Key West and Beyond...

East coast represent! Remember be vague on spots!

Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » October 16th, 2013, 11:23 am

I went on an epic little adventure this last weekend. As I thinking about writing this an decided I'd just name it to be a continuing thread of my constant adventures. This way I don't have to start a thread for non-headline making trips, I can just write a post. Here go's...

The last post I wrote about a trip west of Key West and meeting up with a friends friends, etc. The guys that were on the trip would prove to hardcore spearos. The type of soul that has been sucked out of me continuously over the past year + by divers who don't have money, won't make time, have unlimited excuses, and lack the ability to remotely pull some courage out of there being to try something new and adventurous. It only took one dive day with these guys, and a few fish stories over a beer to understand what these guys were about.

The weekend was coming up and with a Holiday on Monday I don't miss a beat. I only have so many free days a year and push it to the limit to maximize that time. I told them to let me know if they had plans to do any diving, anywhere. Owen, promptly invited me up to go hit some deep wrecks and stay with him and his family. I accepted before his invitation was finished coming out of his mouth. I did not realize how generous of an invitation it was till I got there and he told me I would be staying with him and his wife and 4 of there 6 kids. I cannot thank him enough.

The drive was about 6 hours from Key West up to the Englewood area, near Ft. Meyers, FL. The reason the drive was worthwhile was because we were going to dive a wreck 72 miles out of the inlet in 200' of water that they knew to hold monster fish. They shot 3 muttons, 2 weeks prior that were over 20#'s. For you left coasters that is probably like you shooting 3 WSB over 70#'s. They also got a 40# African Pompano which is huge as well.

We woke up on what I can barely call Sunday morning at 3:30am and pushed off of the dock at 4:45am with 3 bean bags on the deck and Owen and myself at the helm. I could barely sleep till 3:30 so there was no way I was going to get any more shut eye on the way to the spot. I helped Owen drive blind by distracting him with a thousand questions of the set-up and what to expect. We reached the wreck about 10 min after the sun broke the horizon to meet 80 ft. and a depth finder lit up from 150 up to 85 ft.

We dropped a marker on the spot with a buoy and flag attached to check the tide and went up current to drop anchor. We dropped the chum bucket weighted down to 150 and slowly brought it up to 80 ft. If you couldn't get to that on this trip you need not apply. These guys were here for trophies and I joined to push my comfort zone.

The snapper were right at the chum bucket when I jumped in, 3 or 4 very large mangrove snapper in the 10# range. After my first warm-up dive to 65 ft. (30 feet farther than usual) I was still a bit above them but wasn't going to push my first dive. This ended up being a mistake as the dropped back off the bucket after a few of us dove and sat just under the murk. My first few dives I was greated by a few schools of 3 African Pompano and 1 monster out on the perimeter. I sized them up a few dives and when I couldn't get to the big fella I took smaller version to get some blood on the deck. Danny followed suit with another.

As the day progressed the snapper stayed deep and every one was pushing. Danny and Owen were the only ones to land any both doing a half dozen dives from 102 - 114. I did see a monster and chased him down and took a shot. I was at about 90' and fish at probably 105 or more. While we didn't manage the fish they had seen a few weeks prior nor huge numbers of fish we still had a huge cooler full. We hit another deep wreck on the way in and had marginally worse vis. The guys pulled a few more large mangrove snapper and we headed home on the 2 hours treck.

The next day everyone but Owen had other obligations and we picked up his other main dive buddy outside Danny, Bob, is another regular 100' diver. Owen asked what I wanted to do and I surely wasn't going to say dive the ledges in 50' at this point. Of course I kinda hoped he would say it, but that would be the easy way out. I told him I'm along for the ride to see what they do... "okay, first stop the 105' ledge." I'm thinking "holy shit." We pull up to the spot and throw the marker, I'm grabbing the anchor when I hear Owen yell, "I guess I lied, the top is 105, the ledge drops down to 114'." Oh great, thats it?
I started to suit up thinking that the least I can do is get to see it, I hope. Shit green water on the top and no sign of where it clears up. Slightly different from the 40-100' surface viz i'm used to. After a quick warm-up dive I drop down and after what seems like an eternity of free fall since I can't see shit, I break 60 and come out of the slime into an opening of 50 ft. viz and I know this because I can see the ledge, 2 large jewfish, and I still have 50' to go. It was like coming through the clouds in an airplane and seeing your destination. Except for that whole not breathing, chest compressing type thing. I make it down I'm hovering over this ledge that I would never in a million years stop and think "hey guys, want to jump in and freedive this thing." Ha! yeah right. Snappers swimming right off the bottom to meet me and amberjack swirled. When I reached the surface I was amazed at how easy I dove it. I thought I would be desperately gasping for air. I took 2 deep breathes and calmed. We dove the ledge a few more times but the fish were not home. It was late and time to move on.

