Sunday, January 08, 2012

GET YOUR GROUP(er)ON!

Don't let the gorgeous aquamarine Gulf water and light blue skies in the pictures below fool you.
This day started off cold, grey, and rainy.
A completely overcast sky dribbled a steady light rain on us as we pulled up to the Cedar Key boat launch.
It was dawn by the clock, but the grey curtain above allowed no sunrise.
Captain Denny turned to me as we loaded the boat in the rain, "Don't worry about this rain, it's only 10% water, ... the Weather Channel said there was just a 10% chance of rain."
I laughed and the movement caused some cold 10% rain to run down my neck.


Denny's glass is always at least half-full, even on a gloomy grey morning.
I think if victory favors the bold, it at least smiles on the optimist, ... and who is more optimistic than a fisherman?


We did not stay ashore.

We cruised out of Cedar Key in a cold rain, clutching a tarp overhead to defend us from the needle prick strikes of cold rain drops in a fast boat.

Before you knew it, Florida had faded over the horizon in the greyness and there was only the sea.

By 10:30 in the morning, we were peeling off parkas and rolling up sleeves under a sunny blue sky.
The newly bright sun lit up the deep blue offshore waters as we cruised slowly towards a secret spot of Denny's.
Beneath us, the depthfinder showed a typical flat bottom, occasionally broken by outcrops of rock.

We had not seen another boat all morning long, but as we approached our target site, the only other boat out in the Gulf was parked directly over "our" GPS coordinates.

It reminded me of that old tale ... in the early 1900's, at one point there were only two cars in the entire state of Kansas ... and they ran into each other.

Denny had another set of GPS numbers nearby so we cruised a little farther and anchored over a nice outcrop of limerock and live bottom.

The grouper cooperated almost immediately.
The water was so blue, so clean, so clear, that you could watch your bait sink almost all the way to the bottom, 8 fathoms below.

The fish in the photo above and below (with me) is a Gag Grouper. This fish is just over the legal size, but it's closed season for Gags right now.
So after a quick "happy fisherman" photo, we released it back into the Gulf, no worse for wear.
We are using circle hooks which almost always snag the fish in the corner of their bony jaw.
This makes for a quick dehooking with no real injury to the fish ... as opposed to traditional J-hooks which are often swallowed and wind up hooked into vital organs.

Fish and Evolved Fish.

Oh yeah.

Captain Denny with a nice Red Grouper.
We did catch one ... okay, ... DENNY caught one legal size grouper, a Red on this day.

I lost exact count of the grouper that came aboard yesterday, but I would say it was somewhere between 12 and 15.

We only kept one grouper for the table.

Like us, the grouper is a predator. This huge maw is the last thing many a grunt or sand perch ever sees.

Officially ... (meaning, what Denny told his very patient wife Karen), this trip was school related. We were actually not fishing, but collecting black seabass for an aquaculture display tank in Denny's classroom.
The black seabass in the photo above is a big one by the way. It is also a male ... see the big hump?

We caught a blue million of them by the way ... often two at a time on tandem rigs.
In fact, in the course of the day, an assortment of at least a hundred fish came over the gunwales. Sand perch, grouper, seabass, puffers, jolt head porgies, and grunts.

Of these, only about ten fish were kept for the table ... mostly delicious black seabass like the fellow above.

(I ate my share of the catch as soon as I got home)

After a full and fantastic day fishing on the beautiful Gulf of Florida, we cruised back to Cedar Key, fishy and happy.

We had to be back at the dock by 4:00 pm.

Denny had gone fishing on his wedding anniversary and he and Karen had restaurant reservations at 6:00 pm.

I told you she was patient.


WARNING: Shameless advertisement below:


Captain Denny Voyles is a licensed charter captain.
He really is a fish whisperer.
Check out his website and book a trip if you want to catch fish ... lots of fish.

10 comments:

threecollie said...

I love fish stories...I love to fish...I love to eat fish....so I kinda like this post and its companion on your food blog. lol

tai haku said...

Man, I have got to get back over to Florida for some fishing and herping. Everytime you post one of these the green-eyed monster rears its head. 2 questions: Did the BSB's make it to the tank ok and what was the side on your grouper over on Pure Florida Food?

Caroline said...

"Best fish ever" was grilled grouper fresh out of the Gulf when we were on Sanibel one year! Makes my mouth water just thinking of it.
Sound like a fun day on the water for all, and Karen sounds like a gem!

swamp4me said...

Quite the goozle on that fish! Did I see Jonah waving from someplace in there?

Dan said...

I recently visited Cedar Key for the first time. What a beautiful place! You are a lucky, lucky man.

Dani said...

What a great way to spend the day!

Dina said...

What! All this time I thought fish came from the grocery store. Nice catch!

Floridacracker said...

3Collie,
Glad you sorta like it!
LOL!

Tai,
It was a great fishing day. Yes, the BSB's made it back in an aereated live well aboard D's boat. The sides on the blackened grouper fish were asparagus and mashed cauliflower (yuck!!).
My fried plate had steamed spinach and a little rice veggie medly.


Caroline,
Karen is a gem. No debate.
and Grouper is a wonderfully tasty fish.

Swampy,
I think I saw the Andrea Doria in there!


Dan, I felt pretty lucky today on the way to work. As I crossed the bridge, there was a setting full moon to my right and a burnished orange sunrise on my left.


Dani,
It was spectacular.

Dina,
I've heard that too, but I don't know where you'd launch your boat.

Thunder said...

Looks like you guys managed to have fun too! Lightnin's "itchin to go fishin" so I think we'll be calling Denny!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Bitchin' grouper mouth shot!! I sure would have loved to learn about all these fish from you and Denny. I've never even heard of a gag grouper. Beautiful black sea bass, too. The whole thing, like a dream. I'm glad you get these times out with Denny. He must give you a good deal...