Save the keys please

Robert Jones September 14, 1987

It can jump 10 feet straight up or whip a man to death with two slaps of its armored tail. The tarpon-a.k.a. cuffum, silver king, sabalo real and Megalops atlantica-is a game fish to reckon with. But you wouldn't want to eat one.
The tarpon's flesh is soft and tasteless by all accounts, and most anglers release their fish after the fight, honoring the quarry by returning it alive to the sea. So I was surprised during a recent evening of tarpon fishing out of Marathon in the Florida Keys to hear a voice on the VHF radio offering 40 cents a pound for tarpon. "I'll buy all you can catch," the voice added in a distinctly American accent. If I was only mildly amused by the offer, my guide was outraged.
"That's my livelihood he's messing with," said captain Randy Rode of the Rode Runner. "What the hell's going on here?" Rode, 38, is a third-generation Keys captain. His father, ****, was one of the pioneer charter-boat skippers on Marathon Key, and his grandfather, a transplanted New Englander, fished commercially in the days before the Keys sportfishing industry developed. (A brother, Gary, was killed by lightning while putting out crawfish traps.) In addition to having a stake in the Keys fishery, Rode is a graduate marine biologist ( University of South Florida, 1971) with a deep concern for the future of the Florida ecosystem. His reaction to the message we had just heard on the radio was understandably fierce.
"This is another example of how these waters are being ripped off and ruined," he said. "In the first place, it's against Florida law to buy or sell game fish—not just tarpon, but snook, sailfish, striped bass, permit or bonefish, too. If this guy is getting away with it, what comes next?"
"Let's find out," I said.
We did, and in the course of our investigation we saw an appalling number of practices now becoming established in the rich waters of the mid-Keys that could, in the long run, do irreparable harm to that splendid marine habitat.
?Sport netting. Early each morning during the tarpon run, charter skippers like Rode and his friend Brad Picariello go out to net mullet and save themselves the $30 a dozen they would otherwise have to pay for this most toothsome of tarpon baits. But it's getting harder and harder to come by the baitfish. On this particular morning, Rode, Picariello and I scoured canal after canal along the Atlantic side of Marathon Key. Picariello, poised in the bow with the cast net, guided us slowly, quietly into one canal lined with $250,000 condos. "They were here by the hundreds day before yesterday," he whispered. "Now I don't see a ripple."
"It's the damned sport netters," Rode snarled. "They were in here yesterday."
Sport netting? The concept was as incongruous to me as, say, competitive leaf raking.
"Hell, they don't need the money," Rode explained. "They do it for the fun. Come in here with their fancy boats, run a long gill net around a whole school of mullet, then pull 'em. They wholesale their catch for barely enough to buy a couple of cases of beer. But they've done the macho thing, you see, and wrecked the day for us."
Finally, far down a palm-lined canal where expensive cabin cruisers lay moored beside neatly mowed lawns, we found a school of flipping mullet. Picariello picked up his cast net, crouched, then threw. The web splashed down and yielded a dozen fat, strong fish—a trip's worth of bait for a tarpon captain and his charter.
?Fish traps. These devices—big cages of heavy-gauge vinyl-coated wire baited with chunks of "trash" fish—have become increasingly popular among commercial fishermen. Their use in state waters is forbidden under Florida law. Yet Rode and I saw many, marked by their floats, within the state's three-mile limit off Marathon. Captain Doug Smith of the marine patrol on Marathon says that some commercial fishermen set "trotlines" of illegal fish traps without using telltale floats to mark their positions. "They use a loran [a navigational device that can establish an accurate fix on a boat's position by using radio pulses from bases on shore] and, if there's no marine patrol boat in sight, drop their traps in a plotted line," he said.
That's bad enough, but even with all that electronic assistance, the fishermen inevitably lose a few of the traps. They can break loose in storms, strong currents can sweep them hundreds of yards away, or mooring lines can simply get old and separate. "A trap like that lying on the bottom becomes a perpetual killing machine," Mike Long of the marine patrol told us. "Each fish that enters it eventually dies and serves as bait for more fish. On and on."
?Shrimpers. As the hunt for the succulent pink tablefare grows more and more intense, so too does the damage to the bottom across which shrimp boats deploy their heavy nets. "They won't drag across a rugged bottom," Rode said, "anything with outcroppings of rock or coral or old wrecks. That rips their nets. They prefer to drag on open stretches. Unfortunately, that's where the turtle grass grows—Thalassia testudinum. Ecologically, it's the most productive plant in these waters, the basis of the marine ecosystem. Destroy it and you're destroying the entire food chain from the bottom up."
