The Perfect End to a Perfect Day
By Capt. Don Dingman
Our plan today was to hit the road early and leave the Florida Keys for Ft. Myers on the Southwest Florida Coast. We’d had three shoots scheduled there for a number of weeks, but to make a long story short, due to circumstances beyond our control, we were forced to push those shoots back for a couple of days.
I’ve been looking forward to getting underwater with my wife for a while, and we decided to dive something new. With our Carolina Skiff 238 DLV in tow, we made the short drive to Pennycamp State Park. Dumping the boat at the ramp, we fired up the 175-horsepower engine and set a course south-southeast for Molasses Reef. The 238 DLV at 22-feet, 10-inches with a 96-inch beam the DLV is an ultimate platform for snorkeling and diving.
After a short seven-mile run, we found a mooring buoy and couldn’t have asked for better conditions: It was a gorgeous day!
We had flat-calm seas, no wind and what looked to be 80-foot visibility. We couldn’t wait to get in and geared up quickly.
As soon as hopped over, we could see life teeming all around us, with Bermuda chubs, hundreds of snapper hiding around ledges and dropoffs and parrotfish of all sizes. It was hard to decide where to look next.
We took it easy and finned along the edge, cruising up the reef. If there’s one place on Earth, I can go to get away from it all; it’s underwater. We came across a few barracudas and dozens of colorful reef fish — almost too many to name. After a couple of great stops, we decided to change it up and head to the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of finding a lobster dinner.
It didn’t take us long, and our first stop was at some prime lobster habitat that had already been picked over. Oh well, on to the next!
We run a couple of miles to a number from days-gone-by. Hopping in to see what’s there, I immediately notice a respectable red grouper hanging out over the honeycomb bottom. I swam quickly back to the boat to get my Hawaiian sling — there’s just something I love about hunting underwater. When I got back to the bottom, the grouper had retreated to one of his holes. Although that made the shot easy, getting him out was a whole other story!
With my right hand in one crevice, I was trying to guide the fish over to my left hand, reaching in through another crevice.
Finally, he was a free dinner at last. One more quick dive and we caught three keeper bugs. By then, it was time to head for the dock. Our fresh caught fish and lobster made a perfect dinner as we watched the sunset at Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill in Key Largo. It was another end to a perfect day, living the Skiff Life in the Florida Keys.
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