We recently celebrated my son’s 16th birthday. When I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate this milestone, I was expecting him to want a party or maybe even ask for a reason to use his passport. What he actually asked for surprised me — he wanted a deep sea fishing trip with his friends. I didn’t see that coming. No denying him, he’s totally my kid. Of course he wants an adventure for his birthday! That’s definitely not what most 16 years his age are asking for and I was more than happy to oblige his request.
After a bit of research and recommendations from friends I settled on a half day trip with Hubbard’s Marina. Hubbard’s Marina is one of the oldest charter boat companies in the St. Petersburg area. They are 4th generation family owned and operated since 1928! They leave for various trips daily out of John’s Pass and I was so happy they were excited to work with me and provide a comped trip for me and my son in exchange for providing my first hand review of my experience. They also offer dolphin tours, kayak and segway rentals, and they run a ferry to Egmont Key from Fort Desoto State Park. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and we had to change the day we had originally scheduled which meant his friends would no longer be able to come with us. J had his heart set on it so he was perfectly ok with it just being me and him.
This was totally out of my comfort zone but it is something I’ve always been curious to try. I’ve been fishing many times but this is nothing like bass fishing on a lake or in a river. I was nervous about getting seasick. I was also feeling a bit insecure about my fishing skills and had no idea what to expect on my first deep sea fishing trip. I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle the rod and reel and I was afraid I would be embarrassed or uncomfortable because I’m such a novice. This is when I have to remind myself that I live the “adventure is a lifestyle” way so I have to suck it up and just go for it.
Thankfully I was worried about absolutely nothing! Hubbard’s crew makes the day very easy for you. You have the option of bringing your own gear if you are a deep sea fishing guru but most people pay to rent the poles directly from Hubbard’s. They provide a tub of cut up squid to use for bait. Some people opted to purchase shrimp as well but we decided we would stick to the basics. The process is pretty easy. You show up about 30 minutes ahead of boarding time, check in and pay.
Another great benefit they offer is a meal plan which includes water, soda, a breakfast sandwich or a lunch sandwich and 2 snack items. We chose this option and it was very convenient. You are allowed to bring a cooler so you can save some money by packing your own lunch but with just the 2 of us I didn’t bother. Just don’t pack alcohol because it is not allowed. You can purchase beers onboard the boat.
Once you’re onboard you pick your spot and place your pole in the numbered holder. If you are like me and my son with sensitive allergies to cigarette smoke I suggest trying to get a spot that’s toward either end of the boat. If you do happen to get sandwiched in between smokers and it becomes an issue for you just let the crew know. They are super accommodating and the boat is big enough to shift folks around to make you as comfortable as possible. I would also recommend bringing a scarf to wrap around your nose and mouth. That helped me tremendously.
It took about an hour to make it offshore to our spot. The captain wanted to get us out a little further than he had gone the day before to clearer waters where it wasn’t so churned up. During that time it’s a nice pleasant ride out to sea. You go inside to get your safety briefing and instruction on how to use the equipment. After that you can have a snack inside or sit outside and enjoy the sea air. You can also go upstairs to the covered seating area for some pretty views. This is where the captain’s wheelhouse is too so you can knock on the door and say hello and if he’s not too busy he just might let you in to take a look from behind the wheel!
Once we had found our spot, the captain gave the all clear to get your lines in the water and our fishing began. Normally I’m the biggest baby when it comes to bait. I absolutely abhor worms of any kind unless they are artificial. I’ve used live shrimp but catching them and then skewering them onto the hook without killing them is not my favorite thing to do either. Squid was super easy! It’s cut up in chunks so there’s really nothing gross about it. However, it smells awful and it can stain your clothes so it’s best to have a towel. I also wore gloves because I’m a whimp and I didn’t want the fish scales to cut my hands. Don’t judge me, okay?
In case you wanted to see what a slab of squid looks like…
No sooner than I was getting my bait onto my hook for my first drop into the water did the teenager pull out the first catch of day!!! It happened so fast! I guess that was birthday boy luck! I couldn’t even get a picture of it fast enough. Not to worry though, he had many more catches throughout the day!
When you catch your first fish they assign you a number and this is your number for the day. They will put all of your fish under that string number and give you your fish at the end of the trip. So don’t forget this number because every time you catch a fish they will ask you for that number.
