Saturday, January 9th finds me and my student Tucker aboard “Safari Diver” heading out to catch some “bugs” and work on Tucker’s Underwater Hunter Specialty. The dive operator thought we were nuts because the air temp was 47 degrees (but the water temp was 75 degrees). Anyway, out of a pre-booked group of 11 divers, it ended up just being Tucker and myself, along with Chris (a buddyless diver from Kentucky) who were brave enough to venture out on this bizarrely cold South Florida day. The ocean was completely fogged in and surface visibility was about 40ft! I have never seen anything like it in all the years I have lived here.
Captain Shane took us out the Inlet to our first dive site, “Sunkist Reef”, where he dropped us on the back side in about 80ft to hunt for lobster. The three of us drifted along looking in every nook and cranny for the elusive bugs, and we ended up with nada after the first dive. I found an anchor and used my lift bag to send it to the surface, so it wouldn’t be damaging the reef any further. We also saw lots of Scrawled Filefish, a Trunkfish or two, a few Rainbow Parrotfish, and lots of Juvenile Spanish Hogfish. After heading up and completing our safety stop, we reluctantly got back on the boat, changed over our gear real fast, and headed for the warmth of the cabin.
After about 40 minutes on the surface, we shed our warm coats and hats and try to get into our gear as quickly as possible so we can jump back in the warm water. This time we are on the front side of “Sunkist Reef”. Since the bugs weren’t out deep on the first try, we were going to look for them a little shallower this time. Lots of searching later, Tucker finally spots a bug and signals me to come over. He uses his snare (as I instructed him to) to tickle the lobster out of the hole, then successfully slips the noose around the tail and catches the lobster. He passes it over to me for measuring and, unfortunately it is just a bit too small to keep. Darn! I could tell he was disappointed, but at the same time excited that he actually caught it! Shortly after this, Tucker signals me that he is at the agreed-upon air limit and we head up for our safety stop and the boat. It was a great day despite the surface weather, and we all had lots to talk about on the trip back in to the dock.
Congratz to Tucker on his Underwater Hunter/Collector certification, and I hope to go hunting with you again sometime soon!!