02/18/12 - Saturday
Weather: High 60, Low: 40. Winds 20-25 kts. Seas 6-8 feet. Cloudy and Rainy. It's like God wanted to make a carbon copy of last weekend.
February weather sucks for fishing.
I can take the cold, but please, show me some sunshine. Less wind would also be nice.
02/11/12 - Saturday
Weather: High 65, Low: 40. Winds 20-25 kts. Seas 6-8 feet. Lightning. I don't think so. I'm having coffee, eating sausage and watching fishing shows on TV.
Weather: High 65, Low: 40. Winds 20-25 kts. Seas 6-8 feet. Lightning. I don't think so. I'm having coffee, eating sausage and watching fishing shows on TV.
Weather: High: 65. Low: 36. Cloudy and a little rainy and foggy. Not what I would call excellent fishing conditions. Did I mention it is windy. Seas are 2 to 4 feet.
On the boat today are Ryan Brooks and Gene Griffin.
All week long, I have been getting acquainted with my nautical maps. There is a lot of information on those things! The more I study it, the more I learn. I have been using my compass, learning about North and West coordinates, degrees, sectors, grids, compass headings, underwater terrain, fish havens, etc. My family grows weary of seeing the nautical maps scattered around the dining room table.
Don't ask me why, but our mission today is to head offshore to a place called "Oar Reef". It's not like conditions are perfect for heading out there. Oar reef is about 20 miles offshore. That means, NO MORE LAND!. I have never Captained a boat where I couldn't see the shore anymore. I am nervous about it. I still don't feel like I know my boat that well. We leave the dock around 7:30 a.m. It's COLD! I think we are morons. Stupidity loves company though.
We past the Shoal which just last week, I thought was a loooong way offshore. But we still have another 15 miles to go to get to our destination. The Triton handles amazingly well in 3-4 ft seas. A few times we really slammed down hard in a trough, but we never really got wet. In fact, we are all amazed at how dry this bay boat runs in relatively rough seas. The electronics are working fine and we stay on course right to the reef. GPS and Fish Finder say we are on it, so we drop down our new poles (bait casters) and our squid (not shrimp this time). Nothing. I have several GPS coordinates that I downloaded from the Internet for this location, so we move around to numerous spots. Nothing. Did I mention that it is frustrating to fish in February?
We decide to head to one more location on the reef, but Ryan doesn't pull the anchor in all the way. I would blame him, but I'm the guy that told him not to bring it all the way up. WHAM! A loud clanging noise and the engine shuts off. I look at Gene and he looks at me. We both immediately know what it is. The anchor chain has wrapped itself around the propeller. Oh my god!
Did I mention that we are 20 miles offshore in 3-4 ft seas? The temperature is 45 degrees and supposed to drop to 25. Crap. So Gene literally holds onto my pants while I lean over and attempt to unwrap the anchor chain from the propeller. Done. I hold my breath; start the motor. It starts. First test passed. Second test, is the prop stripped? I put it into gear. It doesn't seem to have any problems. Thank you Honda, for making a great motor.
With that calamity behind us, they both convince me to go South even farther to the K Tower. "Heck", they say, it's only 5 more miles offshore". We are morons so we go there. Nothing else bad could happen right?
As soon as we arrive, Ryan gets a HUGE fish on the line. It must be a grouper. He fights it for awhile, but it breaks his leader. He, apparently, didn't "rig up" enough. About the same time, I catch a 29 inch redfish. Typically, you do your best to "stretch out" a redfish so he will fit into the "slot" of 18-27 inches. In my case, I try to squish him, but it just isn't working. He is massive.
We only catch a few small, grun looking fish at K tower - very few bites. We even try trolling around it. It is still early February. On the way back, we run into LOTS of Mackerel schools. This time, we have all the necessary trolling rigs, baits and lures. We troll right through those boys and Gene throws all kind of spoons at them. Nothing! They simply aren't interested. Curse you February!
