Key West and Beyond...

East coast represent! Remember be vague on spots!

Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » May 11th, 2015, 6:10 am

The last week has been pretty fun. It's always good when grouper are open. When they are closed the shooting is limited and only fish you may see are groupers. I really wish they would just close commercial for the season as the recreational limit is 1 per person. Hardly going to eliminate a species at 1 fish. Even if they made it 1 or 2 per boat it would be great.

Anyways... I don't really care about going May 1st but I had seen some monsters the week prior and decided to go. And with everything, If I'm doing it I'm going to do all out. We met at the boat at 5:30 and left before 6. I was going to make sure I was the first one there. And we were. This wreck lays in 85 - 92'. I normally wouldn't post this but some kid has went and shot a few blacks there this week and is posting it all over with the name of the wreck like a fucking toolbag.

I knew we had to dive deep on the first dive. The fish were up earlier in the week. Once you dive, even to look, they get pushed down. We sat on the transom waiting for enough light to penetrate. At around 7:05 we slid in. The viz was perfect, around 40'. I didn't want top to bottom. You want to slide down undercover. My first dive they were everywhere although I didn't see the 40+ I had seen the week before. I've learned my lesson on waiting so I took a very nice fish first dive off the deck at about 74'. Its easy to do that first dive when you do 100 drops on the wreck in your sleep.

How many blacks do you see?


This screen shot gives a better idea of size.
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I ended up shooting a nice AJ too. I passed on the biggest African Pompano I've ever seen, probably 45#. This wreck is in State Waters. What a joke reg.
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I made it to work by 10am.

This past weekend I couldn't help myself again. My vacation is next week and I really should have just saved some money and stayed at home. Nope, flat calm. Decided to go to the Tortugas, 67 miles to the first spot. Whatever, I'll make more money.

Got to a spot known for 200' viz to find 30 - 40' of green crap. Shootable, yes. What you spend all that money for, no. It was game time. Couldn't see the fish from the top so you had to dive. It was going to take hard work to fill the cooler. So, hard I worked. By the end of the day I did 93 dives from 48 - 65'. It certainly paid off. The last grouper took an hour to get out of a tiny coral head. If I showed you the tiny entry this almost 30# fish was in you would not believe me. 2 shots and gaff to get it out. I also shot some nice muttons, hogs, and finally had a king spool me. This not so huge king spooled my reel almost before I got to the surface. I clicked into the belt reel and he took about half that as I watched my Abellan 130 swim away :handgestures-fingerscrossed: That was a scary sight but it's what I was prepared for. All the knots held and after a few minutes his run was done.

Not the best trip out west I've had but the fish were nice and the hard work was gratifying. Enjoy.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby chris oak » May 14th, 2015, 2:43 pm

man grouper city JP! I was wondering how come you guys aren't always blasting those when I watch videos from florida. I had no idea there are closed seasons for them. Is it a no take thing and how many months does the season run?
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » May 14th, 2015, 8:06 pm

chris oak wrote:man grouper city JP! I was wondering how come you guys aren't always blasting those when I watch videos from florida. I had no idea there are closed seasons for them. Is it a no take thing and how many months does the season run?


My understanding is that they create a quota of tonnage of fish to be taken during a certain period based on landings, fish count surveys, chicken bones, voodoo, and bullshit. Then those shares are divided up amongst sport and commercial fisherman. When it is estimated that the landings are nearing or over quota then they shut down the species until the next period. It actually seems like a pretty good system even with its flaws. Much better than our total mpa bans here in ca
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » May 15th, 2015, 5:03 am

Freeryde wrote:
chris oak wrote:man grouper city JP! I was wondering how come you guys aren't always blasting those when I watch videos from florida. I had no idea there are closed seasons for them. Is it a no take thing and how many months does the season run?


My understanding is that they create a quota of tonnage of fish to be taken during a certain period based on landings, fish count surveys, chicken bones, voodoo, and bullshit. Then those shares are divided up amongst sport and commercial fisherman. When it is estimated that the landings are nearing or over quota then they shut down the species until the next period. It actually seems like a pretty good system even with its flaws. Much better than our total mpa bans here in ca


You're talking about the Gulf.