The next spot was an 83' ledge. As much fun as I had diving the 105', I have never been so happy to see 83', haha. Again no one home on a ledge they count on for gags. There was AJ's and Mangroves but nothing worthy. We went in to a shrimp boat wreck in 71' to finish the day. I'm so sorry I did not film this wreck. When I jumped in, once again, you couldn't see shit. But when you dropped below 40 it opened up and almost the entire wreck was visible. Huge jewfish all over, some of the biggest barracuda's I've ever seen, jack crevelles, rainbow runners, bait all over, it was incredible. The guys were not impressed again compared to what it usually is. I shot the only gag any of us saw. I was so used to diving to 80' on the 100' stuff that I was literally almost not breathing up to dive this 70 where I was hovering at 60-65'. I stoned the gag in the sand at 71' and grabbed my cable to pull him up to the surface before the jew's and cuda got excited. I would have never done that diving at home and didn't think about till I got in the boat afterward. 70' felt comfortable even on an off breathe up. I was elated. I went down a few more dives and had a nice AJ come in curious, I decided I love fish dip. Got a great head shot and slowly got him up to the surface. It was 4:00pm and we still had a 30 mile ride, to clean all the fish from both days and I had a 6 hour drive home. I made to my bed at 3:15am to wake up at 7 for work.

What a freaking weekend! I'm so glad I took the challenge and moved off of the shallow stuff. Can't tell you how happy I am to meet people that will meet at 4am to make a serious trip, without stupid excuses of why they have to get home early. Not the fishiest of weekends but pushing myself left me more gratified than any fish I could have shot. Here are a few photos and video of the mutton I missed deep.

JP

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Spearing Magazine » October 17th, 2013, 6:23 am

Solid work man! Get ready for May...
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Smudge » October 17th, 2013, 7:02 am

Nice!!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » October 18th, 2013, 11:05 am

The saga continues... with a nice wahoo!

http://youtu.be/jroSyXtUs6s
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby ApneaAddict » October 18th, 2013, 12:27 pm

Great report and beautiful fish. African pompano are just the coolest fish. Definitely on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing, man.
What's the point of a hobby if it doesn't fill your stomach?

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » October 20th, 2013, 7:19 pm



Here's the embed. Don't know why it didn't work before.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » October 23rd, 2013, 7:13 pm

Great write up! I felt like I was along for the ride! I find that here in CA if I dive 60 foot it feels like a deep dive but in FL 90 feels about the same. I think it has a lot to do with the psychological factors like the vis in FL being better and warm water, also not wearing weight v/s 17 lbs and a 7mm in CA. I can't wait to get back to dive some of those deeper wrecks off my brothers house near Ft Myers in Matlatcha
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » October 24th, 2013, 12:56 pm

Thanks Joe!

Went out again yesterday looking for wahoo. Could only get my girlfriend to go with me so jumped in alone. No wahoo to be seen over an hour or so but had a huge Mola Mola come up for a visit. Never thought I would swim with one of those. By the time she brought me the camera it was gone though. Dove the Vandenberg and reef with her filming and just messing around, was quite relaxing. On the way in we stopped about a mile offshore to have a beer and enjoy the view...

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Smudge » October 25th, 2013, 9:13 am

Oh how I miss Florida thunder storms!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Mahtzo Lou » October 25th, 2013, 8:17 pm

That is an amzing photo! Very cool!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby chris oak » October 26th, 2013, 5:08 pm

man JP you guys really have the diving lifestyle! Loved the wahoo vid :)
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » October 28th, 2013, 9:55 am

Glad to share guys.

