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Monster Landed on the Florida Middle Grounds

By:Bob Harbison, Native Florida Sportsman

Friday, 3 p.m. under very cloudy conditions the Florida Fisherman says goodbye to Madeira Beach. Our destination, the Florida Middle Grounds, home of the monsters.

This is a very special occasion for us; we welcomed back Mister Larry Miller, and the 'Jersey Boys,' Mister Kile Stevens, & Mister Brandon Caldwell. Larry has been a regular on the Florida Fisherman for years; but he has been away for quite some time. Kile & Brandon are from the Garden state, Kile heads back to New Jersey on Monday and Brandon now lives in Riverview. They were with us last fall. It was a real honor to welcome these gentlemen back, so we surprised them with a big chocolate cake and it was delicious!

On the long way out, Dave, a Florida Fisherman regular, tried trolling with the new 'CUDA KILLA' lure. Dave wanted so badly to catch a barracuda. It didn't happen for Dave this time around; guess he will have to try it again. 1 a.m. rolls around, time to challenge the monsters of the Florida Middle Grounds. As we began our assault, solid white caps welcomed us. Thank goodness for that big old 72 foot cat; it was appreciated. We needed some quick energy, so Chef Tammy came to the rescue. Fishing the Florida Middle Grounds, great sportsmen/women, and hot off the grill ham & cheese sandwiches, who could possibly ask for anything more? Well! How about some fish! We wanted a challenge.

Mangrove snapper began to hit the deck. Not fast, but steady. Mister Phil Salvia lands a beautiful yellowtail snapper. We did not see too many of them. Then, out of nowhere, we hear a loud scream, the sounds of excitement, of disbelief. Mister Josh Crawfis was fishing for mango snapper using forty pound test equipment and a whole Spanish sardine. What is going on? Josh had much more than a mangrove snapper. The monster leads Josh from the middle of the port side to the middle of the starboard side of the Florida Fisherman. Is it a goliath grouper or maybe a huge shark? Josh is in for the fight of his life. Its nip & tuck as to who will win. Is josh down for the count? Is the monster ready to surrender? Not yet! The fight goes on. Then we see color, it's a monster cubera snapper. Is the battle over? Not quite! Josh & the monster are both finished. Hold on! Here comes our first mate, Will, with a long, strong, gaff. Get him Will! Will sinks the gaff deep into the monster. With the strength of the mighty hulk, Will lifts the huge snapper over the rail. Job well done!

Congratulations to Josh, Will, and this fighting machine. A monster is landed on the Florida Middle Grounds. Gosh! Look at the teeth on that over-grown mangrove snapper. Well, back to the business at hand, catching mango snapper. The bite was slower than what we had preferred. Never-the-less, many of the little bait stealers were caught.

As the sun makes its appearance in the Eastern sky, the slow, but steady, mangrove snapper bite continues. Our first mate, Will, loves to show off our snapper. Mister Tony Baker, Ritchie, and Brandon, just to name a few, did well on these little critters.

Breakfast time, Tammy time! How about bacon, eggs, and the best banana pancakes on the planet? Surely! We must be in heaven.

Mister Dustin Bales, and Ray, specialized in red grouper. Even our Captain, Captain Mark Hubbard, is ever so proud of the red grouper we are catching. Joe, one of our professional mates, never misses an opportunity to show off these red beauties.

Lunch time! Wow! Beer batter dipped fish. We are absolutely stuffed. Thanks Tammy!

In addition to many snapper, the 'Jersey boys' also caught porgies, beeliners, and even an amber jack. These guys can fish!

Not to be outdone, gag grouper were also hitting the deck. Many were caught. Mister Bob Hummell did very well. The gags were immediately vented and sent home. See you next month.

Dinner time: I'll take ranch dressing on my salad. And then the show stopper, the most tender beef stroganoff imaginable. I'll take seconds!

And now let's talk about 'Red beauties.' Let's talk about the American red snapper. We did well on ARS last week. However, only a few were actually landed Saturday. Late in the evening Mister Michael Bowden landed a real prize. Talk about excitement! This young man was absolutely speechless. He just landed the 'prize' of his young life. What a beauty. Job well done!

As the sun sinks into the Western horizon, snapper are still being caught. We are a very long way from home, from Madeira Beach. It's time to go. Our fine catch is well iced for the long ride. A big piece of chocolate cake, a nice cold drink, and its unks here we come.

What an adventure! New friends, great food, and two boxes full of fish. Is next Friday here yet? I can't wait! Next weekend, time for another, “monster landed on the Florida Middle Grounds.”

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