Upper Keys Wreck Diving & Spearfishing
“To pursue fish and game with affection, conviction and most importantly, respect for our quarry. We honor our heritage as hunters by adhering to the rules and regulations and foster a sense of fairness and compassion for others with whom we share the waters.”
If you’re reading this magazine then you’re a sportsman. Whether by hook and line, or gun and shaft, we all share the same passion: “To pursue fish and game with affection, conviction and most importantly, respect for our quarry. We honor our heritage as hunters by adhering to the rules and regulations and foster a sense of fairness and compassion for others with whom we share the waters.”
This couldn’t be truer than on the awesome wrecks found in the Florida Keys. There are plenty of tin ladies scattered along the depths of the ocean floor from Key Largo to Key West. All harboring numerous species of fish we as sportsman dream of landing. Three of my “go to” spearfishing wrecks in the Upper Keys are the Bibb, Duane and Eagle. Throughout the year, I’ll harvest everything from hogfish to wahoo on these deep ladies.
The Duane and Bibb are Coast Guard cutters roughly 300 ft in length and found about 5 miles off Key Largo. Intentionally sunk in 1985, the Duane sits upright and her sister the Bibb, a little over a swim away, lays on her side. You can strap on a tank and drop down through crystal clear water to the awaiting sand at approximately 125 feet and find hogfish, mutton snapper, and grouper. Or you can hang on the wrecks deck at 100 ft and fill your stringer with yellowtail and gray snapper. Maybe you skip the tanks and float motionless on the surface peering through the purple seas awaiting those wahoo or african pompano.
A few week ago I hit the Duane for a day of deep water spearing. We moored up on the stern, took our giant stride and were pleasantly surprised at the lack of current (the Duane and Bibb are known for strong currents). Because of the lack of current, I decided to drop straight to the sand and swim along the ocean floor to the wreck. On the swim up to her I spooked a nurse shark that swam under the stern of the Duane to hide from me, and am I glad she did, because as soon as she went under the wreck a huge mutton snapper came flying out and swam right towards me! My shaft landed perfectly and I was back on the line heading up in less than seven minutes. Success!!
Another fantastic wreck to spear on is the Eagle. Roughly 4.5 miles off Islamorada, the Eagle is not only a sportsman dream wreck, its also an incredible spot for divers in search of big ocean critters. This wreck is in my backyard and I’ve logged hundreds of dives on her. She never disappoints. Intentionally sunk in 1985 as part of the artificial reef program, she went down upright and intact. But mother nature had other plans for her. In 1998, hurricane George came by, picked her up, broke her in half, and laid her back down on her side. This break has created a fish haven area at the stern aft of the break. I like to literally stretch out on her hull and lay in wait for my unsuspecting quarry to swim by. Schools of amberjack, african pompano, and yellowtail all use this wreck for feeding and socializing with goliaths, sharks and rays. Another sweet aspect of the Eagle wreck is that she’s not alone down there. Just southwest (and I mean just, like a pretty easy swim if you no where to go) lies the Alexander barge. And completely surrounding the barge is a debris field from the old snake creek bridge. All of this artificial reef system in the middle of acres of sand has created an insane spot for spearfishing, fishing, and diving.
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