My girlfriend grabbed my camera when we were out drifting the other day and got some very cool shots of jellyfish I just got done editing. They came out pretty awesome.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Spearing Magazine » October 29th, 2013, 7:40 am

Pain hats............
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby abachar » November 10th, 2013, 9:29 am

Great read JP.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » November 13th, 2013, 10:25 am

It has been as slow here in the Keys as it is in this Florida section. I really need to recruit some non-kook's to this forum.

Last weekend we saw a break in the wind as it's been howling for a month it seems. I got the guys to get up nice and early and leave, we pushed off at about 6am. With the time change we were actually early to the wahoo grounds and had to wait for enough light to jump in. The wait was for nothing as we slipped in to a cloudy 40 foot of water offshore, the conditions just did not seem right for wahoo so we decided to head further west in hopes of good fish. I think my days of taking somewhat blind hopes to 30+ miles trips are over. A lot of the time we make a 5 gallon bucket of sand balls and those trips we usually do pretty well. I've always been a proponent of drifting and relaxing but days like this that are slow and expensive start to add up. I've since bought a deep freezer and a bunch of 2 gallon buckets for chum balls and to drop chum in buckets on deep wrecks. We still had fish for a week but still...

This particular day comes off one of my best dive days ever and couldn't have went worse. I felt like I couldn't break 1:15 to save my life which I think was in part to a raging current just off the full moon. The two black grouper in the photo my dive buddy shot and I retrieved them both, rocked up, kicking against a ~3 kt. current. Lucky it wasn't deep, maybe 40' and 45' but the second one took about 4 dives which took about 30 minutes because of the breaks attempting to rest and stay over top of the rock. I was pretty much spent for the rest of the day and the viz was horrible except one spot, maybe 30' for the most part. I had to do 70 dives that day to look for fish when on average it's more like 30 dives because we can see the bottom for the most part anywhere shallower than 60' and a lot of the time deeper.

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Since then a couple fronts have come through. Enough so that I'm sure the wahoo are out there doing somersaults and high-fiving 10' feet in the air. I don't think it's dropped below 20mph winds for more than 6 hours. The wind was right on time for the Super Boat World Championship which I can't remember having a calm week since I've been alive. The best part is I'm never torn between fishing and the boat races because of it. So it's pretty simple... fast ass boats and drunk as a skunk and this weekend was exactly that. I took a few clips and made a 1 minute video for those of you who haven't been to these. We were as close as 20' to some of these boats that averaged up to 114mph round trip on the shortened track. At least we had something to pass the time by with no hopes of getting to the reef. Enjoy.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » November 13th, 2013, 1:04 pm

You south Florida guys sure are a spoiled bunch :D 30' vis in 80 degree water with nice snapper and grouper is a fantasy dive us ca guys dream about. Thanks for the pics and video. Planning to get back over there in the Bahamas next month. December here is usually 10' vis in 58 degree water
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » November 15th, 2013, 5:54 am

Yeah I know! but 30' of vis sucks when you're in a stiff current and there is a short ledge or rock you are trying to drop on and can't see it.

10' and 58* :shock: :shock: :shock: you can keep that buddy! :lol:
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Mahtzo Lou » November 17th, 2013, 8:33 pm

Freeryde wrote:..........December here is usually 10' vis in 58 degree water


You think that's bad? When I was a kid, we used to dive 49 degree water in 5' vis and a temp break on descent and ascent.......
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » November 18th, 2013, 11:40 am

Mahtzo Lou wrote:
Freeryde wrote:..........December here is usually 10' vis in 58 degree water


You think that's bad? When I was a kid, we used to dive 49 degree water in 5' vis and a temp break on descent and ascent.......


