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This is what the Florida Keys is all about

Lindsay and I were pumped up to be back in the sun and fun, near the water and on a boat, after having spent the last few weeks living out of our car, hotels and family houses from Washington DC to Jekyll Island, GA.  We have been looking forward and committed to this 2-week fishing and lobstering extravaganza for a few months now. We sent in our deposits, participated on all of the group e-mails, watched the movie Tarpon (which I seriously do not recommend. It’s a truly awful movie.) & purchased enough bourbon, maraschino cherries, sweet vermouth and bitters to serve hundreds of tasty manhattans.

We have almost zero clue about fishing, boating or lobstering, but thankfully we know people that do!

Lindsay’s brother (Captain Creamy) and his friends organize a two-week trip to the Florida Keys, specifically Marathon Island (mile marker 50ish) every year. They know what they’re doing. They own the boats, they own the fishing and lobstering equipment, they own the GPS sites where there are lobster holes, they own the knowledge of how to fish, etc… They have it all. Lindsay and I? Not sure. I guess we bring the party. Make sure we have music, cold alcoholic-riddled beverages, sandwiches for all to enjoy and  an aggressive whiskey-fueled “fry night” that the entire group looks forward too.

Our history in the Florida Keys with this group is remembered with some mixed feelings. Lindsay and I are typically TERRIBLE luck when it comes to boating, fishing & lobstering. The first time we joined them on their inaugural Keys trip was almost 7 years ago. We spent a week on fishing and lobstering. Our total catch: 1 mahi and 6 lobsters. Many of the other boats down there at the time were “maxing out” their lobster limit (which was 6 per active harvester on the boat). We couldn’t catch 1 per person over the entire stay.  The one little mahi we caught was the product of an all-day fishing adventure. It’s estimated that we lost over $200 in lures, burned more than $200 in gas & drank over $300 in booze during that trip – all for a 4lb mahi. Now that is some expensive fish. Needless to say the rookies from Chicago had the finger pointed at them for why the group was getting “skunked” out there. And rightfully so. We had prior experience of fishing with Lindsay’s brother off the coast in Jacksonville and coming up empty handed. Boats have broken down when Lindsay and I are on board. It’s not pretty. So yeah, we were really excited about this trip, but we were also secretly pretty nervous. Hence all the whiskey to drown away our fears. It’s called a defense mechanism.

Ok..ok, what the F is “lobstering”?

I had the same question the first time I went to the Keys. The Floridians tried to explain it to us.

You search for lobster holes, dive down there with your mask (free dive, no air tank), a tickle stick, a net and glove. We should see the antennas of the lobsters sticking out of the hole. Dive down there, “tickle” the lobster out of the hole, place the net behind the lobster, scare the lobster with your tickle stick and they will run backwards into the net. Pin the lobster to the ground with the net, don’t let them escape & grab that SOB with your gloved-hand. Bring it up to the surface (all on one breath) and the lobster will be measured to make sure it’s legal.

Um….what? The first time I secretly pretended that I understood what they were saying. Just a casual – “yeah, cool – ok, I got it.” Lie.  After I was dragged by a rope off the back of the boat to “look for lobster holes” for 30 minutes I finally admitted I didn’t know what the heck a lobster hole was. You really do need to see it to understand it.

Lobster “holes” aren’t really holes at all. They’re more like ledges or shelves where the lobster can back into and have their antenna stick out. In crystal-clear water only 10 or so feet deep you can see these from the surface. Once you see it you get it.

I don’t want to spend half a day going through the details on how to catch a lobster. The Floridians original description is accurate, it just doesn’t make any sense unless you have done it before. Here is a video I found on Youtube that does a pretty good early 90’s job at depicting how you catch a lobster in the Keys.

 

The two weeks in the Keys is not only about lobstering.

It’s about catching mahi mahi. It’s about learning how to filet those mahi mahi. It’s about sitting on the back porch, drinking a dozen or so manhattans with the guys and frying those aforementioned caught and cleaned mahi mahi. It’s about playing Cards Against Humanity (honestly one of the funnest ..or most fun.. games I have ever played), it’s about all the little kids, ages 7 months to 5 years old, taking over the biggest and best TV in the house to watch some weird cartoon called Daniel Tiger, even though there are prime time sports being televised that you have money on. It’s about catching a 5-foot nurse shark off the back pier at 3am when you can barely talk (or walk) and trying to bring it on shore for a picture. It’s about having a dance party with the 5 year old, then interviewing her on her performance. It’s about hoping that the 5 year old is able to filter most of what she saw and not tell her teacher and fellow classmates at school in the next few weeks. It’s about running 20 miles in preparation for a marathon a few days from now and never feeling worse in your life. That my friends, is what the Florida Keys is all about.

 

The Keys are about catching gigantic mahi mahi (20 & 30 pounders here) and posing for group pictures. The Keys are also about holding 4lb mahi upright in the background. It’s also about wearing clothing that pictures the exact fish you are trying to catch.

 

The Florida Keys are about learning how to “clean” a fish. Taking way too long and getting criticized for a poor job done. But it’s also about not really caring and making sure that there is an ice-cold margarita on the same table you are cutting the fish on.

 

The Florida Keys are about taking a day trip to Key West, visiting Ernest Hemmingway’s house (awesome) and taking a picture with mile marker 0. The end of US Route 1.

 

It’s about getting everyone to agree on taking a family photo. And just when the picture is about to be taken it’s about a noise coming from the back of the boat and Lindsay’s dad turning to see what it’s all about. That’s what the Keys is about.

 

It’s about The Captain making sure that she has the right amount of beer in her stomach to give her that extra edge when trying to drive the boat over a school of mahi.

 

The Keys are all about multi-tasking. A few minutes before this pic was taken Lindsay was downing an Stella, she drove herself over a patch of fish, hooked one and then reeled it in. That’s what the Keys is about. That and adjusting your sunglasses.

 

It’s about Girl Power! And holding fish … and babies!

 

It’s about guys looking at another guy cutting a fish while a picture is being taken. And one guy holding a fish and a knife – far away from the cleaning table – for no apparent reason.

 

It’s about taking a picture from the other end of the table of our Captain looking very suspicious. It’s about the table being littered in small child treats and alcoholic beverages as well.

 

But mostly it’s about hanging out and having fun with your friends and family.

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