No Grouper today.
24 March 2012 | Albuquerque Cays, Columbia, SA
Friday, March 23. After a beautifully peaceful night, the morning dawned clear and sunny. After breakfast, I attached the reel to my spear gun. It had come with a reel when I bought it, but it was not actually the correct model for that gun and I had never got around to using it. I figured that with the size of that grouper, it would be a good idea to be able to play him like with a fishing rod after I shot him, so I rigged it up. I took the dinghy to the edge of the patch of reef where we had seen him and went snorkeling. Craig was doing some maintenance and said he would join me with his Hawaiian sling soon. The patch reef was actually very beautiful coral and lots of fish bu no grouper. I circled it twice cutting back and forth across it. I had about given up and was focusing on some good sized yellow tail snapper when Craig showed up. As he circled a large clump of coral, he came face to face with the grouper. They were both startled and the grouper was GONE. He disappeared into a hiding hole and never reappeared. We waited nearly ½ hour circling back and forth, but no grouper today. No conch here either. We decided to take the dinghies out to the edge of the reef and see what it was like. First there was a stretch of patch reefs that we had to dodge around and then the outer reef. It was not the solid, breaking & drying reef that we knew from Belize. It was slightly less high and broke, but never dried and had lots of breaches through to the outside. We started swimming cautiously in the significant surge. Canyons wound back and forth between coral too high to swim over. Then the canyon would open to a grotto maybe 25' deep and 30' around. At one point I popped through a breach in the reef and went outside. The outer edge of the reef was all old and dead. It dropped quickly to beyond sight. When I turned to swim back in, I discovered there was quite and outgoing current. Ooops. I waited and rode the surge back in, treading water against the tide until the next surge carried me further. No problem. The fish were amazing. I saw three of the largest midnight parrot fish you can imagine! Each had to be at least 300 lbs. They were beautiful iridescent blue and black. Midnight parrots may be nearly extinct in some parts of the Caribbean, but not here. There were also tons of black durgeons. I had never really seen them in schools before. So close tot he open water, everything was large. I decided I could at least get a good sized snapper for dinner since I missed the grouper. I was nearly lined up on a nice one when a surge spooked him and he disappeared. At just that time, a small tuna (bonito) came around the corner. Too bad for him, seared tuna for us. The reel worked well and I had no problem reeling him in and swimming back to the dinghy. Although I did see a couple interested barracuda, they did not approach. After lunch, Deb & I went to hookah another of the mini-atolls. (Craig & Liz were resting.) It was much like the previous fantastic! Once again we traced up and down the 30' edge of the atoll seeing lots of coral and fish. One large trigger fish (~2') and a whole school of dark blue tangs stayed just in front of us all the way around. At one point I saw a something coming out of a crack in some coral. It was about 1 1/2 in diameter and 18 sticking out that I could see. It looked fleshy and soft, maybe like a small elephant's trunk? It was laying on the sand. I cautiously touched it with the tip of my flipper and it just slowly retracted sort of scrunching up shorter and fatter until it disappeared. No idea what it was. (Deb later chewed me out for poking at things I did not know what they were.) Again there was the thermocline at about 15'. We made it a shorter afternoon than yesterday. It was a slightly smaller patch anyway and we ended our dive by swimming back and forth over the interior looking for conch. I found two more nice big ones. It is strange, we have only found 5 conch so far, but all of them are real large. Where are the youngsters? After cleaning and towing the hookah, we went over to Salida as Craig wanted us to show him ow to clean conch. I took along Gram's rook hammer and a boning knife and quickly had three of them out of the shell. He did the other two got the first one quickly, but I had to help with the second. Deb then showed him how to gut and skin them while I had a beer with Liz (who took pictures for Craig but didn't want to watch. We took the filets back to our boat and I cut up one for conch salad just one made more than enough for 4 of us. I also did the seared tuna (which I had filet and released earlier). Deb did a veggie and dip plate and Liz brought bratwurst slices so we had quite a feast. We talked about moving on and decided probably Monday as we don't want to run into surcharges for checking in to San Andres on Sunday. We could stay here a week (or two or three...) but we will get to stop on the way back as well and so far we are really enjoying traveling with Salida.