Uphill both ways in the snow? :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Maybe I would be good at this sport if I had to suffer through something worse than 20' viz. Spoiled Brat Spearfishing team here! :D
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Mahtzo Lou » November 18th, 2013, 6:04 pm

I think it's more fun to complain!! ;)
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby db1 » December 15th, 2013, 4:45 pm

Very cool thread. I stumbled upon this as I am coming to FL right after Christmas. Looks like you have it pretty good out there!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » December 16th, 2013, 5:38 am

db1 wrote:Very cool thread. I stumbled upon this as I am coming to FL right after Christmas. Looks like you have it pretty good out there!


We can be pretty spoiled at times. Got skunked on wahoo yesterday with perfect conditions... east current, 80 ft. viz. :?
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby db1 » December 26th, 2013, 11:07 pm

Wow, 80 ft, insane!

We had 15' in a spot that is normally not diveable in front of my house on Christmas, so I got all excited, jumped in and grabbed a nice lobster to add into the Christmas dinner... Back home in a warm shower in about 20 min. It's not always so bad out here. ;)
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » December 29th, 2013, 7:27 am

Well it's been a little slow. The water still hasn't really cooled off. I have gotten some fish here and there but nothing special although I should still take pictures, need to get better at that.

Last weekend I was just itching to get out of town so I called some buddies up on the mainland and they were more than happy to put a trip together and host myself and AJ Hally from the Keys.

The plan was to dive Sunday and Monday but we only ended doing one day because it was a steady 4-6ft. seas with some 7 and 8 footers mixed in. But the group were all hard core spearos so we got one day in and had 50' to 80' viz offshore and 60 - 70' viz on the wrecks in 70 - 90fsw. We didn't find any fish as the bullsharks and cobia or wahoo just didn't show up in the blue. But once again, its not about the fish. About an hour into the dive I see a huge white thing off in the distance on a 50ft. dive in the blue and it was a huge Mola Mola. This is the second one i've swam with in the last 3 months. This one was a little more curious than the last as it actually swam towards me. It still wouldn't get any closer than 40' but it was an awesome sight.

After about another hour I see a tremendous white reflection shooting up from the deep and I knew what it was instantly, a Whale Shark. As soon as I recognized it I took a deep breathe and descended straight toward him. I stopped at about 30' where he came right up to me, only turning about 5' from my chest getting a real good eye to eye look at each other. He started slowly swimming toward the other guys so I kicked a few times grabbed his fin for a ride.

AJ had his gopro on so he filmed me on him as he came in for some fun so I peeled off and both AJ and Killian both got to enjoy this baby beast as well. The shark came back 2 more times and seemed to really enjoy our company.

We called it quits in the afternoon and we all headed to a small cafe for some lunch and beers. We could have sat there for a week telling dive stories. I am actually very glad Christian asked to get a group picture as this is a day I won't soon forget. From left to right... Christian Somborn, Ryan Poole, Killian Daughney, Rob Murphy, AJ Hally, myself.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Spearing Magazine » December 29th, 2013, 7:49 am

You guys are sooo lucky!! Awesome experience!

That's a serious group so shooters in that shot. Some of the best guys in Fl.

On a side note, why is every beer empty at that table?

Congratz
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » December 29th, 2013, 4:40 pm

Spearing Magazine wrote:You guys are sooo lucky!! Awesome experience!

That's a serious group so shooters in that shot. Some of the best guys in Fl.

On a side note, why is every beer empty at that table?

Congratz


Because we drank them. Would it not be weird if all the beers were full?!?!?!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Mahtzo Lou » January 3rd, 2014, 10:06 pm

amazing photos! I really like the black and white/monotone effect. I always enjoy your trip reports....very nice!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » January 6th, 2014, 5:58 am

Thanks Lou. It was a memorable adventure. Here is some of the video I clipped down to 15 seconds for instagram.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby chris oak » January 11th, 2014, 10:17 pm

That is badass JC. Are there a lot of whale sharks out in your area? I just approved Killian to our site, if I remember correctly I had talked to him a long time ago on weirdboard on making flashers for fish.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » January 13th, 2014, 8:17 am

chris oak wrote:That is badass JC. Are there a lot of whale sharks out in your area? I just approved Killian to our site, if I remember correctly I had talked to him a long time ago on weirdboard on making flashers for fish.