We stopped astern a shrimper that was drying its nets one morning offshore from Marathon. A crewman, on watch while his shipmates slept, gave us a bucket of "cullin's" from the boat's trash barrels—unsalable or at least unsortable leavings from the previous night's drags. Rode went through the trash with a practiced eye. In addition to plenty of small but perfectly edible shrimp, he found flounder, squirrel fish, squid, lizard fish, cigar minnows, cowfish, rock shrimp ("They used to be called 'mud suckers' until some smart guy in the shrimp business changed their name," Rode said), and plenty of ripped-up turtle grass. "This gives you an idea of what they're doing," Rode concluded. "Look at all the things that live on the bottom and die when the shrimpers come through. And you can't really blame the shrimpers, can you? They got to feed their families. Too damned many people in it, is all."
?Coral and conch hunters. Running past literally hundreds of illegal crab and crawfish pots (the season for stone crabs and the clawless Florida lobster had ended two weeks earlier), we stopped near Sombrero Light, which is built on what was once a splendid coral reef. Though the wind was blowing better than 15 knots, making for tough snorkeling, half a dozen dive boats lay at anchor over the reef. The reef itself was marred by dozens of bare white blotches of dead coral, as if a sort of submarine leprosy were at work on the bottom. A huge brain coral the size of a Volkswagen Beetle stood dead on its head.
"I used to dive on this reef a lot when I was a kid," Rode said. "Then, after about 10 years away from it, I came back. What I saw haunted me—it haunts me still. The destruction. The white spots are from anchors hitting and ripping and killing the coral or from tourists picking the stuff for their living rooms—even though it's against the law. There used to be purple sea fans all over the place here. Not anymore. All gone north with the tourists. That brain coral was overturned by some diver with a crowbar, looking for cowries underneath it, probably. He couldn't have been dumb enough to think he could get it up to the boat and ship it home. Or could he?"
Farther to the east we stopped at a shoal covered with turtle grass. The water was no more than eight feet deep—easy even for novice divers. Hidden among the waving grass were hundreds of big shells—queen and horse conchs, triton trumpets and cowries. The live ones were dark, but there were many dead shells, too, winking pale in the aqueous light. "Queen conchs are protected by law," Rode said, "but they take them anyway, along with the unprotected horse conchs. Think they'll make some conch salad. But when it comes to removing the animal and cleaning it, they give up. You have to know where to chip into the shell or you'll never pry the meat out. So they just throw them back. Dead." Rode turned away in disgust.
It would be so easy, he argued, for the commercial dive shops on Marathon and the other Keys to prevent at least the coral damage by buoying their dive sites so that their anchors don't rip up and kill the very stuff their livelihood depends upon. "Half a day's work to put anchor buoys on all of Sombrero Reef," he said. "It would make life easier for them just from the boating standpoint—no lost anchors. As for the conchs, I don't know the answer. There are only 28 marine patrol officers in the entire Keys—2,500 square miles." Indeed, we didn't see a single marine patrol boat in three days of dawn-to-dusk running in Marathon waters.
We never did get a positive identification on the tarpon buyer who set us off on this depressing odyssey—only that he was rumored to be in the Keys to shoot a video about fishing for sharks. For some odd reason—perhaps to make an already-macho sport look even more so—he had hit on the idea of using chunks of shiny dead tarpon as shark bait. At first, our informants told us, he tried to catch enough tarpon by himself to provide the bait. When that didn't work, he reportedly tried to "long-line" for his bait—running half a mile or more of line, suspended by floats on the surface, from which dropped shorter lines baited with mullet.
"Ridiculous!" said Picariello when we told him. "It couldn't work. The tarpon here are all in shallow water—20 or 30 feet for the most part. Assuming a fish actually took one of those baits and hooked up, it would drag the rest of the rig into the cover of the bridge pilings and foul the whole mess."
Perhaps that is why our man gave up long-lining and took to the airwaves in search of buyable tarpon. At the time, our sources told us that he was renting a house on an old estate on one of the neighboring Keys. When we contacted another resident of the estate, he informed us that at one point there were perhaps half a dozen tarpon, which weighed about 100 pounds each—nice-sized fish for those waters—floating dead in the estate's boat basin, along with a number of lesser fish. These the tarpon merchant would periodically "whack up" with a chain saw—"scales and blood and hunks of meat flying every which way"—to prepare his bait. "The Marathon Chain Saw Massacre," Rode said.
But Mr. X apparently never completed his video. By the time we got on his trail he had already left the area—in a "bit of a hurry," the other estate resident told us.
Only the boat he had been using—a white-hulled 25-footer—remained behind, its name a legacy to the failed effort: Ship of Fools.
"The way things are going," Rode mused as we drove away, "the name could apply just as well to the Florida Keys—or the whole damned planet for that matter."

