Friday I got a call from Zak asking me if I wanted to go grouper digging with him on Sunday, July 29th. I had never been grouper fishing before, so I was excited about the invite and immediately accepted his offer. He said to meet him over at his house at 5 am and we would head to Cedar Key.
This was the second day in a row for me at Cedar Key. My dad and I went the previous day and did fairly well. This was to be a whole different type of fishing for me however. It was Zak Seymour, Bob Rella, Clayton Pittman and I on Zak’s 21 foot Sea Fox dubbed “Pelagic Magic” with a 150 Mercury Saltwater Series pushing it.
Like I mentioned previously, I had never been grouper fishing before. I had only been deep sea fishing three times previous to this trip and everytime was with a guide. So to say I was/am a novice would be putting it lightly. For the second day in a row, the weather was beautiful. We stopped to catch some live bait before riding out to Zak’s spots. After about 20 minutes of catching grunts and pinfish, we headed out.
The ride out wasn’t that bad. It was rougher than I was used to but I also don’t ever leave the sight of land in my boat. They said the ride usually takes about an hour, but with Clayton telling us sordid, hilarious tales of debauchery and things I probably shouldn’t repeat, it didn’t seem nearly that long.
Since I didn’t know what the hell I was doing out there, Bob was nice enough to play fishing guide. He was rigging up everything for me. Nothing will make you feel like an 8 year old more than having someone else rig up your gear for you. It really demonstrates the fact that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. But Bob didn’t mind, even after I got hung up and had to break off two or three times. I had caught a gag grouper that was half an inch short and a keeper red grouper before poor Bob had a chance to get his line in the water. This was primarily my fault because I kept getting broke off in between fish. I was pretty proud of myself for catching a slot red grouper when Clayton pulled in a really nice gag grouper that made my catch look tiny. I believe it ended up being about 32 inches.
The first spot we were in was about 40 foot of water and it was a fairly productive area. Everyone was catching fish. Bob even managed to find time to stop rigging me up so he could fish. The spot cooled down after a while and Captain Zak made the executive decision to switch fishing holes. We headed out to about 60 foot of water and immediately had success. Zak landed a really nice gag grouper a few minutes after we got ourselves anchored properly.
I was starting to get a hang of everything and attempting to pull the fish up and off the bottom before they hung me up. I ended up having a nice bruise on my stomach from trying to leverage the poll on my gut. It would probably be a better idea to have wrists strong enough where you don’t have to pull that move, but that’s something I’ll have to work out in my own time. I caught two red grouper that just were 20 inches, which is big enough to keep and a gag that was barely big enough at 22 inches.
After the bite died down at that particular spot, Zak and Clayton decided it was time to take a dive. The two of them brought their scuba gear and rented tanks. While they cruised the bottom, Bob and I smoked some Backwoods cigars, drank a cold beer and shot the shit. When Zak and Clayton resurfaced, they had doubled our output in table fare. A few gags, a red or two and three hogfish was their total. After they got back in the boat, I decided I needed to enjoy the refreshing waters of the Gulf of Mexico and took a short dip. Man, the water felt good. It was hot as could be out there. Thank goodness for the T-top and the occasional cool breeze.
After they went on their diving excursion, we headed to one more spot before the day was over. Everyone caught a few fish but they all were short. It was getting pretty late in the afternoon and everyone had to work the next day, so we called it and headed back to Cedar Key. They were telling me that it was only a mediocre day as far as catching fish goes, but I would have to disagree with them. We had over four ziploc freezer bags full of filets. Sounds like a damn good day to me.
I want to thank Captain Zak for taking me out and putting me on my first grouper. I had a hell of a time and hope we can do it again sometime soon. I want to thank Clayton for the stories of mushrooms (not of the psychedelic variety), cousins, and other nefarious matters. Last but not least, I want to thank Bob for re-rigging me repeatedly at the first stop. I couldn’t have done it without you Bobby. I also want to thank whoever decided to let me go home with a whole freezer bag full of grouper and hogfish. Fat boy has been eating good.