I have happen to swim with 2 in the last 18 months or so but I've been really lucky. They are around South Florida for sure but I don't think I can say there is a lot.

Yeah, I just spoke to Killian and asked him to join to get some some more Florida guys involved here. And he is one of the best. Killian was nice enough to host me and a friend at his place and also took a ride with the above whale shark.

I happen to use Kill Mode flashers myself. From what I understand I am in an elite club of flasher owners (the only elite club I'll ever be a part of). You have to pay mad respect to the ocean and the stoke of spearfishing plus a hefty fee to own them, and then he still has to like you somehow. I have shot so many fish off these flashers it's almost unfair. I think he made me one because we talk shit about the east coast kooks all the time. The guys who think they are professional spearfisherman, who leave there dive buddy to try and win the day, who don't pay for the privileges they are bestowed, the ones who don't understand spearfishing isn't always about the fish. Killian just gets it, glad he joined.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Spearing Magazine » January 14th, 2014, 10:18 am

castronova wrote:
chris oak wrote:That is badass JC. Are there a lot of whale sharks out in your area? I just approved Killian to our site, if I remember correctly I had talked to him a long time ago on weirdboard on making flashers for fish.


I have happen to swim with 2 in the last 18 months or so but I've been really lucky. They are around South Florida for sure but I don't think I can say there is a lot.

Yeah, I just spoke to Killian and asked him to join to get some some more Florida guys involved here. And he is one of the best. Killian was nice enough to host me and a friend at his place and also took a ride with the above whale shark.

I happen to use Kill Mode flashers myself. From what I understand I am in an elite club of flasher owners (the only elite club I'll ever be a part of). You have to pay mad respect to the ocean and the stoke of spearfishing plus a hefty fee to own them, and then he still has to like you somehow. I have shot so many fish off these flashers it's almost unfair. I think he made me one because we talk shit about the east coast kooks all the time. The guys who think they are professional spearfisherman, who leave there dive buddy to try and win the day, who don't pay for the privileges they are bestowed, the ones who don't understand spearfishing isn't always about the fish. Killian just gets it, glad he joined.



I've personally been on the shit end of the stick with these magical flashers.

We pull up to a deep part of the reef in the keys. JP throws the flashers off the boat, puts on one fin and in the process of putting the other on falls into the water. He then screams like a girl and shoots a 12+ lb Mutton that has swam up from 70ft to check out the flashers at the surface. All this happened in less than 20 sec. I took the little gear I had time to put on off and grabbed a beer. :cry:
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » January 14th, 2014, 10:30 am

Spearing Magazine wrote:
We pull up to a deep part of the reef in the keys. JP throws the flashers off the boat, puts on one fin and in the process of putting the other on falls into the water. He then screams like a girl and shoots a 12+ lb Mutton that has swam up from 70ft to check out the flashers at the surface. All this happened in less than 20 sec. I took the little gear I had time to put on off and grabbed a beer. :cry:


It was 13.5# shot at 13' in 72' of water off killian's flashers.

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and I drove my boat over to yours and handed you a legal black grouper I shot on the next dive for you having to watch my touchdown dance, punk! :D
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Spearing Magazine » January 14th, 2014, 11:02 am

castronova wrote:
Spearing Magazine wrote:
We pull up to a deep part of the reef in the keys. JP throws the flashers off the boat, puts on one fin and in the process of putting the other on falls into the water. He then screams like a girl and shoots a 12+ lb Mutton that has swam up from 70ft to check out the flashers at the surface. All this happened in less than 20 sec. I took the little gear I had time to put on off and grabbed a beer. :cry:


It was 13.5# shot at 13' in 72' of water off killian's flashers.

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and I drove my boat over to yours and handed you a legal black grouper I shot on the next dive for you having to watch my touchdown dance, punk! :D



Forgot about your pity grouper... thanks for that! I also forgot the mental image of you in a tank top... wish I could have kept that image out of my head.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » January 15th, 2014, 7:13 am

I have found a new way to make instant spearfishing bloopers. For me it simply involves turning on any POV camera attached to my head and it's almost a guarantee that something will go wrong with any fish of significant size.

