Full moon over the Florida Middle Grounds:
Friday, June first, 2012, American red snapper season opens. The very best to one & all, let's go get them. Finally! It's ARS pay back time. No more free meals.
Forty four anglers, and a full crew, departs Hubbard's Marina on the Florida Fisherman ll. We will be fishing two days before the full of the moon, the best time of the month. Will the fish be hungry? Let's go see.
First things first, we are hungry. Tammy to the rescue. Chef Tammy stuffs us with the best Philly steak, peppers, and onions imaginable. Gosh! can that woman ever cook. Talk about a musician with a grill, talk about Chef Tammy. Miss Tammy Koota, a New Jersey transplant. Hey! Garden State, you let a real master go. Thanks for sending her to Florida.
Five P.M. Friday evening. We hear nothing but the power house grumble of those two huge diesel engines. This is serious stuff for serious fishermen/women. The battles ahead will require all the energy our bodies possess. We are in our bunks, in our bunks preparing for the giant battle to come.
One A.M. Saturday morning, the alarm rings, battle stations. And what a battle it was. Even Tammy, our on board chef, joined the fight. Was this lady of ladies ever proud of her huge ARS, & red grouper. What a way to begin the battle. As a rule I do not do too much fishing. Covering all the action takes up most of my time. However, ARS season is different. My first American red of the season gave me everything he had. The low range gears, 1.7 to 1 on my two speed Shamino TLD was a real life savor. That guy really pulled. I had the pleasure of fishing next to Chuck, a Florida Fisherman first timer. Chuck caught his first ever ARS. Talk about excited! We were thrilled just seeing the grin on this man's face. This was an event he, or we, will never forget.
Two of our mates, Dillon Hubbard, Captain Mark Hubbard's son, and first mate, just married, Will, were every bit as thrilled with our catch as we were. They could not miss an opportunity to show off these beautiful Florida Middle Grounds fish. Who could? They were so big & healthy, a joy to see, to be a part of. For a fisherman, you have not lived until you have visited the fabulous Florida Middle Grounds, the Florida Middle Grounds, the best of the best!
Long before the sun decided to make an appearance in the Eastern horizon, the Florida's number one huge fish box was filled to capacity, in fact, we were already working on box number two. Mister Tony Holowro sure did his part in helping to stuff the boxes. The size of those Ground's mangrove snapper was, to say the least, amazing. Looks like they were trying their best to out-grow their counter-part, the American red snapper; these pesky, hard to catch, little, or more appropriately, big devils, were every bit as impressive as any fish that swims. They gave us their all! What more could anyone ask?
Even the king fish were running super-sized. That silver speed demon fighting machine gave Criss all he could possibly ask for, and then some. What a battle!
Finally, the sun begins to light up the Eastern horizon. Will the fish continue to feed, or decide it's nap time? Well, we must admit, the action slowed down tremendously. For the first time of this marathon trip, the bite slowed down, time to rest, time for breakfast, it's Tammy time. This lady, this chef of chef's, was equal to the task. We stuffed ourselves on Country sausage, gravy, biscuits, eggs, and bacon. Talk about heaven on earth.
OK! We are charged up once more. Time to continue the great battle. Only one little problem, the fish decided to take it easy, they rested & so did we. OH! we still caught fish, but never as fast and furious as during the night hours.
Mister Tony Baker, retired sheriff Sergeant, caught, among many other things, a beautiful scamp grouper. We do not see too many of them on the Grounds. What a prize! We even caught some yellow mouth grouper. They sure look like scamp. It takes a sharp eye to tell the difference. Even the red grouper were running big, no more shorts. And, guess what? another tuna hit the deck of the Florida.
And now, let's talk American red snapper. We have only forty days to collect, forty days of, 'pay back time,' forty days to collect on all those, 'free meals.'
The night ARS bite was very strong, much stronger than we ever expected. However, the day onslaught proved to be slower than what we would like to have seen. We had very little current during the night time hours. What a difference after sun-up, it began to roll. We were not seeing the huge schools of fish on our scope that we have become so accustomed to seeing. Captain Hubbard speculated that the current was holding the fish closer top their rocky homes. Sure made fishing harder. Oh! we still caught fish, but we were forced to really fight for them. Mister Mat Tondi, as did many others, landed numerous very impressive ARS, and mangrove snapper. We now had fish in all three of the Florida's monster size fish boxes. Once again, the B liners were huge. Talk about some good eating. These deep water snapper provide a meal fit for a king.
Once again we welcomed Butch & Jon, FWC biologist, on board the Florida Fisherman. They collect real on the water data. Hope it is used correctly! Hey! off at a distance we see another boat, the first one in months. We think it is the Viking, the Viking, our of Tarpon. The Florida Fisherman wishes you well. Properly managed, not NOAA catch shares at any cost, over-regulated, so called 'science, there is plenty for one & all.
Sun down on the Florida Fisherman means dinner time. We do not know what Chef Tammy will serve, regardless, it will be great! Let's start with a huge, all you can eat, green salad, I will take Ranch dressing, Please! Then the star of the parade, Salisbury steak, swimming in brown gravy, with mashed potatoes, and green beans. What a meal! This must be heaven on earth. And. OH! That cake. It just does not get any better than this.
I still cant get over the size of those mangrove snapper, they were running huge. They love to play games with us, hit & run, I got you! Oh well, many did not skip out without paying. And speaking of paying, this weekend was only the first chapter in, ARS 'Pay back time.' No more free meals!
What a beautiful trip. The weather was outstanding, the companionship was unbeatable, the food was a gourmets delight, and, just wait until you see that mountain of fish. But first, a nice hot shower, clean bunks, and a very experienced second Captain, Captain John, Coach, McGettrick to take us home. I sure feel safe in the good Captain's hands. Is next weekend here yet? I want to go again, go again ASAP! Who wouldn't. After all, "It's ARS pay back time!"
The long ride home, at least I guess it was long, was great, calm seas, quite, and air conditioned to perfection. We were too busy sleeping to know how long the ride actually was. While we were enjoying the comfort of our bunks, Dillon, Will, Vince, and Tammy, thoroughly scrubbed down the Florida Fisherman. No time for cleaning come Sunday morning. The Florida Fisherman will be immediately leaving on a very popular 1/2 day trip. Next week, I am definitely thinking about staying on board for the half day trip. What excitement. Is next weekend here yet? Finally, 'It's ARS pay back time!' Full moon over the Florida Middle Grounds: Bob Harbison Native Florida Sportsman, Active member Florida Outdoor Writers Association
Chef Tammy with a fine red grouper & ARS:
Bob's first ARS of the season:
Chuck's first ARS ever:
Dillon is ever so proud:
Will loves to show off our catch:
A stuffed fish box way before sun up:
Criss & his fine king:
The sun comes up over the Middle Grounds:
Breakfast time. Chef Tammy @ her best:
Tony Baker and a fine scamp:
Will ices down a yellow mouth grouper:
Nice red grouper:
Mat Tondi and a fine ARS
We did not see the usual huge shows of fish on the scope:
The FWC hard at work:
Sun down means dinner time:
Middle Grounds sized mangrove snapper:
Captain John, Coach, McGettrick is ready to take us home:
Early Sunday morning:
Dillon (L), Will, and Vince, a first class crew:
As we dock, a 1/2 day trip prepares to board the Florida Fisherman: