November 17, 2018

Tarpon Adventure

In May we took a cruise to the Bahamas, Key West and Coco Cay. We went with my wife's side of the family and had a blast. My favorite part of this trip was seeing the Nieces and Nephews exploring and having fun new experiences. 
Our first stop was Nassau Bahamas. We all went to Atlantis Resort to hang out at the water park and aquariums. This is one of my favorite spots of the places I've traveled. There is something of everyone here.

Enjoying Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.
Enjoying the world-class water park.

He kept looking back like "can you believe this"?

Conch Salad
It's tough to beat the beaches in the Bahamas. 

Looking down from the tip of the ship.

She is a big fan of the desserts.

Our table had delicious Indian food every night.
Our second stop was Coco Cay; Royal Caribbean's private island. We spent the day playing on the beach, Snorkeling, and getting to swim with Southern Stingrays. Coco Cay is a great place to be lazy and soak up the fun with a cold drink in your hand.

High up in a Coconut tree..
Found a little Hermit Crab on the beach.
Southern Stingrays by Coco Cay.
Our third stop was Key West, FL. We took a tour of Ernest Hemingway's house and stopped by Blue Heaven for the best key lime pie that I've ever eaten. After that we cruised around and explored the small island.
Ernest Hemingway's office just as he left it in Key West.

Blue Heaven. Home of the best key lime pie.

Mile-high meringue on my favorite key lime pie on the planet. 
Exploring Key West.
We ran into more iguanas than you could count.
When we landed back in Miami, Chelsea and I stayed an extra day while everyone else flew back home. I booked a Tarpon trip with Captain Jeff Maggio (click here to read about my first trip with Jeff). Jeff knows the inner coastal like the back of his hand. However, to this point I'd hooked 13 Tarpon without landing one. No other fish on the planet had beaten me this bad for so long. Jeff and I were determined to get one to the boat on this trip. We had horrible weather conditions where it dumped rain on us most of the afternoon. We ended up hooking into one fish on our trip about two hours in. I fought it for about 40 minutes before finally landing it in spite of a Guggan getting with 15 ft of the boat while I was fighting my fish. I thought I was going to relive the experience I had on our first trip. I can't put into words how satisfying it was to finally cross tarpon of my species list after years of trying. 

Fish On!!!

First Tarpon ever landed!

Finally! How sweet it is!!!

October 13, 2018

Newfoundland and Labrador Canada Adventure

My work took me to the furthest east you can go in North America. St. John's in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is full of history and dripping with charm. It is both the oldest city in North America as well as the most easterly point in North America. I had a few hours after work each night to explore, so  I tried to make the most of the time I had. The first place I explored was Signal Hill. Here you will find spectacular views and so much history. Signal hill overlooks the harbor so it was heavily fortified. 
I also took a quick boat tour around the harbor and out to Cape Spear and back. I didn't see any whales or ice burgs, but did get to see several Puffins flying along the cliffs which was really cool to see.

View out from the top of Signal Hill.

Signal Hill

This section of town built on the cliffs is called Lower Battery. St. John's has charm for days.
The next day I headed over to the Cape Spear Lighthouse. The wind was whipping which made it really cold. I walked around to take in the sights and old World War 2 bunkers until I got cold enough to call it a day.

The sea was angry on this day.

Eastern most point of North America.

Cape Spear Lighthouse.
As I walked around, I started asking some of the locals where I might have luck finding someone to go fishing with. They all recommended going to Quidi Vidi so I made my way over. Quidi Vidi is a little fishing village located on Quidi Vidi Lake. I asked around until a guy with a boat said he could take me out for an hour. I made it worth his time, and we headed out. Where this was completely unplanned, he asked what I wanted to catch, and since St. John's was built on the Cod fishery, I figured I'd like to try catching some. With that we were off. 
While heading to some fishing spots He asked if I wanted a rod or if I wanted to fish like the locals (hand-line). I chose the latter for a different experience. I had an absolute blast for that hour hearing local fishing stories and making a new friend. I landed 2 Cod which happened to be a double during the hour. 
Left: My Cod double I landed while hand-lining. Top right: Quidi Vidi
Bottom right:Middle Cove Beach.