The ride back is well over an hour. We get back to the marina without any additional mishaps. I am learning the area much better, but I still pretty much suck as a Captain at putting us on the fish. I don't feel too bad though. 40 degrees always makes for tough fishing.
I will blog again soon. Oh - missed the damn dock this time during the turn-around.
02/03/12 - Friday.
Cloudy, but not so cold. Not that windy either. We are in the beginning of Februrary, so I am still not expecting the fishing to be very good. The weather this winter is mild, but always cloudy. I miss the sunshine.
Just Ryan Brooks and me on the boat today. It is his first time on the Triton. I think he likes it.
We decide to stay close to the shore for awhile. In fact, we fish the docks. We do have some success. We catch a couple of small trout and a small redfish around a few of the docks. We do this for an hour or so, but there really isn't much biting and what we do catch is too small to keep.
We head out to "Trout Hole" near the last channel marker. We catch a couple of small trout there and a couple of grunts, but nothing to write home about.
It is still morning. Do we do it? Do we head for deeper water? Heck, why not! Sooner or later I have to find the guts to head offshore. So we shoot for something called Ochlocknee Shoal. Warning, there are two shoals named this. This time, I head due South. At lot less crab traps this way. I'm learning! And, I discover that there is actually another channel marker a mile or two South. So I have a new comfort zone. We head for the Shoal that is due South, about 10 miles offshore. Really, not that far, but further offshore than I have ever Captained. Ryan and I have both been deep-sea fishing, but trust me, when you are the Captain, a LOT more runs through your mind.
After 20 minutes or so, we get to the shoal, or at least my GPS says we are on the thing, but for the life of me, I can't find shallow water. The fish finder says we are in 25 feet. If there is shallow water here, I don't see it. The only thing we have are shrimp so we drop those down. Nothing. We move around some. Ryan ends up catching something very large. As he brings it closer to the boat, we realize it is a small (3-4 ft shark). Hate those things. A few minutes later, I catch a stingray. Hate those things. Just as Ryan gets the shark to the boat, I tell him to be careful, but the shark bites through the line. Problem solved. We aren't using leaders.
I set a Waypoint for the Shoal (or what is supposed to be the shoal). Did I mention that I am getting much better at the Lowrance GPS? As we are cruising back from the Shoal, we run into a large school of Spanish Mackerel. These fish are pretty doggone big and we both get all excited as they are churning up the water around the boat. What do Mackerel eat? We're not really sure, so we throw our shrimp at them. Nothing. Now I know that you can troll for Mackerel, but honestly, we really don't know how to do that either. We make an attempt at trolling, but I only have one bait-caster reel and rod, and it is broken. We feel pretty foolish and I am quite certain we can hear the Mackerel laughing at us. We quickly realize that we do not have the appropriate fishing gear for deeper water. For many years, we were flats fishermen catching trout, sheepshead, small rock bass and redfish. And to be perfectly honest, we got pretty good at that in St. Marks, but out here in deeper water - the rules, and the fish, are quite different. We both agree that we need to "rig up".
We return from our first offshore foray with mixed feelings. Yes, we caught some fish in February; we gained some confidence in heading to deep water; but we realize that we have a lot more to learn. But hey, that is why we are doing this in February because the more we learn now, the better we will be when the fish start biting.
So all in all I feel pretty good until I turn the boat around for the lift and slam the stern into the dock - again. Dammit! Next time I'll do better.
I stop at Crum's (fantastic fishing store in Panacea) and buy a new Penn reel and rod. I also purchase some King Mackerel lures, some spoons and some leaders. I'm learning boys.
Temperature: 48 degrees. Windy. At least it is sunny! Terri is anxious to go on the Triton. Of course, the weather conditions aren't exactly ideal, but hey, if someone wants to go on the boat, I'm game!
