Countdown to Grouper Season: One WeekField Report filed by: Brian Kelly
Sometimes preparation for an expedition can be just as much work as the adventure itself. Princeton Tec Field Ambassador Brian Kelly, a Florida native, gives a little glimpse into preparations being made to spearfish for grouper:
It is officially one week away from grouper season here in Florida, for those of you who are counting. My dive buddy is doing just that, counting. An app on his phone is counting down to 6:00 AM on Friday, June 1st (the estimated time the boat is leaving the dock) and he periodically sends me a screen grab to remind how close that actually is. It’s one of the biggest days of the year for us.
Grouper season closed on December 31st last year and we’ve been waiting six months to get back out and target one of our favorite species of fish. And we will do it for three straight days this year, weather permitting, to start the season. It’s not just about the spearfishing: it’s a gathering. I will have a house full of people for the weekend and the nights will consist of fresh fish dinners, adult beverages, mostly true fish stories and Will Ferrell movies.
With that being said, its Crunch Time. Time to make sure all the gear is ready. And the biggest piece of gear, the boat, belongs to me. It’s been away for a couple weeks and I was worried about it being back in time to do a little scouting before the season opens.
But its back now with a brand new T-top just in time to do a little searching before opening day. I put a little thought into this top when I had it designed for my boat. It spans the entire width of my boat and is eight feet long giving us plenty of sun shade, but the best part is the tower on top. A zipper in the canvas top allows access to a platform on top where one can stand and observe the water while the boat is in motion. This puts the observer’s eyes about twelve to thirteen feet above the water lever and is great for spotting fish or new rock piles on a clear calm day. The T-top is just as much a toy as it is a tool.
But there is much more than that to getting a boat ready for trips miles out into the gulf. The outboard motor is the most important tool that must be kept up and it is my job to make sure it is in perfect running condition when the boat hits the water. It’s also time for a safety check: anchor, anchor line, life vests, throw cushion, fire extinguisher, flares, first aid kit and signaling device to name a few. It all has to be ready.
Then there’s the other gear: spearguns, Princeton Tec lights, mask, fins, snorkels, knives, gloves.
You can’t put them away for a season and expect them to be ready to go when the time arrives. Speargun bands don’t last forever, they need to be checked and replaced periodically. Batteries need to be fresh if the lights are to shine under the rocks where we search for grouper. Knives need to be sharp if they are to cut you out of danger of used to finish off a large fish. And gloves need to be free of tears because they will be needed to reach into a gill of a grouper to subdue it.
I will remember most of what I need and I will lay everything out and go over lists time and time again in the days leading up to Grouper season but I’m sure I will be scrambling around in the final days looking for that one final item I need. Then there will be the other guys; even though I send them a check list and go over it with them they will surely forget something, somebody always does. Hopefully I have what they need or we will improvise.
Either way it will be a great weekend and if everything goes right it could be epic!
If you’re into following along with some East Coast spearfishing action, check out Brian’s instagram: @briankellyart.