February was a great month in the Keys, in spite of having some cold weather. I know, I know, it certainly wasn’t the cold everyone north of us was experiencing, but it was cold for the Keys. We awakened one morning to forty-eight degrees and a couple of other mornings in the low fifties! Good thing that didn’t last too many days or the drop in water temperature would start killing the fish. That happened four or five years ago. A lot of tropical fish died and a lot of manatees also.
John and I have become quite experienced in fishing in the Atlantic. We were able to venture out in the ocean a dozen times during the month of February. We had some great catches of Hogfish and some poor catches. We were lucky enough to have our friend Gary to give us a daily ocean report. Gary goes in the Atlantic almost everyday and calls us to let us know how rough it is. He left a few days ago to head back home. Gary, come back!
We took our friend, Pam, fishing a couple of days. Her husband had injured his finger, had to have stitches and couldn’t fish for a few days. Pam turned out to be the “Hog Queen,” because she out fished John and me. One day, John couldn’t catch a Hogfish for nothing, and Pam even traded places in the boat with him. He still didn’t pull in any Hogfish and Pam caught one right away where he had been fishing. John was sure catching all these pretty tropical fishes though. There is one fish that John and I just hate to catch. I think he is in the Boxfish family. He doesn’t fight coming up, and it feels like you are reeling in a really big fish. Nope, it is this triangle shape fish that has a very dense body. We nicknamed him Sponge Bob.
A sunny day, mimosa, good friends and Snapper make for a fun day in the Gulf. It started out slow, but who cares when you are having fun. After having no luck on the first couple of holes, I suggested we try a hole we had not fished on this winter. Sometimes, I just know how to pick them and the girls ruled that day. Louise and I caught the most and the largest Snapper. I think the guys had the most fun watching us. After returning to Jolly Roger, the guys cleaned the fish and then we had a wonderful dinner of fresh fish.
On one of our great days on the Atlantic, where we limited out on Hogfish, I also caught four really nice Porgies. They ranged from 16″ to 18 1/2″. Porgies give you a good fight, and when you are fishing in 90′ of water, it can be a real struggle to bring up one that large. It was really wearing out my arms. When I hooked up another large Porgy, at least that’s what I though it was, I knew from the start I couldn’t handle it. John took over for me, and he was struggling with it also. When it reached the surface, it was a four-foot ell! I had snagged it. We didn’t even take it out of the water, got the hook out and down it went. Good riddance.
It’s not just fishing though. We do other fun things as well. The campground hosted a Mardi Gras Parade. It’s a short one, but is growing every year.
The campground hosts a cookout twice a month. Here is one of the fish frys. The fish is donated and cooked by some of the campers here. Everyone brings a dish to share. There is always a huge turnout and lots of great food.
This year a lady has been leading a wine and paint class. She provides all the materials, paint and wine. The cost is $15 and you can choose to paint a wine glass, lobster buoy, or the end of a palm frond. The first two times, I painted a lobster buoy. This week, I painted a palm frond. I am no artist, but it was a lot of fun meeting new people and I thought my artwork didn’t turn out half bad.
John went to the nautical flea market on Islamorada, looking for a new rod and reel and other stuff. He found one and was pretty pleased with it. One day out in the Atlantic, I was having a miserable time. John was catching fish, but I was just getting cleaned. I wasn’t even feeling them bite most of the time. After awhile, John suggested I try his new rod and reel. It was shorter and lighter, and he thought I might be able to feel the fish bite better. What a difference! Not only could I feel them biting, I was catching them! Some time later, I turned and said to John, thanks for the new rod and reel, you are not getting it back.
Some cool things happened while we were fishing in the Atlantic. One day a pod of a dozen or more dolphins swam close by. I had never seen that large of a pod before. We’ve seen a lot of sea turtles, but one day a turtle kept hanging around near by. All through the day, he would stick his head up and look at us, like he was telling us, hey, you guys need to move on, you are in my spot. I can’t count how many days two jets buzzed us. They would fly low, right over our boat and turn sideways. It was the coolest thing and gave me such a rush.
March has been a time for lots of good byes. Many of our friends have already left. We miss them, but we still have some friends here. To date our total for Hogfish we brought back is 96, Mangrove Snappers – 67, Yellowtail Snapper – 31, Porgy – 44, Mutton Snapper – 1, Mackerel – 2 and Cero Mackerel – 1. That is the total of the ones we brought back. We released many more. Our freezer is full, we gave a lot of the fish away, and we’ve eaten lots of fish. We bake, saute, grill, fry, and stew it. I have tried some new recipes that have been pretty good. The fish stew I made tonight was outstanding. It sure was a lot of work though. I made my own fish stock and even made a roux.
Next week, my brother, Mike, and his wife, Terri, will be here. John and Mike will be going fishing and Terri and I will be doing fun things on the different Keys. Then our time will be almost up. We plan on being home the first week in April. It will be sad to leave the Keys, but it will be great to get back on Tybee to see our friends. Won’t be home for long though, we will be flying to California the second week of April!
One last picture. Me and my 28″ Cero Mackerel.
Happy fishing y’all!