The very large concentration of fish held by such areas as the Florida Middle Grounds, the Elbow, and forty fathom ledge, has been well documented. But what about the much shallower waters in closer to our coast line? Is a very good catch possible in 65 feet of water? Only one way to find out, let's go see.
Seven A.M. Sunday morning. The jaws of John's Pass Bridge open wide as Captain Frank Bacheler skillfully guides the Friendly Fisherman, Hubbard's Marina, under the Bridge and into the Gulf of Mexico.
Man! Is that fog bank ever heavy. Thank goodness for the state of the art GPS & radar system on the Friendly. Seventeen anglers are bursting with excitement. And why not, the Friendly Fisherman has been reporting, on a very regular basis, tremendous catches of red grouper. The season closes for two months beginning in February. Let's get them while we can! Boy! Are we ever hungry. Allison, chef on the Friendly Fisherman, to the rescue. Bob, how does a hot off the grill bacon, egg and cheese sandwich sound? Allison, you are truly a wonder woman.
We pay very close attention as Jeff, our very experienced, dedicated, mate goes over every little detail of what to expect and how to get the very most out of our trip.
A very short two hours later Captain Frank calms down those two huge diesel and announces simply, "Go get um!"
Allison, our chef, loves to fish, in fact, a couple of weeks ago this fisher-woman caught, while fishing the Elbow, a huge American Red snapper.
Allison, how are you going to follow up on that ARS? Well! How about a gag grouper? What a woman. Not only a real chef, but a great fisher-girl also:
Grunts & porgies are making a very good showing. Talk about some fine eating...ever try deep fried grunt nuggets. What a treat:
And porgies...white, mild, and extremely flavorful. No wonder young Master Lincoln Bauduin is so proud:
Mister Justin Perlow, Sebring, Florida, decides to try a white jig and a piece of squid:
Justin slowly bounces the jig off the bottom. Instantly, a hook-up:
Mister Perlow is really into the red grouper:
Justin sets a Friendly Fisherman record of catching fish on twenty eight straight casts. In addition to red grouper, this expert of the experts is catching porgies & grunts. Justin already has a most impressive catch and it's not even noon yet.
The red grouper bite remains very strong. Most fish are just under the legal size, but many are keepers:
Let's see those fish:
Jeff is so proud of us:
Dillon Hubbard, Captain Mark's son, is proud to be part of what we are doing:
As we approach noon, our fish box is already most impressive:
Allison, what's good for lunch? How does a hot off the grill turkey, ham, and cheese sandwich, and a hot cup of home-made turkey, vegetable chowder sound? Allison, you are simply amazing:
Jeff, let's see that red grouper:
Mister Len Bauduin, Treasure Island, Florida, is so proud of his red grouper. Dillon, hold it up for all to see:
Mister Bauduin can already taste fried red grouper:
Justin is still at it. He easily caught his limit of four red grouper:
Dillon, hold that grouper up:
Captain Frank likes to show off our grouper:
Well, it's finally time for us to call it a day, sit back, enjoy the very calm seas, and head towards beautiful Madeira Beach. What a trip. Do we ever have stories to tell!
Once back at Hubbard's Marina it's time to give out the fish, what a task. Dillon, hope you can lift those stringers:
Justin, what a catch:
We caught so many fish that even Captain Bacheler, a very involved Captain, helps out:
Our outstanding catch draws a large crowd along the John's Pass Board-walk:
Gosh! Was that $80.00 well worth every cent. And, just think, 'Regulars' club members get a 50% discount.
With only a few weeks left until the annual two month grouper closure, I am determined to go as often as possible. This weekend I will be headed to the Florida Middle Grounds for 39 hours. I am really going to miss that Sunday trip. Hey! I just found out, Captain Frank will be sailing on Tuesdays &Thursdays also. Think I will go again ASAP, it's really that good!
Is a very good catch possible in 65 feet of water? You had better believe it!
Bob Harbison Florida Native Sportsman & active member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association