Lobster Hunting--No Sweat--Florida Keys
Today we got off a little late but was soon back out on flat seas back in the bay area of the Gulf. We were some six miles out from Charlie's home in his Mako. At one point while diving I had a large tiger shark come in on me in fairly shallow water over the grasses. Charlie spotted him from the boat and told me to get in as I was shooting snappers and not thinking much about sharks in 6' deep water. Charlie took a photo of him as he came over the place where I had been snorkeling. From there we went on and I kept getting into lobsters a few at a time and we were all but getting ready to come in as Charlie's son is suppose to come down here sometime this afternoon. Charlie decided that he would pull me behind the boat over some shallow spots he had marked and if I saw anything then I would signal. It wasn't long before I let go of the rope and yelled to him to throw out a marker which is something we use all the time in the current.
When I got back to the boat I told Charlie that I had spotted three ledges absolutely loaded with lobsters, and that many of them were very large. We anchored up and I put on a tank in the 7' deep water I began to methodically "herd" out the individuals with a tickle stick and then net them and them place them in another dive bag that I carry. I took several pictures of the lobsters that you can see in this grouping and Charlie took some photos of me as I was catching the lobsters and coming back on the boat. After I had caught my limit Charlie said he wanted to quit and save this spot for his son in the morning so that we would have a great place to bring him to right on the get go. I agreed but added there was the good chance that all of them might decide to move away from their positions during the night as often lobsters once molested will decided to move out and find some place they feel is safer. All fingers are crossed that they will be there when we go back out tomorrow.
Charlie and I pulled their tails and de-veined them and have them all back in the deep freezers--and I added the fillets of three more red snappers. I think we will be eating snapper, grouper and lobster tonight (again) and that's what we will likely have for breakfast and lunch tomorrow---although Charlie is likely to add country ham to the list as I brought him down three nice sugar cured hams and 2 gallons of moonshine--That's my poor toe that got destroyed during today's lobster assault.
LOBSTER DIVING--NO NAME KEY--NO SWEAT
Today the water was again calm and visibility good. We went back to the place where we quit yesterday and got more lobsters off the one spot. After that we came back to Charlie's and fixed some sandwiches and then went back out. Most of the new places we went to looked like they had already been "hit" by other lobster hunters as the pickings were slim. But we did get a few more before calling it a day, bringing us up to our lobster limit for the day. Charlie's son, Mark was with us and you can see him in the photos. He and I worked as a team in getting all the lobsters. I did manage to take a few underwater photos of some fish; queen angel, scorpion fish, and a red grouper that kept hanging around me as I was pulling lobsters out of one hole. That's my scratched up arm you see in one photo, results of reaching back into holes to pull out lobsters. We had another shark come up on us today, a hammerhead. I never did see it but Mark complained that it came in very close on him while he was carrying the bag full of lobsters. I was too busy diving to pay any attention to some old shark. Four of us ate lobster until we hurt last night and for desert we had snapper. Later on, Charlie fixed us a real Key Lime pie using real Key Limes which are NOT green. I made a comment about the pie not being green and that was what he said he expected from an ignorant Kentuckian. Later, he confessed that he and Carol had once bought a home in Boca and that they kept getting their limes off the tree against the house and squeezing them and using them in their alcholic drinks. Some time later he learned that those big green limes were actually unripe oranges.
CUTO KEY--LOBSTER HUNTING---NO SWEAT
Today Charlie and I got a late start as he had to go into Key West this morning to see if he had been selected to be on a jury---fortunately he got out of it. We hit the water around 1 PM and went about 8 miles out to a place called CUTO Key, a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. In due time as Charlie was dragging me behind the boat with a rope. I spotted a good place that I thought held lobsters. After finding a few there Charlie located another place not far away and within another 2 hours I caught a few more, a couple being 2 ponds each. While I was diving alone I had two different sharks come at me as I was catching lobsters, one being a small hammerhead and the other a black tip. I saw another shark earlier and we saw several turtles in the water today. I continued concentrating on catching lobsters as the sharks swam around me and I kept wondering f they were around then sooner or later bigger sharks would appear. But none ever did. Charlie and I have finally pulled the tails off this last bunch and now have all of them in the freezer---a very large deep freezer that is now completely full of nothing but lobster tails.
Today was opening day of lobster season. At daybreak we went head on into a horrible storm out at sea . Visibility where I dove was nil--less than 3 feet and for a large part of the day I was diving in very hot water with lots of green algae in he water and all over the reefs. We had to work extra hard today to get lobsters. Reports from other divers are that the numbers are down and so is the size. Last year's lobster harvest in Florida was an all time record low. The sun came out at about 10:00 AM and the diving went well after that. We moved out of the algae area and got back in better water later in the day.Chesteen and Lance are flying in on Friday. Also, Mark's son and his son are driving down here on the same day. On Sunday, Chesteen, Lance and I will be going out through the Dry Tortugas, some 70 - that is 70 miles south of Key West out in the ocean and also now a national underwater park and also where a civil war fort is located where Dr. Mudd, the Doctor that assisted John Wilkes Booth, was imprisoned. We cleaned all the lobsters this afternoon and are calling it a day as both of us are worn completely out.
