KEY WEST BACKCOUNTRY
My favorite time of the year is upon us and I am looking forward to getting on the pointy end of my skiff, hopefully spending a few days offshore for snappers and pelagics, and, of course, some diving for lobsters and spearfishing. Hopefully the weather cooperates on my days off so I can do all of the above awesome things.
Summer is not only my favorite time of year to be in and on the water, it’s also my favorite time for fishing the flats with my charters. Usually the weather is about ideal most of the time and fishing is fairly easy. I will mainly take my clients for bonefish and tarpon in the backcountry. We normally see permit while we are bonefishing, so I always have a crab rigged and ready. It’s probably the best time of the year to get a flats grand slam, which is bonefish, tarpon and permit in the same day.
Early mornings are normally the best time during the summer as the water and the air can be quite warm. And with many flat calm and light wind days, it doesn’t take long for the water temps to approach 90 degrees. It’s all about getting out there, getting a few bonefish, jumping a couple of tarpon, and catching that permit to complete the slam. Then back home around lunchtime to cool down in the a/c or pool.
July and August are the start of lobster season in Florida. July 25-26 is the two-day lobster mini-season and August 6 is the opening day of the regular lobster season. I am already excited to go lobstering. Many of my spots are looking good and I have seen a few big antennas sticking out. In fact, some of my spots have improved from last year’s storm carving out some new ledges. I’m not sure yet about my deeper spots that I can’t see from above the water, so a few scouting missions will need to be done before season gets here.
There will be far too many boats on the water during the two-day mini-season and the first couple weekends of the regular lobster season, so please exercise caution. If you’re approaching a vessel, whether a dive flag is present or not, give an extra wide berth. If you can’t stay far enough away, such as in a channel, slow down to idle speed. It will only take a few extra minutes to go around another vessel that may have divers in the water. This is not only courteous (which is very much lacking these days) it is the LAW.
It is far better to take a few extra minutes out of your time to get to your spot than it is to run over a diver and seriously injure or kill someone.
Not only for the boaters, being extra cautious applies to the divers in the water as well. Stay close to your boat. Pop your head out of the water frequently and look back for your boat--no need to go 100 yards away. It’s very easy to get focused on what you’re doing in the water and lose track of where you are. Other vessels underway, doing what they are supposed to be doing by staying clear of your boat, won’t know and won’t expect you to be that far off. Believe me, it’s scary when a boat runs over top of you. This happened to me last year when I was diving with one of my buddies.
During this incident, I was following a ledge looking for lobsters. This particular ledge was very long and straight. As I was going along underwater, I heard a motor. Generally, this is no big deal since you hear them all the time, but then it got really loud. I was starting to come up looking around knowing it was bad. I was about half way to the surface when the boat went over me. Not directly, but close enough that I kicked back and down and I had to change my swim trunks back at the boat. I instantly got angry and was about to flip the guy off. He must have seen me as he went by because he looked back. Fortunately, I took a quick look and my boat was probably 150-200 yards away. It was totally my fault for being that far away from my boat. I’m sure he had to change his trunks, too, knowing he was that close to shredding someone to death. So, please be careful out there again this year.
I love the summers here in Key West. There are so many really cool things to do in and on the water. Flats and offshore fishing, lobstering and spearfishing, or just hanging out on a sandbar with my wife and dog enjoying the sun and sand. It’s absolutely going to be a great summer!
There will be far too many boats on the water during the two-day mini-season and the first couple weekends of the regular lobster season, so please exercise caution.
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