This last Saturday I went out inshore as the wind was howling. I could not even get my 22' bayboat on plane outside of the channel deeper than 6' of water. I saw a hard color change off the beach which is extremely weird but the clear reef water had pushed in from the nights 20kt South wind and less than a mile offshore we had 15 - 18' foot of viz. which is unheard of. While you often hear me talk of the great viz we have it is usually the outer reef. Between the inner patches and the outer reef is basically 2 miles of sand with some large coral formations here and there called Hawk Channel. This channel runs parallel to shore all the way from Marquesas up the entire keys to Key Largo. Its a tidal super highway. So when its clear the life is amazing.

I jump in on a coral formation that was 100' across and 15' tall. I load 1 band and here is the key, never had a chance to turn on the gopro, look down and there is an 8 lb. mutton 15' away. I dive 9' and bam, he's in the boat.

I spent the next 2 hours or so filming some of the neatest reef I've ever seen, and it was literally less than 3 miles of my marina. I filmed dozens of grouper, some blacks up to 20', scamps which are usually deep deep water, rock hinds everywhere, and even a tiger grouper which are found in the Bahamas and sometimes the Dry Tortugas. We even found one area with a patch reef with a school of permit circling up to 25lbs. and off in the sand there were 6-8 blacktip sharks schooling in the sand. It was quite a treat.

My dive buddy shot a few nice hog fish for dinner and plucked a decent sized mangrove snapper. I loaded my Abellan and one of the wishbone knot slipped, its been on the gun for a long time know. With marginal viz. and shallow water hunting the 120 is really a beast of a gun. Instead of using it with one band I grabbed my new pathos 90 and jumped in. I bought this gun for inshore stuff and must say it is one of the coolest little guns I've ever used.

After about 5 -6 dives looking on top I decided to sit on the 15' ledge and look down into the murk. There was a layer below 25' that went to near no visibility. I looked left and had a scamp cross my mask and saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I turned back and there was a mutton on top of this coral rock I could not believe. No doubt it was 14-15lbs. I slowly moved toward it and it slowly away from me. The ledge was only 4-5ft. away and if I didn't shoot now he would be in the murk to never be seen again. I was a little further than I wanted to be with this gun but I had to shoot, about 8' from the tip I let it fly and hit him perfectly in the skull. Wah Wah Wahhhh.

The light 6.5mm shaft was no match for this fish. It bounced straight back after making a "thump" and the fish slowly disappeared off the edge. What a bummer. But really, I can't expect this gun to take fish like that through the head, a body shot would have been much smarter but I'm just not used to being that close to a fish and aiming anywhere but a kill shot.



The next day we had planned for wahoo (I'm out of writing time so I'll make this short). We arrived at the grounds to an unreal clear bluewater. My first dive to 20' to the top of the flashers and I can see the bottom... at 136'! In no time the wahoo show up, AJ drills a 50# fish but apparently low and it tears off and Steven hits the weehoo it showed up with dead center for his first wahoo ever.

After a few more drifts we decide to anchor and chum. In about 30 minutes they were stacked around us, I had over 15 around me and all over 35#. I could not get any of these fish within 30' of me. Finally after swimming with the school and swallowing enough salt water I get one underneath me. I dove and line up well within range. For the first time ever using a slip-tip, I push the gun out and the GODDA#$ FU$&%*$ :evil: :evil: :evil: slip-tip is falling off and I have to pull back. Why you ask? Because I was filming, thats why. I'll try and post the blooper video later.

AJ scored a 54# hoo moments after my screw up and Ryan caught a nice on from the boat trying score us some more bonita for bait. I'm still eating good, thats for sure.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » January 15th, 2014, 3:27 pm

Love the video! We have had one of the best runs of weather and vis here that I can remember but I am still itching to get back to Florida.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » January 27th, 2014, 3:14 pm

The wahoo run down here has been pretty epic. I went out yesterday with 2 of my very best friends, (Rich) one of which who has not dove in almost a year as he has gotten married, became a lawyer, and bought a house he has been renovating completely himself. He had never shot a wahoo nor did he have the gear. Stevie, who is my main dive buddy shot his first one last week.

