Once again we challenge the Florida Middle Grounds. Once again the weekend weather prediction is less than perfect; in fact, down right lousy. Forty eight anglers hope for the best. Low pressure or no low pressure, we know what the Grounds has to offer.
Most of us arrive at Hubbard's Marina early. One reason is to watch the 1/2 day boat returning. Sure enough, the Friendly Fisherman returned one P.M. Friday afternoon. Grunts were targeted. Grunts, small but very good eating. Also some very impressive king fish and mackerel were landed.
Now it's our turn. First, enough bait, Spanish sardines, is loaded to hopefully entice the critters of the Grounds. We will be targeting the elusive mangrove snapper and red grouper.
OK! let's get this show on the road. Three P.M. Friday afternoon, The Florida Fisherman ll pulls out of Hubbard's Marina and, immediately, heads North West. Our destination, the Florida Middle Grounds, one hundred miles from Madeira Beach, Florida.
We are excited and hungry. Chef Tammy to the rescue. Do I want cheese steak, onions & peppers, or pulled pork. Let's try the steak. To say it was great does, in no way, do this masterpiece justice.
The long ride out was ideal. Could NOAA possibly be wrong? One A.M. Saturday morning. Captain Hubbard eases back on the two huge diesels. Time to fish. Immediately, the mangoes are on fire; they are really hungry. I see real beauties coming in from one end of the Florida to the other. Tammy serves hot off the grill ham and cheese sandwiches, what a way to start a trip, good fiends, calm seas, plenty of fish, and great food. talk about heaven on earth!
I will be the first to admit, food was on the minds of most of us. Many fresh caught amber jacks are donated for a fish lunch. For those who have never tried really fresh fish, you owe it to yourself to do so.
OH NO! shortly after sun up the wind begins to build, build, and then build some more. Storms, off at a distance, are everywhere. We are living our own little Bearing Sea. Captain Cig and the Northwestern has nothing on us.
Non-the-less, we, as the crab fishermen, do not know the meaning of the word quit. Beautiful red grouper, yes! We can keep them, are hungry. Shawn, one of our deck mates, loves to show off our catch. He is as proud as we are. Boy! did Mike ever catch a big one. Will, one of our regulars, shows us how to catch grouper. Look at the size of that wave behind the Florida. Is this the Bearing Sea or Gulf of Mexico? Here is where a catamaran comes into its own. Even under adverse conditions, we still had a great platform from which to fish.
As the low pressure area approaches, as can be expected, the fishing slows down, but never stops. Mister Andre Baptisto caught, vented, and released a beautiful gag. See you come July. Mister Burbacher was, and rightfully so, very proud of his big yellow tail snapper.
Captain Mark Hubbard is proud of what we are catching, proud of Jessy Baxley's mangos. Who wouldn't be? Tammy, Shawn, and Capt. Mikey are as excited as we are. After all, this is family.
Not to be left out, the fighting machine, known simply as amber jack, are providing some real battles. Some fights are won, but most are lost. Andre & Patrick Foster won. I really do not know who was more give out, anglers or fish. Once again we challenge the Florida Middle Grounds. Once again, what a trip. I, we, want to go back ASAP!
All in all, even under adverse conditions, we had a very nice catch. It would have been a great catch if we could have kept gags and American reds.
Bob Harbison Native Florida fisherman & hunter, member Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA).
Check out the video: (click on link)
Captain Mikey really knows how to filet AJ's. Is it lunch time yet?
Check out those storm conditions.
Andre wins the fight of his life, the mighty AJ.
Shawn shows off a beautiful ARS.
Dinner: For Chef Tammy, only the best beef stroganoff will due.
From the Friendly Fisherman 1/2 day boat:
Mister Mark Barnes:
Bait for a 39 hour Middle Grounds trip aboard the Florida Fisherman:
My cheese steak, pepper & onion feast:
Early morning Tammy grilled ham & cheese:
Capt. Mike fillets AJ's for lunch:
Shawn, Mike, Will (look at those waves):
What a wave: Is this really the gulf?
Mister Andre Baptisto:
Mister Alan Burbacher (Yellow tail, mango snapper)
Captain Mark Hubbard & Jessy Baxley: