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Underwater Wakulla April 5, 2018

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A Day on the Water By TRAVIS KERSTING

A Day on the Water. By Travis Kersting

After a slow start this morning, Monday April 2nd, we made a journey about 27 miles off shore. The intention was to validate some numbers in federal waters. If time allowed we would come in to state waters to spearfish Gag grouper who’s season opened yesterday. Things didn’t go as planned but that’s ok. Everyone had a great return to summer diving.

There was a lot of new things to test today. Primarily a new GPS system on the boat, which turns out to have had some settings out of whack. It was a little embarrassing to be about 10 miles off track for the first spot but eventually we did make 2 dives trying to find an airplane wreckage. No wreckage was found but Gregg found a very large live creature, that looked much like a 18-24in diameter rock. He called it a helmet snail. The numbers were from former commercial fisherman, who haven’t dove in a decade or more, which makes me think perhaps the wreckage has fully decayed.

Since we came up empty handed from the first spot and O-Tower was nearby we just went there to complete the other two dives of the day. The tower is a beacon of hope to birds which have ventured to far from shore and it’s a habitat for all types of underwater marine life. A small song bird landed on our boat. It was way off course but declined a ride home when we offered. Underwater, there were bait balls, mangrove snapper, red snapper, sheepshead, goliath grouper, amberjack, Lion fish and so many more animals. When you dive a tower you typically find plenty of sharks too, but today none of us saw a single one, perhaps due to Davis using a “Shark Shield”.

At the end of the last dive we had FWC pull up. They saw the dive flag and asked if we had divers down, which we did, so they waited. Once everyone was back on the boat the officers asked to board. They are there to help manage and protect a resource we all love so we welcome them aboard. It turned out that we saw them earlier in the day getting fuel just before we stopped for ice. The officers were pleasant and inspected the vessel and fish boxes. They promptly found my lionfish ceviche, but the “evidence” was floating in the water in the form of limes and lemons so they knew to look for it. Lionfish is perfectly legal to clean and consume when out on the water so that is my snack of choice when on the boat. The whole experience lasted perhaps 30 minutes and they let the divers break down gear and pack things away while they did their job.

In the end it was a long day but still successful. When we returned to our Caribbelle dock, the sun had set on a beautiful day. We were able to sort out some quirks and find a few lionfish for Ceviche. Each of us took home a couple mangrove and sheepshead too. The seas were calm, the water was approximately 68 degrees with a thin thermocline at the surface. The visibility was perhaps 25 to 30 feet on the bottom with a noticeable current.  And, most importantly, everyone made it back safe.