Bailing mahi mahi at the lobster pots along the edge of the Continental Shelf is one heck of a fun way to fish; there’s a ton of action, the fish jump and fight like crazy, and they taste darn good, too. Yesterday a weather-window opened up wide, so we launched the WriteAway and headed out for the canyons to give it a shot. The fishing was red-hot and mahi were under every lobster pot float we checked (look for some cool underwater videos of mahi mahi to appear on Earthsports soon!) but as we fished, it brought back the memory of a very real danger that exists when you run your boat out to the edge, and partake in this fishery.
The lobster pot floats attract mahi because they’re moored in place with lines running down to the bottom, creating some stationary structure in 400′ to 800′ of water – a real rarity in the offshore waters. When bailing for mahi the trick it to get close to these floats, toss some chunks of fish into the water to get the mahi riled up and in a feeding mood, and then toss in your baits. In doing so, you drive towards the float then spin the boat around so the stern faces it and the anglers can toss their baits out close to it. Get too close, however, and when you spin the boat your prop(s) can get a little too intimate with the lines running to and from the float.
Wrapping a prop is bad enough, but wrapping one from a lobster pot float means you not only lose power, you’re essentially anchored by the stern. If there are any waves around – occasionally you do find them out in the ocean – they can roll right into the cockpit of your boat. We in the maritime field generally call this “bad”.
Two years ago, a boat I was on came damn near sinking due to this danger. The captain swung in a little too close, and in the 45 or 50 seconds it took me to crawl out onto the motorwell and cut the line, two waves washed right in. One of the bilge pumps failed, the other back-flowed, and in a matter of two minutes we went from having a fun day of bailing mahi at the lobster pots to struggling to stay afloat, manually bailing a knee-deep cockpit, with one engine completely out of action and the other stuttering (from partial submersion). It took several hours and a call to the Coast Guard to get everything up and running properly again. So when you consider bailing for mahi around the lobster pots at the canyons, be careful not to get too close!