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1066460/1/index.htm
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Replies

  • aquasport190aquasport190 Posts: 337 Officer
    Mooring buoys on Sombrero now and it proved a darn good idea.
  • gruntkinggruntking Posts: 792 Officer
    I was going to say, it's been awhile since Randy Rode was 38, lol.
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 442 Deckhand
    One thing we did last year when yellowtailing was to use the virtual anchor feature of our I-Pilot trolling motor, which worked way better than I thought it would and didn't seem to bother the fish. It would only work in pretty calm seas, but that's when we're out there anyway. It made me feel better to know I wasn't damaging coral, and it's a lot easier than messing with an anchor.
  • Captjohn5150Captjohn5150 Posts: 1,696 Captain
    The keys are dead and gone....not what I remember....all the true conchs have sold out and live in Ocala and mt Dora...the first generation bubba's are just about what's left.....you got the whacks, hacks, and New everything's now....I say so long and good riddance...you will never know what you lost because you never respected what you had, you don't even know what you lost and that is the sad truth....

    The keys are more than the living reef, its ecosystem. Yes things are bad, very bad, but can come back over time. The reef may beable to come back in a few decades. Heck it may take a hundred or a thousand years, who knows, I will not be alive to see it.
    But the keys are really not about just the reef, if I have to explain what the keys are all about then you missed the boat.....you don't even know what you lost and that is the sad truth....

    Will the last pirate of the conch republic please lower the flag as we hoist the last toast....
    I really miss her, but she past away in the mid to late eighties....her spirit has gone over the horizon .........just her rotting shell of a body is left.....
    For the love of all outdoors recreational activities....what my spelling is off, that will learn ya. Pimping ain't easy unless u went to FSU, its a BS course.
    What do u get when you can connect the dots, color inside the lines, and get your release papers.....sentence served, times up at Felon sentenced university.
    Floridas first woman's college.
    The only difference between FSU and all the other colleges are other colleges accept you into the university's. At FSU you are taken into custody.
  • tuna mantuna man Posts: 627 Officer
    Sounds like about every other place in the country.
  • flatsfisherflatsfisher Posts: 1,381 Officer
    First it is the keys, next will be the Bahamas and after that the gulf of Mexico! It's just a matter of time
  • BacklashBacklash Posts: 879 Officer
    That article is 25 years old and contains a good amount of misinformation and misguided frustration... and quite a bit of good information as well.
    The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was created 3 years after the article was published. In doing so many of these issues were eradicated, and it polarized the population because it took away the means that many Conchs relied on to make a living. But did it help our marine ecology? Without question.
    Coral bleaching is not generally caused by touching it, and anchor damage- those causes have more immediate effects.
    It is caused when the symbiotic cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) which lives inside the individual coral polyps tissue, is killed. The cyanobacteria provides the coral polyps with "food" by means of photosynthesis, and also gives the coral its color. The main culprit for bleaching is climate change and increased nutrient loads in the water. For the Keys in particular, wastewater and septic leaching has played a large roll over the years. Things like the sewer going in, and programs to repopulate the long spined urchin are playing huge rolls in reestablishing the health of the Keys reefs... but its a sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow road to improvement.
    Conch (queen conch- not the native peeps) populations are healthy- way better than any given area in the Bahamas.
    I know of reefs that have so many conch on the grass just inside of the reef that the #'s go into the hundreds just based on what you can see on that single patch, in your field of vision.
    I also know of reefs that are incredibly healthy- elkhorn, staghorn, star, pillar, brain, etc corals in abundance, and healthy too. But they sure aint the reefs marked with mooring balls...

    Anyways, whatever... the Keys aint dead. They've changed, and they'll continue to change. Its a delicate balancing act.
  • gruntkinggruntking Posts: 792 Officer
    I was going to say that I think the Keys are much better now than when I was first there in 1993.:shrug
    No more fish traps, no more gill nets, no more PLL's in the Straits etc. Now, if they continue the MPA crap, it could get ugly.:wink
  • aquasport190aquasport190 Posts: 337 Officer
    I can't speak to the old days as I first got down to The Keys about 15 years ago. It seems pretty nice to me. In my expert opinion, the marine environment is much nicer than New Jersey, but not quite as nice as the Bahamamian out islands. :D
  • INTREPID377INTREPID377 Posts: 3,719 Captain
    The keys are dead and gone....not what I remember....all the true conchs have sold out and live in Ocala and mt Dora...the first generation bubba's are just about what's left.....you got the whacks, hacks, and New everything's now....I say so long and good riddance...you will never know what you lost because you never respected what you had, you don't even know what you lost and that is the sad truth....

