Monday, February 4, at 6pm we were at Baer Field trying to make an Allegiant flight from Fort Wayne to Fort Lauderdale. A weather inversion had blanketed the city with fog and we were socked in. The departures board hanging on the wall of the terminal had just registered a one-hour delay, but the weatherman was calling for fog until 3:00am. There were five of us waiting to get out of town for a weeks fishing in Key West. We headed over to the Waynewood Inn to grab some dinner and discuss our options. Even if the fog cleared by morning, Allegiant might not be able to get us on a new flight. They only fly on specified days and the beleaguered agent behind the counter wasn’t able to give us any ‘what if’ scenarios. The best he could do was tell us that if the fog cleared he may be able to get us on something by Wednesday.
The plans for this trip had started last December. Jim & Tim Partin were planning a trip to Key West to spend some time fishing and visiting with their sister and brother-in-law. They invited my son Rob and I on the trip and who could resist taking a break from this Indiana, February weather. So the tickets were purchased, the bags packed and checked and here we were playing pool at the Waynewood Inn, not knowing when or if we would be able to get out of town.
The first conclusion was that we were probably not going anywhere on Allegiant until Wednesday so we headed back to Baer Field and un-checked our luggage. Then we went to Rob’s place and googled up some flights out of Indy. We found a 9:30am AirTran flight leaving Indy Tuesday morning and our first thought was to just drive to Indy and catch that flight. The problem was that that would leave a vehicle in Indy and our flight back on Monday the 11th would bring us back to Fort Wayne, leaving our vehicle stranded.
The obvious choice was to rent a car one way and leave it. We called Alamo for a car, but they wanted $240 for the one-way drop. Luckily we called Hertz and we were able to pick up an Impala for about eighty bucks. Everyone sacked out at out Rob’s and at 4:30am we were driving out of the Fort Wayne fog headed south to Indy. Our flight out of Indy to Fort Lauderdale put us on the ground by about noon Tuesday and then it was a three-hour drive down to Key West.
Deb (Jim and Tim’s sister) and her husband John Gillespie live at the nine-mile marker, meaning, that if you go another nine miles south you will be in the ocean.
John Gillespie is from Fort Wayne, and after graduating from North Side High School he joined the Navy Submarine Service. After the Navy, John took a job as a diesel mechanic at the Fort Wayne Fire Department and later became a fireman. A blown knee and damaged arm put him on early retirement and Key West is where he and Deb now live.
On Wednesday morning, John took us out on his pontoon boat to check his crab traps. Deb drove the boat while John pulled in the traps. Blue crabs were put in a bucket, spider crabs were put back in the ocean and sand crabs were relieved of their claws and tossed back so they could rejuvenate new ones. That noon we dined on crab meat delicacies.
Wednesday, John loaded his fishing boat. Another friend had joined us from Hamilton, New Jersey. Noel Jansen is the senior legal manager for Unison, the same company that Jim Partin and Jack Squire work for.
Captain John Gillespie took us out to deep water and anchored off an ocean break. We were fishing light tackle, for snapper and grouper. John also put out two heavy poles with 50-pound test for anything big that might come along.
Fishing was great and we landed an assortment of snapper and grouper. We also had some hits on the big poles. One was probably a shark, as it tore off the fifty-pound test line and we never got a look at it.
That night we took our catch to a restaurant called Babaloo’s and had them fix a fish fry. What a feast! 1/3 of the catch was prepared blackened, 1/3 broiled and the last 1/3 fried. We had sides of fresh lima beans, fries and crab meat tenders.
The next day, Thursday John took us out to a flat, grassy area of ocean. Captain John set us up with light tackle rigged with three-way swivels. The rig was similar to what we use when fishing for Steelies on the Muskegon River in Newaygo. One swivel is attached to a leader and a weight to keep your line down. Another leader with a hook is tied to the second swivel. The line coming from the reel is attached to the third swivel. The boat was in about 18 ft. of water and the current kept the bait flowing away from the back of the boat. We were drift fishing for Lane Snapper and it wasn’t long before we had a cooler full. It is always great to have a captain that knows the territory, as there is a lot of ocean out there.
That night found us in downtown Key West on Duvall Street. I have to admit that the locals place a new meaning on the phrase ‘freedom of expression.’ We saw everything from Elvis on a bicycle to a tattooed lady wearing nothing but a smile.
We had a charter setup for Saturday. Captain Kevin Davis from Knee Deep charters met us outside a restaurant at Geiger Key. We walked down to the pier just as he was pulling up in his boat. “Get in and let’s go,” he said. No fancy introductions or handshaking, just “Get in and let’s go.”
And go we did. We set out to catch yellow tail snapper and we had a great day. We fished light tackle, as well as having two heavy poles out and one kite. The kite was attached to a pole set up high and a bait fish was left to flop around on top of the water a ways out from the boat. The kite fishing was done to try to pick up some mackerel, but the wind died and we had to bring it in.
Rob had a good hit and was pulling in a large yellow tail when his line suddenly went slack. “Dang, he got off,” Rob said, as he pulled in the slack line. As he retrieved, he noticed that there was a yellow tail head still on the hook. One of the guys looked over the side and yelled “Barracuda”! Rob dropped the head back in the water and the Barracuda hit with a vengeance. It was a short fight, as we were not using steel leader and the barracuda cut the line and went on its way.
We were back on shore by noon with a cooler full of yellow tail. The captain picked out a fish for each of us, filleted each and gave the fillets to the cook at Geiger Key Marina for a lunch of yellow tail. The rest of the fish were filleted and placed in bags for the trip home.
Saturday night found us back on Duvall Street at Sloppy Joes. Those folks in Key West sure like to party.
Saturday night a cold front came in and knocked the temperature down to 75 so Sunday was a good day to take a walk on the beach.
Monday it was back to Fort Lauderdale for our flight back to Fort Wayne. We dropped out of the sky to blowing snow and a temperature of 8 degrees.
And, oh yes, that cancelled Allegiant flight from a week ago. We are supposed to get back about 19 dollars each. The rest of the ticket was made up of non-refundable charges; federal taxes, segment fees, PFC, 911 security, convenience fees, and prepaid bags and as the attendant told us, “It’s all spelled out in the fine print on the back of the ticket.”