Upper Keys Bluewater Spearing – Islamorada
Any time you have the opportunity to go on an awesome Bluewater trip within driving distance of home the answer should always be yes! We had the opportunity to make a last minute trip down to the Florida Keys to target Bluewater species with Forever Young Charters out of Islamorada. The weather window turned out right and that is reason enough to make a quick trip down.
This whole trip became real to me the day before when Jerry Guerra asked me what I was doing the next few days. I start rattling off all the work I have on the schedule and the various tasks involved. The just says “Want to go down to the keys for a few days and shoot Wahoo with me and Hunter?” Suddenly I find myself scrambling to clear my schedule. You never want to miss an opportunity like that.
Driving Down to the Keys
Like any last minute trip, the plan changed several times the day of. The decision of who was driving and when was up in the Air. We added Ritchie Zacker and Julie Higgs to the day of the trip, which is an awesome treat. Its about 240 miles from Tampa to Islamorada, but the drive doesn’t feel too long with a couple good friends. We bullshit about past trips, future trips, and whatever else. We settle in to our hotel around 10:30 PM knowing we have to wake up early the next day for a long day of diving.
Day One: Wrecks and Wahoo
The alarm on the phone goes off at 5:15 to get to the boat on time. The plus side to waking up that early is The Overseas Highway doesn’t have its normal traffic. We load the boat with everyone’s gear and get moving just before sunrise. We get out to the wrecks before any of the other fishing or diving charters and we start up some alternating drifts. Too many floats and floatlines in the water together gets to be a hassle, so we limit it to groups of three divers. Two of the divers in each group use floatlines and one uses a reel. Each of the two groups of divers are using a flasher float rig to help bring in the fish.
Shooting Jacks on the Wreck
There is tons of life all over the wrecks as we drift over. A school of Amber Jacks cruise through and Hunter drops down and shoots a nice one! The AJ ends up weighting in around 35 pounds. On the same drift Julie Shoots a nice Yellow Jack that gets pulled into the wreck by a Goliath Grouper. Jerry did a quick drop down to about 90 feet to cut here reel line and cut our losses. We all do a few more drifts and a few more Yellow Jacks end up on the boat.
Wahoo and Chaos
We hop over to another wreck nearby and start our drift cycle. Towards the end of the drift both groups end up in close proximity to one another. Just as we are about to reset our drift a pair of Wahoo cruise by. Everyone is dropping down to try and take a quick shot on these fish. Ritchie manages a shot on one. Julie took a long shot on the other and it dodged its way over towards me. I end up tasking a long shot on the fish and it dodges the spear. Ritchie’s Wahoo is now everyone’s top priority. Wahoo have such soft flesh that you really need to put a second shot in them to make sure they end up on the boat. All the chaos that is landing this fish results in multiple diver’s gear all tangled up in the water, but the result is a beautiful wahoo on the boat to top off a solid cooler of fish.
Winding Down of Day One
After finishing out the day of diving we head in and everyone helps with all the tasks that need to happen to get the boat cleaned and organized for the next day. The boat gets washed down, the fish are cleaned and bagged, and the gear is rinsed and stored for the next day. After that it is a quick dinner and getting to bed a little later than anyone had hoped.
Day Two: Deep Wrecks and Scalloped Hammerheads
The problem with staying out too late is you tend to oversleep. As a result of forgetting to set an alarm we end up having to rush to the marina. It was no big deal, we ended up getting on the move use after sun up. Just like the day before we are back on the wrecks. The key to good Bluewater action is a strong current. All the Bluewater species tend to be a bit more active in a strong current.
Getting over a Slump
I had a bit of a slump on shooting fish the day before, so I was eager just to land something. There is suddenly a school of Jack Crevalle that cruise by. I drop down and shoot about a 12 pound jack figuring it would make decent chum later. Of course I catch hell from everyone on the boat about shooting a less desirable fish, but it does break my slump. A few drifts later I shoot a nice Ocean Triggerfish. Its no Wahoo, but it is a great eating fish.
Recovering a Spear
We happen to head back to the same wreck where Julie lost her shaft because the Yellow jack was pulled into the wreck. Any has the e exact same thing happen with a Yellow Jack he nearly stoned. This time we had a scuba rig stashed on the boat in case this situation happened again. Hunter rolled in and pulled out Tony’s fish, and also managed to recover Julie’s shaft from the day before.
On the second day we were seeing tons of King Mackerel, but they were all running a bit deep. Some of the more skilled divers were dropping down to 80 feet or more to take shots on the Mackerel. By the end of the day we ended up with two nice Kings in the cooler.
We finished out the day on a deep wreck and swimming with a school of scalloped hammerheads that came by. The Jack Crevalle ended up coming in handy to getting to see these creatures up close.
Fish Stories and Food
After we finish diving we are back to the dock to get everything looking spotless and packing up for the drive back home the next morning. After getting everything ready for Tony’s next trip we end up heading back to his place and cooking up some of our catch. We end up staying up way too late telling fish stories and eating way too much. Its hard to pass up a great Bluewater trip with great friends.