The weather called for variable winds and Rich got the pass from his wife so the three of us loaded up my bay boat and headed the 20 miles to the bar where they have been stacked. I gave Rich my Ulusub 165, float line and float. Stevie was still on his wahoo high from his cherry popping so off they went. I just put them on the spot within minutes a school of 15 came in. Rich wacked the first one that gave him a chance and hit him dead center. The fish ended up weighing in at 26#. As you can see in the picture he was pretty much the most happy person on the planet.

He kept the fish on the shooting line down about 20 feet and was literally talking to me just sitting in the water while Stevie tried to swim to him. I asked why he wasn't pulling the fish up and he said there are 7 wahoo just sitting with it and not moving. Stevie came over dove down and said he just sat there picking threw the fish. Shot the closest big one and I just see his float rip across the surface. He gets his to the boat, 42#.

At this point I was wondering if I should get in. Problem was two fold... 1. When its hot you have to take the fish because they can disappear in an instant. 2. It was hot and I couldn't possibly get suited and protect the divers with all the Tournament Kingfish boats in this area. I decided just keep putting them on the drift. I have to say the smiles on these guys faces made driving the boat as enjoyable as any fish I've ever speared. Not one second during or after did I regret handing off my gear and driving the boat.

The next drift Rich missed one coming up short and a few minutes later another school of 10 came through and Stevie tore one off that he said was bigger than the first. Near the end of the drift I told them we should reset soon. Rich looks down after saying okay, dives, and 5 seconds later I see his float just bobbing, kind of lightly. He comes to the service and said he just stoned a big one. A minute or two later he has his very own 42# hoo on the boat. First day shooting wahoo and he limits out, the guy was beside himself. Stevie was also spent.

I knew I was too late. It was almost noon and about the time it always shuts off till late afternoon and we had plans on getting home somewhat early. I switched my Ulusub to reel, put my suit on and jumped in. You could see snapper and tangs on the bottom all the way out till it turned sand at 102'. The viz was just incredible. The wahoo were done running through the area as suspected but I got to swim with a few hammerheads and three big sailfish. The go pro was angled down a little but I attached a photo grab from the clip.

After two drifts I was cold from just sitting there and knew better than to waste more time. We headed into the reef for a few quick dives. The viz on the reef in 45 - 60 was over 90 still. It was just unreal to see everything in such a distance with complete acuity. There were so many big black grouper which are of course out of season. I ended up taking a nice yellow jack out of a school of AJ's and calling it an early day. Our favorite sandwich shop was closed that morning so none of us had coffee or breakfast and couldn't get lunch sandwiches. We decided to go celebrate over dinner and clean the fish after. It was an incredible day. I couldn't be more happy for these guys.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » February 2nd, 2014, 1:51 pm

I'm on the verge of mercury poisoning and quite frankly could die from eating so much wahoo. It is by far my favorite fish to eat sashimi. Since I've been cooking so much I decided to order myself a Yanagi to slice the fish, it works good and looks pretty badass as well.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Mahtzo Lou » February 4th, 2014, 7:24 pm

Very cool photos and story. I always enjoy reading your stuff. How much was that knife? it really does look badass!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » February 4th, 2014, 7:35 pm

Thanks for stopping by as always Lou.

The knife was just over $100. It's more of an $80 caliber knife though, I paid extra because I'm left handed. The blades on these Japanese knives are sharpened on one side and the handle is D shaped one way or the other, so it matters (if you didn't know). It is most definitely on the affordable side of these high carbon Japanese steel blades. I'd say an average would be more like $180-225 with many in the $300-400 range up into the thousands. I didn't want to learn how to sharpen a one sided specifically designed knife on wet stones I've never used with anything more expensive. I also didn't want a $20 version that isn't worth a crap.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » February 10th, 2014, 4:42 pm

Got out again this Saturday. Made the treck to New Ground since federal gulf is the only place we can harvest grouper right now. 42 miles to find mud water, less than 10 ft. and in highly concentrated shark area. No bueno. had to go 16 miles to the reef but found 100 ft. viz and jumped in to a school of 20 nice amberjack. It was an incredible day on the water. Ended up finding a bunch of new coral heads way west and had to pass on about 20 very nice black grouper. I didn't get a picture of all the fish but we landed a few muttons, yellow jacks, hogfish, and 3 amberjack over 30#'s. I think this one may have broke 40. Of course I had a great day because I didn't film anything.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Big_Berg » February 10th, 2014, 6:23 pm