    The keys are more than the living reef, its ecosystem. Yes things are bad, very bad, but can come back over time. The reef may beable to come back in a few decades. Heck it may take a hundred or a thousand years, who knows, I will not be alive to see it.
    But the keys are really not about just the reef, if I have to explain what the keys are all about then you missed the boat.....you don't even know what you lost and that is the sad truth....

    Will the last pirate of the conch republic please lower the flag as we hoist the last toast....
    I really miss her, but she past away in the mid to late eighties....her spirit has gone over the horizon .........just her rotting shell of a body is left.....

    I'd hate to go through life worrying about what's changed rather than finding what's good. Hope you enjoy Orlando. It's truly paradise compared to the Keys.
  • gruntkinggruntking Posts: 792 Officer
    I'd hate to go through life worrying about what's changed rather than finding what's good. Hope you enjoy Orlando. It's truly paradise compared to the Keys.

    Couple more months. I'll be looking forward to some dolphin reports and participating in some hopefully.:beer
  • Captjohn5150Captjohn5150 Posts: 1,696 Captain
    I used to work and live in the keys in the days gone bye....friends lived in duck key....was there alot...the fishing and diving as well as the personal freedom that you had there was god like....I lived and worked in marathon....sold fish to city fish....I saw and did things that you will dream about....you were not there to enjoy it...so sorry...lived for weeks at a time on the contents....fished for sharks with a shore bound long line.....I could go on and on just hinting of what the keys were like.....as i stated before, most if not all of the true conchs are living up here by me in central florida.......you ever wonder why Adam and Eve left paradise.....they were thrown out by God....same could be said about the conchs....they were thrown out by the want to be gods with crap filled dreams and true crap for brains.....
    The bubba's that are left are not conchs, not even close....heck there are not any new bubba's either....
    All thats left is garbage....and yes we are enjoying orlando and the greater central florida area....
    Nicer people, less taxes, great fishing, great hunting, not as restrictive.....we could go on.....
    You have NO idea what was lost, you will never know......
    For the love of all outdoors recreational activities....what my spelling is off, that will learn ya. Pimping ain't easy unless u went to FSU, its a BS course.
    What do u get when you can connect the dots, color inside the lines, and get your release papers.....sentence served, times up at Felon sentenced university.
    Floridas first woman's college.
    The only difference between FSU and all the other colleges are other colleges accept you into the university's. At FSU you are taken into custody.
  • aboveboredabovebored Posts: 1,227 Officer
    I used to work and live in the keys in the days gone bye....friends lived in duck key....was there alot...the fishing and diving as well as the personal freedom that you had there was god like....I lived and worked in marathon....sold fish to city fish....I saw and did things that you will dream about....you were not there to enjoy it...so sorry...lived for weeks at a time on the contents....fished for sharks with a shore bound long line.....I could go on and on just hinting of what the keys were like.....as i stated before, most if not all of the true conchs are living up here by me in central florida.......you ever wonder why Adam and Eve left paradise.....they were thrown out by God....same could be said about the conchs....they were thrown out by the want to be gods with crap filled dreams and true crap for brains.....
    The bubba's that are left are not conchs, not even close....heck there are not any new bubba's either....
    All thats left is garbage....and yes we are enjoying orlando and the greater central florida area....
    Nicer people, less taxes, great fishing, great hunting, not as restrictive.....we could go on.....
    You have NO idea what was lost, you will never know......

    Hellfire Capt John I know just what you mean...Like, you can't even drink and drive down there anymore with all the **** PO PO runnin round
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 442 Deckhand
    I can't speak to the old days as I first got down to The Keys about 15 years ago. It seems pretty nice to me. In my expert opinion, the marine environment is much nicer than New Jersey, but not quite as nice as the Bahamamian out islands. :D

    Yep, I hear ya.

    Maybe the Keys aren't nearly as good as they used to be, but I can say for sure that they're a whole hell of a lot better than where I return to (well from a fishing standpoint, anyway). After a month in March or April in the Keys catching hundreds or thousands of fish of many different species, I return home and fish Chincoteague, VA sometime in May when the "hot bite" is on. It is the most depressing fishing day of the year for me, the first day fishing after going back home. At that time there is only one species inshore that is reliable enough to fish for: flounder. Woo-frickin-hoo. A big one is 2 or 3 lbs, and if you catch 10 fish you're having a good day. There are redfish in the surf in May, but catching one is like hitting the jackpot. There are the black sea bass, cod, and tautog on the wrecks. The closest wrecks are about 10 and 13 miles out (in different directions, mind you) but neither of those are very good. The "good" wrecks, where you can actually catch decent sea bass (including whoppers up to a whole 4-5 lbs) are 20-50 miles out, and spread out by about 10 miles between each. Other than the wrecks, the bottom is a complete desert and a complete waste of time to fish. Nothing at all happens offshore until late June, when bluefin tuna may or may not show up in catchable numbers for up to 3 weeks, but they are the closest of the pelagics, and to get to them it's a 40-mile run each way. In July, a few mahi and an occasional cobia move in - some as close as 40 miles out - but they are so scattered it's hard to catch them without trolling (and I hate trolling). There are no good weed lines until late summer/fall, and the only reliable surface structure is a couple of weather buoys and a line of lobster pot buoys, which are in 250 ft, which is a run of approximately 55-60 miles one way. The Gulf Stream sometimes swings in as close as 60 miles at the canyons, and there are some yellowfin and other pelagics out there, but it hurts my neck, back, and wallet to go out there. On my friend's fuel efficient 32' Yellowfin a typical day of offshore fishing takes 100+ gallons of gas.