There is no chicken bone algorithm in the Atlantic. The Atlantic shallow water grouper is closed 4 months, Jan. - April. Florida Keys state waters are managed by Atlantic regulations. So even on the Gulf side of the Keys within 9 miles you are governed by Atlantic Fisheries rules.

The Gulf council smartened up last year and lifted there 4 month closure that matched the Atlantic. So on the rare occasion there is clear water in the gulf out deeper we can run out there but thats during winter and pretty far to find reef/structure and rare to get vis so...

The closure is a good thing. We see tons of stupid grouper during the winter, up shallow, and aggregating on wrecks. Commercial guys would destroy them in their stupid slumber. I still believe recreational not for hire should get 1 per boat. We can go out all day and see nothing but grouper all over. They are working on a Keys only management area since we can cross 4 different management areas in a single day, which is insanity. The grouper closure was actually started because depleted gag grouper stocks off the Carolinas. Thats right, the Keys have the same fisheries management as North Caroline. Makes a lot of sense right?
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » May 21st, 2015, 11:53 am

Well whatever they are doing seems to be working. Whenever I go over to my brothers house the grouper are thick as fleas on a dogs ass and periodically he sends me pics like the one below
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » June 2nd, 2015, 12:28 pm

Those are big blacks man. And I agree, it is working. How deep are those big ones usually?
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » June 2nd, 2015, 12:43 pm

Well, my west coast trip was a blast. Baja was as magical as ever, SoCal proved to me once again that fish do not really exist there and you all are a bunch of liars, surfing is for super heroes, and Big Sur is missing the letter F at the end. I would tell the story but it seems Jeromy may have convinced me to give him content. I'll share this pic I posted yesterday. It's a trophy for me but by no means big for the species. The article will not be about fish, or a fish, so this is no a spoiler.

Roy McDennon Jr. took the photo. I can't thank him, his father, and friends Pedro, Greg, and Jordan enough for inviting me on the trip. I was the only one too far away to really help and they put together everything from boat trailers, to food, ice, camping gear, fishing licenses... tons of work that I benefit from and appreciate more than I can express. Also huge thanks to Bryan Johnson of Sea Sniper for hosting me for a few days and getting me out diving with himself and Kyle Dodder and for getting me into the surf, super fun. Thanks to Brandon, aka one_drake, always a good to see you and Chelsea and I appreciate you getting me to Big Sur and so glad you came. Huge thanks to Amadeo for putting together the Big Sur trip, camp site, the jacket that saved my life, tents etc. and sharing your frozen kelp world with me. That was truly an experience I will never forget And last but not least Chris Chaput for getting me to San Fran to wash my filth of dusty smokey saturated clothes, hair, skin, shoes, etc. It was super cool seeing Sea Sniper head quarters in person and always such a great person to talk spearfishing with.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby AJP » June 2nd, 2015, 1:19 pm

The epic thread continues. That fish is an absolute beast - well done, sir! :handgestures-thumbupright: :handgestures-thumbupleft:

Can you do a write-up in the "Guns & Gear" section about those new, awesome-looking DiveR fins at some point? It would be great to hear what they're all about. Thanks.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Sdeisen88 » June 2nd, 2015, 8:34 pm

Awesome JP. I don't get tired of seeing that pic it is beast. Eager to see what your Cali experience was like
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » June 3rd, 2015, 5:56 am

AJP wrote:The epic thread continues. That fish is an absolute beast - well done, sir! :handgestures-thumbupright: :handgestures-thumbupleft:

Can you do a write-up in the "Guns & Gear" section about those new, awesome-looking DiveR fins at some point? It would be great to hear what they're all about. Thanks.


Thanks.

I can tell you about them but I'm not so sure it'll be worth its own thread. I find it pretty hard to write about fins although I did a write up on these in Spearing Mag about 3 issues ago. Basically copper beryllium is highly elastic, corrosion resistant, very lightweight, and 6 times stronger than copper alone. It's used for precision springs and percussion instruments due to the alloys extreme ability to consistently retain its shape. Basically, this stuff can be bent or resonated frequently and will bounce back to it's original shape very consistently.

