31 January 2009

Islamorada Journal 2009...Day 26

Saturday, 31 January: 7:30PM:

Beautiful day in Islamorada: The wind was screaming out of the northeast this morning, whipping the bay into a froth. No rain; in fact, in 20+ days here, there hasn't been a significant rain...just a few sprinkles. Doesn't bother me much, but the locals are growing concerned about the lack of free water.

Took Deb to the airport this morning...sorry to see her leave. It was great having her here as a fishing buddy...and I know we're all going to miss her photos in this blog.

The ride back from the airport was uneventful. Stopped at the Dolphin Mall in Miami, where the BassPro Shop is, and walked through the entire mall; it's enormous. Lots of sales people alone in their stores with their hands on their hips. Looks like you could find about anything in that mall...maybe except customers.

Here's the aftermath of the winds. You can see how churned up the area is that's been directly exposed to the wind...looks like a green milkshake. The darker area is water that's been in the lee of the land.

Shark photo left over from yesterday. This guy's saying, "I'm gonna hang out right here under this ledge out of sight, and the first thing comes along, I'M GONNA RUSH RIGHT OUT AND BITE IT!"

I Washed, dried, and folded some laundry...yawn! Cut a leaky section out of the hose out by the boat...double yawn!

Talked to Wayne...he and Linda spent the day re-upholstering kitchen chairs.

Things are really exciting down here in bad weather.

Went to the Winn-Dixie...place was busy and the shelves needed stocking. I thought maybe in lousy weather, everyone goes food shopping, but talking with Deb on Skype later, she pointed out that the Superbowl is tomorrow. As neither New England nor either New York team is in the SB this year, I'd lost track of it all. But it explains all the guys at the Win-Dix hovering around the shelves holding the beer and Fritos.

Wind howled most of the day, however, has now dropped off to something tolerable, but it is cold. There's something about 60° here that seems very different from 60 in Connecticut...maybe it's all psychological. Normal high here for the day is 75, but doubt that it got within 10 degrees of that today.

Sunset was a bit blah. All that wind must have blown the dust out of the atmosphere. A dirty atmosphere makes for the most colorful sunsets.

"Oh mister moon, moon, bright and shiny moon, oh won't you please shine down on me." [Old song lyric.] Needed a tripod for a better shot.

Weather for tomorrow? "Mostly sunny. Highs near 70. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph."

Hmmmm. Maybe!

Islamorada, FL; Everglades National Park; Florida Bay; Florida Keys; fishing; charters; vacations; travel

30 January 2009

Islamorada Journal 2009...Day 25

Friday, 30 January: 7:30PM:

Beautiful day in Islamorada: Started out warm with light winds...but it's finishing cool with 20-25 kt. winds

Still, we managed to get out on the water for a few hours...Wayne, Deb, and I. For Deb and me, this was our 4th straight day of fishing, so we could hardly complain about the weather turning bad.

Deb has had a remarkable run of luck, weather-wise, as she left Connecticut before that nasty snow/freezing rain storm hit, landed here just as the weather started to warm up, and she's flying north on Saturday just as the temps here have turned back down.

Not much to report in the way of a fish catch...no muds...but then we were hiding behind various keys to keep out of the increasing wind, and this severely limits the fishing opportunities.

Ms. Osprey protected her nest.

We did run into some schools of fish behind one key that we plan to re-visit soon...barracudas and what may have been redfish or black drum. We'll have to catch a few to find out.

Mr. Egret could probably tell us what they were.

The highlight of the trip was Wayne latching onto a nice shark that unfortunately turned out to be a nurse shark. They're largely benign beasts that most fishermen try to leave alone. They're not really gamefish and they're not really great fighters...although any shark of this size can be a handful.

So Wayne battled the shark to the boat. The shark probably did its best fighting at the side of the boat as we tried to extricate the hook...which was lodged just in the corner of the fish's mouth.

Here Wayne puts the pliers on the hook and gives it a yank...so the fish is now swimming freely and making life miserable for the local population of crustaceans. You can see from the photo that this was no small animal.

Here's tonight's attempt at a sunset [we don't create them, we just photograph them].

The sky appears to be about as glum as we are about Deb having to leave us.

Islamorada, FL; Everglades National Park; Florida Bay; Florida Keys; fishing; charters; vacations; travel

29 January 2009

Islamorada Journal 2009...Day 24

Thursday 29 January: 7PM:

Beautiful day in Islamorada: Forecast is for 80° with winds only 10 kts.

Sitting at the computer this morning, heard a squawking outside and saw Great Big Harry, the Great Blue Heron [GBH] chasing Egbert the Egret out of the basin area. Apparently GBH considers our boat basin to be his private fishing preserve.

Iggy the Iguana was out sunning his butt on the basin wall [remember, Iguanas got their name 'cause they always say "Iguana beer"], so Iggy may be nursing a hangover.

Deb has only two days left here [that went by fast!] so we checked the weather to see if we should fish today or take a break and fish Friday...but, the weather'supposed to go downhill...so we decided to fish today and if it's soggy tomorrow, there's always the BassPro Shop...and reading.

We went to Smuggler's for gas and got to see Mark there who has fished with us in previous visits to the Keys. Then we headed out on the Oceanside where the colors of the water were amazing...the photos do not show how spectacularly beautiful the water is: greens, blues, and all shades in between.

We hit the barracuda hole where Deb had dozens of follows from the local 'cuda population...while I couldn't get one to take a look at my bait. The plastic jig Deb had on just fired up the fish whereas the more bland-colored item I was using didn't do it for them. First photo above shows the result.

