I was born in Hartford, Connecticut September 1968, then moved with my family at age 5, when my first memories begin with the ride to Florida in a loaded station wagon and enclosed trailer packed with everything my parents couldn’t or chose not to sell. I am the youngest of three, having two older sisters 4 and 5 years my senior. The whole family would call out Danny look at the cows at every one they saw on the whole trip trying to pry my eyes from every puddle, lake, river or really any body of water, as I was fascinated with anything that moved under or on top of it. My fascination with and desire to be near in and around the water is with me still. Because of this I have fished constantly, dove for lobsters, spear fished and free dove to 90 feet on a single breath of air. I have either caught or speared almost everything there is to catch to maximum or near maximum sizes or at least had the chance. Spear fishing like fishing means to see a 100lb plus black grouper doesn’t always mean you’ve got him but seeing a giant grouper, cobia, cuberra Snapper, Etc. in their natural environment and at least having the chance are memories and stories that will be etched in my memory forever.
Once I had an encounter with a school of Goliath Grouper I estimated to be 400 or 500lbs each who attempted to steal a 60lb cobia I had just speared, grabbing the cobia and stone cold killing it with one bite not engulfing it totally but grabbing it in the middle of its body, not getting its head or tail thus allowing me to jerk it free from the fish’s jaws. As I was still attached to the fish by a cable attached to my break away spear tip, connected by a 400lb tether attached to my gun. I pulled the cobia into my chest along with the grouper I had already speared and attached to my BC with a hoop stringer. Using my three foot Cressi fins and spear gun I created a diversion between me and the fish eventually the grouper got frustrated and one grabbed me by my leg, pulling so hard that my leg felt as if it where being pulled out of socket removing my right fin at the same time, which I never saw again. Being that it was a full foot fin and unprotected underneath unlike the rest of my body which was covered with a three mill wet suit. The bottom of my foot was cut by the groupers teeth leaving 8 to 10 horizontal slices five inches long on the toughest skin on my body just barely deep enough to bleed. After this happened they seemed to be discouraged probably because the biggest and most daring of the group was only rewarded with a 3ft hard plastic fin which I imagine was poor table quality for the fish. They all disbursed as quickly as they had gathered.
I had dove with goliath grouper for years before this and never had an incident. I Believe part of the reason they were so aggressive on this particular dive was that I was diving a wreck called The California 55 miles southeast of Marco Island approximately half way to Key West. The wreck is a 200+ft military ship which still has the reminisce of several jeeps and large gunners. This makes it a popular dive especially for several charter dive boats that drop a dozen or so spear fisherman at a time. Some of these foolish divers would spear anything they saw regardless of season or size limits. Merely to feed the giant grouper thus teaching the fish to associate divers with a free meal, much like people feeding alligators on one side of the lake and then those same people telling their friends about the terrible alligator that ate the dog or young boy on the other side of the lake. This accompanied by the State/Federal refusal to lift the ban claiming Goliath grouper are an endangered species which they are not and have not been for at least the past ten years. In the past five years they have become a nuisance to offshore fisherman who in many cases are forced to leave their favorite fishing spots, because the giant grouper loom under you boat and eat anything you attempted to bring boat side. Again like the foolish divers regardless of size or season. I’ve dove several wrecks year after year that in the past had hundreds of fish of many species and several goliath grouper. Now many of those wrecks have several fish of several species and 20 to 30 giant goliath grouper that obviously aren’t playing by the rules or guidelines set by the state. Contrary to how this might sound I do agree with most all of the State regulations with the exception of only a few including the goliath grouper.
Having been a charter captain for several years I have fished with probably well over a thousand different people from all around the country and world. This has given me the opportunity to tell some of the hair raising stories which I have accumulated while diving and fishing the waters of Southwest Florida. Some include being accosted by sharks mugged for my catch by goliath grouper several times including the named attacked, bitten by a 6ft green moray eel leaving one to three punctures of every finger of my left hand except my thumb. Once on a dare while free diving with friends I rode the back of a 300+lb loggerhead turtle who upon release turned to chase me leading of course with a snapping football sized head, my friends claimed on that day I could have made the Olympic swim team and laughed until I caught my breath. On my honeymoon in Cozumel while diving with my wife I wrote I love U in the sand on the back of a huge sting ray which until recently I considered harmless. Even as a small boy I have always been more brave than smart. When people ask me about my encounters with sharks, goliath grouper, moray eels, etc. they say “Are you Crazy? Aren’t you afraid?” and I always reply the same saying that I am more afraid of a retiree in a yellow caddy on US41 than I have ever been of any sea creature with good reason and the statistics prove it.