So, Ray found it woven with CF, or had it made, I don't know. The fins are definitely snappy and very smooth. I think they snap more than the standard CF Dive R's as I owned them before these. I can't tell you how many kicks it takes me to go from here to there compared to X, Y, or Z fin though. I can tell you they are butter smooth and very efficient. Most of all, when wet, their is not a fin that looks more badass.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » June 4th, 2015, 5:41 am

Nice report and fin review!! The one man Florida section comes through again! Hahahaha. I just got another new pic yesterday. This one was from 80' but most of the big ones we get are in 100-110
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » June 4th, 2015, 5:50 am

Freeryde wrote:The one man Florida section comes through again! Hahahaha.


:laughing-rolling:

Dude, those are beast blacks man, you're making me look bad, hahaha. I don't even know where to look for fish like that. Badass, but everyone knows scuba is cheating :violence-duel:
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » June 22nd, 2015, 4:23 am

I'm short on time to post but wanted to share a few photos to keep this thread going. I'm shared a few more photos of my gulf grouper that I have not had time to post here. If you haven't seen them.

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And one of Big Sur.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » June 22nd, 2015, 4:38 am

When I got home I ended up getting to dive with Jeromy in the keys for one day. I haven't had a weekend to rest in what seems like months. I had to drive 4 hours north for a cousins graduation dinner Saturday and left to make it back to the keys at 5am on Sunday. By the time we started diving I was already exhausted. More mentally than anything. 70' was like the abyss and there was no bottom time to speak of.

Jeromy is infamous for chumming so much his lazy ass doesn't have to swim more than 4' from the side of the boat to dive. The congregation on the bottom made the yellowtail who are extremely smart, pretty stupid. I shot this 25" yellowtail which was probably just under 5#. That was the extent of my diving for the day. I was beat.

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The following weekend it blew pretty hard. I have never been more happy. I did some stuff around the house and basically slept. The weather for this past weekend was forecast epic and I was finally ready to get back into it. Stevie and I went with a few younger guys (17-ish) who I take whenever I can. They are great kids and fun to teach. After searching the shallower top of the reef, 35 - 50', Stevie and I decided we were going to let the boys rest while we looked a little deeper. We went out to the drop off and when i jumped in I got the chills. We were literally picking fish out to dive on in 100' of water. The vis must have been 150' or so. The best part is we both felt really good and did 10+ dives each over 85' before moving shallower to let the other guys dive. I missed a nice black grouper that Stevie ended up shooting his next dive. Stevie shot a mutton at 93' and I got this dog snapper at 85'. Super fun diving with him. You come up and he's right there. Like he is supposed to be.

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The grouper he is holding rocked up. We were drifting so I asked him how deep it was as we started shallow(er) and drifted toward the deep each drift. He said he shot it at 78' so it was probably at 85'. I told him to hold my gun so I could go check it out. I dropped down after a good breath up. I could see the rock getting bigger and bigger and I felt okay so I just went down to the fish that wasn't but barely stuck. I grabbed the shaft and pulled his head out and he was free. I went to the surface. I looked up and it was further away that I expected. I got to the surface fine though and grabbed my gun from Stevie and he started to pull the fish up. It was barely hanging on so after 15 seconds of breathing I dove about 10' to shoot the fish again and secure it. I looked at my watch and had no idea how deep I just got that fish out. Pretty cool for me as it is the deepest I've dove and relatively easy. Enjoy.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Dave Freeman » June 29th, 2015, 5:31 pm

Love your reports. You and your friends are always killing it. Nice ones once again and congrats on the pb depth. It's nice to know your limit is further than you ever imagined.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » June 30th, 2015, 8:52 am

Couldn't agree more and thanks for the kind words. I have some more coming from this last weekend as soon as I get some time.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby kathy » June 30th, 2015, 9:07 am

AAAAAAAhhhhhhhhh think of all the grouper sandwiches you could make with a fish like that. Amazing. Congrats on it and thanks for sharing the pics.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby John Hughes » July 5th, 2015, 5:08 am

that's pretty incredible conditions and diving john. Keep the pics coming!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby GreasyGar » July 7th, 2015, 11:57 am

Damn dude, killing it!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » July 8th, 2015, 4:46 pm

Well I've been taking video for quite sometime. If I would have realized how much I had I would have made a video sooner. I could not fit half of what I wanted to but it's pretty action packed and not just a bunch of shooting so I'm happy about that. I didn't get in a single wahoo or Tortugas video but there is always next time. Enjoy and sorry for the novice video editing.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » July 9th, 2015, 12:51 pm

Alright, back to last weekend. The 4th annual "Thats What She Shot" tournament once again fell on, what could now be counted on, as the best weather weekend of the year... every year. The crew and I decided to enter and our good friend Marcus decided he would take us on his boat, Auggy One, a 32 Contender. Having a driver so you can dive all day is amazing to say the least. We decided to go west and stay at the Dry Tortugas. The forecast was such that we wouldn't hit a single wave, and we didn't for 2 straight days.

