Went to the Tortugas again this weekend, it was a hell of trip. I went on Robert Trosset;s 34 yellowfin along with Nate, Corey, and Paul. Another dive boat partnered with us for the trip carrying Steve, Lou (not my neighbor Lou who I usually dive with, Mexican Lou who works at sub tropic), JT and Gatti.
First off it is freezing. Low 60s doesn’t sound cold but add the continuous onslaught of sea spray and wind and it is very cold. We started the trip leaving late Friday night and putted out there in the dark. Our first stop was the oil wreck and the w-tower and we arrived there at around 6 in the morning. Right before dawn it was ridiculously cold. I guess all the cold could have been minimized but I was really under packed for the trip.
The water on top of the wreck was total crap, like 10-15 feet of vis. Any hope of freediving pelagics off the top faded when we saw the water. A couple divers from the other boat dropped a hook and prepared to go down. I warmed myself up and fought crevelle jack after crevelle jack on hook and line. The other divers dropped down and when they surfaced they said the vis was terrible and it was covered with jewfish. After that Rob and JT switched boats. Rob had plans to do some deeper scuba dives with the other boat, and we took the yellowfin to tower to hopefully do some freediving.
As we headed to the tower the vis got even worse (if that is even possible). We hooked up to the tower and started busting out yellowtail on hook and line. It was actually kind of fun for a change and I avoided getting in the freezing water.
After that we headed to a rock pile to see if it was diveable. It wasn’t, so we hooked and lined for awhile. First we had shark after shark, then a school of mackerel moved in and we started catching kingfish after kingfish with the occasional cero mack thrown in . JT and Paul caught most of the kingfish. I caught a couple cero mackerel and 5# yellowtail which is the biggest I have ever caught. Then JT finished up with a 34# king fish which was pretty sweet. After that Rob and the other boat arrived back. The had speared a few fish but mostly swam in crap vis. They found some deep structure which was entirely covered in American Red Snapper but they were currently closed to harvest.
Next we camped on the Island which felt like heaven. To be out of the wind and spray on solid ground was incredible. We set up tents, and had spaghetti that Rob’s mom made. There was much discussion on how hot it needed to be to eat it. Steve voted hot enough already whereas Robert wanted it hotter. There was a gaggle of college girls camping on the island who came to use our fire to make s’mores. Robert, Corey and I looked on while the others came out with great tales of the sea faring man. There was a couple guys with them as well who were either gay , metro or possibly European (It’s sometimes hard for me to tell).
The next morning we rolled out ready to shoot some fish. We packed up early and then had to spend an hour while the fwc people went through our fish and licenses. Finally we rolled out, and as we were leaving the college girls were hitting the beach in bikinis at 9 in the morning ,while it’s overcast, blowing 15 knots and about 60 degrees.
Finally we get out of the Sanctuary and gear up, and the vis is good enough you can make out colors on the bottom at 45-50 feet. We were in the same area where there were packs of sharks in the summer, sharks that would try to snatch anything you shot. It actually got to the point in the summer were you had to work as a team to land fish. Looking at the dirty water I was really kind of hoping they would not be here now.
We hit the water and immediately are shooting mutton after mutton, hogfish and red groupers. I think Cory shot the biggest hog which looked around 7#. Paul shot a red that was close to 15#, I shot a bunch of fish but nothing big. We found a huge rock and JT and Robert dropped down with tanks and filled a lobster bag with bugs, big bugs for the Keys. Many were 3-4#. We did pretty good for the day but towards the end Paul and I were shivering so much it was hard to breath up. There was a front rolling in that night and since we didn’t want to sleep at the fort then cross Rebecca Channel in the morning with the predicted 20-25 knot winds from the north we headed back. We ended up sleeping in the Marquesas , tied up together with the other boat. They had headed east and did scuba dives on the deeper rolloffs. They speared around 20# cubera, some big muttons, a nice dog, and a couple groupers.
The next morning we woke up and it was even colder and windier. At had to be in the 50s and blowing 20 knots. Our first plan was hook and line in the Hawk’s Channel and the we got a call on the radio from Steve’s boat saying the reef was covered in blue water. So down go the fishing poles and on with the wetsuits. The day started out good, shooting some more muttons and red grouper but then Steve called on the radio having boat issues so we went to help them which pretty much killed the day. We made it back to Key West that afternoon, and although the weather and vis sucked I am still glad I went.