Fun “Extras” for the Whole Family on Board the Yabba
With a captain like Steve Leopold, a trip offshore is much more than a “fishing trip”, it’s one of the richest experiences you will ever have. Capt. Steve’s keen eye for, and knowledge about, the natural beauty that surrounds you when you venture out from the Florida Keys will amaze you. Here are some of the possibilities:
• Whale sharks—These incredible creatures may be sighted cruising slowly just below the surface out in the Gulf Stream, sometimes accompanied by mahi mahi.
• Bottlenose and other species of dolphins—Pods of dolphin may appear at any time without warning, speeding by, riding the wake or the bow wave, and usually continuing on after a brief play. Sometimes they can be a nuisance, racing in to bite off the back half of king mackerel, and shutting down the bite by scaring the rest of the fish in the vicinity.
• Ocean sunfish—These enormous, disk-shaped fish cruise near the surface, often with their unusual dorsal sticking out of the water as they scull along, feeding mostly on jellyfish and Portuguese man o’war. These are among the largest bony fishes in the world, weighing up to 4,400 pounds.
• Short-finned pilot whales—Fifteen to 20 feet long, with bulbous heads, a high, flopped-over dorsal, and a dark black coloration, these distinctive whales occur in groups. Capt. Steve has actually had them come up to the transom and readily eat school dolphin pitched to them by the deckhand, literally a few feet away from his clients.
• Flying fish and long-finned garfish—On any typical trip aboard the Yabba you’ll start spotting flying fish anywhere from the reef edge to the Gulf Stream. If you look closely, you will see that some have two wings, some have four wings, and all have a longer lower caudal lobe which they dip in to the water and wiggle for a little prolongation of their flight. Offshore, you will also see a funny fish that glides away like a flying fish, but it’s longer and more slender, flies with a crook in its body, and uses enlarged pectorals that are not as pronounced as flying fish wings to glide. These are called long-finned garfish (Euleptorhamphus viridis). Watch carefully and you’ll see some on virtually every summertime bluewater trolling trip.
• Dipping Sargasso weed—One of Capt. Steve’s favorite things to do, especially when kids are aboard, is to slow down and scoop up a big cluster of yellow Sargasso weed in a bucket, and then have the kids closely examine the incredible menagerie of life amongst the branches…tiny shrimp and crabs whose color perfectly matches the weed; small fishes, including various jacks, eels, filefish, and triggerfish; on occasion, if you’re lucky, a Sargassumfish, a perfectly camouflaged species of frogfish that lies still, wiggling a small fleshy bulb with filaments, attached to its forehead by a pole or stalk, to lure small fishes that it will gulp down. If you’re really lucky, you may spot a small, blenny-like fish, which, if you look closely, is actually a baby mahi mahi.
• Seabird watching—Those with a sharp eye for nature will thrill to the sight of soaring frigate, or man o’war, birds, assorted terns, gulls, petrels, shearwaters, jaegers, skuas, gannets, and more. Capt. Steve can teach you the subtle nuances of what different species, and behaviors, indicate in terms of what fish can be found beneath them.
• Sea turtles—It’s fair to say that your chances of spotting a sea turtle is near 100% on a day offshore aboard the Yabba. Loggerhead turtles are probably the most common, but you will see green, hawksbill, and, if you are very lucky, perhaps an enormous leatherback turtle. Sometimes, your entire fishing day can be made from Capt. Steve’s eagle eyes spotting a single sea turtle, say 30 miles offshore, surrounded by large mahi mahi.
• Portuguese man-of-war and man-of-war fish—These hydrozoans float along the surface, a gas-filled sack suspending long purple stinging tentacles. Sea turtles and ocean sunfish love to eat them. Humans and all fish except the man-of-war fish do their best to avoid the harsh stings delivered by the stringy tentacles. This little species of butterfish, however, gains protection and habitat by living amongst the tentacles. Capt. Steve will slow down and give you a close look at this association during your trip if you wish, and he might even dip-net one of these pretty small fish for a closer look.
• A myriad of stunning tropical reef species—Almost any trip aboard the Yabba—particularly trips that involve catching live bait or fishing the reef—will afford close-hand views of impossibly lovely tropical reef fish species: brilliant schools of juvenile yellowtail snappers, blue parrotfish, rainbow parrotfish, various grunts with yellow and neon blue markings, all swarming in your chum slick; assorted small tropicals caught inadvertently in the cast net and released unharmed, nonetheless allowing close inspection of exquisite reef and sand dwellers like green razorfish, dwarf wrasses, and clown wrasses.