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August 4-12, 2012 - Crustacean Crawl Diving Extravaganza

Bob Diaz | SpearBlog 2012 | August 14, 2012 | Print
lobster, grouper, season opening, august 6th
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Well, it's that time of year again. The time of year when people that don't normally dive will take a chance as well as the risk and jump in the ocean to look for those prized crustaceans, the Caribbean spiny lobster. This year's lobster season opened on Monday August 6th so it was really easy for a lot of people to just take a long weekend to see if they can grab a few lobsters. Almost as if following suit with the rest of the Summer, this past week was fairly windy and the viz was especially non-existent, making going after the lobster a job not for the faint of heart. But more on that a little later.

Starting Saturday, things actually didn't look that bad as we headed out in the afternoon and found somewhat clean water out to the East. We were actually able to dive water as deep as 50+ feet. We were able to dive some spots I hadn't been able to dive this summer because the viz has been abysmal almost without exception every weekend. We unfortunately didn't find the fish we had hoped for as we arrived at each spot to find the viz we were hoping for all Summer. As we arrived at the Craneboom (some of the names actually make sense, this is the actual boom from a crane resting on the edge of a reef in 50+ feet), I was stoked at the viz and hoped that this spot would hold in store for me as it had before with one my personal best deepest black groupers.

It was gratifying to drop in 30, ,40 50 feet and open my eyes to see the bottom coming up at me like I hadn't seen all Summer. Even though the only fish we found here were some larger schoolmaster snapper, it was great to drop and swim around the boom to see if anything larger would show up. When we had pretty much decided there wasn't much of anything to shoot here I made one last drop and figured I would take the largest schoolmaster I would see on this desent. As I opened my eyes and leveled off a couple of feet off the bottom, I see what seems to be a standout in the school and take my shot. Unfortunately I missed the fish (it does happen from time to time) but the shaft didn't miss the bottom and lodged very solidly among the metal framework of the boom.

I gave it a good tug, but it didn't budge at all so I decided to surface and see if anyone would don the tank, or if I would have to make more dives to dislodge the spearshaft from among the wreckage. After waiting a couple of minutes with no takers on the tank solution, I breathed up and made my final drop and decide if I would have to cut the line or be able to break the shaft free. Luckily for me, with a full breath and more bottom time, I was able to work it free and surface with all my gear in tact. The day would end with a modest take of schoolmasters, yellowtail and mangrove snappers but it would be enough for dinner so we head home as the light of day just starts to dim.

Sunday was more of a scouting day to see if some good spots could be found to work on Monday for the opening of lobster season. The viz had already started to deteriorate but we were encouraged by the numbers we were spotting at some of our known shallower spots and hoped that these perennial migrants wouldn't do just that overnight and leave us holding the bag on Monday (the empty bag, that is).

Monday arrives and as expected, the hoards of boats filled with hopeful hunters swarmed all the better known areas. Even though the viz had turned pretty bad, we were actually encouraged because we figured this would make it more difficult for all but the most determined diver to find not only the spots, but the lobsters that may lie hidden within. Luckily for us, we were successful in bagging our limit in spite of the viz, even though it was considerably hard work and took a large portion of the day.

I had promised to be dedicated to lobster only for the first 2 days of the season because quite honestly the fishing has been horrible for me this Summer. To date, I had caught nothing of considerable mention and continued to be stymied by the fact that I had only bagged one grouper so far (see July 14-15, 2012 - Wanna see a $600 grouper?) and not much else to my credit.

Tuesday came and went rather well as we limited out again, this time without having to work quite as hard. I was also treated to a little something extra when my nephew dove a shallow rock that my brother in law had marked during mini season almost 2 weeks before. My nephew jumps in to check out a relatively flat rock that has multiple entrances and exits along its perimeter as well as a couple of very small holes in the top allowing us to peer in with very limited view. I decided to jump in with him to lend a hand as well. As I approach the rock, my nephew is surfaces from this minimal depth letting me know that there were only a couple of bugs to be had so I drop to investigate for myself.

I decided to make my first inspection through the small porthole in the top of the rock when I'm faced with a very familiar mottled pattern filling the hole. I recognized it instantly as  a black grouper hiding underneath the rock.

At first I wasn't too encouraged because by looking at the rock and the space into which this grouper had crept, I wasn't very hopeful that it was legal much less large but I'm getting sort of desperate by this time of the year with respect to bagging grouper so I figured I would check it out anyway. So after a bunch of inspecting and flashlight surveying of the rock, I was able to figure out where the tail of this fish was and my brother in law found the one hole through which we could see her jaw so we were able sort of measure her from outside the rock.

Once we both believed what we had was a legal grouper, my nephew asked the question I had already been mulling over in my head... "So when you shoot it, how are you going to get it out?" You see, this fish was head first into the tiniest nook of the rock and the clean shot through the hole in the top would only pin her and most likely not stone her so we would still be faced with the issue of extraction. Luckily for me, I had already come up with a solution in my head and told him, "There's only one shot. From the tail down the length of the body and hopefully out the jaw. This will keep her from being able to wedge herself and hopefully let me pull her out easily.", I said in theory.

phoca thumb m p8010093With flashlight in hand I peer through the hole that gave me the view of her tail and line up the shot where I felt her head was and pull the trigger... nothing. No thumping, no thrashing, nothing. I reach in and pull out the spearshaft with my perfectly skewered grouper from tail to nose without as much as a shudder. Getting her on the boat, I was very glad to see that she was not only legal but measured almost 27" overall. Grouper 2 of the Summer of 2012 is in the books (what a sorry statement to lay claim to, I must say).

Wednesday was by far the day with the worst viz of all. Quite literally, there was only an arm's length of viz in every spot we hit. I know I had said I would only do 2 days of lobster, but with viz this crappy shooting fish was going to be fruitless so I figured I would give it another day and see what tomorrow held. We started out hitting a couple of spots by the Glory Hole (not such an obvious name) and were almost immediately discouraged upon jumping in and having to get arm's length from the bottom to be able to see anything. So we work our way to the first ledge (I did say almost discouraged) and Adrian jumps in with the tank so the day isn't a total wash. As we move on to the second spot while I'm trying to maintain position over his scuba bubbles, I'm surprised to lift my head and see Adrian about 30 feet in front of me boarding the boat when I'm told he'd run into a bull shark. On a regular day, this might not be something to dissuade us, but with the viz today (or lack thereof) and having run into this bull shark actually resting under a ledge and coming face to face with it (remember, viz was only 2 feet), I don't blame him for exiting post haste one little bit. He did mention he didn't know who was more scared, him or the shark. I told him I was going to have to go with "him". We moved on to another area and were fortunate to pick up a few more bugs before I crack my head on a ledge and decide enough is enough and head for home.

Honestly, the rest of the week was lackluster as we finally decided to focus on some spearfishing and were continuously faced with either a lack of viz or a lack of fish (or both!). We did shoot some nice mangroves on Saturday but by the time we cleaned and cooked, there was barely enough to weigh out. It sort of sucked that we didn't get the best conditions, but luckily (and I mean luckily) no one was hurt and we ate like kings of the sea every night. In spite of it all, there are still much worse ways to spend a vacation and I wouldn't trade my congested ears, the dirty water, our bull shark encounters or cracked heads for anything (boy, it sounds pretty bad when I put it that way, doesn't it?).