My goal today was to get us into the Ochlockonee Bay. That is hard to spell. The Bay is one port to the West from Panacea. In theory, it shouldn't be difficult to get over there. Its not like it is far away. We depart the dock around 10:30 a.m. I don't even bother getting any bait. I don't really have any plans to fish.
We head out the Rock Landing channel. I make it to the last channel marker. If you have read any of my previous blogs, you know that the last marker is the end of my safety zone. I watch the markers pass me by. I know that I have to go SW some before I turn W because there is a shallow shoal between Panacea and Ochlockonee Bay. So I head SW. Oh my god! I have never seen some many crab traps. It is like a frickin land mine field. These things are everywhere and if your prop hits them, your day ends badly - every time. So we go slow and successfuly navigate through them. Mental note: Next time, go SE out of the Panacea channel for awhile before I turn SW to avoid all these traps on my starboard side.
It isn't hard to find the first channel markers heading into the Bay. But man, are they confusing as you head in! I was warned that they were confusing but I figured how hard can "Red Right Returning" be? Hard! I have no idea what these damn markers are doing. Some go the left, some to the right. Some are missing. Some are turned sideways. Wow. So I do what I always do, I go slow. Halfway into the bay, we almost run aground. It is as close as I have been to stranding this boat on an oyster bed. I really don't want to get out of this damn boat and push it off in this cold weather. I trim up the motor, hit reverse and get off the bed. These channel markers suck! We finally reach the bridge and I go very fast through it. Sounds dumb, but going under a bridge very fast in a boat is kind of thrilling. I can't say I have ever done it.
We stay in the bay awhile and decide to have lunch at Angelo's on the Bay, but I can't find an easy place to dock the boat. There appears to be a channel behind the restaurant, but the approach looks dicey. I call Rock Landing on my VHF, change to 18 and get their opinion. They don't have a good one. After my recent episode with the oyster bed, I decide not to attempt it. So once again, I am either a chickenshit Captain or a very smart, conservative Captain. I'm still not sure which.
We head out of the Ochlockonee channel, head SE and return back to the Rock Landing channel. Meanwhile, I am learning a great deal about Waypoints, Trails and Routes on my Lowrance GPS cause I'm messing with it all the time. I am getting better at it, but still not completely confident with it. Also, the compass on the boat doesn't seem to be working correctly. I thought I knew how to read a compass, but perhaps not. Do compasses go bad? Doesn't seem very likely.
Terri and I return to the Rock Landing dock after a couple of hours. Yes, of course I hit the damn dock during the turn-around. We have a nice lunch at Posey's on the water and call it a day. Nice day all in all and I made it into and out of the Bay without assistance. My confidence is improving - a little bit at a time.
The FWC officer waved at me today. I must be making progress.
The FWC officer waved at me today. I must be making progress.
It was fun to explore today with Terri.
Delaney and I stayed at the Best Western motel in Wakulla last night. The place is nothing to write home about and kind of on the pricey side for Wakulla. $100 per night. Ouch. (Bill Brattain - I can't wait to get access to your house my friend). She and I did have a good breakfast.
The weather today is cold, cloudy and windy. It is not a good day for boating and Delaney is not feeling well. She, obviously, has a cold but she says she still wants to go on the boat. I assure her that we won't take it out for long.
We get to Rock Landing and they put the boat in the water. Becky, another friendly Rock Landing employee, gives me GPS coordinates for a spot near the channel called "Trout Hole". I'm not really sure how to enter GPS coordinates into my Lowrance, but I don't tell her that!
So Delaney and I head out the channel again. Believe it or not, I figure out how to enter GPS coordinates into the Lowrance. So, we head to Trout Hole. I fish for a little while, but the waves are getting bigger, the wind is blowing, the sun is nowhere to be found and it is cold. Delaney is trying to read Harry Potter, but it is obvious she doesn't feel well. I don't fish for long, play around with the GPS and figure out how to delete the hundreds of waypoints the previous owner entered. We leave Trout hole.