Unfortunately all of my spots starting 44 miles west all the way out to 89 miles west were never seen before slow. Almost no black grouper or big snappers anywhere. We were very disappointed in the amount of fish. Still, we managed to pick off some really nice species by the end but it was slow. The reason, I believe, the water was 87* and in some areas up to 91*. It was gross warm. We dove some amazing new spots though and I was glad to have my good diving buddy's with me as almost everything we did was from 60 - 100'.

I personally had a bad trip. The first day was "one of those days" where Harry and Stevie were shooting fish and I felt like I hadn't seen life for hours on in. I shot 2 freaking fish the entire day.

I made up for it but the second day we finally saw a few groupers and the first day Stevie shot 2 very nice dog snappers, my favorite fish to hunt. The water in some areas was more clear than your average swimming pool. When its like that you have to pull me in the boat. Honestly, I don't care if there is not a single fish. I will just float and enjoy, it's that mesmerizing.

There were 3 categories for Scuba mens and womens, Freedive mens and womens, and junior... Biggest Grouper, Biggest Snapper, Biggest Hogfish.

Harry won biggest freedive grouper at 27# gutted, Stevie won biggest freedive snapper with a 13# Dog (I had second biggest with a 12 pound mutton), and someone else won biggest hog but come to find out Stevie weighted the wrong fish and his big hogfish was at the bottom of our container hidden by the snappers. I won't say that most places but here but we should have swept the freedive. I could not be happier for our crew. It was a blast of a weekend.

We hit the dock complaining about how slow it was. Apparently some people got mad at us as if we were boasting. It was seriously slower than usual and that shows as the fish we shot would not have normally won. I think we still ended up with about 200# of fish.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Westbury » July 10th, 2015, 7:31 am

Wow!
Greasy flat!
How fast do you run in those conditions?
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » July 10th, 2015, 7:43 am

Our speed here usually depends more on $ than anything as it's usually calm. Not flat like that but a chop our boats can still run the same in. Usually 33 - 37mph.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Westbury » July 10th, 2015, 8:23 pm

castronova wrote:Our speed here usually depends more on $ than anything as it's usually calm. Not flat like that but a chop our boats can still run the same in. Usually 33 - 37mph.


Nice!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » July 19th, 2015, 6:03 pm

The grey snapper spawn here in the Keys this month near the full moon. I found schools of them on the reef for over a 20 mile stretch and i'm sure they are aggregating for well over 100 miles. This school was pretty big. Neat to see the snapper population in good condition. These are all 1 - 2 lb. fish. I usually only shoot them if they are 5 lb. or so. There was a couple big ones mixed in along the reef but most were like these.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » August 12th, 2015, 4:43 am

Its been a slow summer for me as far as Key West diving. I've only went a couple times since I came back from the West coast. Most of the last couple months has had weekends booked with family obligations or softball tournaments. After that I decided its time to make some upgrades. While I was pretty content with my shitty electronics everyone else complained. The depth finder screen was nearly impossible to view but it's my bank account. And now it's empty again, but the boat came out badass.

I worked three straight weekends and most nights of the week in between installing the new sidescan transducer, dual Simrad NSS7 Evo2 MFD's, New flushmount electronics box with slide/lock clear acrylic and locks, Fusion UD650,, rewired existing speakers, ran power for under gunwale LED's, soldered the thru-hull transducer splice into the new units, installed a NMEA 2000 network, synced the units, and wet sanded, buffed, and waxed the entire hull. The deadline was this past weekend, 8/8/15 as I had Killian, Ryan Poole, and Harry coming down to go to the Tortugas. I was still behind after all that work and used a personal holiday Friday and half of Thursday to finish just as the guys pulled into Key West at lunch on 8/7. I'll throw up a picture later, I just realized I don't have one.

