Legendary Miami Beach charter captain finally catches a barrel fish

Published May 19th, 2022 by Bernardo

In more than 60 years of fishing in South Florida, Capt. Bouncer Smith had caught just about everything in the ocean except a barrel fish.

The legendary Miami Beach charter captain, who has caught everything from snook and tarpon to sailfish and swordfish, finally checked that off his bucket list.

Smith has shared his wealth of fishing information since the very first day of the Nautical Ventures Weekly Fisherman radio show, which is now in its 16th year on Fox Sports 940 Miami. The radio show airs from 6-8 a.m. Saturday and also live-streams on the Nautical Ventures Facebook page.

Barrel fish, which are very good to eat, are caught on baits dropped to the bottom in 700 to 1,200 feet of water. Most fishermen use electric reels, although hardcore anglers prefer to crank up a fish by hand on a standard rod and reel outfit.

Although Smith and his customers have done plenty of deep-dropping, they never caught a barrel fish. In fact, Smith said he had never even seen a barrel fish on the dock.

Now retired, Smith finally caught two barrel fish with Capt. Nick Stanczyk fishing out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada.

“I talked to Nick Stanczyk several times about catching a barrel fish,” Smith said. “And he said, ‘Well, let’s get together and go catch a barrel fish.’ And then we got blown out. I went down to go and I went bonefishing with his father, Richard, and I went to Flamingo with his brother, Rick, and Richard, and then we were blown out to go barrel fishing.

“So then I was going down there again to see if I could go barrel fishing. We had Kenny Spalding and Nick and his wife, Sara, and Richard, and went queen snapper fishing. We caught one queen snapper on an electric reel and one gray tilefish on an electric reel. I slow-pitched the entire time and didn’t get a bite.”

While they were out there, the crew also caught some small blackfin tuna on jigs. After several more hours with no success, Nick Stanczyk announced that it was time to get Smith a barrel fish.

Using two electric reel outfits, two baits were dropped to the bottom in 1,100 feet and Smith and another angler each caught a barrel fish.

“Then I started slow-pitching for barrel fish,” Smith said. “The heaviest jig we had was 9 ounces and I couldn’t find the bottom. I made several drops, couldn’t find the bottom, and every drift we’d catch two barrel fish on the electric reels. Then the mate caught a barrel fish hand-cranking. So I finally put a chicken rig on a Penn Fathom HLD, which is a sailfish reel, loaded with 15-pound braided line and a STANZ offshore mini rod.

“I dropped the chicken rig and I got in a tangle, and then I dropped again and I finally caught a barrel fish hand-cranking. It took about 45 minutes.

“We figured that I wound up 10,000 feet of line that day. It was pretty neat and a lot of fun.”

To hear Smith and other top captains talk about where the fish are biting and how to catch them, listen to The Nautical Ventures Weekly Fisherman radio show every Saturday morning from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. live on Fox Sports 940 Miami, an iHeart station. If you can’t tune in live, the Weekly Fisherman radio podcasts are available through:








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