I'm sitting with my engine off - at the last channel marker - which is apparently becoming my comfort zone. What a chicken Captain I am that I won't leave the channel. Another boat approaches very quickly from the West. In fact, it kind of creeps me out that I am out here with just my daughter and I don't know who is approaching. There are no other boats out here but us! As he gets closer, I can tell by his boat that he is FWC. His lights are not on though. He pulls up to my port side. He asks, "Mind if I do a safety check?". What am I gonna say "No?" Hey, I'm ready. I fully equipped the boat with EVERYTHING when it sat it my yard for a month.
FWC will probably never read this blog, so allow me to ask, "Really?". My daughter has a life jacket on. We are sitting still. I don't drink when I am the Captain. Yes, I have flares. No, they are not expired. Yes, I have an air horn. Yes, I have my fishing license - even though I am not fishing. Yes, I have my drivers license. Yes, I have the boat registration. Yes, I have a throwable. Yes, I have an oar. He asks, "Where is your whistle?". I tell him I have an air horn, which I produce. That seems to irritate him, but he and I both know an air horn will suffice. He asks and I show him my all my life preservers (I have 7 on the boat and most are all brand spankin new). In fact they are so new, I still have them in plastic. He quickly pulls out his ticket book and says, "I'm gonna have to give you a citation for that." What???? Did I miss something? For keeping my life preservers in plastic? Apparently, that isn't allowed. Are you kidding me? He is going to give me a $90 ticket because my life preservers are in plastic? Really? Sorry, but no matter the explanation, I think this is rather ridiculous, especially since I just spent 15 minutes proving to him I had EVERYTHING necessary for safety. He starts writing my info in his ticket book. Then, I remember that I have two more life preservers in the bow compartment. They are NOT in plastic. I tell him that. His pen stops on his clipboard and his expression turns to irritation. "I need to see those", he states. I show them to him. They are NOT brand new. In fact, they are relatively old, moldy, and from my last boat. He then says rather unhappily, "Well, I guess you are free to go then". He is clearly annoyed that he was not able to write me a ticket. At this point it is clear to me that this isn't about safety anymore. This game is all about MONEY. Does he get in trouble for stopping me but not writing a citation? I wonder. I have a another story about my fishing license(s), which I paid for twice at FWC and never got a refund (which I was promised). Once again, it seems to be all about MONEY - not safety. Does FWC really need the additional funds? Then again, his boat is only 22 ft. Mine is bigger.
I am grateful FWC is out there keeping us safe and coming from a family of policemen - I do respect them, but please at least try not to make it so obvious that you are irritated when you don't get an opportunity to issue a citation. Most of us fishermen (especially us older guys) take boat safety VERY seriously which is why I spent hundreds of dollars in safety equipment before I ever put the boat in the water. That fact should have been easily apparent after 15 minutes of my "safety" inspection. Even if ALL my life preservers had been in plastic, the officer new it was my first trip out (with my daughter). He, in my opinion, shouldn't have been in such a hurry to give me a citation....Whatever.
So Delaney and I returned to Rock Landing without further incident. She was happy to be back on land. I was happy to have passed my safety/money reduction inspection.
Looking forward to the next trip. I hope it is warmer!
January 21, 2012. Triton 24' "GEEKS 1" Bay Boat Maiden Voyage! I'm excited. Yep. This is it! After picking up the boat from St. Petersburg, and bringing it all the way back to Tallahassee. (Which scared me to death by the way). It is time to put it in the water. To say I am nervous is an understatement. 24 ft! Really? Although it may not be large to some folks, I never thought I would Captain a boat larger than 18 ft.
No problem getting the boat into the water. But then again I have Gene Griffin with me. The boy knows everything and always gives me confidence when I am doing stuff that is outside my comfort zone. He also came all the way to St. Pete with Cameron Paul and me to get the boat. Calling him a "great friend" is an understatement.
