AmberJack 2022

Thanks Gene for the doormat.

Its been a LONG time everyone! I wonder if this old Google blog still works?  I know that Google was updating their blog platform and I can see from this new design format that things are quite different.  Since I only had three people who actually read my blog, I wonder if they will still get automatically emailed from this new format?  I read in 2020 that Google's old blogger email publishing vehicle (the one I was using) was going to be sunsetted, so I'm guessing it is entirely possible that I may be writing this particular post for nobody.  Oh well, I still enjoy reading my own blog.  :-)  

Obviously, it hasn't been two years since I have fished, but things definitely slowed down during the crappy COVID pandemic. Then, the boat was broken for about 8 months because I couldn't get parts due to supply chain problems.  Who knows what will be next?  Baby formula problems?

On the boat today are:  Dave Marowski, his son Ryan, my daughter Delaney, her boyfriend Caleb and some of my Ultimate Frisbee friends, Coia, Zack and Tom.  Today's weather calls for clear skies. Okay, then why the hell are these water spouts sprouting up everywhere around us.  Weathermen!  Water spouts aren't going to scare me/us away from fishing though, besides, they are behind us, where we just left - in Panacea.  I'm not headed that way. We're headed 40 miles offshore to V Tower. NO chance there is bad weather out there, right?!

                                         

Two water spouts.  You can see where the one on the right is actually hitting the water.  Part of me has always wondered what it would be like to be underneath one while I'm on a boat.  No, really!

                                         

We stop at Oar Reef and catch a small gag grouper.  Unfortunately, he isn't large enough to keep and even if he was, we are heading into Federal waters.  Gag grouper are only open in State waters  - not Federal.  I made that mistake once - not again.  I get boarded a LOT by FWC.

We arrive at V Tower after 2 hours.  My biggest problem is that we only have about 12 pinfish on board.  AmberJack LOVE pinfish!  There are 8 people on board, so we are going to go through pinfish very quickly.  Fortunately, we do catch Amber with them.  Ryan even catches a large Snapper with a vertical jig.  I've never seen that.  Here are a few pictures:


Too small to keep Tom - gotta be 34 inches.  This one is 31 inches.


Um. No.

Tom, catch something we can eat. Not this 8 ft Bull shark.  And he complained for the entire 1/2 hour it took him to reel it in.  





Still too small - both of them.  Lots of fun though.


Big enough to keep, but wrong species, Ryan. Happy Birthday btw!  Glad I could take you offshore fishing on your actual birthday.

Then, Delaney hooks into a large one.  Get em Delaney.  And she does.  It did almost take her over the side of the boat at least once.  AmberJack are STRONG fish. Then, Caleb also catches a keeper. I love watching people catch AmberJack.  It has become my favorite type of fishing out there. Nice job you two:


I'm pretty sure Delaney caught the one that Caleb is holding, but whatever.  They were both nice AmberJack.  And yes Delaney, I promise to hang this picture on the 'Wall of Fame' at the Crak Shak.

One of the funnier parts of the parts of the trip:  A few seconds after this picture was taken, Coia can't lift her pole off the gunwale. She looks at me and says, "Mr. Paul, I think I have a fish on". Because we are so close to the tower, I figure she is caught on the bottom. I'm standing next to her. She hands her pole to me. Strangely, I am able to pull up on it, but then something pulls back. Goliath Grouper - probably 300-400 hundred pounds. I try to hand the pole back to her, she refuses. So I fight the damn thing for about 30 minutes, not making much progress.  Finally, I think the fish simply spits out the large blue crab that Coia was fishing with because I lose it.  But then it bites it again and then I lose it again. I actually don't think I ever had it hooked, it just didn't want to give up the crab. Anyway, that was funny. "Mr. Paul, I think I have a fish on". Yes, Coia, you have the largest fish in the Gulf of Mexico on!  I do wish we could have gotten it all the way to the surface though.  They are so ancient looking.  But it usually takes 1.5 hours.  They are ridiculously strong; like pulling up a VW bug.

As we are headed home, we have a little fun. Until we are boarded by FWC - Again!  Man, I get boarded a lot.  We didn't keep anything illegal - I never do - so the boarding goes quickly and they go on their merry way to board the next vessel.





Always a pleasure to spend quality time with my college "Straight A" talented daughter.