We set out to do some deep diving and explore new areas. I got the numbers for a wreck way out west I've been dying to try and everyone was super excited but we looked at both the coordinates and circled for quite a while and never found it. That was basically the only bummer of the whole trip. Almost all the spots we dove were right at 82 - 85 feet. The vis was sub-par for how far west we were but still in the 40' range. We found some 80' vis day two and that really is what is more like normal if not better. We located some crazy reef, I'd argue some of the best in all of the Keys without a doubt. 40 - 60 dog snapper at a time dodging in and out of caves with almost none being smaller than 7 lb's or so. We ended up with quite a few fish to filet and left a whole bunch behind. We didn't find loads of big grouper but I did get one nice one. Harry knocked down 3 kingfish with one pig around 45#. The weather was epic again with variable winds all weekend. No waves to speak of.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Dave Freeman » August 14th, 2015, 8:58 pm

Finally! I've been looking forward to one of your reports. Sorry to hear you haven't had much water time, but the boat mods sound killer. You guys always seem to make the most of it. I'd love to have some of that grouper and those snapper on a plate. Any good footage from the trip or is that askin too much :D
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » August 25th, 2015, 9:23 am

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Here is a picture of the console. The glass that is hidden slides out and pivots down and has two locks. It's pretty slick.

I took a couple videos last week I went and put up so you can watch. Nothing great, didn't do a whole lot of filming.


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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Dave Freeman » August 27th, 2015, 11:07 am

Damn that console is bitchin. Killer footage didn't see the black until you are pulling on his head with the steel in him. Looked deep as well, what intervals do you have your watch set to signal at? Never seems to spoke the fish?
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » August 27th, 2015, 11:32 am

Thanks Dave, I love the console now.

Both of these fish were shot at the same spot (area) which was 83 - 87'. I have no clue what my watch is set to anymore, maybe 60 or 70' and maybe 1:00 but I probably set the watch on day one when I started diving like 5 years ago. I've never seen a fish move because the alarms on the watch.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » September 9th, 2015, 5:25 am

Well we pushed it and went to the Tortugas again this last weekend. I know every time we push it, we shouldn't and that was proven to me again. I also know September sucks and that was verified as well. Starting at 36 miles from home and working out to 85 miles from home we had at best 20' of viz and down to 8'. These spots are usually top to bottom at 60' at worst and what must be 200' most of the time. Dramatically different. We ended up getting rained on at night in our sleep, my boat broke loose during the storm and we got soaked saving it, it was quite an adventure. We ended up with about 1/4 of the fish we usually come back with from down there. Harry, unfortunately, only dove about 1 hour as his sinuses were bleeding into his mask.

But thats why its called fishing and we still enjoyed ourselves. I didn't take any fish photos although i did get a nice mutton around 13#'s. I have always enjoyed taking photos of weather though so I thought I would share.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Alex Ray » September 10th, 2015, 5:40 am

Wow, those weather pictures are awesome, really pretty
On great days I shoot fish and on good days I spook fish
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby kathy » September 11th, 2015, 11:59 am

dang, homesick! You have the best skies ever in the Florida Keys. Thank you for sharing them. We are currently seeing, I believe, the remains of Hurricane Linda overhead in Northern Cal, which means this weekend we will have humidity and lots of little pebble clouds strewn all over the sky. Briefly feel like I am in the keys as a result.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » October 30th, 2015, 11:06 am

I feel like I haven't posted here forever, life has been busy down in paradise.

I do have my new Abellan Albacore 140 I'll show you all soon. For now here is a video of yesterday. Left work at 3:30pm to get in the water for about 2 hours max. Looked for wahoo but none showed. Went into the reef with about 20 minutes of sun left. Shot a nice black and mutton. The mutton was nearly impossible to see as the sun had already set, I got lucky. 50#'s of fish right in front of the island. Enjoy.


