One might think a rare day off with no charter trip booked and no clients to entertain would give a full-time fishing guide a welcome break. But for passionate anglers Capt. Justin Leake and Capt. Todd Jones, it’s a chance to get back on the water for playtime.
“It’s hard to explain how much fun we have when we jump on the boat together and just go fishing,” says Justin. Outside of “guide mode,” these old friends get a chance to test new techniques, tactics and baits – something they don’t do when guiding clients on a charter trip. “It’s like we’re kids again,” says Todd.
Early spring provides a lot of options so today’s plan is to keep an open mind and see what happens. Redfish, black drum, hard tails, ladyfish and bluefish are plentiful this time of year and, when a powerful jack crevalle lands on deck, Justin and Todd land on an idea – using the fish as bait for a Goliath grouper.
Goliaths can grow to eight feet in length and weigh 800 pounds over a life span of more than 30 years. In Florida, they have been off limits to harvest since 1990 and must be immediately released unharmed. The jack crevalle is one of the few fish legally allowed for use as bait to target these beasts.
Goliath grouper live in the nooks and crannies of reefs, making them extremely difficult to catch on conventional tackle. Capt. Todd opts for “handlining,” a primitive method of fishing using only line, bait and a hook. The bait – that jack crevalle caught earlier and now occupying the live well – has no idea what’s in store but the amazing survival saga about to unfold over the course of the day makes it perhaps the “world’s luckiest fish!”
Also, we head to Aaron Bessant Park for “Beach Home for the Holidays,” an annual Thanksgiving weekend event that kicks off Panama City Beach’s holiday season.