging resulted in several multiple hookups, several boated bonita, and several 6-10 foot bull sharks circling the boat. It was at this point that the game changed. The big rod came out and a whole bonita went on as bait. Josh teased a few of the larger bull sharks with the bonita until he had them in a frenzy at boat side. Exciting is an understatement. An 8-footer inhaled the bonita and the rod was passed to Chase Fowler who fought the giant based on excited instructions from Josh. After the 400 pounder was released, Chase said that fighting the fish on rod and reel may have been the most physically demanding thing he had ever done.
After the release, the crew and anglers all put their frogg toggs® bibs on and proceeded to scrub the boat clean. After this endeavor, the Chilly pads® came in handy again as we changed locations. The next order of business was for Haywood Brandon to catch a few monster bonita on fly tackle. Once again, excitement registered off the chart as giant bull sharks attacked the hooked bonita like giant topwater lures.
The final stop of the day was the most interesting to me. We stopped on a wreck to handline giant goliath grouper. Chase Fowler was first up and as Josh lowered a whole 18-pound bonita on a ¼ inch high-strength rope, he was explaining to Chase what to expect. The bait was taken in seconds, and despite the warnings from Josh, I don’t think Chase was prepared for the strength, violence, and complete lack of respect that the monster grouper displayed. Using his frogg toggs® neoprene fishing gloves for protection, he fought the giant grouper in a hand-to-hand struggle that looked more like a piscatorial cage match than anything fishing related. When I say "fought", I mean he held on tight and did not let go of the rope as it burned through his hands when the grouper would make a run. After four or five strong runs, a little help from Josh on the rope, and a great deal of perseverance from Chase, a giant brown, scaly behemoth popped to the surface. Estimated at 350-375 pounds, this wasn’t even a giant, just average. It was the largest fish I had ever personally seen (since the bull sharks earlier in the day). After pics, the fish was revived and released to swim back to its wreck. The day culminated in a heavy thunderstorm that popped up inshore and was headed toward the mouth of the inlet, potentially blocking our return. The boat was hastily put in order, and with seas building rapidly in the face of the squall, we made a hasty run toward Jupiter Inlet. Although we avoided the rain, everyone was prepared and confident of staying dry and comfortable with their Pilot II™ raingear.
Back at the dock, the boat was unloaded, tales of the day were offered from every perspective, and the battles relived for those that didn’t make it out on the boat that day – Scott. Exhausted and hungry, the anglers said their goodbyes to the captain and crew and left to explore the sights and flavors of southeast Florida. One thought echoed through everyone’s mind as we left the docks… We will return.