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Freak shows are what we call it when we find an area of bait fish being attacked by several species of predators. I've been lucky enough to have seen several, and usually any bait that hits the water gets hit by SOMETHING.

I'm not talking about the huge schools of bonito or Spanish mackerel, but where there's all kinds of different fish/birds/etc. in on the party.

I can't remember if I've told this tale before, so here it comes again.

A friend and I were chasing tarpon off St. George Island when we happened upon the biggest freak show EVER! An area 100 yds wide by 600 yds long was erupting with fish attacking a huge school of menhaden. The most obvious were the mirror-sided tarpon, slashing everywhere, but boocoo sharks, jacks, and ax-handle Spanish were in the mix.

Every live pogie we tossed in front of tarpon was eaten immediately.... by a shark! The water was gin-clear, and I could see big Spanish following our black swivels as we fought the damn sharks. We decided to try for the big Spanish with a flyrod, so my buddy unlimbered his 12wt Penn International outfit that he brought for tarpon. I left a live bait out under a balloon with my rod in a cheap, gunnel-mounted plastic rod holder.

While we were having a blast with the big Spanish, we heard a commotion in the back of the boat and saw my rod bowed over backwards, and then saw the rod holder SNAP and my outfit was over the side. My buddy yelled that he could still see the balloon so we gave chase. He gaffed my line ahead of the balloon and handed it to me. Line zipped through my hands until my outfit popped up. The ensuing fight was anticlimactic, a five foot blacktip on the line.

My buddy said, "Where's my flyrod?"

Oh, shit.

In our rush to catch my outfit, we left the streamer fly "trolling" behind the boat, and you can fill in the blanks.

Anybody got a "Freak Show" memory they want to share?
 

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had a school of Bonita a couple hundred feet across, mug the boat for cover. water was lice foam, then after several seconds, sharks exploded on the surface, I could ID spinners, Blacktips and a few bulls were in the pack, along with a hammerhead or 2. The Spinners and BT's were coming out of the water with bonita, like a dog with a bone. the closest jumping shark was a mere 10-12 feet from the boat, and we could feel the binota and sharks hitting the bottom and sides of the boat. It was all over within about 90 seconds, but extremely wild experience...

u never know whats gonna happen...
 

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In our rush to catch my outfit, we left the streamer fly "trolling" behind the boat, and you can fill in the blanks.
Wow, that was an expensive boo boo and a heck of a story.
I love fishing those pogie schools. I know I'm gonna hook 50 sharks for every tarpon but it's still exciting as heck, especially when they're blowing up all around you.
 
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We were out on the Shur Ketch and seen bait busting for two or three football fields worth. Didn't really see what they where but when we slowed down all these Menhaden tried to hide under the boat. I said Holly Freak those are Menhaden. Reached down with a little "6 handled Trout net and started scooping Menhaden in the live well. There were at least 300 Dolphin/Porpoise herding that school towards the boat. We took 6 short video clips of it going down. Was pretty awesome. Never seen a school that large of either predator or prey.
 

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I just like you call them a “freak show.” I’m stealing that next time I see one, with your permission. I’ll definitely think of that name from now on.
 

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Was out at the edge out of Destin...300" plus....we spotted something floating and decided to check it out to see what was hiding under it. Looked like a huge turtle covered in barnacles...big as a VW. As we got closer, it went under and left a massive spinning whirlpool. Never got a good enough look but later heard whales had been spotted off Destin. Maybe?

Another time out of Destin at the Liberty Ship, saw several Mola Mola finning on top eating jellies. That was cool.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
had a school of Bonita a couple hundred feet across, mug the boat for cover. water was lice foam, then after several seconds, sharks exploded on the surface, I could ID spinners, Blacktips and a few bulls were in the pack, along with a hammerhead or 2. The Spinners and BT's were coming out of the water with bonita, like a dog with a bone. the closest jumping shark was a mere 10-12 feet from the boat, and we could feel the binota and sharks hitting the bottom and sides of the boat. It was all over within about 90 seconds, but extremely wild experience...

u never know whats gonna happen...
That will make the hair on your neck vibrate!
 

