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Old 02-01-2016, 05:44 PM   #1
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kwyoungspear's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Northern Michigan/Key West
Posts: 744
Last Day of Grouper Season

I haven't written a report in a while, and wasn't going to share this story but seeing that no one else has in months I figured this section was overdue for a trip report.

As you may or may not know that while I do call Key West my home, I attend the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Northern Michigan, as you can imagine spearfishing really isn't "a thing" up here so I only have from May-August to dive.

This winter break it didn't look like I would be able to make the long trip down to Key West until one day I got a random text message from someone who claimed he was renting my house, I simply ignored the text. A few weeks later I got another text from the same number basically saying the same thing. I was in class and forgot to text back after. THEN I received another message from the number, this time asking about fishing/lobstering charters. This automatically caught my eye. I texted him back and said that while I believe he had the wrong number it was ironic because I actually do run charters and after a short talk he "booked me" for 2 days of lobstering/snorkeling. I gave him a pretty good deal since I was desperate, with this assured money I could book a plane ticket to Key West right before Grouper season closed!

Every single day for about 2 weeks I checked Windfinder every 6 hour update, I was obsessed. As my departure date got closer it looked like I would be able to get in one trip before New Year’s. I flew out on Christmas Day and took the boat out right away, but it was filthy so I just stuck to Lobstering.

While I was down there the forecast just kept looking worse and worse and it looked like my trip down might have been for nothing, what made it worse is the Lobstering was not as hot as I would have hoped. Then suddenly my luck turned around. I had been lobstering on another windy day and had only caught 3 lobster after 2 tanks, I was pissed off when I suddenly hit the mother lode and caught over 50 Lobster on one spot. After finishing the day on a high note I checked my phone and finally saw the forecast I was looking for. With the winds dying down for the last 2 days of the year I started straightening my bent shafts, filling up on ice, and gassing up.

We left the dock before sunrise and started west. We had a following sea and the conditions weren't too bad 3-4 waves with the occasional south swell, but the viz was milk. I kept running west hoping to see a change in water color, but it just wouldn't come. At this point I almost gave up all hope, but was ready to dive in five feet of viz when suddenly off in the distance I could see an apparent change in color. We crossed the line and it went from 5 foot viz to 100 foot viz, it was a night and day difference. I almost jumped out of my wetsuit in excitement.

I rocked the GPS down to the number I had my eye and got all my gear ready. We arrived at the spot and I could already see fish swimming around from the boat. I rolled in and was greeted by top to bottom viz, swarms of mangrove snapper, schools of yellow jacks, and last but not least, 2 fat blacks staring up at me. I dove down on the 2 and the split, the smaller of the two approached me while the bigger one holed up, I passed up on the smaller one and got in position to make a quick shot on the black in the hole. I spotted him and took the shot, but while wrestling with him he kicked my in the face and broke my regulator. I ascended and got a new regulator on. Going back to the spot I looked for the other black, he shot out of a hole and I somehow reacted fast enough to stone him, so I was feeling good. I worked into the current looking for more fish. Muttons were swimming mid water column but wouldn't get close. I focused up ahead on this very good looking hole, trigger fish were all around along with those little blue fish that look like parrotfish. I was off the bottom about 20 feet when I noticed movement inside the hole. Focusing in, I could tell it was the pectoral fins of a black grouper. I went to get my flashlight out when suddenly a GIANT black darted out of the hole, looked up at me then back at the hole and swam back into the hole. "Perfect", I thought to myself, but while I got closer to the coral head the black darted out again leaving the spot and swimming upcurrent. In seconds it was out of sight, I had a steel tank on and couldn't keep up with the current. I spent about 30 seconds deciding what to do when I saw a giant school of hogs roll in. I plucked off the biggest 2 and then stoned a huge mutton, and then a few more hogs until I ran out of air. The big hogs weighed 10 and 12 pounds, the mutton weighed 20 pounds. I estimate the black that got away to be well over 80 pounds. The image has been on slow-mo replay in my mind ever since.

The next spot my buddy came up with a nice black above 40 pounds and the rest of the day was filled with very successful spots. I shot a bunch more blacks, big hogs, toad reds, and the occasional mangrove and mutton. My friend Eric shot a really nice African Pompano and my buddy Jason (who doesn't get to dive much) shot his personal best black which weighed around 25 pounds.

We were heading back east when suddenly I ran over a really good mark. Since Eric and I were on our surface interval I sent down Jason. He came up screaming about how many grouper were on the spot, but they were too quick for him. I instantly started getting ready and got dropped on the spot and filled a stringer with 6 blacks, and left plenty for next time. It was one of my most productive dives ever, and my shot was hot. While taking my safety stop a school of bulls rolled in, but they were too late.

It was almost sunset at this point and when I went to drop Eric on the next spot he said he was tired and done, so did Jason. I spent about 5 minutes calling them pussies and finished off their tanks and dove till the last sunset of 2015. We drove in through the dark, hammering down beers and got in with enough time to shower up to go down to Duval for the New Year’s Eve shenanigans. I woke up the next morning to my surprise on my boat with a massive headache and then sold all the fish.

It didn't hit me till I unloaded and sold all the fish how well we did. Growing up I would wait every day for my dad to come home just to see the fish he shot and hear his daily stories of his time out on the water. I thought it was the coolest thing how he would go out by himself and fill a boat with fish like it was nothing. I always dreamed of the day I would do it too. The day finally came, and boy did it feel good.

Oh, and that guy that booked me never called back. But I didn't really care at that point and continued to Lobster until I went back to Michigan.
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