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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Kwtony » October 30th, 2015, 12:00 pm

NICE I was out yesterday as well. I had all of about 15 feet of vis on the reef at 40 feet and maybe 20 feet of vis on a ledge at 90-100...
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Freeryde » November 18th, 2015, 8:33 am

Keep this report going! It keeps us ca guys warm. The water here will be below 60 soon so it's nice watching your videos
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » November 18th, 2015, 11:42 am

Freeryde wrote:Keep this report going! It keeps us ca guys warm. The water here will be below 60 soon so it's nice watching your videos


I need to get out so bad man. This Saturday probably. It was slick calm last week but we had the Superboat world championships here so I watched that and then went out and it was less than 10' of viz all the way out to 250' at which point I started drinking beer and turned around to go home.

I do have pictures of this thing though.
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This gun is the real deal. 61.8" long, 142cm of band stretch, shoots a 8.7mm x 165cm threaded shaft with 3 x 14.5mm bands, and I have a mori cable tip on it.

I only took it out once. I didn't have the beaded inserts for the bands, forgot them at Harry's house when I left so I tied the bands with straight wishbones and one slipped out. So... I shot with 2 bands. With just 2 x 14.5mm bands the gun shoots incredible hard. Absolutely zero recoil which I'm sure will change with the third band but in typical Abellan fashion should still be very light. I shot 2 small fish with it, stoned them both from pretty darn far. It's unreal how hard this gun shoots with a 1.6 pound shaft and 2 small bands. There are still doubters who I will deal with when I post a video, who did not think it would even shoot with 3 bands. Hopefully this weekend I can get a nice wahoo or amberjack to get curious.

Until then, thanks for checking in. We are still struggling with hot water. I haven't been in a few weeks though so maybe the water has dropped under 80*. I'm dying for it to be cold enough to put on my 3mm Sea Sniper.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Kwtony » November 19th, 2015, 1:41 pm

That gun is something amazing JP, those bands have some magical powers in them I think as well.


I agree, this weather has been all out of whack, moon jellies were every where too with this warm water. I rode to about 300 looking for debris or bait and still couldn't see past the tip of my gun last week...
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Armstrong » December 2nd, 2015, 1:23 pm

castronova wrote:I only took it out once. I didn't have the beaded inserts for the bands, forgot them at Harry's house when I left so I tied the bands with straight wishbones and one slipped out.


I have had the same issue with wishbones slipping... What kind of beaded inserts do you use?
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » December 2nd, 2015, 1:29 pm

Armstrong wrote:
castronova wrote:I only took it out once. I didn't have the beaded inserts for the bands, forgot them at Harry's house when I left so I tied the bands with straight wishbones and one slipped out.


I have had the same issue with wishbones slipping... What kind of beaded inserts do you use?


I use these but the bead is metal. They are made by Cressi. I can't find the exact photo and am not home but they are the best I've used.

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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Armstrong » December 3rd, 2015, 5:22 am

Awesome, thanks! Sweet thread can't wait to see some Hoo's start showing up on here again :D
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » December 17th, 2015, 5:20 am

Well, no hoo's but we got out last Friday. Had to take a day off work because the wind has been howling every weekend. Not questionable wind where we could push it. Like 20 knots, no bueno. I actually did something very different this trip. Usually I'm pretty stubborn and start way west and work my way back toward home. I do it because I like the spots I have further out and usually believe the further from pressure the more fish. I had to be honest with myself, there is still plenty traffic all the way there. Might as well go with the sea all day. Plus, there is a little corner off the reef I love to dive. It is 95' with tons of white sand and just a big coral boulder here and there, very bahamas like. I usually get there last and sometimes have to skip it because I'm too tired.

I started the day there and on my 3rd dive, after warming up a little, I shot this mutton at around 92'. We ended up getting a few black grouper, some hogs, and a very big mangrove. I buddy of ours talks just incredible amounts of shit about his fishing being better than our diving. Hence the stringer photo. :eek3dance:

You can see a grouper take off that I had lined up first, it was a yellowfin grouper. It's the first one I've ever seen, very rare for the keys. It was definitely legal but I just love the taste of mutton snapper. I also continue to love these Moana Euro Soft fins. They are :eusa-dance:




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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby Straz » December 17th, 2015, 9:33 am

That stringer is impressive!!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby John Hughes » December 20th, 2015, 5:22 am

castronova wrote: I also continue to love these Moana Euro Soft fins. They are :eusa-dance:


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Thanks for taking the time to post up John. It's been a rough start to our El Nino winter and nobody has been getting out much with all the swell. Great photos as usual, keeps the stoke going.

curious about your impression on the Moana's vs the Dive R's? I've been extremely happy with my Dive R (softs) for the last few years but don't know many people that have dove both. I'm not a super deep diver so that isn't really an issue for me but we do dive in lots of current at times and I haven't found a fin that seems to be as efficient on top and doesn't wear me out after kicking for a few hours. I'd also be curious about what foot pockets you're using with each. Thanks. Keep up the strong work!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » December 20th, 2015, 4:30 pm

Hey John, thanks. Our weather has been pretty brutal too but probably still more manageable than a large swell.

