Ever Seen a 90lbs Amber Jack?

Now every offshore angler loves a good tale of dedication, careful planning and a skillfully executed record catch…. this is not that tale. Those guys were somewhere else and we were all that was available. So here is what happened instead.

So this story really starts back before Christmas when several friends and I went spearfishing way offshore in 150′ of water.  On that trip we got some very large amberjacks (69lbs and 82lbs) and I was pretty sure I saw a cubera snapper for just an instant in the low visibility. I was willing to concede that I could have been suffering  from narcosis due to the depth. I was pretty sure its tail was as tall as my torso from hip to shoulder though and I got a really good look at the scales.  But I had doubts about what my own eyes were reporting so we didn’t back dive the site that day. That split second has haunted me ever since and I made up my mind that at the very least almacos and AJs were worth going back for a second peek. A month later we finally got our break in the weather and my charter boat wasn’t booked so we headed out to the deep reef.

This is the same spot I saw the cubera last time. My buddy and I prepare to dive, double checking our gear and that our Go Pros are recording. This spot is just at 150′ to the sand and sometimes the current out here can get pretty extreme, so we always drop the marker buoy at the same time the divers hit the water to eliminate any lateral swimming in the column that you might have to do if the current has already pushed it far off the top of the site. Well that’s well and good except the last guys to run a spearfishing trip on my boat must have had the buoy get snagged as there was no weight and only about 50′ of line on it. We will have just 15 minutes of bottom time before we will have to ascend due to the amount of nitrogen we will have absorbed into our bodies. So as we prepare to dive bomb the ledge we hope for great visibility and no current so we can see and easily swim to the reef.   Fate was on our side though, vis is 60′ or better and the dark limestone stands out starkly against the sand below us as we kick past 70′ and get swallowed in a swarm of Almaco jacks. 70 or more almaco jacks envelope us for the entire dive from this point until we return to the surface.

The top of the limestone is in about 126′ deep and as we get the lay of the land hovering over the high side of the break , some truly large and very curious AJs start creeping by us amidst the Almacos. On any other trip I would be slinging steel into the Almacos, but I am a man on a mission. I came for my date with a cubera snapper and that is all I care about. Copper belly gags are visible in the distance warily watching us as well. I ignore them as soon as I can make out their body shape as grouper. Cubera are the holy grail of Gulf Spearfishermen because they are fast, strong, smart and incredibly wary.  He isn’t out in the open, so I decide to check under the ledge which also holds a small cave that we have yet to explorer more than 10′ into.  As I drop down and kick on the bayonet style mounted flashlight on my Ocean Rhino I don’t see anything under the 10′ ledge UNTIL…. a 120lb baby goliath grouper shoots out and silts up the whole ledge reducing the visibility to zero.  RATS!!

I take the moment to collect the 2 halves of a broken fishing rod that has been laying in the sand and then decide that the Cubera will have to wait for another day as I am not about to crawl into a cave at the bottom of the ocean with zero visibility and hope to corner several fish as large as I am. So plan B was to get a nice jack.  So with our nitrogen limit rapidly approaching, I decide to get off the bottom to preserve my remaining minutes of the dive. Almacos and a few really nice amberjacks that look better than 40lbs are circling in range. I start to load my spearshaft and notice one of the big jacks eying me and actually swimming towards me!  I stop watching it and just focus on loading, knowing it is going to be right on top of me when I band the gun. Sure enough, the AJ comes with in 5′ of me. I try to line up for the sweet spot; the fish actually gets closer and swims between me and the low piece of the ledge forcing it on a completely predictable path. I pull the trigger with my thumb, the AJ is just a few feet off the spear tip.  I prepare myself for the epic war that usually happens when a diver shoots a large, powerful fish.  My plan was to try to get a hand in the fish’s gills and scissor lock my legs around his tail to immobilize it and then finish it with my dive knife. The fish will buck and head butt me in the face to get me to let go if I can grab it.  I have had my nose busted, mask broken and regulator ripped out of my mouth in the past.

Anticlimactically due to the closeness of the fish, my shot instantly turns his lights off and there is no struggle. I quickly secure my fish to my stringer and double check on my buddy. He is also holding a nice Almaco on his stringer and we begin our ascent. I decide to launch my fish to the surface on a lift bag to the waiting boat and we slowly ascend with me thinking how awesome the dive would have been if we could have gotten the cubera.

When we get on the boat I am amazed to see the jack laid out and taking up the entire 320quart cooler with its tail curled up the side. It is completely obscuring the two 45lb jacks and several scamp that our other divers got on their dive site earlier. I grossly underestimated its size on the bottom. The guys on the boat are still complaining about having to lift it into the cooler.

Back at the Bay Point Marina we use their Retired billfish weigh tower to mount our digital scale and figure out exactly how big this fish is….. and it turns out to be my biggest to date at 89.5lbs! Proving once again it is far better to be lucky than good. Even better, upon reviewing the camera footage you can clearly see the large Cubera snapper make a break into the cave earlier in the dive, I never noticed it in the open but there it was! So we’ll be back out on the deep reef as soon as the weather clears.

