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1 February 2021
Captain Rich Adler operates Tuna Wahoo Charters out of Sailfish Marina in West Palm Beach, Florida. He’s been fishing since he was four years old, and he’s been running charters since 1977. Some of Captain Rich’s top catches include a 500 lb blue marlin, 600 lb black marlin, and a 750 lb shark. With over 40 years of charter fishing experience, Rich loves putting people on fish. Seeing his clients’ excitement is what keeps him coming back.
When I go deer hunting, if I'm lucky I may shoot a deer. When I go hog hunting, maybe I'll get a pig. When I go drift fishing in Palm Beach, I never know what I'm going to catch, and that's what makes it so exciting.
The direction of fishing here in Palm Beach is determined by the Gulf Stream, which just about always runs from south to north at about three to four knots, and the wind, which can be from any direction. As you can imagine, we try to head south to north, but Mother Nature likes to complicate things, and our drifts don't always go as planned.
Our typical set-up when drifting is to put up a kite with release clips on the kite line. These two clips will each have a live bait, either a blue runner or a goggle eye, dangling on the surface of the water. These splashing baits will attract Sailfish, King Mackerel, and Mahi Mahi.
The next two baits will be dead sardines rigged on large spinning rods, one on the bow of the boat, the other mid-ship. These baits are for Sailfish, Mahi, King Mackerel and Bonita. On one of my favorite charters in recent memory, I had a single client fishing, and she managed to catch five massive kings and release a sailfish… all in a half day of fishing!
The next rods out, usually three, are baited with either cut bonita or goggle eyes and are weighted with egg sinkers. The size of the sinkers, anywhere from two to sixteen ounces, will determine how deep the baits will go. These rods will cover the lower part of the water column and are for Mutton Snappers, Yellowtail Snappers, Black or Red Groupers, and Porgies.
I am now fishing seven lines around the boat, covering the entire water column, and rarely have tangles.
When a pelagic fish takes a kite bait we either see a cannonball sized splash on the surface or we see the bait zig zagging back and forth trying to escape an unseen predator. Either way a reel drag starts singing, and we know we are in business. The mid water and bottom baits are not quite as dramatic, but bent rods and complaining reels let us know when we are hooked up.
One group of fish customers always ask about and that we see on almost every drift trip are the sharks. Inshore we have Blacktip and Spinner sharks that run up to one hundred pounds. These fish are a blast to catch on large spinning rods and are very acrobatic, frequently jumping out of the water. Preying on these inshore sharks are Greater Hammerheads, fish twelve to fourteen feet long and weighing over a thousand pounds. Further offshore, near the drop off we have Lemon and Bull Sharks. Our Bull Sharks here will be six to eight feet long and weigh four to six hundred pounds. All of these fish can be caught on appropriately sized tackle and brought to boatside. We release most of them unless the client wants a trophy mount.