04-06 May 2007
St. Marks & Carrabelle, FL
The weekend of 5-6 May 2007, I was supposed to be going with Scuba Steve on my niece's check out dive trip with her Open Water Class. However, the dive shop changed which instructor was going to go and, both Steve and I were not able to go with them. I was bummed for not going and had written off being able to dive that weekend. But, since Steve couldn't go either, he was able to get with one of the guys that was in my Rescue Class (Matt) and go on a spearfishing trip that weekend. After checking with Matt, there was room for me and I got the invite to join them. I had never been spearfishing and I had never been diving with Steve when I wasn't a student or a helper, so this was going to be fun. This is the story of that weekend...
04 Apr 07/1200: I met Steve at Lee's house ( another member of my rescue class) and loaded up a bunch of tanks to get filled. We left and went to Diver's Supply to fill the tanks. After spending almost 2 hours filling tanks, we headed back to Lee's to meet Matt (the boat owner) and his daughter, Becky, who was also going. We got loaded up and were on the road by about 2:30 pm. We we got to Tallahassee, FL, Matt and Becky headed on to Carrabelle, FL where the boat was being kept. Steve and I headed to Coral Reef Scuba to check out the shop and talk to the folks. A couple of nice guys in there. Of course, I don't go anywhere without buying a t-shirt, so I got my t-shirt and a new small BC knife while we were there. After that, we headed to meet Matt in Panacea, FL to eat a local restaurant called Posey's. Good eatin'!!!! Around 8:30 pm, we dropped the boat off in St. Marks at Shell Island Fish Camp and then headed to the motel for the night. We were in the motel, affectionately known as "The Pro-Inn" around 9:30 pm.. After getting everything unloaded, Steve and I went to Matt and Becky's room so Matt could give me a quick lesson on the use and safety of spearguns. After my quick lesson, it was off to bed around 11:30 that night.
05 Apr 07/0525: Rude awakening today as the nice people that stayed in the room before us, decided to set the alarm for 0525 and turn the volume up full blast. That sucked. But, considering I was planning on getting up 0530 and didn't call in a wake up, it was a good thing. After everyone was dressed, we headed to the marina to catch a fisherman to get some GPS number from him for a good spot. We missed him and didn't get them. After we missed him, we went and got some breakfast at another local restaurant. (There is just no better eating than local mom and pop restaurants!!!!) After eating , we got the boat and launched about 0800 that morning. We traveled out to a shallow reef area so Becky could get in the water. She hadn't dove in awhile and Matt wanted a shallow dive to get her accustomed to it again.
Dive 1: Me and Steve dove with Becky while Matt minded the boat. I carried one speargun and my camera for pictures. There wasn't much around, but I did get some pictures. Viz was about 40-50 feet. This dive was 21 minutes at 27 feet. All of today's dives were in 77-78 degree water.
Dive 2: Steve and I, again, went in with Becky while Matt played BB (Boat Bitch) again. After diving with Becky for awhile, Steve took her to the surface and then he and I went hunting for a bit. There was nothing in the area, so he had me shoot and reload the speargun I was carrying a couple times. It wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done, but it wasn't all that hard either. I managed to do it and then we surfaced. Dive was 47 minutes at 30 feet.
Dive 3: This time, Matt and I splashed while Steve stayed on the boat with Becky. This dive was to hunt and nothing else. We dropped to a shallow reef and there were fish all over the place. Now, my fish identification is severely lacking, so the guys had to tell me what to shoot. Once Matt pointed a few out to me, I was able to take a shot. The first couple shot at, I actually hit, but they were bad hits and the fish were able to wriggle off the spear before I could get to them. On my third or 4th shot, I was able to get one to correct way. Killed him with a single shot. My first spearfish kill was a "Grunt." He was decent sized, but nothing compared to what the other guys got. As we were diving around, we also ran across a HUGE Jew Fish. Estimates are anywhere from 450-500 lbs. This thing was absolutely huge!!! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera down with us, so I didn't get a picture of him. Matt nailed a nice hogfish and grouper on this dive. I did my first untethered safety stop at the end of this dive. Dive was 52 minutes at 33 feet. After this dive was finished, Steve went down to see if he could see the big Jew Fish and string up a few more fish. He got more than he bargained for on this dive. He had only been down a little while and had already gotten a nice sized Grouper (that just happened to be one of my first shots that got away. You could tell by the chunk taken out of his gut from my shot earlier) when, all of a sudden, he surfaces about 75 yards to our rear and says, "BULL SHARK! BULL SHARK!" So, we let the anchor go and hauled booty over to pick him up. He gets aboard with the shark never coming very close to him. But, it was a 7-8 foot Bull and you don't want to mess around with those. Matt had a battery operated "Shark Shield" on board, but Steve wasn't wearing at that time. Needless to say, after that, someone always wore the Shark Shield when we were in the water. (The shark shield gets another mention during Day 2 dives)
The next dive was Steve, Becky and Matt. I was BB for this one. Which was fine by me. I was dead dog tired and I had to pee like a race horse. So, after everyone else got in the water, I got some relief. :) (More on this on Day 2 of diving also.) About 30 minutes into their dives, Steve surfaced again and said he had a shark. So, I released the anchor and went to pick him up. After I got over there, he told me it was a baby White Tip and nothing to worry about. I think he just wanted curb service after his dive. :) After I picked him up, we went and picked up Matt and Becky who were finishing their dive and were at the surface.
Next, Steve and I splashed for the last time that day. This dive # 4 for me and about 6 for Steve. We dropped in and visibility had dropped to about 20-25 feet in this area. We hunted around for awhile not seeing much. At one point, Steve shot and missed a fish. I was right beside him and he told me to get it. At this point, I must mention one of the finer points about firing a speargun. When you fire, you have your trigger hand arm extended completely out with your elbow locked. Then you have your non-trigger hand cupped on the back of the stock to hold against the gun recoil. Since you have to look right down the spear to aim, if you don't have you arm locked and your other hand behind it, guess where the gun is going to go? Right in your mouth/face. So, you can see where this is headed. I turned to shoot real quick, aimed and fired. Without having my arm locked. I learned very quickly that the 'ol speargun in the mouth myth, is no myth. And, it hurts like hell!!! I didn't lose any teeth or break my regulator, but I learned a valuable lesson and will never make that mistake again. Steve then saw a pretty big grouper and motioned for me to go after it. I did and went I got close to him I noticed he wasn't the only one. There were some big fish in this area and a lot of them too!!! There were some pipes scattered about the ocean floor and fish were using it as a reef. We had hit the jackpot for the day. That being said I only got one trigger fish during this dive. There was one huge grouper that I shot and missed three times. I know Steve shot at him at least once and also missed. So that puppy is still out there. It was a great place and I believe Matt marked the location on his GPS as "S&D Pipes." (Steve and Dale) We ended the dive with 49 minutes of bottom time at 29 feet.
After that dive, we headed in. Ate dinner at Ruby Tuesday's, stopped by Wal-Mart and hit the hay around 2300 that night.
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