I register the boat with Rock Landing Marina. Sheila, behind the counter, is as nice as she can be. I also meet a young kid named Robby. He is also extremely nice and respectful. I already like this new location. Boat's in the water. Engine starts right up and is running! Man, that 4-stroke is quiet! Off we go!
Oh, did I mention that Delaney, my 9 year old daughter is with me. God bless her. She likes going on the boat. She and I have plans to spend the night here in Panacea after we are done and return tomorrow and take the boat out again. She is excited about spending the weekend with her Dad.
I don't know this area, so we stay in the channel where it is safe. The boat increases speed with no problem. Man, this Lowrance GPS is complicated. How long is it going to take me to learn how to use this thing? Being a geek, I am looking forward to it though. Anyway, since the boat was sitting in my front yard for a month, I did have time to read the manual and fix the GPS antenna, which is now working perfectly I must say. I love seeing all the satellites on my screen. We start heading down the channel. Boat picks up speed fast. Love that Honda 225 four stroke on the back! It took me forever to find a Bay boat with a 4 stroke, but I am glad I waited for it. Delaney is sitting next to me. Gene, who is standing next to her, looks over at me, smiles and says, "This is an unbelievably nice boat". I swear, for the rest of my life, I will never forget the look on his face when he made that comment. I simply smile back cause I know it is true. We both LOVE boats and fishing.
Although it is chilly, the water is relatively calm and we have no problem making it out to the last channel marker. In reality, this is only about two miles out, but it seems like a long way to me, because with my small bass boat, it WAS a long way at St. Marks. It is already 2:30 p.m. and we can't stay out for long because: We are the only people out here! It is January! It is chilly. We halfheartedly fish for awhile, but catch nothing. VHF Radio squawks! Something about "GEEKS 1". Oh wait, that is my boat! It is Rock Landing calling. So, apparently, my VHF radio works. Very cool! I have never used one of those before. I answer (appropriately - because I read on the Internet how to respond). We switch to Channel 18. Sheila asks us if we are returning soon. They want to go home. "No problem, we are returning now. Geeks 1 Out. Switching back to 16". So we head North. But not before I learn how to create a waypoint on my GPS at the last channel marker. Delaney has an odd look on her face, but she doesn't say anything.
The Triton gets back to Rock Landing with no problems. However, the dock turn-around, I discover is very narrow. As I am turning around, the stern smashes against the dock. Dammit! This Triton is big! No real damage done, but turning around in this narrow area is going to take some practice.
On the dock, Delaney is as white as a sheet. She is obviously sick, but not from sea-sickness, but from a cold or whatever. I ask her why she didn't tell me sooner, and bless her heart she says, "I didn't want to mess things up for your maiden voyage Daddy". What a considerable little girl she is. I find some TUMS for her in my backpack and she says she feels better, so Gene and I sit on the dock and fish for a little bit and talk. We don't catch anything, but it is always fantastic to talk with a great friend after doing something extremely cool like a maiden voyage on a new boat. And cool it was! What is it about boats that is so amazing!?
Except for hitting the damn dock and a minor problem with my trim, I would have to say that it was an excellent maiden voyage. I can't wait to take the boat out again - which I will do tomorrow with Delaney if she is up to it. Thanks again Gene for all your assistance. I am proud to be your friend.
For the rest of you, I am honored that you are reading my blog. It is great to have you along for the voyage! If you are reading, please let me know you are out there by "following me".
Hello fishermen (and anyone else bored enough to read this fishing blog). This is the first post of my new fishing blog. After this initial post, I will enter details from each of our trips extracted from my Captain's Log on the Triton 24' Bay Boat out of Panacea. My 1st post (okay 2nd) in this blog will start with our maiden voyage.
Come boating or fishing with me soon and get in the blog! And please "follow me" so I can pretend that people are actually reading what I post.