Saturday, May 2, 2009

Long Key Part 3

Day 3 Started out with Mama and i getting up early to see the sun rise, eat a nice camping breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon, then we loaded up the fishing gear and headed out for Marathon. There was a bait store there that i wanted Mama to see. It's called Captain Hooks located right at Vaca Cut in Marathon.

Several years ago, i had spent a week in Marathon on a fishing trip with my buddy Chad. All we did was launch the boat at first light and come back in at dark, fishing the whole time. We had located a rolling pod of tarpon at Vaca Cut. We would cast our big Mirrolures at them and they would follow them all the way back to the boat without taking. Was an awesome site to behold.

One thing about Captain Hooks that i always loved was the outdoor pond stocked with tarpon, snook, bonefish and grouper. This time, they had about a half a dozen 30 lb tarpon, a large red grouper and a HUGE snook that looked to be even bigger than the tarpon. We got several shots of these magnificent fish the went into the bait shop to get some squid. We checked out the fishing spot under the bridge at Vaca Cut but forgot that we had bought ice for the cooler so decided to take the ice back to the cooler then go fishing.

After dropping off the ice to the cooler, we went back to "the hole". My idea was to use squid to catch some smaller fish for bait, then put the bait on the big game rod and get something bigger. i was having a heck of a time catching a smaller fish as they kept stealing the bait but after a while, i caught a hand sized pinfish, put it on the big game rig and just waited. Mama was at the other end of the hole using squid to try to catch something too. She had waded out to the flat but wasn't having any luck there either. After waiting 45 minutes for the big hit and using an assortment of DOA shrimp, Mirrolures and spoons, we decided to pack it in, free the pinfish and get the snorkeling gear out.

The weather was hot and the clear water looked so refreshing and inviting. Mama's mask strap broke so as i sat at the waters edge, waiting for her to fix it, i noticed some brightly colored tropical looking fish flitting about around my swim fins. i had an uneasy feeling about swimming in the same hole we had just had live bleeding bait and squid in. As we drifted around the middle of the hole, i could feel cold water upwelling. There wasn't a single fish of any kind to be found. It had occurred to me that the hole could possibly be a freshwater spring and it might be brackish. A lot of fish are picky about the salinity level in the water they're swimming in, so that might explain why there was no fish in the hole. i did see several nice sized mangrove snapper along the outer edge of the hole where the limestone met the edge of the flat. As i was exploring the reef edge, Mama had swam out onto the flat. Later she described to me a fish that she had been face to face with, looking at each other. It was a 20 inch redfish.
i kept getting the uneasy feeling and Quint's USS Indianapolis speech from the movie Jaws kept replaying in my head....

"Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We'd just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn't know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin' by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and sometimes that shark he go away... but sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'... 'til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin' and your hollerin' those sharks come in and... they rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin', Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol' fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945."

....i was very uneasy about swimming in this hole that we had just been fishing in with live i decided that i had better get out while i still had all of my limbs left....something about the area plus the number of bull sharks in our waters....i don't know. But i do know that it's a wise thing to follow my gut instinct.

We packed up and went back to the campsite, had lunch and waded out on the flat with our snorkeling gear. Was very serene just drifting around the flat.....savoring the different little ecosystems that we don't get to see everyday

Mama decided to lay down and take a nap and i wanted to take a shower and relax a bit. When i got back to the campsite, i put some charcoal in the fire ring and started a fire. We had fixed a nice fire the night before and, due to the wind feeding the small vent in the back of the fire ring, found it quite easy to have a hot fire. We had brats and potato salad and yams, as well as a few Hurricane Reefs, walked the beach, took some photos and just enjoyed the scenery. We found a dead bonnet head shark that got trapped in the shallows at low tide as well as some really nice pieces of driftwood that i wished that i had seen earlier to take photos of my gear on ( i get artsy fartsy with the camera when i'm not fishing)

Watched "Running With Scissors" on the laptop after the sun went down, watched the stars and contemplated how sad we would be tomorrow when we'd have to pack up and leave.....the wind had died down and found it easy to drift off to sleep....

Was awakened at around 2 am by what felt like rain....looked up and didn't see any stars.....UH OH! "Mama? IT'S STARTING TO RAIN AGAIN!" Mama...."ok". Around 3:30, Mama woke me up to tell me it was raining.....couldn't find my headlamp....running around trying to frantically put everything in the Jeep.....only to stop raining right when we got everything put away (you'd think that we'd know to do this ahead of time by now huh?)

Got up at sunrise and started packing up the gear. Mama told me to go fishing one more time and she'd take care of the campsite but i couldn't let THAT happen.

Check out around 9:30, drove up to the 1935 Hurricane Memorial in Islamorada,(a post on this coming soon) had breakfast at a mom and pops place, hit a few souvenir shops and headed home. Stopped at the Bass Pro Shops near Naples (spent 2 hours in there) and arrived home around 7pm.

Was a great trip and i'd recommend it to anyone who likes camping and fishing. It's my favorite spot we've been to so far but if there was one thing i'd change about it, it would be the traffic on US 1 in such close proximity to the campsite.....

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