Wed11Jul2012

June 30-July 9, 2012 - It's about time for a vacation a.k.a. The week of the one(s) that got away...

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Bob Diaz | SpearBlog 2012 | July 11, 2012
#10, grouper, mutton, mangrove, new spots
Bob DiazSpearfisherman.comSignatureTransparent

 

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Seas:
Sat - 1-2'
Winds:
Sat - 5-10 SW
Viz:
Sat - 15-20'
Temp:
Sat - 84 F

I can't say I wasn't a little worried since the week before I finally get away for some time off after months of dealing with work responsibilities and a host of other distractions was more than a little frought with high winds and rain that pretty much kept most of South Florida under constant siege from foul weather. I had been looking forward to this week with so much anticipation. The Summer up to now has pretty much been a non-event. The wind and seas were keeping the water so dirty that diving and spearfishing was fast becoming an exercise in futility on most days. But I kept hopeful that the weather couldn't stay bad for yet another week.

So we decide to forego the diving Saturday morning and head offshore for some dolphin fishing. We figured if we ran into some decent numbers, we could jump in the water out there and shoot some as well as hook and line. We were hoping that all that bad weather that had kept us from diving successfully for the past few weeks had blown in some flotsam and/or jetsam that we could find some life on. We headed out around 7:30a and the wind and seas had laid down for literally the first time in weeks. We were making way offshore in the bay boat without so much as a 2 foot wave anywhere in sight. Before we knew it, we were 15, 18, 20 miles offshore.

We spent most of the time trying to spot birds with little success as well as having our hopes for flotsam and jetsam dashed with hardly a chum box floating anywhere. We were also in search of tidelines, as these usually indicate locations where bait will well up due to the changes in tide and temperature but even these were not producing bait much less our target species. We ended up about 25 miles south of Marathon without so much as a flying fish to show for our efforts.

Finally after spending all this time searching, we came across a patch of weeds that held some promise with a little bird activity surrounding it. As we approached the patch we could barely contain ourselves when we saw a nice size dolphin breach while feeding. "Finally!" we thought as we approached trying only to entice them into feeding on our baits and not scaring them off into the depths. We make our first pass with baits in tow and "Bam!" the starboard line gets hit and starts spooling out line. My nephew Danny had barely picked up that rod when all of a sudden the rod on the other side of the boat gets hit before we can clear that line to bring in the first one. By the time we reel in the second line (which held the smaller fish), we already knew the first hit was the big one we saw breaching because he lept out of the water as my nephew fought him.

We land the smaller fish with ease and reel in the larger one hoping he will bring the rest of his herum with him as we do. Unfortuntaley as we bring him closer to the boat, there are no other fish in tow and after a short time of waiting to see if anything else came along, I grab the gaff and spike him right through both gills about 8 feet of the starboard side of the boat. You would have thought we had landed a 60 lb wahoo with all the celebration that ensued but hey, the most important thing was that we didn't get skunked! After this we started heading in while we tried trolling a couple of other patches we found along the way with zero results. Oh well, at least we had enough for some great dinner of blackened dolphin and fried dolphin fingers. We were pretty stoked especially since we had heard of so many people going out earlier that week and finding nothing or nothing but shorts (that's short fish, not the apparel).

Seas:
Sun - 2-3'
Winds:
Sun - 10-15 SSE
Viz:
Sun - 15-20'
Temp:
Sun - 84 F

phoca thumb m P6240002Sunday we started out kind of slowly and finished up some last minute sealing I needed to do on my boat as a result of the work we had done on it last week (when the wind was blowing a solid 30mph out of the South for over 48 hours). By the time we headed out there was barely 30 minutes left until the tide was supposed to switch back out so we only had time to hit a spot near the campground by the 7 mile bridge (the dots) that has some great ledges that have been excavated by a slew of Goliath Grouper that have resided there over the years.  We can usually find some nice hogfish and grouper (provided we can get the shot on them as they hide in the recesses of the ledges that surround this area). Since our time was so limited, we decided to go straight for the gold and check for grouper first. When I arrive at the front ledge I see a couple of grouper that are unfortunately not legal. I head to the back ledge and peer under it, which immediately begets the traditional thumping and stirring up that groupers love to do when they're cornered. In the times I peered under the ledge, I was able to see the silhouette of at least one large grouper but wasn't able to line up the shot before she disappeared into the dust that she and the other couple of residents had stirred up.