Deb had about a 10-minute battle with this toothy critter. She finally got him alongside the boat and we held him in the water while getting the camera ready. Pulled him out for the shot and got him back in right away. Cudas are tough critters in the water, but they'll expire quickly in the air. We wiggled him back and forth in the water until he regained strength...he swam off.

We ran the boat down the oceanside and into the Holiday Isle channel where we saw the gull with the tonsure and the couple with the dog...who seemed to be loving the sandbar. Then we motored over to Hippy Harbor to check out the residents thereof...mostly seem to be spongers. How they make a living collecting and selling real sponges is beyond me, but there must be something to it.

The spongers work off small boats, rowboats, with small outboard motors. They stand on the foredeck with a pole that they use to grab the sponges which they throw in the rowboat. They then bring their "catch" back to the mother ships...one of which was guarded by this dog.

They dry the sponges in the sun and then store them in net bags...and if you get downwind of these you quickly learn not to get downwind of them. They must go through some cleaning process before they're marketed,

This boat seems to have made it into, but not out of Hippy Harbor.

We went over to the Lake to try to spot some dolphins without luck. Disappointed, we headed back in and just as we were about to cross the last sandbar, two of the rascals showed up. They played in the bow-wake for a few seconds, but they were obviously into more important stuff, so we said "goodbye" and headed back to the dock.

This evening there was a huge grouper, maybe 40-lbs., right off the basin wall at the house.

I tried to interest the local cuda and snapper population in falling for a flyrod popper with no result.

Here's Deb's photo of tonight's sunset. Yellow sky may portend ill weather, but that can change in an hour down here.

Islamorada, FL; Everglades National Park; Florida Bay; Florida Keys; fishing; charters; vacations; travel

28 January 2009

Islamorada Journal 2009...Day 23

Wednesday 28 January: 7PM:

Beautiful day in Islamorada; it was actually hot when the wind slacked; forecast was for 76° but it certainly got into the 80s.

Deb says she was getting closer and closer to this Great Blue Heron that was out on the basin wall this morning...take a step...take a photo. This was about as close as she could get before...

...the GBH took to the air. Isn't this a remarkable photo? Look at how sharp the bird's eye is. You can double-left-click any of these photos to enlarge them.

On such a nice day we had to go fishing.

All the clothing Deb has on is mostly to keep the sun at bay as it was warm even out on the water. I never put a jacket on all day, even when running the boat.

Many of the photos we show you in
Everglades National Park
are open water, but that's not typically where we fish. There are all sorts of "ditches" that run between sandbars and between the mangrove keys...it some cases they seem to cut right through a key. These ditches can be substantially deeper than the waters they flow from and flow to...apparently carved this way by the need for the tide to run toward and away from the ocean.

Ditches such as this one can harbor all sorts of fish in among the mangrove roots. [Sorry about the water splotches on the lens.]

We caught several Crevalle Jacks. Funny thing is that these fish have historically been called Jack Crevalles; however, as all other jacks have the "jack" part of their name pronounced last [horse-eye jack, green jack, bar jack] the word was put out to fisherpersons to change from Jack Crevalle to Crevalle Jack. [This is probably information you could have lived without.]

Back at the house, I was trying to interest one of the snappers off the basin wall in biting the white/red lure you can see in this pic. They all gathered around, daring one another to take a bite..."you do it Sammy, c'mon...don't be chicken!" None of them bit.

Deb' shot of a sailboat anchored just a few hundred yards from the house.

Deb's photo of tonight's sunset.

27 January 2009

Islamorada Journal 2009...Day 22

Tuesday 27 January: 7PM:

Photos by Deb:

Nice day in Islamorada today...sunny, mid-70s, but winds from the east at 15-20 kts.

So Deb, Wayne, and I bundled up and headed out on Florida Bay...went over into Everglades National Park in hopes of finding muds [muddy areas stirred up by feeding fish]...

We got into the area we call the Lake, when Wayne spotted something off the starboard side [on our right]...

Oh my goodness...it looks like a great big shark...

And it came over to us and got right under the boat...

It was a dolphin! Deb got down on the deck on the bow of the boat and shot this pic as the dolphin surfaced...practically right under the camera.

There was a small pod of dolphin feedling along a sandbar. As is typical of them, they came over to our boat as we motored along and played in the bow wave for a few moments...then they got bored and took off.

We had a good day on the water. Caught probably more than 30 fish: Jacks, ladyfish, seatrout...nothing photo-worthy. It was windy out there and coming back into the east wind was a bit rough...but we've had a lot worse runs across "back-breaker" bay than today's.

Tonight's sunset.

26 January 2009

Islamorada Journal 2009...Day 21

Monday 26 January: 7PM:

Nice day in Islamorada today...sunny, mid-70s.

Photos by Deb:

Egbert came to call...you can see how tall he is.

"The better to peck your nose with my dear."

Big, ugly, nasty iguana...fortunately not on our dock.

We didn't fish today. I did the eNewsletter, Issue 571, this morning and then had to go to Marathon [36 miles south in the Keys] this afternoon. Deb hanged out and relaxed...overcoming any trip fatigue left from traveling yesterday.

We ate at Snappers Restaurant in Key Largo. Deb had grouper, I had mahi. We ordered mango cheesecake that turned out to be far better than Skippers' KLP.

Plan is to fish with Wayne on Tuesday. Looks like it'll be a good day, so where we fish will depend on where the wind is coming from.