You said it, there is no fin made as good as DiveR for surface/current swimming. I have the DiveR in medium and have dove the soft. They are very very good fins. The Moana are just so good on your legs. I mean, I feel like I'm only kicking my feet but there is propulsion. The key to the Moana's is the lack of twist. They have that part figured out and even this soft euro that is like the softest fin you've ever flexed still moves you through the water so good.

The biggest thing I noticed was energy savings diving. I dove them for 30 dives of so from 50 - 85 and thought, "ok, not bad. Not shockingly good but good." Then I put my DiveR's back on. I felt like I was doing lunges. The difference in leg muscle use was really big. I started to get tired instantly after getting used to the Euro Soft.

I have since left the Moana one trip and just took the DiveR to see if without direct comparison if my legs will just get used to whatever I am kicking, and they did. For shallower water and a lot of swimming around I would take DiveR's in a heart beat. The Euro Soft are actually good on the surface too but only to a certain point as the fins are quite a bit shorter and the angle less. We do not swim a lot, at all. I basically tell my divers no swimming, this way we drift together and one numb nut doesn't swim against the current and get separated. It's a waste of energy here, we have a driver on the boat and motors running all day. We drift and only anchor about 1% of the time. If we go over a good spot and want to dive it again, we set up the drift again.

In the DiveR I am using the Buechat foot pockets as recommended by Brandon Whalers. They are very soft and comfy on the foot with just enough power in the tendon. That being said, I would not recommend them unless you are handy and very patient. They are a total pain in the ass to install. You have to shave down the DiveR blade T until its flat as the Buechat rail does not have a T channel. I wish I could say I learned the hard way by doing mine... but I ordered my DiveR's with my 2 best friends and had to do 3 sets. It sucked. I guess one pair wouldn't be too bad for ultimate comfort.

I am using the Salvimar with the Moana. I think they are good too. Decent comfort and move the fin good. Nothing crazy, kind a standard foot pocket if their is such a thing. Now that I think of it the Moana would probably be incredible with the Buechat pocket.

Its not easy to explain fins for me so I hope this helps.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby John Hughes » December 22nd, 2015, 10:51 am

that was actually a great description John I really appreciate the effort! Those Moanas sound like exceptional fins but I won't stress myself out on getting a pair just yet. Sounds like for the type of diving I'm doing these may be the better fit. I may have to check out the Buechat foot pockets at some point though. I appreciate the installation tips. I've been using Omer pockets and it was enough of a PITA using those till I got the technique down.

Thanks for the derail, carry on with the epic stories and photos please! :obscene-drinkingcheers:
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby castronova » December 29th, 2015, 5:48 am

Well, the blue finally came through.

It has been howling here. In the winter the wind picks up and even when it's calm it's very choppy. Then, when we get the east current that we need for wahoo it is usually against a very strong east wind. Those oppose each other for those that don't know and the offshore swell gets big with a nice enormous chop on top of it. But, that is what we need.

Christmas Eve forecast was 16 - 18 mph southeast sustained with gusts exceeding 20. Southeast is even worst as it still goes against the Gulf Stream but also has plenty room across the straights in between Key West and Cuba to stack everything up. Alas, we make it to the reef running in the trough which wasn't bad but when we hit the drop off the waves grew tremendously. I turned around and want back about 1/2 mile to the inside of the fore reef to get suited up so we could actually stand.

We get out to the proper depth and throw the float lines out (which is rare for me). I drop the flashers right under me and ease myself in. Usually I would load my gun on the boat but it was just way too rough for that. I clear my snorkel, the bubbles clear... :romance-hearteyes: there are 5 wahoo swimming right at me very slow, lit up. What an unreal sight.