    So if anyone thinks the Keys are ruined... try switching places with us in the mid-Atlantic.

    The older I get the more I try to not worry about crap I can't do anything about. Yeah the whole planet is doomed (mainly due to unbounded population growth and demand for resources IMO), but there's not a thing I can do about it except try to not make it any worse. Life is too short to dwell on how good things used to be. Might as well try to enjoy the ride...none of us has that much time left.
  • BacklashBacklash Posts: 879 Officer
    I used to work and live in the keys in the days gone bye....friends lived in duck key....was there alot...the fishing and diving as well as the personal freedom that you had there was god like....I lived and worked in marathon....sold fish to city fish....I saw and did things that you will dream about....you were not there to enjoy it...so sorry...lived for weeks at a time on the contents....fished for sharks with a shore bound long line.....I could go on and on just hinting of what the keys were like.....as i stated before, most if not all of the true conchs are living up here by me in central florida.......you ever wonder why Adam and Eve left paradise.....they were thrown out by God....same could be said about the conchs....they were thrown out by the want to be gods with crap filled dreams and true crap for brains.....
    The bubba's that are left are not conchs, not even close....heck there are not any new bubba's either....
    All thats left is garbage....and yes we are enjoying orlando and the greater central florida area....
    Nicer people, less taxes, great fishing, great hunting, not as restrictive.....we could go on.....
    You have NO idea what was lost, you will never know......


    So, to summerize:
    Unless you lived in the Keys during the days of Godlike personal freedoms which allowed you to irresponsibly **** and plunder the marine resources to the point of ruining the Keys... Then you are garbage.

    ****?

    Thanks Capt, and back at ya you big ol hypocrite.
    Thanks for helping to kill it, then desert it, claim no responsibilty for it, and call the ones who are now helping to improve the damage done by you and all the other deserters "garbage". Your a rare piece of work sir- Glad you're long gone.
  • aquasport190aquasport190 Posts: 337 Officer
    Nautical: We just wrapped up winter sea bass season. 70 miles each way in Feb. I've done it once and it's a tough way to get a few filets. Striped bass season just opened up in NJ. I'm looking out my back window and our pool and pond are both frozen. :)
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 442 Deckhand
    Nautical: We just wrapped up winter sea bass season. 70 miles each way in Feb. I've done it once and it's a tough way to get a few filets. Striped bass season just opened up in NJ. I'm looking out my back window and our pool and pond are both frozen. :)

    Fishing the ocean in the winter, and 140 miles of wind chill... Brrr!! No fish are worth that amount of pain IMO... and I say that as a guy who loves to hike in shin-deep snow! Stripers are a winter option for us in the Chesapeake and coastal towns but I've only been out for them once in the winter. It was actually really good fishing around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel that day, but it was still pretty hard core going out there.

    Yesterday and today are our boat packing days to get it ready for the trip to the Keys. The hatches wouldn't close right until I cleared the ice out from under them. We take the boat down to SC (where the best Triton service center is) a month early so they can get any repairs done.

    Backlash wrote: »
    So, to summerize:
    Unless you lived in the Keys during the days of Godlike personal freedoms which allowed you to irresponsibly **** and plunder the marine resources to the point of ruining the Keys... Then you are garbage.

    ****?

    Thanks Capt, and back at ya you big ol hypocrite.
    Thanks for helping to kill it, then desert it, claim no responsibilty for it, and call the ones who are now helping to improve the damage done by you and all the other deserters "garbage". Your a rare piece of work sir- Glad you're long gone.

