Florida Middle Grounds on Fire

Middle Grounds on Fire
We who are fortunate enough to call the Sunshine state home are very proud of our reputation as the 'Fishing Capital of the World.' We are honored to show our Northern friends what real fishing, Florida fishing, is all about. Many travel great distances to fish the fish rich waters of our fabulous Florida Middle Grounds. The Grounds, known for its succession of ancient coral reefs, covers an area of 461 square miles and is home to 170 species of fish.
Mr. Tim Fisher often travels 1,000 miles from Nineveh, Indiana to fish on Hubbard Marina's Florida Fisherman ll. Joining us, along with Tim, for Friday's 39 hour adventure deep into the very heart of our Gulf of Mexico are husband and wife team Becky & C J Gaither, Jim Stone, and, bringing up the rear, Tim himself:
Will the Middle Grounds be on fire? Will some of those 170 species of fish be hungry? Only one way to find out, let's go see. After catching a few kings and telling some whoppers around the dinner table, it's time to hit the bunks. After all, we will be challenging the monsters of the deep for 20 straight hours of actual fishing time. We want to be at our best.
Gosh! Captain Mark Hubbard, that was one quick night. Hope the fish are ready for an early morning breakfast. Now that really looks impressive, Mr. Leo Smith:
Looks like the mangrove snapper are hungry: Those little devils are hard to catch. But we are determined to make them pay for their meal:
Hold on! That's no mango snapper. This thing is fast, and ever so strong. What a prize:
Talk about speed, the kings are in and they are ready for a fight, but so are we. Mr. Leo Smith, A proud Marine, and Mr Mike Rees, owner of Queen Anne Guest House Bed & Breakfast, Galena Illinois, show the kings who the bosses really are:
Only one little problem with Galena, the average April low is 36 degrees. Wonder what the Winters are like?
The kings are 'on fire,' and they are running big:
Can our guest from Indiana deal with the Florida, 'Middle Grounds on Fire?' Can they catch our Florida Fish? You had better believe it. Mr. Tim Fisher, Nineveh, In.
Tim is also very good at putting a good old 'Southern hurtin' on our Country sausage gravy with all the trimmings:
Mr. Jim Stone, Greenwood, In.
Wow! Even the girls of team Indiana can really fish. Mrs. Becky Gaither, Nineveh, In.
Becky, give the guys a chance:
Jim, The Hoosier state can be proud of team Indiana:
Becky, thanks for leaving that huge trigger fish for hubby, Mr. C J Gaither:
What a beautiful kitty mitchell grouper. We do not see too many of them on the Grounds:
Mr. Brad Aucker, Williston, Florida:
Talk about something we do not see too often, how about a lion fish & strawberry grouper on a chicken rig?
Let's push out to around 240 feet and catch some red grouper:
Mr. Tom Sickley, fishing out of LaSalle, Illinois. Only one little problem with LaSalle, the average April low is 39 degrees. Come to think of it...that's a petty cold problem:
Mr. John Martin, probably be a good idea for us to stay in Florida:
John, that grouper has an FWC tag. It's been caught and survived. Call the number on the tag for a really nice 'T' shirt:
John is giving us a lesson. That's jack pot material:
Hope we have a real American red season this year:
Now that one is worth remembering:
Joel, sir you did a fine job:
Mary Sue Martin, what a way to celebrate a birthday:
Guys, I hate to say it...but the girls are taking over. Representing Puerto Rico, Ms. Yolmai Cruz:
Mr. John Martin shows the ladies how to do it:
Think the 1,000 mile drive from Indiana was worth it? That big smile says it all. Tim's sister lives in Sarasota, Florida. Tim, move to the Sunshine state & you could do this every day:
The tuna are 'on fire!' And they are hungry:
Representing the eighth grade class of Rodgers Middle School, New York, Master Ramsumariv:
Well! Our old sun is about ready to call it a day:
In honor of our Northern friends Chef Tammy is serving 'Yankee' pot roast with all the trimmings. Those cooked to perfection red potatoes are something else. We are stuffed, and all but fished out.. We already have an outstanding catch. Maybe just a few more:
Becky, Nineveh, Indiana can sure be proud of you. I know we are:
How about leaving a little something for hubby? Looks like C J will be sharing his dinner with a big, bad, barracuda:
That fish box is stuffed, and it's not the only one. After all, this is Florida, this is the 'Fishing Capital of the World.'
There is absolutely no give up in team Indiana. Mr. Jim Stone, that's a beautiful mutton. Better come back to Florida May 7 for our 63 hour mutton snapper special. We are going way South to catch them as they migrate. It's going to be a good one. We need your help:
Tim (L), Jim, C J & Becky, it's been a pleasure to welcome you to the Sunshine state. Please don't be strangers. Our sport needs more like you:
Let's check out the 'in the money' jack pot winners. Captain Mark Hubbard, standing in back, is so proud of our winners, Mr Mark Lamirande's (L) AJ hit the scales @ 33.0 pounds, Mr. John Martin's, red grouper @ 20.7 pounds. and Team Indiana's own Mr. Jim Stone took the snapper jack pot with his 12.62 pound mutton.

