Seas: 1-2 feet
Winds: 5-10 SSW
Temp: 85 F
Viz: 30-60 feet
When I arrived Fri night we started talking about what we were going to do the next morning and figured that this weekend we would pull split duty. One group would head offshore to go for dolphin and the other would hit the patch reefs and go for some of the more local fare just in case the offshore outing wasn't as productive as one might like. So the offshore fishing crew headed out before dawn. I heard them setting up in the wee hours, but figured I needed a little more rest since it was still pitch black outside, so I rolled over and tried to get in a few more Z's. After a while of tossing around and not getting any sleep I headed outside just about dawn. My brother in law came out right after and we started talking about what spots we might want to hit today. Once everybody was up, we geared up and headed out.
We found very clean water on our way out, so we were very hopeful that we would at least be able to spot the fish assuming they were there. We hit our first spot (good old #25) and we ran into some very large schools of some rather small fish. We were able to pick out a couple of good ones, but we felt our time would be better spent moving on, so we did. The next 3 spots (#8, #19 and the horseshoe) held absolutely no fish (at least none that we would want shoot) so we spent very little time at any of them. Unfortunately, even spending very little time at each spot ended up killing a couple of hours between driving, gearing, diving and moving on. And people wonder why it takes us 4-5 hours to catch the fish we do.
Luckily, we weren't discouraged and we kept going for "just one more spot." By the time we got to our last stop (The Staghorn), we had pretty much decided this really would be our last dive for the day since it was well after lunch and we were about 15 miles away from home. This spot usually holds one or two nice fish which are usually bagged by the first diver in the water, so after reminded each other of this, we jumped in. As soon as we jump in, there were 2 very nice sized mangroves swimming in and out of the staghorn coral (the spot's namesake) so I immediately descended to take the first shot. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good one and I missed the first fish clean (didn't even nick him). Thankfully he headed right back into the coral and hid out until I was able to surface and reload. Down I go, I see him in under the coral and pop him. I head up, reload, descend and pop his buddy that had decided to hang out and see what all the action was about.
By this time my brother in law is swimming the area and has found large mangroves laying on the sandy bottom that surrounds this small reef. He has also landed a couple in the meantime. The interesting thing was that if he did happen to miss one, it would take off and head straight for the coral I was sitting on as a preferred hiding spot. After watching a couple of them head into the coral, I head down to see if I can round them up, but to my surprise I can't find them in the coral. I figure they either snuck off and I didn't see them or the found a good nook in the coral that I couldn't find them in. After looking for a short while, I decide to give up on them and see if there are any lobster in this coral. The lobsters typically hide in the ceiling of this rock so lay on my back on the bottom and go under the rock to see who's home. Unfortunately,, I didn't find any lobster, but to my surprise, I did find the 3 or 4 missing snapper. They were all in a small nook in the ceiling hiding out (I assume hoping I would tire of looking for them and move on). It took a bit of doing to find an angle from which to shoot them, but I did find it and shoot them I did. At the end of the day, we headed in with our limit of very nice sized mangroves. Probably the nicest we have had a chance to shoot all summer. The only down side was the fact that we didn't have more divers with us to be able to shoot a few more. Oh well, hopefully that just means more for next time.