After the FWC inspection, we get to go through a pretty severe rainstorm before we make it back to the marina; too bad I didn't get any pictures of that. To be fair, it hurts a lot going 35 MPH and getting hit in the face with rain, so it isn't that surprising we didn't take pictures during this particular part of our latest nautical adventure.  Fortunately, no water spouts hit us as we navigate through the storm.  I'm still saying that would be interesting - until I died. Cool way to go though. How did Marc go? Oh, he got sucked up in a water spout while fishing!  Fricking A!!!!  Let's drink to him!  That would be epic.

Even after all these years, the old girl still looks pretty good. You can see on the horizon, behind the shed, the storm we had to go through. It is moving North.  But we are back safely.  Time for beer!!


Dave does an excellent job cleaning the fish (and the boat) and we end up with 25-30 filets. Did I mention they were BIG fish!  Here are a just a few of them getting ready to be grilled up.

 Trust me - they are quite tasty and quite easy to make.  Olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh lemon, a little butter and redfish blackening spice.  That's about it.


So if you get an email due to this post, please let me know. If you still think my blog sucks, please DON'T let me know. I'm curious if the automatic notification emails still work. Admittedly, I haven't been fishing as much as I used to so if you haven't gotten an email in a long time, well that's on me and being lazy.

In my defense of staying busy, I actually started learning to play the drums; I started a band called Next Phase. That particular endeavor keeps me pretty busy practicing up in Havana and at nights at home. Perhaps I should probably blog about that someday.


Dave trying to sing.

Our origins in a fertilizer warehouse.

Me practicing at home.  Drums are difficult.  I suppose ALL instruments are.

Sometimes we even have "guest" singers.

Nicole on keyboard.  Killing it!  She likes jamming to Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Noodlers.


***

My friend Nick and I are walking the Appalachian Trail in July (Virginia), so I am also training for that.  


That said, I really should get on the water more often.  Still love it.  As do others.

I sincerely hope everyone made it through the pandemic okay.  Yes, I got COVID. I got it early on in the pandemic.  The headaches sucked and it kinda took some of my breath way for about 30 days.  I was fortunate in that my experience with it wasn't too bad and I didn't get Long-COVID.  Hopefully, you avoided it or also got a mild case.  Either way, I hope everyone remains healthy and happy.

Enjoy your life people!

Thanks again for reading.


















COVID-19


As of this writing, my company, PCG, has been "social distancing" for the last 46 days.  About 2/3 of my staff have been working from home.  These are challenging times. I have been going into the office every day (Well, except for the weekends).  And it is the weekend!

Time to fish.

AmberJack opened up today (May 1, Saturday) - and the day is absolutely beautiful!  0% chance of rain and mild winds.  I can't think of a better reason to head to V Tower to hunt for AmberJack. Cameron has numerous friends who have said that they want to go fishing this weekend. I have known these boys for most of their lives, so I am glad to take them. It has been a while since I have been offshore fishing.  

The players this weekend:
  • "Tommy Tech"
  • Austin (porn stauche) headed up from Gainesville.
  • "I always bail on fishing Ronnie" 
  • "Dirty Dan"  (not in this picture because he is still driving over from Jacksonville)
  •  Hunter "Ladies Man" (Duuuuuuuuulin). 
  • And of course, Cameron - "Best Son Ever!"  :-)

Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

After meeting up with everyone at the boat Friday evening, we walk over to the Shak and have  spaghetti and a fire out on the back deck. 

  

Getting late. Time for bed and sleep - except for Tommy, who must sleep under Dan, in the bunk-bed.  Dan snores!  Poor Tommy.

7:00 a.m.

I'm not sure we could ask for a more perfect morning:

 

Everything passes on my checklist, so it is time to head offshore.

We arrive at V Tower around 8:30 a.m.  It is a long way, but we hauled-butt out here.  Smooth seas.  Interesting that it is called "V Tower" when it has "N26" in huge letters plastered on the side of it.


Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

Old-man body.  I hope my 3 readers don't get nauseous.


Ronnie catching his first AmberJack.  Free entertainment for the rest of us.  

Ronnie:  "The reel is broken, the reel is broken!"  
Um, Ronnie, pull UP, reel DOWN.  
Ronnie: "Hey, the reel is working again!"  
Priceless.


Ronnie won though!  Great job.  We need a new nickname for Ronnie.  He didn't bail! 
Perhaps, "The Bail Bondsman!"


Fantastic fish Austin.  Biggest of the day.

