True Salt Charters offers offshore actionFrom the July 21, 2010 Issue
Chris Boyne and Captain Hal Christensen show the
sailfish they caught 20 miles off the Island.
I've had the pleasure of fishing with Captain Hal Christensen for the past thirty years. When we first started fishing Christensen was 7 years old and learning the ropes from his father, Longboat restaurateur, Harry Christensen.
Hal is a Florida native who grew up fishing the waters of Florida’s west coast. Hal was raised on the north end of Longboat Key and was fishing with his dad by the time he was 5 years old.
Over the years, he developed a passion for the sport, exploring the bays that line Tampa and Sarasota bays with some of the area’s top anglers. Captain Scott Moore was a family friend and Hal was best friends and fishing buddies with Scott and his son Justin, also one of Florida’s premier guides.
Hal is at home on both the Gulf and inland waters and as a diver, has explored many of his top fishing spots first hand. There’s no shortcut to learning the secrets of this area's fishing bounty unless it’s by sharing the water with a true native Floridian.
On Sunday July 11, Hal was fishing and diving over hard bottom about 20 miles off Anna Maria. His friend and fellow angler Chris Boyne was letting a mid-size pinfish out slowly on a free line when he felt a tapping. Although he didn't know what it was at the time he gave the fish time to take the bait when suddenly a bill came out of the water. Boyne had hooked a large Atlantic sailfish that peeled line off his reel as it jumped numerous times in an attempt to throw the hook.
According to Hal, it was a give and take battle for more than a half hour. At one time, the sailfish got so far into the backing that they had to pull anchor and chase the fish. It had been a rather slow day of bottom fishing until the sail proved to be a great surprise to the anglers.
Sailfish are a pelagic species, meaning they spend a large percentage of their lives in the deep sea. While near shore fish are common on Florida's east coast, sailfish aren't often found off the west coast except in the summer when it's thought they arrive via the Loop Current.
The Loop Current is a warm ocean current that is an integral part of the Gulf Stream. In the Gulf of Mexico the current flows northward between Cuba and the Yucatán peninsula. It then flows north loops west and then south before flowing through the Florida Straits.
Until recently (the 1970s) it was believed that the Loop Current had an annual cycle in which the loop feature extended farther to the north during the summer. Further study over the past few decades, has shown that the extension to the north and the occasional shedding of eddies has no significant annual cycle.
The Loop Current and its eddies are detected by measuring sea surface level. Sea surface level of both the eddies and the loop can be up to 60 cm (24 in) higher than surrounding water, indicating a deep area of warm water beneath them. In the late summer, the current often bends towards the west central Florida coast and brings large pelagic fish to the waters off Anna Maria Island.
Hal is well versed in the offshore waters and can put anglers on a plethora of species on the reefs and wrecks off area beaches. Sailfish may be an occasional catch, but grouper, snapper, amberjack and cobia are regular visitors to the stern of True Salt Charters. Contact Captain Hal through his Web site at www.sarasotabayfishingcharters.com or call him at 941-374-1680.