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6-8 feet (Sat)
2-4 feet (Sun)
This was almost my second week without an update, but a very interesting thing happened this past week. I found out I have a fan (and no, not a facebook fan)! Don't worry, I won't let the celebrity of it all go to my head and anywhere you want to put my Internet Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame will do (maybe somewhere between the Dancing Baby and iCarly :). Not wanting to disappoint my now growing public I figured I wouldn't forego this week's minimal goings-on in a blog. This one's for you, -------- (you know who you are).
Our mostly infamous lobster mini season (or March of the Morons as we like to think of it) occurred this past Wednesday and Thursday as it does every year on the last Wednesday and Thursday of every July. Fraught with reports of capsized boats, lost divers (most of them rescued successfully) and sadly at least 2 deaths that I was aware of just in the Florida Keys. I guess for the number of people that participate the incidents are relatively few, but still way too many in my opinion. I didn't get to participate this year as work responsibilities would interfere, but I had a couple of friends that gave it that old college try. This year however, it wasn't only my job that would interfere but Mother Nature herself.
Starting Tuesday afternoon, the winds started picking up to 20-25 S/SE and the forecast foretold of more of the same throughout the weekend. Not trusting the forecast too much, everybody jumped in their boats and headed out at dawn to hunt down those cockroach crawfish. Unfortunately for them, the forecast was dead-on this week. The wind was howling and the seas were rocking. I got reports of 4-6 foot seas inside the reef and viz of about a foot (no that's not a typo, 12 inches of viz). At least they were kind enough to call me and let me know I wasn't missing a thing. Of course when I answered the call, I was expecting the perennial sounds of crustacean excitation, but that wouldn't be the case this time.
Holding accurately, the weather pretty much sucked through the entire mini season keeping catches to well below the legal bag limits (at least in the lower keys). It was pretty disappointing for my friends because we had been seeing so many lobster that everyone was pretty excited over the two day lift on the lobster ban. I arrived for the weekend to see nothing but long faces and lots of empty beer bottles. The conditions weren't very good for much of anything but drinking.
By mid Sunday morning (notice the obvious omission of a lackluster Saturday) my brother in law and other lobstering friends were heading for home. Either from suffering the disappointment of the bad catch or due to other familiar obligations. I decided to stay and enjoy the rest of the day since I hadn't been able to arrive on Tuesday like "some people". We decided to hang out and head out to the sand bar with a couple of other families and make the best of a bad weather weekend by huge amounts of sympathy food and drink.
I decided to pack my gear (more on this a little later) and head out little early to see what the viz was like since the seas had dropped to a relatively calm 2-3 feet. We arrange to meet the other families in a couple of hours at the sand bar, pack all the food and drink and head out to good old #67 to see what the viz held. Arriving at the spot I notice the viz is actually pretty good and can spot the bottom from inside the boat. The seas were rocking just a bit, but nothing that couldn't be put up with for a little while (Once again I must stress the fact that diving much less spearfishing alone is not something that I am condoning for anyone and honestly shouldn't do myself either - but hey, like I tell my kids... "do as I say not as I do").
Unfortunately, as I'm donning my gear I realize the I have left my fin boots and gloves back at the campground. Luckily, I had an old pair of boots that my son was using on the boat, but I was dreading the thought of handling thrashing fish and the threat of a popped sling without the protection of the gloves. Regardless, I had come too far and decided to grin and bear it and jump in.
#67 wasn't exactly loaded with fish, but a little patience paid off as there was a school of curious mangroves that kept coming around and I was able to pick off a few of the big ones on each pass. After shooting a few fish that I was happy with but hoping for more, I decided to move on to #25. This spot is very frequented by a couple of fishing charter boats from the area but usually holds enough fish for everyone and today I was the only boat in the area. Up until now, I had only gotten poked by some dorsal spines by a couple of the fish I had shot (they can't all be stone shots) but wasn't too much worse for the wear and had pretty much forgotten about the fact that I wasn't using gloves to handle the fish (but I would soon be reminded).
At #25, I found some very respectably sized mangroves and was only too happy to give chase and land a couple more for the freezer back home. One of those fish however did remind me that gloves really aren't an optional piece of equipment for this sport. As I reel in the fish (probably the biggest one of the day) and go to rip out his gills to get him to stop thrashing so I can toss him up on the boat (I had lost my kill knife about a week before), my hand slips (obviously due to the lack of a glove) and his gill plate slashes my thumb to the bone right above the joint (the real reason gloves are necessary). I felt the cut right away but didn't react because I needed to subdue the fish. Once I did that and tossed him aboard, I decided I was done for the day and boarded myself to get ready for the haul to the sand bar to meet up with everyone. My son and daughter immediately notice the blood running from my thumb, so I rinse off the deck and I proceed to let them know it's not that bad and bandage it up with the handy first aid kit we always keep on board.
So... lessons to the wise (which doesn't necessarily include me) from this installment:
- Don't dive alone no matter what I may do to the contrary.
- Always pay attention and remember that all your gear is important (even the gloves).
Dive long, shoot straight and be safe.