Last week AndrewK called me up, said he and his gf were coming to the keys and wanting to all try and get out on the water with a friend in Kw. A few plans fell through on doing a key west trip, so we decided to take one of the boats in Summerland (mm24) out and do some reef diving. We started off at Looe key, which is one of my favorite places down here, because Andrew and his gf had never been. Let me say this to everyone, If you come to the Florida Keys at any point in your life, you are doing yourself a HUGE injustice if you dont visit Looe Key at least once...seriously..30+ mooring balls and an underwater paradise. I enjoyed it because i was also able to warm up and get my dive reflex started...anyways, we play and have fun ZERO jellies and pretty good vis. Despite the west winds we had the day before and the north winds we had that day it was surprisingly good, very calm too. We basically decide to work the reef from outside looe key management area and keep on trucking to american shoal. After leaving Looe Key, our second stop wasnt too far away. We proceed to dive for 20 minuets with next to no luck but with at least 150,000,000 jellies all over. I dont think ive seen them this thick in a while...the term, walking on jellies was an understatement. We were just on our way to the boat about to move , and i make drop down and see a small but legal black swim into a hole. I tell andrew there is something down there, wanted to recheck, and breath up to dive it again. I do a slow and leisurely dive down, actually it was one of those sloppy form not even looking at where im going sort of dive, I turn and literally bellied to the bottom. I stayed there motionless mentally making fun of myself for such sloppy form, and started slowly looking around, I see right in front of me as if one of the giant coral heads was literally crawling, I blink my eyes, focus a little better, look again and sure as shit, a BEAST of a grouper gives me the stink eye puffs his gills, then slowly starts to swim away. I was almost in shock that he did that at first, it actually caught me off guard for a split second. How was i going to let this fish mean mug and me like that in front my friends?? Luckily I had my trusty and always dependable 58 Koah Euro in my right hand. I start to take aim slowly, but he is almost too close to get a good shot off. He is fading away, just like my breath-hold. I start to make (very slow) ground on him and then...BAM!!!...I let the steel fly and it sunk into his body, it disappeared along with the fish in a big massive cloud of silt.. Next thing i know, my Merou reel starts zipping out line. In the back of my mind, i knew i got a good shot, but all of a sudden, I started to question the flopper, the shot, how much power he still had, the mono, the crimps, how much reel line I had, potential reel backlashing...ect ect..all at once. Slowing a freight train down like that isnt always easy. i knocked him down to about 10% and he still put up one hell of a fight. Of course everything preformed flawlessly, I get to surface to call out for andrew. The fish takes about 50-60 feet of line out and then stops. We were only diving 37 feet, so i know he wasn't too far from me. I had swam closer to the boat in case i needed to get my float-line ready to clip on,...the reel stops and there is just a solid tension....all i could hear was my heart beating, and my lungs gasping for air, it was almost euphoric. I didnt know if the fish had slipped off and was gone if he was holed up or what. I pass the gun to Andrew and follow the line only to see it passed under a rock, through a ledge, across a sandy patch, and towards a HUGE ledge...I come up from a pathetic breathold and decide that a small tank might be a better option as the big reef shark I saw two dives before looked awful hungry. I clip the tank right to my belt keep it between my legs, and start the decent. I followed the line under the rock and directly to what appeared to be another rock with a piece of fan coral on top of it...as i got closer, it was really a dead grouper, with his pectoral fin facing up flapping in the current like all the fan coral. I do a full 360 head turn for the taxman, grab the lifeless beast, and start making my way up top to andrew. Which coincidentally enough, was in La-La Land at the time, I can only assume that he was so amazed by my Koah that he was unable to properly focus on anything else, sooooo I shoved the fish right in his hand. He practically jumped out of the water, I dont think i have ever seen anyones eyes so big. He starts laughing and woo hooing like a girly-girl (admittedly, i might have a little bit as well) I heave twice to get his motionless body onto the deck of the boat and sigh with great relief while resting on the dive ladder...This was a PB for me, largest black weighing 30lbs. I was pretty stoked. We pull anchor and move to the next few spots, where Andrew turned into a lobster hunting champion and managed to bag 4 legal lobster. Honestly Im lucky if I see 1 per trip. We continued our way out to a wreck that andrew did a bounce dive and got himself a nice big permit on. Made our way to American Shoal lighthouse for some more action which i got a nice hog and a jelly fish sting in my mask. We hung out around the lighthouse, laughed our asses of at all the bird shit and went back in to clean up and cook our catch. The permit, and hogfish were covered in panko bread crumbs and fried, while the lobster, were wrapped in bacon and seasoned with a little old bay..dinner and beers, ended a perfect day.
I promised not to show any evidence of andrew doing any sort of freediving, but i couldnt help it.
Which way is it to the beach ??