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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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Tuna & much more @160 feet
The first of December, how better to issue in the Christmas season than a trip to the Florida Middle Grounds with very good friends. Thirty sportsmen board the Florida Fisherman ll, Hubbard's Marina, for a 39 hour marathon trip to the fabulous Florida Middle Grounds. Most have been fishing together for years, we are members of Hubbard's 'regulars' club. For us fishing is not just a pastime, but a way of life. Let's go!
Three P.M. sharp, Captain Hubbard and Captain Anthony fire up those huge twin 1,150 HP Caterpillar diesels. We are out of here. Next stop the Florida Middle Grounds:

First things first, let's make absolutely sure our tackle is ready to go; it will be tested. Some troll for mackerel & kings on the way out:

We will be challenging the monsters of the Grounds for around twenty hours. Most hit the bunks pretty early. The more rested we are, the better our chances of success. After a Tammy meat ball & cheese sub, its time to say good-night. Gosh! those bunks are calling us.

11:45 A.M. Captain Mark Hubbard slows those monster diesels down. Let the battle begin. Captain Mark informs us that the depth is 160 feet, and the fish scope has come alive. We have found a huge school of banded rudderfish We do not see them too often:
Banded Rudderfish: Seriola zonata

Appearance:


  • Fish that are less than 11 inches long have a dark band from the eye to the first dorsal fin and six prominent bars on body
  • Larger fish are bluish, greenish, or brown
  • Soft dorsal base about twice the length of the anal fin
  • The tail-lobe is white tipped

They are there for the taking, as many as we want. The mangrove snapper bite is much slower than we expected. They sure are hard to catch in 160 feet of water. Most have breakfast on us, and leave without paying for their meal. Some do pay:
Captain Hubbard loves to show off our catch:





Red grouper makes a showing:

Other than rudderfish, the morning bite was, by our standards, slow. We are hungry. What's that we smell? Tammy has the grill going:

Our chef knows we are in battle, so she brings hot of the grill ham & cheese sandwiches to our fishing spots. What a treat!

Look at that beautiful American red:

The sun decides to do it's thing. We are still catching fish:
Here comes the AJ's. We just can't seem to get away from those darn ARS:
Mister Danny Slaybaugh (R) has never fished an over night boat in our gulf before; he has in California. How does the Gulf of Mexico compare with he Pacific Ocean? His reply simply, I am give out! That's what we like to hear.


We are starving. Tammy, what's for breakfast? How about a cheese, sausage, onion, omelette? Sounds great!

The great AJ battle continues. Some battles are won; many are lost.

Many of the AJ's are running smaller than usual. Never-the-less, they are giving us a real battle:

Well, it's lunch time. Guess we on the Florida Fisherman are kina into food, really good food:

Leo, a Marine, a Florida Fisherman 'regular', has been fighting a real battle. Let's relax for awhile and see what Woods'nWater has to say:

Back to the action:



Will, our first mate, has a very special lure he wants us to try. Captain Hubbard announces that our next stop is about one half an hour away. Perfect timing:

Scott says he would like to try. Will says the new lure is running around ten feet deep. He puts the rod in the rod holder. Suddenly the rod is bent over double. Get it Scott! What a battle, what a fight! This monster is ever so fast and strong. Perhaps a huge king. Scot gains an inch and looses two. This could take some serious time and energy. Finally, we see color. It's a prize black fin tuna. Will, the gaff, quick Will. What a fish, what a trophy! Let's try that again. Within five minutes, Randy is hooked up. Could it be? Yes! Another tuna. What a fighter. Scott & Randy will never forget, 'Tuna & much more @ 160 feet).

Dinner time, Tammy what's for dinner? We are starved. How about a good old fashion Southern delight, BBQ chicken, baked beans, cold slaw, and Texas toast. Tammy you are simply amazing.

The late evening mango after dinner bite continues to be slow, however, we do catch some. Anthony wants something different. This brave young man, this man of the sea who is to be congratulated for earning his Captains license, finds the largest pin fish he can possibly find; it's now or never. Oh, Oh! What have I got myself into. I have hooked a monster. This fish, this beast, is extremely fast and ever so strong. it's a good thing Anthony is so young and strong; he is really being tested. The great battle is in doubt. Finally, color! It's a cuda, and I mean a big one. Quick Joe, the gaff. Our professional mate sinks the gaff deep into the great fish. Watch those teeth, this dude is dangerous:

Tammy is so proud of her strawberry grouper, and why not? That is rally big for a strawberry:

And talk about big, look at the size of that porgy:

We had no fast bites, with the exception of rudderfish. However, we still ended our trip with 150 mangrove snapper, 25 red grouper, a huge fish box full of AJ's, and two beautiful black fin tunas. One box is filled with amber jacks. The second box is not full, but still represent a respectable catch:

Well, just before leaving the Grounds, we were completely over powered not once but twice. Guess that can be expected when fishing the Florida Middle Grounds for 'Tuna & much more @ 160 feet.' The Florida Fisherman, in conjunction with the FWC, is studying goliath grouper. There is a very good chance we were over-powered by huge goliath. We will get them next time. The Florida has two more chances this year, 12/ 14, & 12/28, to help the FWC collect much needed on the water data. And, speaking of the FWC, we had no FWC biologist on board this weekend. However, they were waiting for us at the dock. These dedicated scientist counted & studied every fish we caught:

Time for the jack pot weigh in:




And the big winners are:
SNAPPER: (L) Mister Ron Bigford
AJ: (M) Mister Doug Grieble
Grouper: (R) Mister Denis Baker


Bob Harbison A proud Florida native & active member of
The Florida Outdoor Writers Association
Check out the short action packed video of our trip:
Click on the link:

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Actually we just picked all night & day. When U pick for 20 hours, you end up with a pretty good catch. Things slowed down for us the beginning of October. That is common. Hope to really pick up again around April.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Nov 30 – 2 Fri - Sun Full Moon Over Night Middle Grounds Gulf Slam $299 39hrs 3pm – 6am Fish though the AM on the full moon for Mangroves, Red Grouper & AJ! The above is from Hubbard's web sight. The meal ticket is $35.00. Tammy keeps us stuffed the entire trip.
 