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Red tides or red minnow schools off Ship and horn island. I always heard about these drowning up but started seeing them a few years before Katrina. Basically these are large schools of red minnows that are apparently prized by everything particularly redfish and the water actually turns red. I have pictures somewhere.

One year now Father O’Conner and I were the kings of this and even the charter boats would talk to us and ask were we were. I have seen them that were hundreds of acres and seem to contain every predator in the ocean. Redfish, kings, jacks, Spanish, sharks, cobia and even tarpon. I actually threw at a big 100 pound tarpon once and saw him go for it, fought him for 20 minutes and he turned into a 100 pound black tip.

They were so thick we would use heavy spinning roads with 4-6 oz diamond jigs or heavy jigs so we could throw as far as possible and stay on the edge and catch fish. I hooked 3 bull reds on one cast out of this school for 25 minutes of fighting time and didn’t catch any as first monster bend my hooks, and ending up catching right at two dozen bull reds all from 15 to 40 pounds. (We just keep two small ones.) doesn’t sound like a lot but a bunch got off, several broke off, two spooled us, (who knows what they were) and it generally took about 15-30 minutes to land one. We were only boat on this massive school for 4-5 hours as the fleet was on another one.

We quit when our arms were completely done. I actually was bleeding on one bicep where I just popped a little vessel on top. And I was in my 20s and powerlifter. We were completely exhausted. It was like fighting fish for 4 or 5 straight hours as I don’t think we ever went more than 5 or 6 cast without catching a fish.

We always thought this was old fisherman’s tail but we lived it too for 3-4 years. The redfish schools are still there but I don’t think anyone has seen this phenomenon since Katrina. But no doubt it will come again
 

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Red tides or red minnow schools off Ship and horn island. I always heard about these drowning up but started seeing them a few years before Katrina. Basically these are large schools of red minnows that are apparently prized by everything particularly redfish and the water actually turns red. I have pictures somewhere.

One year now Father O’Conner and I were the kings of this and even the charter boats would talk to us and ask were we were. I have seen them that were hundreds of acres and seem to contain every predator in the ocean. Redfish, kings, jacks, Spanish, sharks, cobia and even tarpon. I actually threw at a big 100 pound tarpon once and saw him go for it, fought him for 20 minutes and he turned into a 100 pound black tip.

They were so thick we would use heavy spinning roads with 4-6 oz diamond jigs or heavy jigs so we could throw as far as possible and stay on the edge and catch fish. I hooked 3 bull reds on one cast out of this school for 25 minutes of fighting time and didn’t catch any as first monster bend my hooks, and ending up catching right at two dozen bull reds all from 15 to 40 pounds. (We just keep two small ones.) doesn’t sound like a lot but a bunch got off, several broke off, two spooled us, (who knows what they were) and it generally took about 15-30 minutes to land one. We were only boat on this massive school for 4-5 hours as the fleet was on another one.

We quit when our arms were completely done. I actually was bleeding on one bicep where I just popped a little vessel on top. And I was in my 20s and powerlifter. We were completely exhausted. It was like fighting fish for 4 or 5 straight hours as I don’t think we ever went more than 5 or 6 cast without catching a fish.

We always thought this was old fisherman’s tail but we lived it too for 3-4 years. The redfish schools are still there but I don’t think anyone has seen this phenomenon since Katrina. But no doubt it will come again
Jackfish, the October after the oil spill, we were just a few miles out of Ft. Morgan when we ran up on a poorly organized freak show, but it was definitely happening. We had a plastic drum full of live menhaden that we were pumping raw water into, letting it overflow and run out the scuppers. Looked behind the boat and there must have been a dozen sharks sniffing our scupper/menhaden water. That kept their attention while we cast live menhaden to the side, and we didn't wait long for a strike from mackerel or jack crevalle. There were probably bull reds mixed in, but we never got a bait down to them. Like I said, it was kinda unorganized as freak shows go, but fun all the same.
 
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