After studying the charts, Capt. Randy Hodgekiss aboard Dreamin’ On, a 78-foot Garlington, found a particularly productive-looking seamount (and a nearby twin) that seemed like a good fishing spot. Unfortunately, it was quite a run from where the boat was docked at Marina Mindelo in São Vicente, Cape Verde. The seas usually run high in Cape Verde, so the trip to the underwater mountains would have to wait for the right weather forecast and the right sea state.
Pull out your charts of the Atlantic, or turn on Google Earth, and find the Cape Verde Islands. Now look for the small deserted island on the west side of Santo Antão — offshore of that, you should see the two seamounts. This area was at the top of Hodgekiss’ list, and he intended to take his team there as soon as the weather allowed. But this wasn’t Hodgekiss’ first blue marlin adventure; he’s been around the world on Dreamin’ On, and he shows no sign of slowing down.
There is so much to share about the adventures of Dreamin’ On and its quest to become the blue marlin king of the world. The team is in the ninth year of its world tour, and the anglers have released several hundred blue and black marlin over that time. Also, for the second time in four years, Dreamin’ On logged 100 releases in 31 days of fishing during the Cape Verde season in 2012. This is an achievement that few private boats ever attain.
The journey to see amazing catches like these is an adventure in itself. You really have to get out to find places where the fish get little pressure, and the out-of-the-way destinations visited by Dreamin’ On have been amazing. Capt. Hodgekiss and first mate Lincoln Funk have guided the team’s anglers to hot fishing spots across the Pacific, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, from the Dominican Republic to Venezuela. They’ve fished up and down the U.S. Atlantic coast, from Maryland to Key West, and hit Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico, Cape Verde and the Atlantic Islands, Madeira, Portugal and the Mediterranean. And they’ve caught marlin in every spot they’ve fished.
One key to the team’s success is its intense yet casual approach to fishing. The team somehow manages to stay loose and relaxed while seamlessly handling its deck and fishing duties. When a marlin comes into the baits, the group transforms into an intense, professional team of seasoned big-game fishermen, 100 percent focused on the hookup and release. There’s no screaming and shouting of orders — just a high-five when the fish is released.
After a very successful tour of the Pacific in 2010 and 2011, the big blue fishing machine returned to its home port of Orange Beach, Alabama, for a refit, remodel and just about everything you could redo after a 5,000-mile trek through the Pacific, from Tahiti to Australia. The Dream Team released 37 blues, 37 blacks and quite a few striped marlin, sails and spears along the way as well. The trip culminated in an Australian fish-off among the three Keinath brothers — Warren, Steve and David — with the winning team treated to dinner for eight anywhere in the world by the losing teams.
After the refit in Orange Beach, the Garlington was loaded on a ship and transported to the Canary Islands to fish Cape Verde. From the Canaries, Dreamin’ On fished 750 miles down-sea of the port of Mindelo, in São Vicente, Cape Verde. Expectations ran high; in 2008, while fishing in Cape Verde, the Keinath brothers and their guests released 100 blues in 31 days. They finished the Atlantic Island Tour with more than 150 releases, including at least three possible granders.
In 2012, the team headed back to Cape Verde for the spring and summer blue marlin season with the intention of besting their already successful record.
The Big Day
Eventually, the weather forecast looked good enough for Dreamin’ On to give the seamounts that Hodgekiss was eyeballing a shot, and the payoff was impressive. In the first two days of fishing the seamounts, the team released 21 blues.
The first day, Hodgekiss spent quite a while trying to locate the fish and only released four marlin. On the second day, July 25, Hodgekiss dialed them in, and the team released an incredible 17 blue marlin!
The day evolved into a blue marlin dream. Once in the bite, it seemed as though the team couldn’t go more than a few minutes without a blue one in the baits. On several occasions, the mates hooked up as they cleared the lures for an angler who was already busy fighting another fish. Officially, they caught 17, but an additional three marlin jumped off with the swivel out of the water — the mates were busy wiring other fish and couldn’t get to them in time!
One mate hooked a fish by hand, jigging the lure in the wake as the boat circled a hooked fish. The blue came out of nowhere and gave the mate a wild ride on the leader before jumping off! Of course, that marlin was not counted either.
The day proved to be the best ever for Dreamin’ On’s fishing team. Releasing 17 blues in one day is not only a feat that might go down in the record books (Hooker released 20 blues in one day in these same waters, with Capt. Trevor Cockle and mate Randy Baker guiding the anglers), but this day may mark a goal that will prove unbeatable by a private boat in Cape Verde — or anywhere else, for that matter. Although there were several triple and double hookups, Steve Keinath and his brother-in-law, Tony, were the only two anglers of record, so the triples were lost.
The most impressive thing about the Cape Verde marlin fishery is the number of blues that you could see in a single day there — it’s truly insane. Fishing strictly with lures, the team aboard Dreamin’ On released about 40 percent of the marlin they saw this past season. That would put the number of blues in the baits at more than 450. Another amazing stat: The team has only logged two zero catch days over the 2012 season.
The blues in Cape Verde range in size from 150 to 500-plus pounds, and Dreamin’ On has seen several over 700. On its best day, the team raised 45 blues in the spread. The boat’s best release days have been 17, 14, 11 and 10 (twice) in a single day of fishing, along with several possible granders. (We call all fish that we let go that are close to 1,000 pounds “nine fiddy” .) Another highlight of Cape Verde was the release of two blue marlin tripleheaders.
The charter boats get in on the action here as well. Dreamin’ On saw 15 release flags flying from Amelia and counted 39 flags flying from the five charter boats at Marina Mindelo in one day.
Dreamin’ On left Cape Verde with 178 blue marlin releases and will finish the 2012 season (still ongoing at press time) fishing the Canaries, Madeira and Portugal, striving for a 200-release season.
Great fishing stories like these carry over from the dock to the dinner crowd, but when morning comes, the flags are down, yet not forgotten. The stories and memories from yesterday remain in the minds of the anglers and crews. Those tales resurface over the following days, the most interesting and entertaining ones met with hearty laughter. This camaraderie bonds the boat crews and angling teams, and it is one of the most important ingredients of a memorable trip. The experiences, of both victories and defeats, are what keep marlin fishing at the top of sport fishing.
Captain Clay Hensley
+1 954 401-8133