    Exactly. Long lining for sharks from shore, etc.. And he wonders why things aren't as good as they used to be. If someone can't respect the fishery they don't deserve it...I don't care where they were born or how long they were there.
  • Captjohn5150Captjohn5150 Posts: 1,696 Captain
    Sorry i haven't replied any sooner, was hog hunting, scouting areas....private land up here.....man oh man was it cold today....must of been 39 degrees this morning and warmed up to 55 if i was lucky.....
    Any way the bait was taken. If you replied that its a whole lot better, or your a fish ****, ect you have know idea of what was lost.....
    In layman's terms......you just ran a race and came in 2nd place, not bad, not bad at all. It is only when you find out that the 1st place runner beat you to the finish line so far in front of you that he is already showered off, had lunch and given 9 interviews.....
    That is what the florida keys are today.....leavings, crumbs of both the state of mind, ecology, life force and its very heart and sole. It's blood has been drained from its body...
    It has been put on life support, machines are tring to keep its lifeless body going.
    If you think that what is left is great you are the ones that have zero idea what was lost, what will never come back.
    Those of us who know what is gone are and will be in a state of morning for the rest of our lives....
    If you don't know, just never will, the boat has sailed....
    For the love of all outdoors recreational activities....what my spelling is off, that will learn ya. Pimping ain't easy unless u went to FSU, its a BS course.
    What do u get when you can connect the dots, color inside the lines, and get your release papers.....sentence served, times up at Felon sentenced university.
    Floridas first woman's college.
    The only difference between FSU and all the other colleges are other colleges accept you into the university's. At FSU you are taken into custody.
  • aquasport190aquasport190 Posts: 337 Officer
    Nautical: I noticed you fish Chincoteage. I have a buddy with a house there and another one in Greenbackville so I've fished there a few times. My in-laws used to live on the Chesapeake and I used to fish there a ton. They were on Deal Island and we used to take the boat to Smith and Tangier Island. Never got down to the CBBT, though.
  • BacklashBacklash Posts: 879 Officer
    Sorry i haven't replied any sooner, was hog hunting, scouting areas....private land up here.....man oh man was it cold today....must of been 39 degrees this morning and warmed up to 55 if i was lucky.....
    Any way the bait was taken. If you replied that its a whole lot better, or your a fish ****, ect you have know idea of what was lost.....
    In layman's terms......you just ran a race and came in 2nd place, not bad, not bad at all. It is only when you find out that the 1st place runner beat you to the finish line so far in front of you that he is already showered off, had lunch and given 9 interviews.....
    That is what the florida keys are today.....leavings, crumbs of both the state of mind, ecology, life force and its very heart and sole. It's blood has been drained from its body...
    It has been put on life support, machines are tring to keep its lifeless body going.
    If you think that what is left is great you are the ones that have zero idea what was lost, what will never come back.
    Those of us who know what is gone are and will be in a state of morning for the rest of our lives....
    If you don't know, just never will, the boat has sailed....

    Alright, I'll bite again.
    For the record, I do know what your saying, I understand how it doesn't compare today.
    My family has been frequenting the Keys since the early 60's. I've seen the pics, heard the stories, etc. Things were amazing, bountiful, abundant and there for the taking. And ya'll took it until there wasn't much left... Its human nature, seemed like there was no consequence at the time I'm sure.
    Take a look at the Monroe Co Public Library's Flicker pages of "dead fish"... kinda sums it up
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/keyslibraries/collections/72157621960249253/
    3193799155_b1e903a55f_z1_zpsed9c9c9a.jpg
    5711036657_57e6e01826_z1_zps85d29ba2.jpg
    2592475479_c2c504b695_z1_zpsc56c184e.jpg
    5711674632_f7ac6076e5_z1_zpseefbb883.jpg
    5711616794_a73c22cb8b_z1_zpsce4e06dd.jpg
    5711615002_9820110fc8_z1_zpsb81cbcf2.jpg


    But it's all a matter of perspective.
    Do you think there aren't folks born and raised in the Ocala area who feel the same way about it up there? Who think all the true Ocalans are long gone, who think that you are garbage, who think that because you enjoy that area now equates to you not having **** clue of what you missed before you showed up? They probably left around the time you showed up, and moved to Montana or Idaho where there is still true open spaces, god like freedom, and a plethora of real wild game- not miniature hogs and scrawny whitetails which taste like turpentine. Perspective.