It didn’t take long for me to hook my first fish too! This is my kind of fishing. I know you’re supposed to enjoy the quiet and the water and the breeze and all of that but I’m not that kind of fisherman. I like catching or it’s not fun for me. We were catching mostly gray snapper. We also snagged a few red grouper and I caught a flounder. Unfortunately we had to throw the grouper and the flounder back due to the size requirements. A couple near us caught a nice sized black sea bass as well and they got to keep it. The crew does a great job of getting your fish quickly and putting it on ice. They check to be sure the fish meets regulation. If it’s not a keeper they let you know right away and set it free.
So who takes your fish off the hook for you? The crew will come by and take it off for you but when it gets busy that’s wasted fishing time to wait for them to come by so I finally stopped being a baby and took them off myself. Since I was wearing gloves it wasn’t so bad.
If your line somehow gets tangled or you bring up a piece of coral like my son did, the crew will come and get you squared away. If you need a new hook they replace it for you. It’s all the benefits of going fishing with a boyfriend LOL. The hard work is taken care of and you can simply enjoy fishing.
You can’t eat coral….back in the water you go!
We had about 3 hours of fishing time and it flew by! We moved to several different spots to give us the best shot at getting to the fish. Before I knew it was time to reel them up and head back to the docks. I couldn’t believe it went by so fast. Time flies when you’re fighting the big one! I had several bites where the fish got away. It was quite the work out. Let me tell ya. But all in all I had a pretty stellar day. Between the two of us we took home about 15 fish!
So after you return to the marina, what do you do with your fish? You take them home with you and eat up! If you’re anything like me, I have zero skills in the art of fish gutting, cleaning, or filleting. I also have zero interest in acquiring these skills. The awesome Hubbard’s crew will clean and filet your catch for you right there on the dock for a low low price of 1$ for every 3 fish. That is a service worth paying for! You get to go home with filleted fish in a bag of ice ready to be baked, broiled, fried or prepared however you like. I was told that some of the restaurants at John’s Pass will cook your catch for you but I didn’t investigate that option because I wanted to prepare it myself.
You also get a free comedy show watching the pelicans fight over the discarded fish remnants
So far we have broiled and blackened our gray snapper and both were excellent. It’s a great mild flaky fish. There’s nothing more rewarding than eating what you caught from mother nature with your own two hands.
Hubbard’s Marina went out of their way to provide great service for the entire trip. If you’re a novice, they will put your fears completely at ease. This is definitely my kind of fishing and it will not be my last deep sea fishing trip for sure! I think when the weather turns to spring I want to try the half day night fishing trip! We saw old, young, men, women, families, and even little fisher dudes. This is a really family friendly activity. If it’s something you’ve always wanted to try then go for it!
Things to know to plan your own outdoorsy adventure and what to expect on your first deep sea fishing trip:
- Cost: $55 +tax for adults and half price for 11 years old and under; Pole rental is an additional $7.50 plus tax
- Dress appropriately. If it’s winter like it was for us wear layers and a good undergarment foundation to protect yourself from the elements. If it’s summer….well you’re gonna burn up because we live in Florida and you know that already so just be ok with it. I would probably only go out on the morning trips in the summer time personally because of the heat factor. But it will be worth it when you catch all of those fish. Make sure you wear sunscreen no matter what time of year. Also wear something you don’t mind getting fishy because squid juice…
- Shoe Game – Wear a shoe with a rubber bottom and you probably don’t want open toed shoes because of squid juice and flopping fish and hooks. Divas this is a great time to rock those cute sporty rain boots. Also go for comfort because while there are benches onboard the boat, you cannot fish from sitting down. You will be on your feet for a while.
- Bring a hand towel and gloves
- Bring cash – While you can pay for your reservation with a card, you may need cash for incidentals like a hand towel and gloves. You will also want to tip your awesome crew for taking such great care of you and pay to have your fish cleaned.
- Bring a cooler and pack your lunch. I didn’t have time to go get stuff but if I had taken my son and his friends as we planned originally I would have definitely packed up a cooler of drinks and lunch. Just remember no alcohol.
- Don’t bring a banana on the boat. Fisherman believe this is bad luck so don’t be the goober to pull a banana out of your bag.
- Bring an insulated cooler bag or small cooler to put your fish in for the ride home.
- Take motion sickness medication – If you know you get seasick or you aren’t sure, there’s no need to risk being miserable. My son and I both took ours a half hour before our trip and we had no issues though I have experienced motion sickness in the past without taking anything.
- Bring a great attitude and your patience because this is fishing and while we had a great day of catching it’s never a guarantee. You might not catch a darn thing…it’s not the norm but it happens.
Although this was a sponsored activity, all opinions are my own. If we had a miserable time, you’d know it. I promise. Full Disclosure.