I load up 2 bands, discuss with myself if I should dive now or load the third... they're under me moving away! I load the third band and drop with a 1/10th of gas in the tank. I let the closest and smallest go right behind me and a 30# on my gun side closest go under my gun going for the leader of the pack, a 40 plus. I'm out of air and they are not cooperating. The shot is just way too far. It's a no go, Dammit. :angry-cussingblack:

We drift up on the reef in less than 10 minutes. The Gulf Stream is in close and the east current is pushing 2 to 3 knots. The water is purple and there is not a particle in it. This is NatGeo stuff here. I call for the boat and set up the drift again.

We jump in a little south of the original spot because a charter boat anchors right in line. No problem. We're loaded up this time. We drop in and the first thing I see is a bait ball of sardines that are from about 80' down to about 10' from the surface that counted in the 10's of thousands. It was incredible. We drifted for about 5 - 7 minutes, enough to get bored when you have seen a wahoo that quick. I can tell we are approaching the reef again as I can see the bottom in 90' which means we've hit the drop off. About 30 seconds later I do a drop to look for grouper. I level off at 70 or so and realize we need to set-up again because the bottom is 80'. I come up and wave to the boat to get myself and G. I drop my head to clear my snorkel and hear a shot :violence-sniperprone:

I look down and see G off my left about 30' but before I can focus on him I notice he shot a fish in the back of the pack and there are 3 wahoo 15' underneath me. I breathe and drop instantly, spooking the 2 on my gun side slightly. They drop and do a zig and then zag to look back at me as I leveled off under the waves. I send a perfect high quarter shot behind the shoulder of the closest fish. I look up and G's fish goes by me less than 8' from my face, mouth wide open, pulling his line. Scary as shit.

My fish goes North (shallow) and within 50' u-turns toward the south, rips the 12L Rob Allen out of my hands and sinks it 20' moving at an astonishing speed. I catch it after 10 seconds then in less than a moment it rips under water 20' again and is moving out of site. I've never swam so hard in my life. I look back the fish are splitting us, we are at least 150 yards apart at this point. I'm kicking as hard as I can and the fish has now taken the float out of site, a couple hundred feet from me. Amazing power.

In an effort to wrap this up G lands his fish. I ask the boat for a ride through these giant waves to my fish (which I don't like to do). As soon as the boat is there the float is only 50' from me now and the fish has wasted his energy. I decide to just swim to it and in 2 minutes or so bring it slowly kicking up from 100'.

I get in the boat and G and I are screaming like little girls. This was G's first fish, admitting to losing his first 6. I'd estimate his just under 60#'s. Mine was in the low 40's. The waves are huge, we are both overheated and within 1 minute we go from pure excitement to puking. Neither one of us can hold it in. We started dumping water on our heads and down our suits but it lasts a minute and we both over heat again. The water is not cold enough yet to wear a 3mm and chase those fish. That plus the waves and boat moving made it unbearable.

We take our tops off and decide to go into the reef and chill to try again. We take the 1/2 mile trip into the reef and sit in 30' of water where the waves are only 2 to 3'. We try to untangle the catastrophe on the boat and soon as either of us duck our heads we just start puking. The conditions were beyond epic. We wanted to stay there all day but that rush just got the best of us. It was christmas eve, we all had dinners to go to and 100# of fish in less than 40 minutes.

We couldn't take it any more and decided to leave the greed behind and go have plenty time to spend with our families. We started headed home at 9:57am.

I couldn't be more fortunate to live where I do.
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby John Hughes » December 30th, 2015, 6:47 am

That is a crazy report! Pretty rad when you can go slay some big fish and be headed home in time to take care of business. What a Christmas.

Like I always tell my wife when she asks what I think my ETA will be....."the plan is to shoot limits and be home early". It just doesn't always work out that way but it sure is sweet when it does!!

these warm water reports kill me when our temps are dropping into the high 50's for winter but I'm stoked for you guys!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby BeauG » December 31st, 2015, 7:16 am

Holy crap, I have been blowing it. This thread is Awesome! Overheating in 3mm suits chasing wahoo on Christmas!? :eusa-violin: Epic stories and photos, keep em coming!
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Re: Key West and Beyond...

Postby greekdiver » December 31st, 2015, 7:58 am

Jp has it made in Key West!
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