Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shrimping Conclusion

If you were able to read my last post you will understand my Title: Shrimping Conclusion. If not here is a small summary of my last post: Last week my father posed the idea of hitting up the waters of Tampa Bay to go shrimping on Saturday night. We have never been shrimping before and even worse we really have no idea of how to do it. I was not happy about the trip because I figured it to be a waste of a night, and more than likely turn almost comical due to the hilarious attempts of us to catch shrimp. This post, as promised, tells you how the "adventure" went.

With Saturday evening approaching I was still not too excited about our shrimping adventure that was about to happen. We loaded the truck with all of our "equipment" which ranged from bug killer to spot lights that were so powerful they could be seen from the moon. Upon heading down to our place on the Bay, we couldn't help but notice the strong wind that was blowing us all over the road. We were hoping that maybe by nightfall the wind would lay down, and leave us with a beautiful evening to go shrimping.

Upon arriving to our place the gusts of wind had only intensified, and they continued to increase the rest of the night. It didn't take too much thought to realize that tonight was not going to be the night to hit the water in search of shrimp. It's always important when going out on the water to look at the weather report, but if you don't get a chance just use good judgement. The water is not going anywhere, so if you don't feel safe going out, don't go! Push your plans back for another weekend so you can be sure to have fun and be safe!

Although we did not get to go shrimping we still managed to have a good night. We fired up the grill and I headed down to Publix and bought 2 lbs. of frozen shrimp, and in a way we still went shrimping that night. Just not exactly the way we had planned.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

You Can Call Me A Rookie....

When it comes to being on the water I like to think of myself as a jack of all trades. Although I have no expertise in one paticular field of water activites, I have gotten my feet wet in almost all of them. I like to think that saltwater fishing is my most knowledgable water sport, closely followed by freshwater fishing. Along with fishing I am an occasional skier and an avid knee boarder. These are the more traditional activites that come to mind when you think of things to do on the water. My list of activities does not stop there. I am also a certified diver and love to go both spear fishing and lobstering with diving tanks. Take those tanks off and I enjoy scalloping in shallow water with a snorkel. I guess you can say I have done it all, that was what I thought too, but not so fast.

Last week while enjoying a fishing filled spring break, my father came to me with an idea that i had never heard before: to go shrimping. Supposedly, this time of year the waters of Tampa Bay become infested with shrimp, and apparantly they are rather easy to catch. The reason for the bolding of words is to express to you the feelings I felt when my father told me his wonderful idea of going shrimping. He made it sounds as easy as going through the drive through and ordering a whopper. You would have to know my father to know that he sets big goals and makes them sound extremely attainable, but the truth is they never turn out right.

So here is his "master" plan: We are going to head out on the boat around 7 p.m. Saturday night, head over to some grassy spot in Tampa Bay he said seems like a good place for shrimp to hide, wait tell the sun goes down, and begin shrimping. According to my father shrimp are nocturnal and for optimal success we must be out there at night. I guess this is his reasoning for buying 4 huge spotlights for our shrimping adventures. When looked at from above I am sure that our boat will be so bright it will look like the moon fell into the ocean. So with these lights we are going to shine them into the grass, hopefully see shrimp and dip them up with our nets.

Now do you see where the skepticism is coming from? Let's just say I do not have much confidence in this trip, but I'm going for it anyways. I'm sure there will be a follow up post on Sunday with a comical story describing our adventure. If this post made you hungry for some shrimp, because it made me hungry, here is a link to some good shrimp recipes. So now that you have heard my soon to be a comical adventure, do you have any crazy family adventures of your own?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A New Piece of Equipment

This past week I have find myself living the day dream I have been dozing off to for the past few months. No work, no school, spring break is here! I headed out to our river house last Thursday and have been enjoying every day of my spring break down here on the water. The first day I took the boat out I noticed I had a rather large problem: my lowrance fish finder was not functioning right. Although these little "box looking" things on the console of a boat might not look like a big deal, they can save a trip if you know how to use one.

With a Lowrance fish finder not operating I had no choice, but to head in and call the fishing trip a day. I fiddled around with the fuses, hoping that it was only a blown fuse that had caused the problem. The proved to be no help, as did checking the charge of the battery. Everything was fine and dandy,except for the Lowrance itself. Our boat is a 2007 model and it is rather frustrating to have techinical problems like this, but as my grandfather says: "boats are nothing more than a pit in the water that you toss money into".

We headed down to T.A. Mahoneys, the best fishing store in the county, and began to look at new fishfinders. We wound up getting the new HummingBird 788CI Combo fishfinder to install on our boat. It is best to purchase your equipment from a place like T.A.'s because they will also install it for you free of charge.

After hearing my story of the new fishfinder, you might wonder what is the importance of a fishfinder, why don't you just use your eyes to find the fish. In boating today, the term "fish finder" means so much more than just finding the fish. Fishfinders today not only tell you were fish are, but also let you know water depth so you don't run aground, give you a map of the coast that you are on, and most importantly give you your gps positions.