Delicious Cod tongues. I love trying the local foods of the places I travel.
St. John's is known for its colorful houses and shops which I read about prior to going. Pictures simply don't do the city justice as to just how charming it is. I also wasn't expecting the food to be as good as it was. I tried blood pudding, fish pie, salt cod and cod tongues for the first time along with other seafood I've had before. I also had the loaded chips which was my favorite. Needless to say, I gained an extra pound or two.
The real estate around St. Johns has so much character.

More views while exploring. 

Fresh mussels, cod, scallops and shrimp with fries smothered in gravy, hamburger and grilled onions. 

October 9, 2018

St. Kitts Adventure

Well, I'm playing catch up. I took a break from writing and decided it was long enough. I have a lot of trips to write about and I'm going back to 2016 when my wife and I went to St. Kitts for business. I was there for work, but being at at 4 pm every day meant there was plenty of time for a good time. We stayed at the Marriott Resort which had lots to do, but exploring new places is what I love so we didn't stay at the resort long. 
Our first night there, we walked down the road to a big open field where a lot of locals were flying kites as is tradition there around Easter. we made a few friends and they told us to head to Shiggidy Shack because that's where the party was in the evening. 

Marriott Resort where we stayed. No complaints with views like that.

A monkey we saw on the say to Shiggidy Shack.
Shiggidy Shack is a beach bar & grill that you can find at the end of the world (this place had to be the spot that inspired Kenny Chesney's song). We had great food, and a watching a fire breather was great fun along with the music and dancing.

Shiggidy Shack. This is where the party starts when the sun goes down.

Atlantic Ocean on the left and the Caribbean Sea on the right.

People being baptized as we made our way out to fish. 

 We got to to a snorkeling/fishing trip that last day we were there which was great. We started off snorkeling along a ship wreck and saw all sorts of fish. After we went out a ways and bottom fished for grouper and whatever else cared to bite.

My biggest Red Grouper of the trip.
Chelsea with a Squirrel Fish and Strawberry Grouper double.
Top left: Mahogany Snapper       Top right: Squirrel Fish
Bottom left: ???          Bottom right: Strawberry Grouper
Chelsea caught the biggest fish of the trip with this nice Red Grouper. She didn't want to hold it.
The keepers.
Beautiful sunset to end the trip.

May 12, 2018

Wrangling Alligator Gar in Texas

This trip is one I've wanted to do for some time but never took the time/effort to do it. As fate would have it, I had a business trip that took me to Houston so I took an extra day off to finally make it happen. I landed at 12:30 am and needed to meet the guide at 6 am. What I forgot to account for was the 2 hour drive I had from the airport so I ended up just sleeping in my rental car for a few hours before the trip started. The guide service I went with is which turned out to be a fantastic choice. I fished with Captain Cody and he far exceeded my expectations. My expectations were to hook 5-6 gar and land 3-4 total for the 10 hour day I booked and we blew that out of the water.

Trinity River

We had a beautiful day weather wise as we launched and started heading up river to some spots Capt. Cody has had success with in the past. We got our lines out and didn't have to wait long till we had some action. Gar will take the bait and run with it in their mouth so you need to wait a while before setting the hook. Cody explained that once they stop taking line, they eat the bait whole and then start heading back towards us. When I saw the float start coming back at us slowly, I reeled in the extra line and set the hook. FISH ON! It wasn't a long fight but an acrobatic one. I had a smaller gar on and we landed it in short order. My first ever Alligator gar measured out at 4 feet. The next few fish we landed were all 5 ft 8 in or 5 ft 9 in. We really never had much time between fish which as awesome!

My first Alligator Gar.

Looking at their head, It's no wonder how they got their name.

5 ft 9 in Gar. 