At one point, while laying under the ledge with my flashlight outstretched, I was able to make out the outline of one of the groupers moving slowly back into the darkness that my light couldn't penetrate. I line up the shot anticipating the movement of the fish and fire. I felt the shaft strike and there was none of the expected thrashing that accompanies a shot on fish like this, so for a moment I think "I stoned her". But alas, the only thing I killed with this shot was an unfortunate sponge which the grouper must have pushed aside while she was moving back into the murk. Unfortunately, after many attempts to let the dust settle and see if I could get another shot, the tide had gotten too strong to stay on the ledge and we had to leave without my first grouper of the summer. It really hasn't been my summer where grouper are concerned.

In the afternoon, we headed out to the patch reefs in search of clean water. We first head out just West of the lighthouse to see if we can better our chances of finding this that has eluded us for the past few weeks by seeing how close the cleaner offshore blue water had moved in. We end up changing our course and heading due East to some shallower spots. We find a couple of new spots (#99 & #100) that held some fish today and held a lot of promise for future trips as well. We're able to land about 10-12 respectably sized mangroves (with a multitude of smaller ones we passed on) before we head back home. 

Seas:
Tue - 3-4'
Wed - 3-5'
Winds:
Tue - 10-20 ESE
Wed - 10-20 ESE
Viz:
Tue - 15-20'
Wed - 15-20'
Temp:
Tue - 84 F
Wed - 84 F

phoca thumb m IMG 3741The rest of the week held formidable seas and dirty water for almost the duration. My nephew Ryan came down to spend a few days with us, hoping to get some spearfishing in as well. Tuesday and Wednesday were both frought with 3-4' seas and dirty water but we went out anyway to see what we could find. After giving #99 and #100 a few days rest we headed back to see if we could find some more of those mangroves we had found on the weekend because the lack of viz made diving much deeper than 15-20' a challenge. We didn't get a ton of 'em but at least I got to let him do some diving and shooting before he had to leave on Thursday which I knew he was really looking forward to (that, and he likes to see his picture on the blog :D).

Seas:
Fri - 3-5'
Winds:
Fri - 10-15 SSE
Viz:
Fri - 30-35'
Temp:F
Fri - 84 F

By the time Friday comes around I had about 8 guys that were all jones'ing to shoot some fish. Luckily for me, 8 guys, while a lot of divers was not too much for my boat to handle as we head out West in search of cleaner water. Needless to say, even though it took quite a bit of driving and checking bunch of spots as we ended up on practically our farthest spots to the West, we were all extremely jubilant to finally hit a spot (#10) that had some decent viz (about 35') and enough fish for everyone to join in the action. Unfortunately for me, I was in a bit of a slump shooting-wise and ended up with almost as many fish in the boat as missed fish in the water. Near the end of the time on this reef I had decided to get up on the boat and let someone else shoot rather than keep scaring the remaining fish off with missed shots and wounded fish. As I get back in the boat, Adrian asks me if I think there's something wrong with the gun and I tell him "Nope, there's something wrong with the shooter!", I told him I don't make excuses (I just get pissed). All in all it was still a great day (no matter how horribly I was shooting) as my friend Adrian ended up with about a 10# mutton snapper as well as a 24" red grouper (he's really annoying that way ;). We held off on cleaning fish that day because the women were already at the grille running up a drink tab and we needed to make sure we did our part (as opposed to just paying for it) so we made sure there was plenty of ice in the cooler and hauled our butts to the grille for some chlorinated water and alcohol action in the pool.

Seas:
Sat - 3-5'
Winds:
Sat - 15-25 SSE
Viz:
Sat - 30-40'
Temp:
Sat - 84 F

Saturday we got invited to head out on a World Cat belonging to a friend of our new campground neighbor. This day, the clean water was to the East (if it could only make up it's mind) and in spite of the 4' seas we encountered (made much milder by the cat's tunnel hull) the viz was well over 20' so we decided to scout for new territory instead of hitting the usual suspects. We ended up having a pretty nice day of discovery even though none of the spots we found were very populated. I ended up shooting a nice cero mackerel which was encouraging to because I was hoping the nice shot placed on this fish with a minimal profile was an indicator that my slump would be short lived (not likely as it would turn out).

