Lots of crazy weather going on these days. Snakes washing up on the California shore; hurricanes in January in the extreme North Atlantic. Apparently, it is because of El Nino. (Sorry, I can't find that little tilda over the "n" on my keyboard). Whatever is going on - it is December 31st in Tallahassee and 85 degrees. I'm down with that. Definitely some crazy stuff going on around the globe though.
Yes, it is New Year's Eve - the end of 2015. I am in Panacea because our new Panacea shack neighbors (they own nice houses on stilts, btw) invited us to a New Year's Party tonight. We appreciate the invitation as we didn't have any plans.
Nick was nice enough to come up from Clearwater to visit and hang with us for New Years. He, of course, brought his boys: Lucas, Dylan, and Casey. Like I said, it is about 85 degrees outside - On December 31! When I woke up, I checked the weather - 80% chance of rain with thunderstorms. Damn, I really wanted to take the boat the boys out on the boat - even if it was only for a short ride.
Because of the impending inclement weather, I take them to the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab - which is in Panacea, and as it turns out, right down the street from the shack; so we walk there. You probably have never been, but it really is a neat place and a wonderful place to take children because they get to touch many of the marine animals that live there. We stay for an hour or so - take a couple of pictures:
The sun comes out. Okay, that does it, I'm taking the boat out. The heck with the "impending" weather.
The marina puts the boat in the water. Here we go:
We get about a mile offshore and the fog becomes ridiculous / redonkulous. Last year, there would have been absolutely no way that I would have navigated through this. I mean really, I can't see more than 30 feet past the bow. But I learned this / last year to trust my electronics, and besides, my intention is only to head to Rotary Reef about 8 miles offshore. I now consider eight miles "inshore" fishing. :-). If I get lost in the fog, I just have to head North on my return.
About 20 minutes later, we arrive at the reef. And God decides to work with us as the fog pushes back to about a half-mile visibility. I must admit, I haven't ever caught much at this reef because it is only about 25 feet deep - and well-fished by everyone. Some small rock bass, and other small fish are usually the standard. But there are absolutely no other boats out here. How do I know? Cause I am using my radar! Works great in the fog.
Anyway, we put a couple of Stretch 30's out and start trolling. They're called Stretch 30's because they dive to about 30 feet. About a minute later (no really, it was only about a minute), one of the rigs goes: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Have I mentioned that I love that sound? But it doesn't last very long. Hmmm. Nick starts to reel it in and I begin to reel in the other. On the first rig nothing but seaweed. But just as I get my lure close to the boat - WHAM! I actually SEE something big hit it. The fish heads downward, so I hand the rig to Casey. He reels. This is no rock bass. A few minutes later, here she is. The picture doesn't do it justice, but trust me this is a HUGE gag grouper. I'm guessing about 16-17 pounds. Holy crap:
I put in a VHF call to the marina: Gag Grouper, of course, aren't open, so we have to throw him/her back. It sure was fun though.
Nice Job Casey.
We put the lines back out.
2-3 minutes later (no really, it is): zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Definitely not seaweed this time. The rig goes to Lucas. A few minutes later:
15 pound Gag Grouper. (Lucas) BAZINGA indeed!
Well heck, let's do that AGAIN!
3-4 minutes later: (no really, it is)
10-12 pound Gag Grouper (Dylan)
I'm pretty sure that the gag grouper KNOW that they can't be kept in State waters. They, obviously, are very hungry. As soon as the season opens (April 1, btw), like deer, they will change locations.
But hey, that was fun. Three big grouper in less than 10 minutes. Nothing to this fishing stuff, right?!!!
There is still some pretty bad weather lingering just to our North, so Nick and I decide to be safe and head back in. No problems getting back - thank you GPS! We couldn't see anything for the entire return trip.
Later in the afternoon, Terri, Cameron and Delaney join us to celebrate New Year's.
We left the boat in the water and drank a few beers as the day turned to night. I'm not sure how Cameron didn't get in this particular picture. Perhaps we tend to forget about him now that he is in college. Sorry Cam, we still love you dude. Keep studying!
So on the very last day of 2015, I got to fish with one of my best friends and his boys; catch grouper; spend time with my family; party on my boat; watch great fireworks over the water and enjoy quality time with new neighbors and friends. I feel blessed. Goodbye 2015 - it was fun!
Hello 2016. Let's get this cold weather behind us. I'm ready to fish. You coming with me?
Happy New Year everyone.
Captain Marc Paul
Happy New Year!
Welcome to 2016. I hope everyone had a great 2015. I must say, there were some bumps in the road, but I enjoyed it. It was a good year. Well, except for turning 50 - that part really sucked. Still, no sense in giving up and now I have another ten years before I have to worry about another major birthday.
If you didn't know, we have been restoring an old "shack" down in Panacea. The house had been abandoned for about eight years. Everything was rotted; the carpet stunk; the yard hadn't been mowed in eight years; and some vagrants had actually stripped out all the electrical and plumbing from underneath the house. Simply said, it was a dilapidated dump - and that's being kind. But - it had good bones. They built em well in the 50's. The entire house is made of oak - no drywall.
Although it's just a little cottage from the 1950's, it's extremely convenient for fishing because it is located only a few hundred yards from where the boat is housed at the marina. Not that I ever would, but I could imagine drinking at Mad Anthony's bar on the water after a long day of fishing and walking back to the Shack (after my personal limit of two alcoholic beverages, of course).
Terri has been designing / "cuteifying" (not a real word) the Shack and I have been doing the demolition and foundation rebuilds. I've learned a lot. Although I have spent a great deal of time alone down there, I have also had some help. Thank you to Terri, Cameron, Delaney, Jeff, Sam and Gene for their ongoing assistance. It still has a way to go in regards to remodeling, but it is livable and kinda fun to stay at now that it has heat and air - and electricity. Here are a few before/after pictures for your viewing pleasure:
START (the day we bought it):
So that's it for the Shack. Now, if you fish with me, you don't have to drive all the way back to Tallahassee - or wherever. The place easily sleeps six (thanks to Terri's bunk bed idea in the crew room). Sitting by the fire on the back deck with a cocktail after a long day of boating and fishing sounds just awful doesn't it? Oh - let's include some broiled or fried fresh grouper. Yeah. Yeah.
It's been a while since my September post. That really upsets all three of you readers - I know. Although, you three readers must like re-reading these posts a lot since I now have over five-thousand hits on this blog. Damn - and thank you for reading. We all know its me re-loading the page over and over again to get my numbers up. :-)
I apologize for my infrequent (non-existent) publishings these last few months. What can I say, I have been working on the shack every weekend! And well, it is frickin winter!
But the good news is that I actually have another blog to write about 2015 New Years fishing (sorry for the delay Nick) - which I will try to construct and publish tomorrow. So you will get two blogs in a row in January! Unprecedented. Don't expect much from me in February - I hate Februarys.
Gonna be a fun 2016. We have a lot of fishing to do.
I'll be back soon with some cool (and recent) grouper photos, I promise!
Captain Marc Paul