|Seas: 0-2 feet||Winds: 5-15 S/SW||Viz: 45 feet||Temp: 83 F|
This past weekend the forecast was once again looking abysmal. The campground dolphin fishing tournament was even postponed because the outlook was not very good at all. The forecast was calling for 2-4' seas inside the reef and 3-5' seas beyond the reef with 15-20 knot winds out of the S/SE (which usually means the seas will build even higher than the forecast) on Saturday with slightly calmer wind and seas on Sunday. The drive in on Friday night wasn't very encouraging either with breezes easily in the 15-20 knot range late into the night. This was supposed to be the third or fourth weekend in a row that we would at least have to throw in the big boat If we were to even attempt an outing on Saturday.
We awoke to more of the same on Saturday morning so needless to say we weren't the only ones who were slow going that morning. Nobody was looking forward to the possibility of getting beat up to head out and spend twice the fuel for fishing, so everyone was just sort of tinkering with stuff assuming the day was shot and we would have to find things other than fishing to keep us busy today. So imagine our surprise around 11a when we all start to notice that the winds have all but subsided and we can actually see blue water on the horizon! As we started to gather ourselves and our composure and decide to head out, it seems that everyone else is going too join in the fun too. That's when I realize that those meteorologists did it to me again, with the only difference being that this time they made the blunder in our favor.. advantage Team Breathtaking!
As we head out deciding which cardinal to take in search of clean water because it's so late, we notice the radio is all a-chatter with tons of johnny-come-lately fisherman (a group we are proud to be members of today as well) heading out to take advantage of the weather faux pas. A quick assessment of the horizon helps us decide that westward-ho is the direction of choice and off we go hoping that we might have some luck today in search of some shallow water fare. So we turn to our trusty GPS and start calling out spots... 67!... 25!... 8!... What the hell, the day started as a washout anyway, let's hit them all! The closer we got, the cleaner the water was, so we were terribly happy that we had apparently made the right choice of direction (something we would actually confirm later as we try to hit some Eastern spots).
We arrive at the closest spot to find relatively clean water and mangroves, plenty of mangroves! Not all of them were huge but we knew if we bided our time we would get to pick out the best of the bunches. After a few mangroves, we ran into a couple of bait balls that had all kinds of fish in attendance. Mangroves, muttons, mackerels and more! We move on from spot to spot, each one taking us further and further west with the water getting cleaner as we went. At one of the first spots we get to, we give chase to a very nice grouper (we won't go into why we had to chase it here, to avoid any undue embarassment to any guilty parties... Adrian) that holes up in a nice coral head with a couple of black margates in it as well. After Adrian redeems himself by getting the landing shot on the grouper, I decided to go back down to see if any of the margates had decided to stick around and get them into the cooler too. When I get to the rock, I don't see any margates, but I do see one of the largest lionfish that I have seen to date hanging out on the side of the rock. I promptly stab it with my spearpoint and bring it up to show everyone. It was still quite alive so I decided to finish it off with my knife. Knowing the dangers of the venomous spines, I tried to be careful but unfortunately that wasn't careful enough. One of the times I went to stab the fish, I felt one of the spines poke through the fingertip of my glove and stick me in the finger. Of course I was worried at first, but it really didn't feel like there was any deep penetration. I let everyone know that I got stuck just in case I started to spaz out in the water or something so they would know what had happened. Luckily for me, it burned for about 20 minutes and there were no other side effects (I would have hated to have had to end the dive for that).
After hitting a couple more spots, my buddy Adrian breaks his GPS out of it's chastity belt and shows us how his map is spotted with waypoints in the area so we take his lead and head off to parts unknown (at least for me and my brother in law)! We already had close to the limit on mangroves so we were just hoping to catch those last few (and maybe another grouper or two) and head in as it was already well after 3p and we hadn't even turned around in the general direction of the campground yet. We jump in on this reef system in about 40-45' and start swimming. Adrian told us that when we run into them, they're going to be big in this area. As we would soon find out, he wasn't kidding. After swimming along for about 10-15 minutes, Adrian spots the school coming in, fast. My brother in law dives but is too close to the school to get an angle on them for a shot by the time reaches the bottom. Adrian dives and gives chase to one of the mangroves in the school and utlimately ends up taking a very long shot, but he strikes gold! The snapper isn't dead but luckily isn't moving around very much because Adrian needed to surface. After a short breathe up, he dives back down and retrieves his prize. A short while later, and we're taking ship board pics of a very nice mangrove!
At the end of the day we limited out on mangroves, with most of them being of very respectable size as well as a nice variety of other fish. We almost limited out on grouper (not a huge feat in light of the latest bag limits) and added a few cero mackerel and a mutton as well. It was after 5p by the time we decided to head home and we didn't want to make the same mistake we had made a couple of weeks ago of leaving all the cleaning for Sunday so we ended up cleaning fish until well after dark. On the upside though, we were even able to land a 35-40lb tarpon in the marina while we were cleaning the fish.
It was definitely a great ending to a day that had originally started out as given up for lost.