We had a tough decision to make on Saturday
Key West was experiencing strong Southeast winds due to an approaching cold front. It makes my decision difficult because, while the wind was strong out of the South in the morning, I knew that the front was coming in and it would switch to the Northwest and increase when it got here. That meant it was fairly rough on the Southside of Key West and the Gulf of Mexico would be the calmer place to fish………until the cold front got here. When it did, I definitely did not want to still be in the Gulf. So it was a “timing” thing. Could we get our half-day trip completed in the gulf before the front hit or not.
According to the Nat’l Weather Service, the cold front would not hit Key West until mid-afternoon. The key word in that last sentence is “According”! I’ve been fishing for over 35 yrs and I have listened to the Weather forecast most days. I know a lot of people criticize the Nat’l Weather Service, but truthfully, they can be very accurate in forecasting some things. For instance, if you want to know the date or time of day, they are Spot on every time. After that, not so good.
While I did not want to subject my customers to moderately rough seas on the Southside of Key West, I definitely did not want to get caught on the north side when the front moved in. My customers agreed that they did not want to bounce around on the South side, so I headed in the gulf. Hoping my timing was going to be right. I decided to fish a shoal up to the east. It’s not on the charts but I have fished it for years.
One benefit of fishing on this shoal is that is due north of the shortest way back to Key West. Most of the time, we use the North West Channel to access the Gulf. It is the main route for any boat and some smaller ships. But there is another smaller shallower channel, called the Caulda Channel. It is very shallow at the north entrance. The water was just a little over 3 ft deep. My boat draws about 3 ft when running. No room for error. I figured if the Front arrived early, I could get up and go and make it to the channel before the front. Once in the channel, it is pretty easy and well marked.
The action on the shoal was not all that great, Mostly grunts and a few small snappers. My customers were still enjoying the day. Nobody had their head in a bucket so I still think it was the right direction to go. The youngest of the group, an 8 yr old boy, wanted to catch a “big” fish, so my mate, Edward put out a big bait on the bottom. It wasn’t down more than a minute whey the rod bent over. Becare careful what you wish for.
Personally, I thought we had a shark on. The way it was shaking its head and staying down, I was thinking it was a big Nurse shark. My mate Edward thought it was a Goliath Grouper. He was right. After a 15 minute fight on 50lb tackle, up came a big Goliath Grouper. They are protected and we did not bring it in the boat, but I would guess it was about 200 lbs or more. Not bad for an 8 yr old. My mate did help a little, but the youngster did most of the work on his own. We released the fish and “vented” it so it could get back to the bottom. It was time to head in well ahead of the cold front. We had enough fish for a mess of fish tacos and one very happy little guy who caught a big fish!