What do Goliath Grouper eat? Pelicans, it seems..... (+imgs)
"Key West Trip" | Carolina Contender- 36' | 03/08/06
Last week I had the distinct privilege to join the renouned past Top Angler of the Year Fishmeister team for prefishing and the first leg of the SKA pro division tournament held in Key West, FL. On Sunday prior to the Fri/Sat tourney days I met up with team Captain Dean Spatholt and Dennis Watson for the truck ride down. Arriving Monday morning we met up with the final piece of our crew David Haynes late that afternoon. After a Fishmeister pre tournament ritual Monday evening we awoke early Tuesday morning ready to tackle the beast. The beast being trying to figure our way around the surrounding shallow Key West waters and then learning where to find smoker kingfish. We made the decision before leaving that we were going to fish an area about 80 miles to the west of Key West near the Dry Tortugas where numerous monster kingfish have been caught in the past few years. Due to the long ride to the fishing grounds and the need for us to spend as much time as possible in that area we made the call that we would spend the following night on the boat in the protection of the Ft. Jefferson harbor. Ft. Jefferson is a national park now and is about as big as a football field some 75 miles west of Key West. We left out of Key West that first morning in the triple Yamaha powered 36' Yellowfin and ran 80 miles in a 4-6' sea. The weatherman was calling for it to subside. He was wrong. We fished all day mainly for bait (bluerunners), and a little bottom fishing for dinner. Just before sunset we traveled about 10 miles from the fishing hole to Ft. Jefferson and anchored up. This is where the highlight of the trip begins. A beautiful scene surrounded us being 80 miles out in the middle of the ocean yet protected from the seas by this historical landmark just as the sun was beginning to sink. It was at this time I began cleaning some yellowtail snappers we had caught just hours before that we had captured for the purspose of throwing on the grill for dinner. Dennis was standing next to me setting up the grill when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It appeared as if the bottom was moving underneath us as we were only in 8 feet of clear water. Before I could say something about the anchor slipping my eyes refocused and an excited few words came flying out of my mouth as the other guys surrounded me to see what had generated my response. Just inches from the hull of our boat lay 4 of the biggest fish I had ever seen. These jew fish or goliath grouper were enormous. We estimated these fish somewhere between 400 and 700lbs each. They had come to the boat to investigate the fish cleaning. It was then that things really turned interesting. We began feeding the monsters scraps of fish and they would thankfully gulp down the easy meal. Their mouths were so big they could of swallowed a five gallon bucket without it touching the sides of their mouths. As we were feed the jewfish seveal pelicans came around to investigate the situation as they too were looking for an easy meal. What happened next could only be described as National Geographic, "When Animals Attack". A small piece of fish was thrown into the water and just as the pelican stuck his beak down to pick up the scrap the aggresive grouper gobbled him up. Off swam this 700lb grouper with nothing but the wings and feet of a pelican sticking out of its mouth. Fortunately I was armed with my camera at this point and captured an incredible moment. With that being the highlight of the trip we all sat back and enjoyed fresh snapper on the boat grill that night and slept underneath a star lit sky. We fished hard the next several days and caught a variety of species and kingfish up to 35lbs. Unforunately we were not tournament heros as a 28 and 32lb fish put us into 34th place for the event, which was not great but it keeps the team in position to make a run at the Angler of the Year title in the remaining events. Despite our lackluster tournament performance each of us could honestly say we had experienced a truly amazing sequence of events of nature in its most raw form. Another first for me was the monster black grouper we caught while slow trolling live baits. The 50lb black grouper ate a 2 lb blue runner on the surface line in 110 feet of water. The Tortuga area is an awesome and still somewhat untouched piece of the world that offers incredible and unique fishing.
Though the Key West experience was awesome there's no place like home and I'm glad to be back and ready to kickoff the upcoming Gulf Stream season.
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