Another 5 ft 9 in Gar.
 A really cool experience during this trip was having three takes at the same time. With three fish going, I started fighting one while Capt. Cody got the lines with no fish out of the water. We landed the first one, got it in the boat and then started fighting the second, and then the third. We had line everywhere from lines being crossed but we managed to land all three fish. The smallest was 5 feet and the largest went 6 foot 3 inches. Cody told me this was the first time having a triple landed on his boat, and it made for a great picture before releasing all of them.

Landed a triple which was a first for Capt Cody.  Size ranged from 5 ft to 6 ft 3 inches.
Here is a look at the business end of a Gar. Two rows of razor sharp teeth.

6 ft 3 in Gar. 
To this point we had landed 8 of the 10 Gar we hooked. It had already been one of the best guided day trips I've ever been on, but it was about to get even better. Cody took me to a spot and told me that the fishing would be slow, but if we hooked up, it would be a big one. Cody was right yet again except for it being slow. We watched a gar rise to get air (they are air breathers) and it was a giant which got me excited. About 10 minutes later, something took the bait and headed up river. We got the other lines in the boat and had to start following it. Once it stopped, we gave it a few minutes and then I set the hook.
FISH ON! At first I couldn't tell how big the fish was because it was swimming right at us, but once it knew it was hooked, it tore off line like it was nothing. I fought this fish for about 15 minutes before getting a glimpse ,and that one look confirmed we had a huge fish on. The fight continued for several more minutes and we thought we had the upper hand. Cody maneuvered the boat to shallower water so we could land it and that when things went south.
As I got the fish closer to the boat the gar made one last short run and found a submerged tree where it got hung up. I couldn't budge it an inch. We were 6-8 ft of water and for the next 20-30 minutes we worked trying various things to try and get the line free. We broke branches form the log, trying another rod to hook the line and pull it in a different direction but nothing was working.
Then an idea came to me. I asked Cody where his life jackets were and he got one for me. With that I was in the water. I was not going to lose the potential largest fish I've ever fought. I went over to the line and ran my foot down it until I felt the nose of the fish so I would know exactly where he was. I then asked Cody to put the pole through the lasso we used to land earlier fish so now the line was in the middle of the lasso loop. I let the lasso sink and I used my feet the best I could to work the lasso around the Gar. Once I thought that the lasso was in position, I gave it a yank. I felt the weight of the fish and slowing started bringing him to the surface. It was thrashing around a bit so I had to be sure to give him space.
Once we got the head above water, Cody noticed the lasso was barely holding so I handed him the rope. I told him on the count of three, I was going to bear hug the fish and he needed to slide the lasso into position to get the best hold. He looked at me like I was crazy (fair assessment looking back on it). Well, I counted to three and wrapped myself around that fish for a few seconds while Cody worked the lasso. Mission accomplished!!! I didn't realize until later that Cody had snapped a few pictures with is phone while I was working that lasso in the water, but I m so glad he did. You have to have proof with a story like this. I still can't believe we got that fish in the boat. This gar measured out to 7 foot 11 inches and weighted roughly 210 pounds making this the largest fish I have ever landed. We went to a nearby sandy bank to get a few pictures of this river giant before releasing him back into the Trinity River.

Running my foot down the line to see where the monster gar is.

Getting the Gar out of the submerged tree. I wasn't going to give up on this fish.

7 ft 11 in river monster. The prize for not giving up.

210 pounds of Gar.

Things really are bigger in Texas.

we ended the day on that fish meaning we landed 9 of the 11 Alligator Gar we hooked that day. I can't thank Cody enough for a trip of a lifetime and more importantly a fish of a lifetime. If you ever want a trip to go after these prehistoric fish, I highly recommend giving these guys a call. I know I'll be back again.
I also hit an Astros game with my friend that lives in Houston.  My friend works for the Astros and was generous in getting me a ticket. They played the Yankees and lost, but it was still great to be in the ballpark. My favorite part though was getting to try on his World Series championship ring he received a few week prior. What a job perk!

A view of Minute Maid Park before the game.

Great seats. Thanks again Ryan.

A look at my friends World Series ring. Go Astros!