    What I like about the Keys, even in todays day and age, is that I can launch my skiff any day after work.. plane out to the reefline, hop in with nothing but a lungful of air and a hawaiian sling, and come back with enough grouper, muttons, and hogs to feed my family for a few days. Lobster are still easy enough to find (mini season needs to END NOW).
    I like that I can take my 5 y.o. daughter out to the reef and swim in circles with eagle rays, show her the beauty of a flamingo tounge on a sea fan, listen to her laugh through her snorkel when watching grunts 'kiss', and share in her pride when she's smiling ear to ear for the picture of her first keeper mutton.
    I like that I taught my Son to freedive when he was 6. That he caught his first lobsters shortly after- on one of those after work reef trips. I enjoyed watching him shoot his first hogfish with a sling on a breath of air at 7. I love that he is concious of conservation efforts, bag limits, and will never kill needlessly. I love taking the lobsters and fish to our sandbar, breaking out the grill, and enjoying it there, on the spot. My pics and memories:
    lob.jpg
    DSC_0172.jpg
    DSC_0083.jpg

    I really love that world class bonefishing exists about 1/2 mile from my doorstep, and that I can take my canoe- throw it in my truck, drive a block, throw it in the drink, and be throwing flies at trophy bones within 20 minutes from walking out my door. My pictures & memories:
    boneonteak.jpg
    boneportrait.jpg

    I like that we can have a Blue Marlin crash our schoolie dolphin party, and then proceed to catch him on said schoolies. Again, my pics and memories:
    marlin.jpg

    I love friends getting together and going out to the reef to catch and release a few sails:
    IMG_0117.jpg

    I like that in the winter, like today, when it's cold and blowing, I can take my family or friends in my skiff to any number of small mangrove creeks, stake up in the sun/blocked from the wind and proceed to catch enough keeper snapper for a great fresh dinner and even greater memories... Or Reds in the bay... and it's nice that it gets warm enough to remove the shirt and hydrate with a beer as well.
    photo5.jpg

    I could go on and on and on....
    I doubt any of this are the things that I missed out on by not being here simultaneously as you Capt... And thats fine, because I wouldn't trade any of it. But for you to call me & my family "garbage" for living here and finding enjoyment in doing so is moronic and incredibly judgemental.
    Everyone has their glory days & years, and for the sake of my kids and their perspective, they're going to be experiencing their own glory days in the next decade to come.
    I'm fine with coming in second place, or even last place on your list. Not putting too much weight on your rankings.
    Enjoy your freezing mornings and toy sized hogs... No matter where you are, it is what ya make of it.
  • ChumbagChumbag Posts: 381 Officer
    Nice reply Backlash.
  • aquasport190aquasport190 Posts: 337 Officer
    Backlash, yes you are a pirate. 200 years too late. The cannons don't thunder, there's nothing to plunder, your an over-forty victim of fate...arriving too late, arriving too late. :)

    I can't help when I was born and when I started fishing The Keys either. But I really enjoy it. Even if it used to be better back in the day.
  • INTREPID377INTREPID377 Posts: 3,719 Captain
    Backlash, you're my new favorite member. If you ever want to hang with some more "garbage" and share a beer and stories, I'll buy.
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 442 Deckhand
    Yep. Spot on again Backlash. More diplomatic than my next response would have been, but I'll leave it at that.

    And Aquasport... awesome application of that verse. Fins Up! (My wife's license plate is actually FINZZUP).
  • ChumbagChumbag Posts: 381 Officer
    Backlash, you're my new favorite member. If you ever want to hang with some more "garbage" and share a beer and stories, I'll buy.

    I would love to trade Captjohn5150's new found paradise of Central Florida for the Keys if I could figure out a way to make it work financially. It would be great to join the garbage men and generate some glory days. Congratulations to you guys for pulling it off.
  • Captjohn5150Captjohn5150 Posts: 1,696 Captain
    Sorry not answering sooner, my dad the old war horse fell out of his chair and broke his hip at 5 am....

    About me....family owned large tract of land on marathon....bought just before ww2, grandfather owned it....so we played in the keys....sold land in the 1970's at the start of the new boom...lived in light house point, and palm beach....we were and always have been part of the rich traditions that are now dead and gone from the keys....
    We were invited into the world of the true 1 st pioneers of the keys...funny i worked on several commercial boats owned and run by conchs who moved from the keys to the palm beach area. They left because of the onslaught of newbie know it all googans who just didnt get it...the place is a dump now....I guess it's better than palm beach which is a toilet today by all standards....
    If you don't know whats gone you just don't know.....and man i love me some jewfish....it's a shame you never got to hunt them...good friend of mine Gary caygel died popping one about 5 years ago down there....east side of west in 15 foot of water....shallow black out....

    You are now officially delegated to special Ed. WANTA be bubba....
    I have to play at hospital with pops, have fun in the sand box.
    For the love of all outdoors recreational activities....what my spelling is off, that will learn ya. Pimping ain't easy unless u went to FSU, its a BS course.
    What do u get when you can connect the dots, color inside the lines, and get your release papers.....sentence served, times up at Felon sentenced university.
    Floridas first woman's college.
    The only difference between FSU and all the other colleges are other colleges accept you into the university's. At FSU you are taken into custody.
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 442 Deckhand
    Thanks. Oh I WILL have fun in the sand box! It's only a month away and I can't wait to bring all of my shiny new toys.

