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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
November 8, 2004
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report

SWIM WITH A GIANT MANTA?

Last week on an offshore charter, my anglers and I were fortunate to experience something so phenomenal that we are still talking about it. Only twice in my 26 years of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico have I been privileged to see this amazing ocean creature.

We were anchored on a coral reef catching snappers and groupers on live bait. Out of the deep blue a giant manta ray swims leisurely up on the surface about 40 feet off the starboard bow. The angler fishing amidships saw it first and excitedly screamed, “Look, what is that!” He pointed out to the right with eyes as wide as saucers. Everyone onboard moved to the starboard gunwale simultaneously, as the boat pitched hard under the weight. And always when one needs it most, my camera is not onboard.

We all stood silently and awestruck as the twenty plus foot giant swam slowly behind the boat on the surface. With its huge, triangular pelvic fins flapping slowly and large, forward protruding cephalic fins, this huge creature looked like some high tech submarine out of a Jacques Cousteau ocean documentary. It was a spectacular thing to behold, as it cruised by our little boat. I count it right up there with very rare whale sightings.

As the fins moved gracefully up and down, we could see large remoras attached to the snow, white underbelly. Impulsively, I pitched several chunks of cut bait in front of the giant and we watched several of the remoras come out and eat them. So, I pitched another chunk hooked up on a spinner and whammo. These we not the little shark remoras we catch on the bottom of a reef, these boys had big shoulders. They were well fed by their host no doubt.

The ray left after a short time and no one went back to fishing immediately. A lengthy discussion ensued about exactly what we all had just seen. My adrenaline was racing and I had a hard time putting together coherent sentences.

The giant manta ray is commonly called eagle ray or devil ray. In the oceans of the world it spends a lot of time swimming on the surface around coral reefs. They have the ability to jump completely clear of the water, a behavior that baffles scientists. This writer would pay cash money to watch one breach the water. Twenty footers are average, with the largest ones going to thirty feet and 3000 pounds. They are filter-feeders with the capability to assimilate large volumes of water rich in zooplankton. The only predators are very large sharks and humans. Divers encounter them at close quarters and they seem indifferent and pose no danger. Little is known about these behemoths of the sea, so the lack of scientific data does not enable any creditable conservation status.

Please forgive me for altering my usual fishing report format to talk about a manta sighting. This big boy returned two more times that day and the experiences were just as intense each time. I was simply so taken by the experience, I had to share it with you.

Til next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,

Captain Alex Crawford

www.topknots.com

Proud Member Florida Outdoor Writers Association

Proud Member Florida Guides Association

Proud Member Coastal Conservation Association

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Captain Alex Crawford is a full time guide who has fished the Florida Panhandle offshore for 26 years. He specializes in grouper and snapper trips with light tackle on live bait. Custom trips for companies with multiple boats will be arranged. Inshore trips targeting specific species and custom eco trips are available for birding, gator watching, shelling, picnics and barrier islands. Contact Captain Alex for a fun and productive trip on Florida's Forgotten Coast.

Contact Info:

Topknots Charters
P. O. Box 1029
Carrabelle, FL 32322
Phone: 850-697-8946
Alt. Phone: same
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