Gulf of Mexico

Nice fish Dan.  Pretty darn close to Austin's.  Hopefully it was worth the trip from Jacksonville.

Gulf of Mexico

Come on Hunter.  Work those biceps boy.


Also a keeper.  Nutcracker.  I have no words.  He WAS good luck though.  So what is the 6 ft Christmas nutcracker doing on the boat?  Glad you asked.  You see, Terri waited in line for Tallahassee's Goodwill stores to open during the pandemic.  When they finally did, she decided that she needed this 6 ft nutcracker for her store - for Christmas in 7 months.  But, she needed me to bring my truck to Goodwill cause it wouldn't fit in the Prius.  So I picked it up.  As I was leaving for the coast that same day, I heard the nutcracker dude say, "Hey Captain, I REALLY want to fish, take me on an adventure."  So he came with me to the coast and we bungee-corded him to the stern and took pictures with him throughout the day.  When Terri arrived home, she texted me and asked, "Where's my nutcracker?"  My simple response, "Offshore Fishing.  He is having the time of his life!"


Amber are actually quite silver coming up.  Go figure.

Long ride back to the dock boys.  Let's head home! Catching AmberJack is tiring.  


I think the boys had a great time.


They look even bigger in the bucket.

Captn Hook

Group shot!  
I think I will frame this one and put it on the Crak Shak "Hall of Fame" wall in the kitchen.

As the Captain, my final job is to watch people clean fish or clean the boat while I drink beer.  Cameron has become quite proficient over the years at cleaning fish.


Well, I suppose it is also my job to be the chef for the boys that evening.


Nothing better then fresh AmberJack - and I mean FRESH!

Excellent job Tommy on all the pictures!

I fully intend to make another AmberJack run soon before the species closes May 30, so when I do, I will try to find time to post again with some more pictures.

Stay healthy everyone in this crappy pandemic.







  


Snapper Fishing


For those of you who have been reading ALL my Sailing chapters, I couldn't let you down for your morning read - so please consider this post a "bonus".

Happy 4th of July everyone!

As I promised to provide in my last sailing post, this post is about offshore fishing. Specifically, red snapper. The season is only open for 30 days so I gotta get at least one trip in before it ends.
For the last four years, Cameron has been on the UNF ultimate frisbee team. Terri and I have hosted these UNF college kids (all 30 of them) at our house at least once a year for their annual Tallahassee tournament. All the college kids are a lot of fun, but there is one young man named Chris Daddario whom I really hit it off with. With the exception of Cameron, you won't find a bigger personality in anyone! I love this kid.

And, of course, getting an opportunity to fish with my own son for the 4th of July? Well, it doesn't get any better than that.

Recently, Daddario (not hot sister) told Cameron that he wanted to fish with Mr. Paul before he heads back to New York. Bring it on!

Scheduled. 4th of July offshore fishing, baby!

So on July 3, Cameron and Chris head over from Jacksonville to Panacea for the 4th of July. Devon, Cameron's roommate lets us know that he will be driving all the way from West Palm Beach to join us.  Glad you could join us Devon.

The boys arrive late at the Crak Shak in Panacea Thursday night. It looks like Chris has a Mohawk here, but it is actually a cabinet sticker above his head. Not that I wouldn't bet against him for having a Mohawk.

Early day tomorrow boys, so eat your pizza and go to bed.

Individuals on the boat today:  Me, Cameron, Chris, Devon, Josh, Harry Carey. I met Harry at the dock a few years ago. We've become friends. I have a hard time remembering names so I labeled him "Harry Carey" so I could remember. Josh I know through work.

Everyone arrives at the dock on time. We head out around 7:30 am.

Pretty day. Hot, of course. 
High chance for thundershowers in the afternoon.
For some reason, storms don't scare me as much.

We troll across Oar Reef - about 20 miles offshore. Catch nothing. That sucks. But I'm not really out here to troll. I/we are out here to bottom-fish for Red Snapper.  

We head farther offshore towards V Tower.  My first waypoint for bottom-fishing is about 35 miles offshore. Everyone drops lines. Immediately, the rock bass start hitting, along with a few Key West grunt. Devon, apparently, is the "Rock Bass King". The boy is good at catching them, which, surprisingly is quite difficult considering the size of the rigs and circle hooks I use.  

Although they are quite tasty, we are not here to catch little Rock Bass!  I want to see something big and RED!