    Have fun with Mickey. M-I-C-K-E-Y.... M-O-U-S-E
  • BacklashBacklash Posts: 879 Officer
    About me....family owned large tract of land on marathon....bought just before ww2, grandfather owned it....so we played in the keys....sold land in the 1970's at the start of the new boom...lived in light house point, and palm beach....we were and always have been part of the rich traditions that are now dead and gone from the keys....
    We were invited into the world of the true 1 st pioneers of the keys...funny i worked on several commercial boats owned and run by conchs who moved from the keys to the palm beach area. They left because of the onslaught of newbie know it all googans who just didnt get it...the place is a dump now....I guess it's better than palm beach which is a toilet today by all standards....
    If you don't know whats gone you just don't know.....and man i love me some jewfish....it's a shame you never got to hunt them...good friend of mine Gary caygel died popping one about 5 years ago down there....east side of west in 15 foot of water....shallow black out....

    You are now officially delegated to special Ed. WANTA be bubba....
    I have to play at hospital with pops, have fun in the sand box.

    About you? Who here really gives a ****?
    You're obviously a jaded ol SOB who cannot get past the past. The only difference between you and the other googs of the time is that you met Conchs with poor enough judgement to bring you into their world. Otherwise you were just another goog from Lighthouse Point with family ties to vacation property in Marathon. Wow. Amazing.
    It's funny to me that with all your typing that your are not articulate enough to expound upon what it is that was lost. I've heard broken records with less repetition, hysterical women who give out more information... just over and over "it's gone- you dont know what it is, and that makes me supreme"...

    If your good friend died down here trying to perform an illegal act five years ago... then I'm confused. What was he doing here? The blood had drained from the corpse by the late 80's. Theres nothing here but garbage and crumbs, what could he have been looking for? Unless of course he didn't agree with your cynical outlook.
    How do you know I've never hunted jewfish? How do you know if I have or haven't taken a 80 lb Cubera from 90' with nothing but long fins, a sling, and a swivel-tip pole spear? How do you know if I have or haven't popped a wahoo in open water with a sling only? You only know what you know, and your knowledge's parameters include nothing on me sir.
    Special ed? Sure, ok thats cool... But I aint no wanna be bubba. Get it right, it's much worse than that. I'm a transplanted Yankee who also feel in with Conchs with poor enough judgement to let me in their world. Also have made enough Bahamian friends in my trips over to really wade through everyones BS. I especially enjoy when the Bahamians come and stay with us, and getting their take on the Keys... it's much less bleak than yours.

    I dont wanna be anything that I currently am not.

    I do hope Pops' hip heals up ok... best of luck to him.
  • BacklashBacklash Posts: 879 Officer
    Aquasport- Under 40 victim of fate... for another year or so anyways.

    Intrepid 377 - hells yeah sir. I would enjoy a libation or 6 with like minded trash. When are you down? Nice vessel you've got there BTW.

    Wheeler & Chum - thx guys.
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 442 Deckhand
    Sorry not answering sooner, my dad the old war horse fell out of his chair and broke his hip at 5 am....

    About me....family owned large tract of land on marathon....bought just before ww2, grandfather owned it....so we played in the keys....sold land in the 1970's at the start of the new boom...lived in light house point, and palm beach....we were and always have been part of the rich traditions that are now dead and gone from the keys....
    We were invited into the world of the true 1 st pioneers of the keys...funny i worked on several commercial boats owned and run by conchs who moved from the keys to the palm beach area. They left because of the onslaught of newbie know it all googans who just didnt get it...the place is a dump now....I guess it's better than palm beach which is a toilet today by all standards....
    If you don't know whats gone you just don't know.....and man i love me some jewfish....it's a shame you never got to hunt them...good friend of mine Gary caygel died popping one about 5 years ago down there....east side of west in 15 foot of water....shallow black out....

    You are now officially delegated to special Ed. WANTA be bubba....
    I have to play at hospital with pops, have fun in the sand box.

    You win. First place. Ahead of the pack.

    A living legend. The Most Interesting Man In The World.

    You don't always go fishing, but when you do, you always catch TWO world record Jewfish. Two, because the second one is always bigger than the first. Besides, you need to catch the second one to work out your other arm.

    People only thought Captain Tony Tarracino was a legend because he stole all of his stories from You and claimed credit.

    If there isn't a Fishing Hall of Fame yet, they should build one just so they can put You in it as the first member. Of course, they would immediately close it because there would be no point of inducting anyone else.

    You are almost a God. Mortal men tremble in the mere sight of your presence. We will never be worthy to lick the dust off of the soles of your boots. We can never begin to comprehend the magnitude of your experiences.

    M - I - C - K - E - Y M - O - U - S - E
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