The Florida Fisherman goes deep into the Florida Middle Grounds:
"What ever it takes!" Captain Mark Hubbard
Friday means fishing around Hubbard's Marina. 1/2 and all day trips have been returning all week with very good catches. However, Friday is the big one, the thirty-nine hour trip to the Florida Middle Grounds. The Florida Fisherman also went to the Grounds last Tuesday. The catch was great. Last Tuesday, "The Florida Middle Grounds gave up the Mother Load." Can it happen again? Are the Middle Grounds really that good?
Many dedicated anglers arrive early in order to catch their own pin fish. With no warning the John's pass draw bridge opens wide; we see the 1/2 day Friendly Fisherman returning from the morning adventure. We can see that the boat is filled with people, happy looking anglers. Then we see why. In only a half day they have a very good catch. Boy! The fish must be hungry. What to do? Think I will visit Noah's Ark, far end of the board walk, for a snack. That special batter 1/4 pound hot dog is well worth the walk. Sure was good.
Just about time to go. The pump for the individual bait wells was not working properly. No problem, we have Will, master deck hand, on board. Three thirty Friday afternoon, the Florida Fisherman's crew of five & twenty emotionally charged anglers cross under John's Pass bridge, Captain Mark Hubbard immediately heads North West towards the Florida Middle Grounds. Captain Hubbard tells us that we are going very deep into the Grounds; it will take us until 1:30 Saturday morning to reach our destination. Captain Mark says we are going to do whatever it takes to catch fish.
Those trolling were catching bonito; however, most of us, in anticipation, of the battles ahead, hit the bunks. Oh No! Tammy is cooking burgers. No one sleeps when Tammy is cooking. What a cheese burger! The heck with the nap. OK! let's try it again. Man that AC is on overdrive, it is really good and cool. No way will we get up at the ridiculous hour of 1:30 A.M. Eight A.M. sounds more like it.
1:30 A.M. Saturday morning. Captain Hubbard announces we have a monster load of fish under the boat. Time to get to work. Sure hope the fish are hungry. Without warning the silence of the night is broken with loud screams. Fish on! Fish on! The mangos are hungry. Problem was, those darn little critters are bait thieves. Obviously they do not believe in paying for their meals. We did much more feeding than catching. Then Tammy does it again, hot grilled ham & cheese sandwiches; now that is worth getting up for. By the time the sun decided to make an appearance, many of us had very respectable catch of mangos. Time for grouper & amber jacks to make an appearance. Mister Craig Hammock had a field day. In addition to a fine catch of mangos, Craig showed us hot to catch the hard fighting A/J's and gag grouper. Mister Lindow also did very well on the gags. Captain Hubbard was so excited for us, he just had to pose with a very nice amber jack. Talk about posing, our professional deck hands, Will & Vince, loves to get in on the act. They loves to show off our beautiful catches. They were so proud of our gags, snapper, and AJ's. Who wouldn't be?
Mister Allie Shamsidin, in addition to many mangos, battled and won the challenge of the fighting amber jack, and red grouper. Allie, as did most of us, caught American Red snapper on a regular basis. I caught over a dozen myself. All were properly vented and, thanks to NOAA, sent home. Looks like NOAA neglected to tell them that they are all but extinct.
We did have somewhat of a problem. Barnacles on the side of the Florida were cutting way too many lines. Hard working, never give up, Vince, our professional mate, to the rescue. No problem for this superman. He puts on his diving gear, jumps overboard, and goes from one end of the Florida to then other removing barnacles. What dedication. This is one serious fishing boat! And one serious eating boat as well. Breakfast was a bacon, cheese, omelet, a Tammy masterpiece. Lunch was a Tammy special sandwich. Then, after snacking all day, it was dinner time. Bring on that garden fresh salad, and then the show stopper, chicken & yellow rice; not just chicken & yellow rice, but Tammy's version, followed by chocolate cake. We are stuffed.
Still a couple more hours of evening fishing. Time to top off the boxes. As was the case all day long, the fish were chewing. We ended up with an outstanding catch of mango & vermilion snapper, gag, red grouper, and amber jacks. Ms. Jennifer John proudly posed with some of the hard working, dedicated anglers who took full advantage of the, "Middle Grounds Mother Load." Captain Mark Hubbard, a very hands on Captain, poses with Jennifer and company. What a catch. We ended up with well over 3,000 pounds; and that was without red snapper. ARS were also on fire. If we could have kept them most of us would have easily caught our two day limit of four. .
We left the Grounds for home early, 7:45 PM Saturday evening. We were due back at Hubbard's Marina six AM Sunday morning. Even, after leaving early, we were so far out that it took until seven AM to cross under John's Pass Bridge. It was well worth going so far into the Florida Middle Grounds. The Grounds gave up the mother load. My last picture was of only one of our three boxes. We had so many fish that it took Will & Vince over 1/2 an hour just to distribute them to the proud anglers, the very hard working anglers who took full advantage when the "Middle Grounds gives up the Mother Load!" When it was all said & done, fish were strung out from the Florida Fisherman clear to the office door. Personally, I do not do a great deal of fishing, too much interviewing anglers and picture taking. Never-the-less, I ended up with my two day limit of Grounds size mangos, 20, a stringer full of large vermilion snapper, and a 20 pound gag grouper. It took two people to lift my fish box unto the back of my truck What a trip! Come next Friday, 3:00 PM, we will be doing it all again. Our destination, to quote Captain Hubbard, "What ever it takes!"
OH! Don't call me tomorrow; I will be cleaning fish all day.
Bob Harbison Native Florida Recreational Fisherman & Hunter
Re: Deep into the very heart of the Middle Grounds
I have been fishing the Grounds for well over 30 years. Regardless of what NOAA says, the Middle Grounds has more to offer now than it did thirty years ago.
That entire area is loaded with fish. A few weeks ago we fished about 50 miles South of the Elbow; loaded up on muttons & scamp. Fished the Elbow and did well on mangos and AJ's. Last weekend we were way North into the grounds. Personally, I spend more time interviewing people & taking pictures than I do fishing. However, I still had a tremendous catch. I tried to lift my fish box, with no ice, onto the back of my truck, No way! It took two strong men. I caught that 20 pound gag on a cut Spanish sardine, what a fight. I was using 40 # test mango snapper equipment. Got busted up twice by what I call devil fish, way too big for me to do anything with. I was very happy with the size of the vermilion snapper. They were so big!
Hopefully we will get another chance this weekend. Looks like we have a front due over the weekend. Saturday wind prediction is 15-20 with 3-5 foot seas. To tell you the truth, I would rather have that than the flat calm, extremely hot, conditions we had last weekend. That big old 72 foot catamaran takes rough water very well.
This Friday we have 29 anglers booked. Two stern spots, 8-10 are still open. Spot # 22, next to me, is still open. Three lower downstairs AC bunks are still available.
Fishing, just before the font hits, should be fantastic. Join me on the Florida Fisherman. Need some help catching all of those fish. Bob H.
Re: Deep into the very heart of the Middle Grounds
47, 49, & 50 are on the port side, unfortunately, my regular spot, 23, is on the starboard. I will have my camera ready. Please let me know when you catch a monster where I can film it. Great having you & yours on board; please be sure to introduce yourself. Bob