Somebody, at this first spot, (Josh, I think), does finally manage to catch one Red Snapper, but right after that, the sharks show up:

I don't like sharks. Well, actually, I have nothing against them, they just don't taste very good and it is easy to lose fingers or a hand if you don't release them properly. I am definitely not out here to catch sharks. They are fun to fight, but they sure as heck aren't coming aboard my boat. Josh does a great job of cutting the line as close to the shark's mouth as possible. The shark will eventually rid itself of the hook and I get my large egg-weight back. Nice job, Josh.

We pull up lines on this 1st spot and head to my 2nd secret spot which, btw, is labeled "Fred - Snapper". If, for some reason, we don't catch snapper today, at least we have a bunch of rock bass and grunts in the boat.

I tell the boys to "drop":



Within 30 minutes
Everybody catches Red Snapper!
I love my secret spot.


Aren't they beautiful?

Within 30-45 minutes, we put 11 Red Snapper into the fish box! (We already had one snapper from our first spot). Well, that was fun. It is now 10:15 a.m. We have officially caught our limit of red snapper (12). Well....What the heck do we do now? Head back 40 miles to the dock?

Nah, we're already way out here, so we all agree to head over to V Tower and have some fun with AmberJack. We can't keep them (they are out of season), but we have an entire bait-well full of live bait. Little pinfish are like candy to AJs, they just can't resist them. And AJs put up a heck of a fight.  

So we head over to V Tower - it isn't far - about 4 miles away and we start fishing.

It doesn't take long: (2 minutes, perhaps):





All these AJs you see in the pictures are considered "small", but man they are a LOT of fun to battle.  At one point, we were tripled up with AJs. It is kinda madness on the boat when that happens because fishermen are moving behind and in front of each other all around the boat. It is like controlled chaos. I absolutely live for moments like this.

Motley crew.
Great picture though.
Awesome shirts!


It is a pleasure to spend the 4th of July fishing with Cameron.
Love you son and I am quite proud of you.
Congratulations on your upcoming graduation at the University of North Florida.

Cameron didn't actually like fishing much when he was younger, but he has become quite proficient offshore.

We spend about an hour-and-a-half catching AJs. I think we brought about 9 or 10 of them on board.  We release them all, of course. AJs will WEAR YOU OUT!  They are great fun though. We still have about 15 pinfish left, but in all honesty, I think the boys are done. Its only noon.

We start to move away from the tower towards home. Wait.... I'm hungry.  Time for my sandwich. So instead of going full speed towards home, I say,  "Hey guys, put the trolling rods out for a few minutes while I/we eat our lunches".

I only get about two bites into my turkey sandwich when the trolling rod goes off. Cameron catches this 5 ft King on a Stretch 30:


Great fish Cameron. We'll eat him for lunch or dinner at the restaurant back at Rock Landing. You shouldn't have punched him so many times with your fist to knock him out. Look at all that blood. At least it isn't Capt'n Hook's blood. Been there, done that - thanks Gene.

See the seas behind Cameron? Dead calm. Absolutely not a breath of wind - no waves. It's going to be impossible to sail today. Wait, no! I have big engines now! 500 horses to be exact. (Sorry, Nick - I couldn't resist.) Still love your little Johnson though. :-)  Wait....

It's time for us to haul-butt back in 40 miles and it wont take us 8 hours! :-)

Try to relax Josh. 
You look very stressed.
Thanks for all your help out there today. It's a pleasure to have you on my boat.

The boys take their time cleaning the fish. It takes them over 1.5 hours:



Thanks for cleaning guys.

Standing next to the fish cleaning station, they wonder why she didn't fish with us:


Devon and Chris clean the boat up on the rack:


What do I do while everyone is working so hard? 
I get served beers from "Becky, the beautiful bartender!"
I manage the other guys.

Good to be Captain!
Nice shirt, Becky. Sorry you got in trouble for wearing it.

After the boat and fish are all cleaned, we shower-up back at the Shak and return to the bar for a few well-earned adult beverages. We do a few one-handed push-ups (me, not Chris). Later that night, we watched a fantastic firework show out on the pier. We never did get any rain. But man is it hot out here.

That was a wonderful day fishing, boys. Thanks for joining the Capt'n for the day and for all your hard work.  Let's do it again someday.


Happy 4th of July everyone. God bless America.

This really will be the LAST post I write for a while.  Sorry about that.  :-(