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Wilson

That son is lookin more and more like the old man!

Bob, will you try fishin any more trips this winter? Perhaps for bee liners, red porgies, some red grouper, AJ's, scamps, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Have overnight Middle Grounds trips scheduled 12/14 & 12/28. Will be going on a very regular basis beginning next Spring. Will be targeting mangrove snapper more than anything. Bee liners, red porgies, red grouper, AJ's are bonuses. Hope to go hog hunting with my daughter 12/11.
 

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Sounds like a busy Dec for a young fella like yourself LOL in the Tampa/St Pete area. Got a handful of old fishing buddies, that might bump into you sometime..... leaning on that rail.
 

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I'm curious , want does this 39 hr. trip cost ?? looks like a fun time !
I was wondering the same thing. Went to his website, and ran through reservations for 5, with all things added, pole rental, bait, food. It came to about $2,100.

WHICH WOULD BE ABOUT $400 PER PERSON FOR ALL FRILLS AND TAX.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Will indeed be a busy December, and an even busier 2013. Will be the very first to admit I spend more bunk time now than in times past. That 'rail' helps too.
Offshore trips are very expensive. Just think what it cost to send that 72' cat, crew of five, 100 miles to the Florida Middle Grounds for 39 hours. One thing that really helps is Hubbard's 'Regulars' Club. We get a 30% discount.
Bumping into fellow Pensacola buddies would be a real honor.
 

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I do not think $400 for a trip per person is allot. As a matter of fact, it is a good deal.
:thumbsup: If you enjoy bottom fishing and the crowd is small, then that 39hr trip is not so bad. Yes, $400 sounds pricey, but it works out to the same $10/hr for 6hr and 8hr trips....... and those shorter trips are often crowded and always fishing within 15-25 miles. Travel 75-100 miles offshore and you will have many sqmi to fish...... for fish under less fishing pressure. Sleeping in a bunk also has value. I simply like fishing in smaller crowd and enjoying some good company. They used to have some card games going, but that has probably been shut down due to........... the general decline in humane behavior! Too bad, a little friendly card game until midnight was kinda fun...... even if you just watched.

I can remember when those trips were $100-120, but that was when gas was 99 cents!

It's all those darn govt fishing regs that make it so hard. Ya gotta fish for what the calender says is legal......... not what is biting. I believe you can keep a two day limit....... this month that would be: bee liners, porgies, red grouper, scamps, mangos, AJ's, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
:thumbup:
Middle Grounds trips are expensive. At least on a head boat the price is distributed among 20-40 anglers. The Florida fisherman averages over 800 gallons of diesel per trip. That alone is a major expense.
Pressure on the Grounds: We see little to none. Last weekend I saw, way off at a distance, two other boats, that's two more than we usually see.
Bunk: The bunks really make the trip. They are comfortable. The Florida Fisherman has two huge air conditioners. Even during the heat of the summer, we need a blanket during the middle of the day. FYI: Only downstairs bunks 1-30 have AC, however, the upstairs bunks have huge open picture windows.
Food: Would be a real crime to leave this out. Tammy keep us stuffed. In addition, we always have at our disposal a large ice box filled with the very best bottled water & soft drinks. This is all included in the price mentioned.
Card games: They still go on. On the way out most sleep, some troll, some read, some tell tall tales, and yes! Some play cards.
Regulations: They have indeed hit all of us hard. About the only things off limits to us now are gags & American red snapper. We try to avoid them as much as possible. Caught a bunch of really nice ARS last weekend. Can't wait till the next American red season. I love catching them. We concentrate on mangrove snapper & AJ's. The mango bite has been a little slower now that the weather has cooled down. The amber jack bit remains very strong. The entire boat has been limiting out on virtually every trip. And YES! We can legally keep a two day limit of everything in season. That means 20 mangrove snapper. Those bait thieves are hard to catch. To limit out on them is a real challenge. They love to eat & run.
Real sportsmen/women: It's the people that makes our sport so great. Real people, real sportsmen/women are the best! Bob H.
 

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:thumbsup: Card games, boy they we fun :thumbsup:. Card players + fishermen, can = nice times Come home with an AJ or two and 2-3 dozen of smaller fish and the wife might send ya again next month........... on the full moon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
We do indeed have a blast. Somehow, we even seem to get in a little fishing:
Brought home two 40 + pound AJ's last trip. Smoked, or on the grill, they are great. We can legally keep 2; that's a lot of fish. And you would not believe the battles. We are completely over-powered on a regular basis.
That next full moon trip, Friday 12/28, should really be something. The full moon is Dec. 28, 5:22 A.M. We will be fishing the day after the full of the moon. The fish should be on fire!
 
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