The Florida Middle Grounds at its very best:
It's a full moon weekend, the weather forecast is outstanding, The Florida Fisherman, Hubbard's Marina, is loaded to the brim with the best food imaginable. We are ready to tackle the monsters of the Fabulous Florida Middle Grounds. The Middle Grounds, one hundred miles North West of Madeira Beach Florida. Departure time for our 39 hour assault is three P.M. Friday afternoon.
Many of us arrive early to take in the sights of the famous John's Pass Board Walk, and to watch the 1/2 day boat, the Friendly fisherman, return from their morning adventure. What a sight, happy anglers and large strings of fish, mostly grunts, grunts are outstanding eating. Even saw a big king fish. They had a good catch.
Mister Craig Scott, a 'Regular' on the Florida, likes tom catch live, really active, pin fish before we leave. He did extremely well on them. Craig had a field day with snapper and grouper. Joey, one of our professional mates, give a 'how too' seminar. This man really knows his stuff.
We are very fortunate to have, as second Captain, Captain (Coach) John McGettrick. Coach is a Florida native. Finally, I have found someone with whom I can discuss local fishing even before 1960. He, as I, were fishing long before the sixties.
While most sleep, some troll on the long way out. Both kings & bonito were caught Friday afternoon. Terry & Joe did very well. They had good catches even before most of us started.
The ride out was beautiful. Early Friday evening, appearing in the Western sky, we could see that big, inspiring, full moon. As if we needed any more inspiration; excitement was already completely off the chart. Forty-eight anglers, and a friendly crew of six, were more than ready for the 4 F's of Sportsmanship, of our great sport: Food (just had to put that first), Fellowship, Fun, and fishing. And, speaking of food, here comes Tammy, our on board chef, with the best grilled steak, onions, and peppers sandwich on the face of the earth. what a way to start a trip.
OK! twelve midnight! Time to teach those snapper a lesson in manors, if you want to eat, you must pay for your meal. Mangrove snapper seem to often forget, eat, and run. Many did skip out, however, from the looks of all those beautiful mangos on the deck, many paid for their meal.
Three A.M. Saturday, we are hungry, Tammy to the rescue. Hot off the grill ham and cheese sandwiches, plenty of fish, calm seas, and a bright full moon. This must be heaven on earth. Actually, the morning snapper bite was constant, but never fast. We caught snapper, mango, vermilion, yellow tail, and even the near extinct American red snapper all day long. Looks like Lady Jane neglected to tell the ARS that they are in such bad shape. Even the vermilion snapper (B Liners) were running huge.
We were fishing in 125 feet of water. Captain Hubbard decided to run deep for some really big fish. Destination, the far Western edge of the Florida Middle Grounds, We moved out to 195 feet, and, as predicted, the fish were over-sized and hungry. Those monsters of the deep put a good old Southern hurting on even the youngest, strongest, anglers. Fights were both won and lost, mostly lost. At last, the fish were really on fire. What fighters! I saw Kitty Mitchell grouper, scamp, red grouper, and B Liners the size of mangrove snapper. The AJ's were approaching ridiculous size. Only one little problem, the gags and American reds, really big ones, were devouring everything we threw at them. It soon became almost impossible to catch anything else. We left them in a hitting frenzy. See you later!
Time to head back to mango waters. The evening bite should be outstanding. But first, a Chef Tammy new creation. Our own Tammy decided to go Mexican. I can't begin to pronounce the dish she served. In fact, I was too busy eating to care. And then that big cake, WOW! This must be haven on earth. Time for a short nap, then more fishing. Eight P.M. Saturday evening, our last chance, and what a chance it was. In between American reds and gags, we were catching mangrove snapper. We had three mates on board; boy did we keep them busy. Will, Joey, and Tyson like to make sure our fish are iced down ASAP. However, the gags and American reds had to be immediately vented and sent home, sent home to fight again. The deck of the Florida was covered with mangos, they had to wait their turn. For a solid forty five minutes, it was next to impossible to keep a bait of the bottom for more than a few seconds.
8:45 Saturday evening, time to head home. We left with the fish still in a hitting frenzy. Next weekend it's hog hunting at Tiger Island Outfitters, And then, May 18, time to visit the Florida Middle Grounds, The Middle Grounds at its very best!
Bob Harbison Native Florida Sportsman...member Florida Outdoor Writers Association
Friendly Fisherman 1/2 day boat:
The Florida Fisherman prepares for a 39 hour trip to the Florida Middle Grounds:
Mister Scott catches live pins. He did very well on them:
Joey, one of our professional mates, tells us how to do it:
Second Captain, Captain (Coach) John McGettrick, leads the way:
Many troll on the way out:
full moon is something else:
3 A.M. Tammy serves hot off the grill, grilled ham & cheese sandwiches:
The early morning, late evening snapper bite was HOT!
We caught snapper all day long: No one told the ARS that they are extinct:
Even the Vermilion snapper were running huge:
Check out the second part of the video from our Middle Grounds trip 5/4/12:
So much to see and do before leaving Madeira Beach. John's Pass is a virtual hub of activity.
Joe, our mate, goes over every little detail of how to catch Middle Grounds fish.
That big old full moon was big and bright in the Eastern sky even at 4:30 P.M.
Captain Hubbard guides the Florida Fisherman close to a weed line. We check out everything.
What a beautiful ARS
Those AJ's may be hard to hold, but they sure taste great. Chef Tammy takes full advantage of donated fish, they do count towards our limit. She dips them in beer batter, and griddle fries them to perfection. What a lunch!
Check out the amount of ice used to make sure our fish are the very best they can be.
This was a very good trip. We are looking forward to a tremendous Summer season. First, June 1 - July 10, American red snapper; and then July, August, September, October, gag grouper. Throw in mangrove, vermilion, & yellow tail snapper, AJ's, and red grouper, and we have a great deal to look forward to. The only thing that would make our trips even better would be to have fellow forum fishermen/women join us. Bob H.