The big day is finally here, the very first overnight trip of the new year. We can almost hear the Florida Middle Grounds calling. Last year was a tremendous year for the Florida Fisherman ll, Hubbard's Marina. Can't help but wonder how the new year will begin? Only one way to find out, let's go see.
Three P.M. Friday afternoon, Captain's Brian & Coach John fire up those mighty diesels. Twenty seven anglers, men and women with very high hopes, are more than ready to go. So many, even during the Winter, enjoy what Florida has to offer. Eighty degrees is January, that's our Florida!
Madeira Beach is so beautiful, it's hard to leave. Gosh! That beach looks inviting. But we are on a mission:
First things first, let's prepare our bait of choice, Spanish sardines, for the early morning bite. We want to be ready:
Will, our first mate, goes over every little detail with us:
This excitement has really made us hungry. Chef Tammy to the rescue. Boy! was that meatball-cheese sub really something:
Some troll on the way out, get that mackerel, most snooze:
Calm & warm! Who could ask for anything more? That bunk is calling out to us. See you in the morning. All of a sudden Captain Brian wakes us up, battle stations! Come on Captain, it's only one A.M. Have a heart! The fishing is really slow, but we still catch some real beauties. Look at that lane snapper:
Now that's a good way to start, another lane:
The fishing remains slow. We need a real attention getter, we need Tammy:
Wow! What a fish:
Now that's a Middle Ground's size porgy:
The morning bite was much slower that expected. Finally, sun-up! Look at that gag:
Now that's a Middle Ground's red grouper:
Nap time for me. Tammy made fun of me for sleeping through breakfast. I'm hungry! What's for lunch? How does hot off the grill beer batter dipped fish & potato salad sound?
It's been relatively slow the entire day. Hold on! What's Captain Brian all excited about?
Look at the AJ's on that scope. That's enough to excite anyone:
Finally! Our time is now:
Rich, what a fish:
Oh! Oh! What's that scream I hear? What has Mister Ralph Stephens, Englewood, Ohio, got himself into now. Welcome to the Florida Middle Grounds, Ralph, let the fights begin:
Not to be outdone, the women take over. Tammy, help Melissa Fitzsimmons out, she has hooked a monster:
What a fight, that mighty amber jack had absolutely no chance. Woman power on the Grounds:
Many battles are won, most are lost. Only six more and we will have reached the Florida Fisherman's two day limit. Oh no! We have drifted off the wreck. Captain Brian re-anchors, now that's more like it. As we pick up the final six AJ's, Will & Jeff ice down a deck full of amner jacks. We have two large fish boxes all but full.
Man! we are starved. Fighting the mighty amber jack will do that to you. Tammy, what's for dinner? Let's start wit a huge, all you can eat, fresh green salad. I will have ranch dressing, please!
Then the show stopper...bacon wrapped pork loin, brown rice, green beans, and Texas toast. Tammy, you are too much! Thank you New Jersey for sending this master chef to us.
Will, let's see that American red before you vent and send him back to his rocky home. See you in the Spring:
Every time I look over there I see Melissa reeling in a fish. These women sure can fish:
The red snapper refuse to leave us alone. Oh well! Their time is coming:
Now that's a nice mangrove snapper. The sun-down mango bite has been on fire:
Even the kings are making a showing:
Jeff, let's see that Middle Grounds red grouper:
We ended up with a very respectable catch. However, on these thirty-nine hour trips it's the people that make the trip what it is. Visiting from Washington State, we welcomed Mister Jim Martin. Mister Martin, a thirty year teacher and administrator, taught at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. This man, this real sportsman, has done it all. How does ice fishing North of the Arctic Circle sound? We Floridian's could easily do it. After all, how bad could a thirty mile an hour wind, and 60-70 below zero really be? Mister Martin only had three feet of solid ice to chop threw. OK! How about a little danger? Mister Martin has, in the far reaches of Alaska, successfully harvested the mighty grizzle bear, and even huge bison. I asked him if he has ever shot a musk ox? No! But he as seen many. So! How can our Florida Middle Grounds possibly challenge a man who has done so much? Here comes the mighty amber jack, here comes unimaginable brut force, here comes the challenge of a life time. Don't believe so? Just ask Mister Jim Martin:
Let's head home. Boy! Those bunks are calling out to us. So long Middle Grounds, see you in two weeks. That full moon mango bite should be great.
Five-thirty A.M. Sunday morning, we are home. Waiting for us at the dock are two FWC scientist. These dedicated biologist count, and record, every fish we bring home. Now that's real, on the water, data:
Captain Brian, who are in the money, who are the lucky jack pot grouper, snapper, and amber jack winners?
And the winners are:
We are no longer wondering. 'how the new year will begin'. We know!
Bob Harbison Native Florida Sportsman & active member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Associaation