Short of going to the Keys or Hawaii, Panama City Beach has some of the best diving in the country.  Want to dive Panama City?  Visit PanamaCityDiving.com

Ford Ironman Florida Takes the Beach

The 13th Annual Ford Ironman Florida will be held this weekend in Panama City Beach.  Over 2,500 athletes from around the world area ready to compete in this year’s event, many hoping to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
About Ironman Triathlons

There are over 30 sanctioned events throughout the world, as well as Ironman 70.3’s or Half-Ironman events.  Ironmans are one of the long-distance series organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC).  The first Ironman was held in February 1978, fifteen men began the race and twelve completed it.  With no marketing, in 1979 when the race was held again, fifty participants gathered to compete.  (Only fifteen competed due to harsh weather conditions.)  It is often said that “there is no such thing as an easy Ironman” and also that “just finishing is a victory.”

About the Ford Ironman Florida

The Ford Ironman Florida includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.  The 2.4-mile swim will consist of  two laps in a rectangular shape out into the Gulf Coast after a mass-start.  The bike lap will start at the Boardwalk Beach Resort on Front Beach Road and heading toward Highway 79, to Highway 20 and 77, and ending back at the Boardwalk Beach Resort.  Finally, the run, which is one of the flattest on the Ironman circuit, will start at the Boardwalk Beach Resort and wind its way to St. Andrews Park.  After St. Andrews Park, runners will make their way back to the Boardwalk Beach Resort to repeat the course again.  There will be water, nutritional bars, nutritional gels, and fruit available to athletes throughout the bike and run sections of the event.

There are 65 spots available for athletes who qualify from this event in the Ironman World Championship on October 13, 2012 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.  Last year’s first place time was 8 hours 15 minutes and 59 seconds.  There will be a total professional prize purse of $25,000 this year.

Event Day Schedule

6:50 a.m.- Pro Start

7 a.m.- Age Group Start

12 a.m.- Race Officially Ends

Good Luck to those entered in the triathlon!

Pier vs Pier Weekly Fishing Tournaments [Weekly Prizes]

To showcase the world-class fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City Beach is luring avid anglers with weekend-long fishing tournaments this fall. Running from Sept. 23 to Nov. 13, the City Pier vs. County Pier Challenge guarantees a prize purse totaling more than $10,000.

The M.B. Miller Pier (County Pier) and the Russell-Fields Pier (City Pier) are twin piers, both of which are prized as prime fishing spots for anglers of all ages.  Extending more than 1,500 feet into the calm waters, the piers are two of the longest on the Gulf Coast. All visitors have the opportunity to cast a line for a local catch, with rod rentals and tackle available on site.

Tournament info

Each weekend during the contest, on Friday through Sunday, fishermen and women of all levels are invited to compete in the challenge.  There are four categories

  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Flounder
  • King Mackerel
  • Pompano

Every weekend, participants can win a top prize of $150 for each species, with a total of $1200 in prizes awarded. A $250 prize will be awarded for the heaviest catch of the entire challenge. Kids are welcome to participate in the Children’s Division tournaments, open to anglers 12 and under. Winners of the Children’s Division will receive rod and reel prizes.

Weigh-ins will take place at each pier and the winner will be announced on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Best of all, there is no entry fee required for the tournaments.

 

Weekend Events- Festival, Doo-Wop & Roller Derby

Looking for Panama City Beach events?  Bookmark our Events section!

As usual, our sleepy little town is proving to be anything but that.  This weekend offers a variety of events filled with Strawberries, a little Doo-Wop, and some fast action Roller Derby.

Weekend events for February 11-13 (Friday-Sunday)

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PCB’s Guide To Superbowl Shin-Digs

Superbowl Sunday is almost here, and football fans nationwide are stocking up on face-paint, home-made signs and honing their Heckle-Skills (aka:  The  Art of Fine Heckling.)

It’s a real skill, I swear. I think it’s an elective course at FSU. Either way, there’s literally, thousands of ways to get your pre-game on, but where to spend the big day is an entirely different beast.

So, we took it upon ourselves to give you an idea of which locations are hosting Superbowl parties.

Sunday Sunday SUNDAY

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MMA Fight Night In PCB

MMA is more then two people getting into a cage (or ring, whatever) and wailing on each other.

There’s a story that each fight tells, ranging from the type of training the fighter has endured, to the gym they’ve trained at, and when all of it comes together, the fight becomes similar to a live chess game of sorts.  Each move is calculated, executed and countered with rapid mental consideration and lighting reflexes.

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TDC Meeting, Spring Break, Swordfish & Snowbirds

Jan 11th’s TDC meeting offered an eclectic mix of information.

Starting with the Vice-President of the Canadian Snowbirds, Nancy Hopcraft,  who caught my attention with the mention of the ‘Birds working on a potential “Retiree Visa” allowing those who qualify an opportunity to spend more time in Panama City Beach (or anywhere in the Nation).  It’s a wonderful idea, and one that’s sure to bring about an economic boost but we’re looking at least 2 years, before hearing any final words.

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