Havelock News
  • Wrapping up vacation to the Florida Keys

  • At risk of boring you to death, I’m posting this final missive about our Key West holiday.
  • At risk of boring you to death, I’m posting this final missive about our Key West holiday. We had so many neat things going on down there that it’s impossible to jam it all within the size boundaries of a couple little columns.
    For our last full day there, I chartered a fishing boat. All through the week, I’d been looking so forward to the trip and definitely wasn’t disappointed.
    To somebody like me who has fished all of his life with everything from bent straight pins to dynamite, the waters around the Keys are mesmerizing. They’re typically crystal clear, and everywhere you look, interesting critters of one sort or another are going about the business of making their livings.
    But, as one of my favorite southern truisms illustrating that nothing is absolutely perfect says, “Every chicken has feathers.” It’s virtually impossible to find anything without some downside, however miniscule.
    This little homily was applicable to our catch last week. The “feathers” of fishing in this neck of the woods — or in this case “water” — is ciguatera toxin. This food poisoning agent is present and concentrated in many large reef fish and we were fishing around a reef.
    Predators like barracuda, grouper and red snapper that feed primarily on reef fish are not considered safe, so we kept none to eat, releasing everything we caught on our trip. While I’m typing this, other groups of tourists are probably catching “our” fish again and again.
    You don’t die from eating fish contaminated with this toxin but you may wish to. Vacation time is too valuable to spend any appreciable amount of it in a bathroom.
    As you may suspect, the Florida Keys are filled with guides and charters of every imaginable flavor. I made my choice by surfing websites and advertisements.
    If you plan a charter down there, by all means do your own research and investigations. If you want a place to start, I might suggest Capt. Billy Wickers.
    I ended up arranging everything through him by phone many months in advance. He was very easy to contact on his cell and if he missed the call always called me right back. His family contains four generations on those waters and I was very satisfied with the service.
    When strikes came hot and heavy, I thought we were going to kill the mate. He worked the lines, baits and outriggers constantly throughout our trip. Of course that’s what a mate aboard a charter fishing boat is supposed to do, but he was extra excellent and I tipped him accordingly.
    Our suitcases are back in the storage locker where they’ll rest for the remainder of the year as will I. Our 2014 travels have ended.
    Page 2 of 2 - I love to go on vacations and I love to come back home. By enjoying both ends, was the southern “chicken and feathers” axiom violated?
    No, there is a downside. It’ll take at least a couple months to rest up. Vacations are extremely hard work, but somebody has to take them.
    You can thank me later.
    Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at ogardner@embarqmail.com.

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