Seas:
Sun - 2-3'
Winds:
Sun - 10-20 ESE
Viz:
Sun - 30-40'
Temp:
Sun - 85 F

Sunday rolls around, and while I'm already contemplating the fact that my vacation is nearly over, I'm happy at the fact that for the first time in years I was able to disconnect completely and keep my promise (to myself and my family) that I would not check in on work (not even so much as one email). That disconnection proved to make this vacation considerably more relaxing and I was actually happy to find that things will still move along fairly smoothly without my constant type-A interaction (some might say "interference" :).

phoca thumb m DSCN8411So by the time we get moving we finally decide to take out Adrian's newly built (by him) Triton bay boat and hit a couple of his spots (because we know he hoards the good ones). We hit a couple of spots before we get to the one that has the snapper on it. As soon as I hit the water, I look down to see nothing but mangroves (not the bottom, for the obstructed view). I start hooting through my snorkel to let them know they're here and drop to pick my first victim. I drop and pick out the biggest of the bunch right in front of me, line up and pull the trigger... the slump begins again! By the time I land 3 very nice mangroves, I've missed at least that many so the frustration was building up a little. After yet another miss, I was reloading and I spot the biggest mangrove I had seen yet! I try to calm myself, finish reloading, breathe up and drop on the fish as stealthily as possible. I make my way to the fish, line up the shot and pull the trigger... Fish ON! I surface thinking "Finally!" when all of a sudden as though Mother Nature's way to give me something to focus my anger on, about a 35# barracuda zooms in on my flailing fish. She buzzes the fish on the first pass as though to see if it will try to avoid it (difficult to do since it was on my spear, stupid barracuda). I attempt to raise the fish but the cuda is lit up like a Christmas tree with bold light and dark bands showing aggression and immediately comes in to take the lion's share of my prize. I'm left with the head and a small portion of the filet when I try to reload to entice her in with it to see if I can get a kill shot on her. But when I see she is within 10 feet of me staring intently at the fish head in my right hand, I decide today isn't the day she gets hers and I surrender the remainder of what should have been my biggest mangrove of the day.

From here we move on to a deeper spot in almost 50' where we find we still have viz. In spite of my crappy shooting, the day was starting to look up. I drop to the bottom and hang out for a little while to see who gets curious when a mangrove comes in to check me out. "Your last mistake" I thought to myself as I took the shot which strikes home, but the fish is able to tear himself off when the shaft momentarily gets stuck on the bottom. I see him hole up and surface to breathe up and see if I can't bring this one home. As I'm breathing up to drop in on his new temporary home, I hear the calls from the boat that my presence is demanded elsewhere because they've holed up a black grouper. So I give up the chase and make way to the other spot. I arrive just in time to see them surface with a beautiful 18-20# grouper that my brother in law spotted and shot (he's sort of annoying that way too). Maybe I'll shed this lack-of-grouper stink next week.

Seas:
Mon - 2-3'
Winds:
Mon - 20-25 E
Viz:
Mon - 40-45'
Temp:
Mon - 86 F

Come Monday, after leaving everything picked up on Sunday to minimize my work before leaving we head out with our friend Chicho (pronounced chee-cho for you g-r-i-n-g-o-s out there) on his 25' BlueWater (my all time favorite fishing/diving boat) since the weather had turned little foul. We found beautiful crystal clear water in as much as almost 40' in spite of the rough seas caused by the storm cells that pretty much rolled through the keys all day long. After bagging a few mangroves and a yellowtail (by my brother in law), it was time to head back and finish my packing to head home and back to that daily activity that affords me the opportunity to do what I love every chance I get.  Remember, work isn't what keeps you from doing what you want, it's what gives you the chance to do that very thing (no matter how much I might gripe about it).

As tough as this week was for me from an accuracy perspective, I didn't fail to notice that it was the first time since the summer of 2010 that I've felt comfortable spearfishing in almost 50' of water so I'll take my victories where I can and move on (hopefully to my next deeper dive).

 

 

 

 

 

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