Big Pine, Dry Tortugas, Key West
Photo of my grandson and I lobster hunting in Big Pine Key. Photos of Chesteen, Lance and I almost 100 miles below Key West at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas where Sam Mudd--the MD that helped John Wilkes BOOTH's hurt leg--note the fancy brickwork in one photo--that was actually the very cell where he was kept. We snorkeled around the old fort as you can see. Other photos of us today in Key West at Hemingway's House and pool--with his 6 toed cats, etc Some photos in Hemingway's bedroom----my grandson, Lance, with a 6 toe sleeping on the bed.
Today we got the limit in lobsters and I shot 3 cudas and 3 mangrove snappers---which we are fixing for supper---the cuda meat actually looks better than the snapper meat. The wind is still holding steady but the water cleared up a little today. It was a good day as very few divers are out due to the wind, basically the die hards. We may retire to the NO NAME PUB after the cuda meal.
Pictures of us eating cuda last night which was absolutely delicious. Also showing some of the lobsters I caught this morning, many big ones in the pile. And also I shot a 25" red grouper which is in some of the photos--beautiful meat. And also, "SCREECH" which is Charlie's main live in, his conure that is much of Charlie's life. The wind is still up but the visibility was remarkably clear today. I could have shot a lot of hogfish today but passed them up to catch lobsters. Very few boats were out today. We saw the Coast Guard plane buzz low over us several times looking for a diver that got lost yesterday. There's a chance we will be gearing back up for tonight to snapper fish the reef some 5 miles out.
We had several incredible dives the past two days. I found four new spots while being dragged behind Charlie's boat and all of them were virgin dynamite with lobsters. Charlie rarely curses but he did use a saucy expletive when he lifted the last bag load of lobsters I brought to him into the boat. "DAMN, THE BAG MUST WEIGH OVER 100 POUNDS." Needless to say, it probably did. I swam down on a turtle that was asleep and using a sponge for a pillow. He was as big as a VW covered in big old barnacles. When he woke up to see me taking a photo of him he went berserk and made a mad dash to open waters. I also caught a another red grouper, 21", but this time by hand. And on my last dive of the day I had another hammerhead shark come up to me, about 5 ft long. I wish that I had had the presence of mind to photograph it but simply did not. I had my underwater camera ion my back pocket and could have easily done so. We've been cleaning lobsters as though we work i some factory, day in and day out. I got up this morning and said , "HEY CHARLIE, LET'S GO GET SOME LOBSTERS!" and we both laughed. Charlie's neighbors drove in from Stuart, Florida and they think he is the best thing since Key Lime Pie. They said that they didn't move into the house next to him for the house but only to be near Charlie. After compliments like that Charlie threw them some lobster tails to satisfy their urges. You'll see several different lobster photos that I took over the past 36 hours and some that I took yesterday while diving. There is also a photo of Charlie and I at THE NO NAME PUB where he is a celebrity and on the way there you can see a photo of one of the great many KEY DEER that live here on the island. This entire island is designated as a NATIONAL KEY DEER WILDLIFE REFUGE and there are thousands of them here that roam the streets, yards, etc--all very tame. I saw 6 young bucks standing together yesterday. I've noticed a decline in the iguanas here and the past few days have been watching two different egrets carefully going about the bushes, etc. hunting them. The Marine Patrol found a dead body close to where we have been diving the past two days--a fellow diver that messed up. Has been on the news all this morning.
Lobster saga continues...
We got our limit today and today I caught a nice 3 lb. lobster. Richard went with us and we all got the limit. I gave Richard a nice 21" red grouper that I speared. That's his wife, Lisa, an attorney, that has the African Grey Parrott that you see in the photos. We were able to locate two totally new dive sites today that were very good and holding a lot of nice lobsters. On my last dive I had two hammerhead sharks come up to me---one being about 6 ft. and the other about 3 ft. long. They kept coming around where I was catching lobsters and were not in the least afraid of me. I suppose that is the same reason that I have been seeing one or more hammerheads while diving every day the past five days. I finally caught a small iguana this afternoon as it is hard being in competition with the white egrets that live like pets at Charlie's. And I have gotten several coconuts that have sprouted into palm trees that I plan to take back home to give away. The wind continues to blow but the water clarity has dramitacally gotten better--great visibility---and the water temperature has cooled down and feels about perfect right now. Charlie has filled five deep freezers with straight lobster tails and we are now beginning to run out of room..
The adventures of