Nice fish! How do those aj's taste?
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » February 10th, 2014, 6:33 pm

Thanks. It's pretty good. It can be decent grilled or fried when really fresh but mostly I brine it for 3 days or so and smoke it. Then I eat the steaks with sides or make fish dip. I don't let them swim by, put it that way.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Big_Berg » February 10th, 2014, 6:38 pm

Sounds awesome I would love to shoot one someday. I imagine they must be really fun to shoot. Curious big fish are always fun.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » February 11th, 2014, 5:49 am

Big_Berg wrote:Sounds awesome I would love to shoot one someday. I imagine they must be really fun to shoot. Curious big fish are always fun.


Only if you stone them :D ... if not, the fun can end really quick!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » February 16th, 2014, 9:13 pm

Really enjoy reading your reports! I will be back over there this weekend. My brother tells me he has been seeing a ton of good fish on some wrecks and ledges close in to the beach. I am a little bummed grouper is closed but I still love shooting the ajs. Most of the guys my brother goes out with don't really shoot them but I live the fight and like to eat them too. I hear the water out of ft Myers is really cold like mid 60's!!!!
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Key West and Beyond...

Postby Alex Ray » February 16th, 2014, 10:21 pm

Freeryde wrote:I hear the water out of ft Myers is really cold like mid 60's!!!!


Haha this is a ridiculous statement as read by my California diver eyes. You guys have got it good over there!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » February 17th, 2014, 7:30 am

Water down here only got to about 74 on the reef this winter and is now from 75 - 79 already. Water temp wise it has been very very comfy.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » February 27th, 2014, 8:31 am

Got a call from my roommate yesterday who runs a lobster trap boat. He said the he was in the Gulf and could see his traps on the bottom in 35 ft. That is damn good for our gulf waters and especially good in February. I have accrued more vacation hours then I will be able to use this year so I got permission to take off after lunch and headed out.

It's amazing how on a 5kt wind weekend day I can't get 2 people to dive and some random Wed. I get 3 other divers to make it. Mind Boggling.

Anyways, we hit a wreck and about 5 rubble piles of what looked like 40ft waffle fries made of steel. There was tons of life, bait, sheepshead, cudas, eagle rays, mangroves, it was a very fun dive.

It was one of those days where I just found every nice fish that was around. I ended up with 4 nice hogs and a cubera, all in less than 30ft. of water. Extremely fun day. We were satisfied by about 5pm. I was heading home in the boat at the same time I would have been heading home from work. Wind died down to about 6 kts. and the sunset was incredible. Very fortunate man typing here.

I have some video from my new gun mount for the gopro I made. I'll try and share that tonight.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » February 27th, 2014, 9:16 pm

those are some fine looking hogs! I just came back from Florida and already am planning to go back. If there were waves there I would move back tomorrow. Stoked to see your video. I took a bunch of video when I was there that I was sure was going to be the best video I have ever taken. I just had a chance to go through all of it. I normally have a mask mount and go pro when filming but my mask mount broke so I was using the head strap. All of the video is off just enough (looking too far up) to be usable. I was pissed!!!!!!!!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Bakir_sonic » February 28th, 2014, 12:08 am

Freeryde wrote:those are some fine looking hogs! I just came back from Florida and already am planning to go back. If there were waves there I would move back tomorrow. Stoked to see your video. I took a bunch of video when I was there that I was sure was going to be the best video I have ever taken. I just had a chance to go through all of it. I normally have a mask mount and go pro when filming but my mask mount broke so I was using the head strap. All of the video is off just enough (looking too far up) to be usable. I was pissed!!!!!!!!


I absolutely hate that!!! its why sometimes I don't even bring the go pro when I go out. I hate going back to see the video off..

man this thread makes me want to take a trip to Florida. Great pictures and delicious looking fish.
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