This is the time of year that we spend a fair amount of time close to the edge of the reef just off Key West. Most of the inshore water is cold, but the warm offshore waters of the Gulf Stream move in closer to the reef line and with it, so do all of the pelagic migratory fish that swim through the area.
"One of the many kingfish and tuna that we used to chum for sharks and wahoo"
“Loading the Gun”
Rush Maltz, Steve Rodger and I set out for a fun outing that was to combine fishing, filming and spear fishing. Usually, the first thing we do is cast net some bait, catch some fish on rods and then start chumming. We basically try to attract fish to the boat so that we can jump in the water and get “eye-to-eye”.
True to form, the tunas and bonito showed up first and after catching a few tunas, we hung them over the side and started cutting them up. When you put blood and guts in the water, you know what usually happens- sharks! When the hammerheads get in the area, that’s the time to get in the water. It sounds crazy, but experience has shown us that where we find blue water and hammerheads, we also tend to find tuna and wahoo.
“Absolutely beautiful, graceful creatures!”
“Closer and closer”
“Up close and personal, generally you let them taste the gun and they go away”
“A gentle push and....”
“... they go away....at least for a little while...”
Steve and Rush grew up in the Keys fishing, diving, and spear fishing. I grew up here too, except at some point I put away the spear gun and traded it for a camera. Our favorite thing to do is to go explore new areas and jump in the water to “catch” some fish. We all seem to get our “shots” at fish!
This is something that we have done over the years and because of this, we are used to sharks being around. You get a sense of when it’s safe to be around them and depending on the species, know whether to stay in or get out. Hammerheads can be very curious, but as long as they are not swimming aggressively, they are one of the easier sharks to be around underwater. Still, when Rush and Steve both speared some oversized Wahoo, the Sharks naturally “lit up”. One of them actually bit the tail off Rush’s fish!
“Diving down looking for wahoo”
“Diving down, on point, fish in sight!”
“Steve fighting a wahoo on the tether, Jose shooting film”
“Takes a while to get them up”
“Fight is on!”
“Rush diving down for his fish after a hammerhead bit the tail off”
“Jose shooting Rush's shark-bit fish!”
The great thing about diving with these guys is that they are incredibly accomplished watermen so that when we all go diving, we all watch each others' back. Hammerheads have a way of sneaking up behind you and coming up your blind side. It must be how they hunt because almost every hammerhead we come across responds this way to anything they perceive as potentially being food!
“Surfacing, fish in hand”
“Rush reloads speargun, just in case, wahoo and sharks all around”
“Wide shot of the catch, all of us watching each others back, Sharks have a habit of coming up from your blind side”
“Honey, I got dinner!”
“Nice big fat ones”
All in all, it was great to be in the water with these incredible creatures and to see Rush and Steve in their element. It’s not easy to do what they do and it was an experience for me to see them in action! A few wahoo and a lot of pictures of the whole event made for another stellar day on, or perhaps better said, in the water!
“Fun catching them with both spears and cameras!”