We caught at least 5 lion fish on this trip. 2.7 pounds in a big boy. Spines were cut off for safety purposes:
We did so well that I have decided to go again this Tuesday. Way too much fun to miss.
Can we really say. 'Middle Grounds on Fire' and back it up? This says it all:

Check out the short, action packed video. Watch Yolmari in action 5:05 minutes into the video, and Becky 6:05. You simply will not believe your eyes:
(click on the YouTube link)

Bob Harbison Florida Outdoor Writers Association


  • dredale7dredale7 Posts: 30 Deckhand
    great report as usual Bob! Keep up the good work!
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 3,251 Captain
    Thank you sir. You are the reason I do what I do. Best! Bob
  • spydermonkeyspydermonkey Posts: 765 Officer
    Enjoyed the report. I think I read that ARS is gonna be a one day season this year:cry What were the kings hitting?
    "Insert intelligent sounding quote here"
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 3,251 Captain
    NOAA has not released the ARS dates. Believe nothing you read until they do.
    The kings were on fire. We fished from 125 to 240 feet. They were everywhere. We landed around 25. But that is only a fraction of what we had on. We were snapper & red grouper fishing. They cut our mono leaders to pieces. They, as well as the tuna, were hitting everything we threw at them. Jigs, live pins, cut thread fins, they were just hungry. Going again this Tuesday. Just too many fish out there not to.
  • 2WayCenter2WayCenter Posts: 225 Officer
    Great report and pics. Interestingly, core samples revealed that the middle grounds are not ancient coral reefs, but were constructed by vermetid snails.

  • harbisonharbison Posts: 3,251 Captain
    Thank you sir.
    As far as the Middle Grounds go here is what Wikipedia has to say:
    The Florida Middle Grounds are a succession of ancient coral reefs 1,193 square kilometres (461 square miles) in area located in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, approximately 128 kilometres (80 miles) west northwest of the West coast of Florida. These reefs consist of a series of both high and low relief limestone ledges and pinnacles that exceed 15 metres (49 feet) in some areas. Roughly 348 NM² of this hardbottom region 150 kilometres (93 miles) south of the panhandle coast and 160 kilometres (99 miles) northwest of Tampa Bay between 28° 10' and 28° 45' N and 084°00' and 084°25' W is considered a habitat area.[1]

    The Florida middle grounds evolved approximately 20,000 years ago when ocean levels were much lower and sunlight was available to corals. As the ocean level increased it outpaced abilities of certain coral species to extract the necessary light spectrum from the sun's rays.

    Today’s middle ground reef ecosystem represents the northern most scope of mid-shelf octocoral communities in North America. It is a prehistoric coral-reef complex that has bio-similarities to modern patch-reefs, and a species distribution that includes both Carolinian and Caribbean components. The fish species are markedly tropical, with stony coral, gorgonians, and sponge dominating the community that relies upon the existence of the Loop Current. Currently, there are 170 species of fish, 103 species of algae, approximately 40sponges, 75 mollusks, 56 decapod crustaceans, 41 polychaetes, 23 echinoderms and 23 species of stony corals.[2]
  • Mark O.Mark O. Posts: 3,416 Captain
    Epic! I'm worn out just looking at the post.
  • 2WayCenter2WayCenter Posts: 225 Officer
    Most welcome sir

    "The most prevalent and persistent hypothesis was that the Florida Middle Ground was a buildup of coral reefs. The coral-reef hypothesis was first proposed in the early 1960s and survived until USGS scientists succeeded in collecting samples from inside the ridges."

    "In 1972 Master’s thesis for Florida State University, Robert M. Back mentioned a 2.1-meter (6.9 foot) core collected by another researcher from an unknown location in the Florida Middle Ground and described simply as “carbonate rock.” On the basis of this and other information available to them in 2010, the USGS scientists expected that the cores they planned to collect would confirm and add detail to the coral-reef hypothesis for the origin of the ridges."

    But what they really found was quite different:

    "Collectively, over the 5 days of diving and coring, the team logged 65 dives with a total bottom time of 101 hours. They drilled four holes that ranged in depth from 0.6 to 17 meters (2 feet to 57 feet) below the seafloor. Collected enough material to complete a suite of analyses and make several definitive conclusions regarding the geologic history of the Florida Middle Grounds."

    "So what did the scientists find? One thing they didn’t find in any of the recovered material was remnants of coral. The Florida Middle Ground was not a coral reef buildup as many had previously presumed it to be. The scientists were all a bit dumbfounded to discover that the ridges consisted of unconsolidated marine calcareous muddy sand, about 12 meters (40 feet) thick, overlying a weathered, fossiliferous limestone of Miocene age (between 5 and 22 million years old) and capped by a carbonate rock composed primarily of the sessile vermetid gastropod Petaloconchus sp. (a marine snail that cements its tubular shell to a hard surface, such as a rock or another shell; see photograph)."
  • jimmypjimmyp Posts: 50 Greenhorn
    Great pics, report and history of the middlegrounds.
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