The Tampa Bay waters are filled with many sandbars and low spots, so having a fish finder that give you the depth is a must when boating in Tampa Bay. Along with knowing the depth it is also crucial to know your location. This is where the GPS these fishfinders have becomes crucial. We are all aware of the tradgic events that happened only weeks ago to the four men at sea. This event alone should let you know the importance of a good GPS. So when it comes down to it, the actual fish finder is the least important thing on a fishfinder. It is all the other little tools that make this gadget a must have when boating or fishing.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Sheephead Adventure

This week started out just like any other monotonous week, checking my schedule for upcoming test, seeing the days of the week I work, and of course checking to see when I could go fishing. I had originally planned to hit up the waters of Tampa Bay this weekend with a friend of mine, but after looking at the calendar my plans quickly changed. Noticing that on Saturday night, tonight, we "spring forward" also known as losing an hour of sleep, I soon realized that my fishing would have to be in the beginning of this week. It's tough enough getting up early to go fishing, add on losing an hour of sleep and you can forget it as far as I am concerned.

After finishing my last class Tuesday afternoon I picked up my younger brother and we headed straight to a spot I know in the Davis Island area. My reasoning for traveling to this area was to catch some bait for my fishing adventure the next morning. Once at my location I parked my truck along the side of the road and jumped down the sea wall to wear the water met the shoreline.

We began to lift small rocks hoping to find an array of crabs hiding underneath. It is imperative that you were closed to shoes and jeans during this process. Between the sharp rocks and rushing water you will want to have both your legs and feet with some kind of protection over them. If you talk to my brother he will inform you that you need to wear gloves so the crabs don't pinch you as well. My brother and I had a ball walking the shoreline and catching approximately 50 crabs in around 30 minutes.

We now had all the crabs we would need and we were ready for our fishing adventure the next day. Our targeted species was the small saltwater fish known as the sheepshead. The idea to fish for this species came to me when I was reading the edition of Florida Sportsman and found the bite was hot for sheepshead right now.

We headed out Wednesday morning in my 22 ft. Blazer Bay boat to our "sheepshead hot spot" in Tampa Bay and we crossed our fingers for a good day. We placed our small crabs onto tiny hooks ( you must use small hooks because sheepshead have particularly small mouths) and pitched them into the swift current of the Tampa Bay waters. We were fishing over the top of an old sunken railroad. Sheepshead like to hang out around a lot of structure so when fishing for these fish try and find the structure. It didn't take long for our first hook up and we continued to reel these fish in for hours.

Sheepshead fishing does not take a great amount of skill to succeed. All ages of people can enjoy a day of sheepshead fishing and the younger children will especially like catching the crabs for bait. The fish are generally in the 3 to 6 lb range, but the state record which was caught in 2008 weighed in at 16lbs 6 oz. These fish also make for a great dinner. With all of these intangibles sheephead fishing is the way to go!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Horrible Event at Sea

Last Saturday, Marquis Cooper, William Bleakley, Corey Smith, and Nick Schuyler set out on Cooper's 21 ft. Evergaldes fishing boat to embark on an offshore fishing excursion. Both Cooper and Smith were NFL players, while Schuyler was a former football player for the University of South Florida. A fifth man Clay Eavenson was invited on the trip, but he declined the offer. Two days prior to their trip on Saturday, Clay had been out with Cooper and urged him to buy a emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB). This device is specifically geared towards helping distressed boats. It sends out a GPS coordinate of a distressed vessel, so that the rescue crews have a better chance of located a stranded boater. Despite the idea Clay had suggested, Cooper failed to purchase this piece of equipment before his trip.

The men left the Clear Water pass early Saturday morning heading out to what was at one point a calm sea. Heavy winds began to pick up as the day pushed on, enlarging the waves to a height of 7 ft. The high wind and rough seas were too much for the 21 ft. boat to handle and it capsized. According to Schuyler, the boat was anchored when it turned over.

After the boat capsized it is presumed that all four men were wearing life vest and clinging to the capsized boat. The grave danger that the men were in was the water tempature they were facing. With it only being early spring the normally warm waters of the Gulf are still quite cold. Besides being capsized and lost at sea, the groups biggest concern had to be hypothermia. It was reported that two to four hours after the boat capsized one of the NFL players took his life vest off and was taken out to sea. He was shortly followed by the other NFL player, leaving only Schuyler and Bleakley clinging to the boat.

The two hung on to the capsized vessel until the moring, but then Bleakley tried to swim and get help when he thought he saw a light in the distance. He was reported by Schuyler of having taken his life vest off before he attempted the swim. "I think he was delusional to think he could swim someplace," the Times quoted Bob Bleakley, his father, as saying.

Schuyler was remarkably rescued Monday after being stranded in the Gulf waters since Saturday. Many doctors and physicians say that he is lucky to be alive. The search continued for the other 3 missing men, but there was little luck. The search was called off Tuesday evening after many intense hours were put in. Friends and family have still not given up hope. They have rented many charter boats and private planes and are scanning the Gulf waters to find their loved ones.

This is an extremely sad story to hear about. Whether you have been offshore fishing in the Tampa Bay area or never even been on a boat, you heart must go out to these men and their families. It is horrible to have a tradgic event like this happen because it effects so many people. We must learn boating safety from this and keep our thoughts out to the families of the men that are still missing.