This was one of my most memorable and one of my greatest adventures while growing up on the Caloosahatchee River. It was the summer of 1966, and southwest Florida was in the middle of one of the worst droughts the area had seen in many years. The loch at Olga (the division point between fresh and salt water), had remained closed for quite some time, not allowing any fresh water from Lake Okeechobee to empty into the Caloosahatchee. As a result, the water in the river had cleared up, clearer than I had ever seen it. This was a great opportunity for three river rats to do some underwater exploration. So Bill, and Eugene, (my two comrades) and I, put on our masks, fins, and snorkels, and towing my 12 foot Jon boat behind us, headed east, up the river one morning. Just around the bend from where I lived, was the Florida Power & Light power plant. As we approached the docks, where the oil barges were tied, we started seeing lots of fish, some Sheepshead, Mangrove Snapper, and even a Snook or two. A little further up, we came to the spot in the picture below. It’s called the intake canal. It’s where the power plant pulls in the cooling water from the Caloosahatchee. The canal is about 100 feet wide and 25 feet deep, with a constant inbound current. There used to be a wooden trough about eight feet wide, all the way across the mouth of this canal, to keep floating debris from being pulled into the plant and I suppose, to keep river rats like us out as well. The trough had long since broken in the middle, probably around 1960 during hurricane Donna, and had sunk to the bottom. A chain link fence had been erected in it’s place. The trough was still attached with large cables at each end on the bank and this created two caves in the middle of the canal where it sank and was resting on the bottom. We parked the boat up against the chain link fence, and began exploring the area. I dove down to the bottom where the trough had sunk and peered into the cave beneath the left side. I could see all the way through to daylight on the other side. A few Sheepshead were milling around in the shadows. I moved over to the right side and could see no daylight at all. It looked totally different. Something seemed to be under there, but I couldn’t make out what it was. All I knew is, whatever it was, was very big and was moving ever so slightly in the current. I reached out and grabbed the edge of the trough and pulled myself into the shadows beneath it to get a better look. As I peered into the darkness, trying to focus in on just what this thing was, I began to see bunch of dots. Just about then, to my astonishment, I realized that my face was just inches away from the biggest pair of lips that I had ever seen. I was nose to nose with a giant of giant Jewfish (Goliath Grouper). This fish was so big, that he looked like he could have swallowed me, or at the very least, bit my head off should it have had the notion. It scared me so bad that I broke away and headed straight up to the boat, not unlike a missile being launched from a submarine. When I reached the surface, choking on water that I had inhaled on the way up, I excitedly told Bill and Eugene what I had just seen down there. They didn’t believe me. They both dove down to see for themselves. Eugene came back up so fast that his mask was hanging down around his neck. I was already in the boat, and they hurriedly loaded up, and we just sat there in silence for a while and then headed back to my house. When we reached the riverbank in front of where I lived, I shut the little Evinrude off, and as the boat coasted up to the shore, we just kinda sat there staring at each other for a few minutes. I told them that I had read a little about these monsters. They can be very docile, or they can be extremely aggressive. They’ve been known to attack divers in defense of their territory. One story I read, described an incident where a diver came up missing. When a search team went out to look for him, they found some of his gear, along with his underwater camera lying on the bottom. Upon review of the film in the camera, they saw where the diver was slowly approaching one of these monsters estimated to be 7-8 feet long, when suddenly the fish turned and attacked and the camera images just stopped. They never found the diver. This one was obviously, feeling docile today. Thank goodness for that. Then came the inevitable question, “how do you suppose we could catch that monster”? For the next couple of days, we contemplated that question, and came up with a plan. All three of us had grown up roaming around in the South Florida swamps, and Gene was a very accomplished gator trapper. And I use the word trapper in lieu of a term that might implicate him as doing something illegal. He suggested that we use one of his gator lines which consisted of 50 feet of 550 lb. test nylon cord, with a big nasty hook tied on the end. We then gathered up a half dozen or so empty plastic gallon bleach bottles and tied them all to the other end. All we needed now was some bait and we’d be set. Gene’s gator line was now a Jewfish rig. A day or so later, we met up at my house, loaded up in the boat and headed up the river on an adventure that unbeknownst to us, as it turned out, would dang near kill us all. We caught a couple of good sized Ladyfish along the way for bait. The plan was to hook this monster, and he would obviously head out into open water, pulling the boat behind him. If it got too scary, we would untie the rope, throw in the bleach bottles and follow the behemoth until he tired himself out. Then we would park the boat and wrestle him to shore. Sounded like a good plan to us. We were having visions of our pictures in the newspaper. Fame and fortune would follow, and when the story got out, the chicks at school would just be all over us. As we approached the canal and again let the Jon boat rest up against the chain link fence, I remember my heart pounding in anticipation. We put the “gator” hook through the biggest of the Ladyfish and began to lower it down. Problem #1! As the bait began to sink, the current would grab it and pull it under the boat, past where we wanted it to go. Try as we may, we could not get it to sink to where it needed to be, the current was just too strong. We finally decided that the only way to get that Ladyfish, 25 feet down to the Jewfish, was somebody was going to have to carry it down there and serve it up. Problem #2…..who? After much discussion, we ended up drawing straws. I ended up with the short straw. After a few more minutes of nasty name calling, and cheating accusations, which actually got a little physical, I put on my mask and fins, and with Ladyfish in hand, reluctantly slipped off the back of the boat, took a deep breath, and headed down to the monster’s den. As I approached, I decided to keep as far away from the monster’s giant head as possible this time, and stopped maybe six feet or so out in front of the cave. I could barely see the massive fish under the trough in the shadows, but could tell that he was still there, staring at me with those beady eyes. I turned the Ladyfish loose in the current and fed the line out. As the bait reached the mouth of the cave and started under, it quickly vanished. The Jewfish had just sucked it in. I gave the line the slightest little tug to make sure, turned and quickly swam back up to the boat. I climbed in and reported that the fish had taken the bait. We all grabbed the rope and on the count of three we set the hook. Problem #3!!! Remember the plan? Well, as the rope grew tighter and tighter, we quickly realized that the fish was not following the plan. Instead of heading for open water, the monster was trying to head up the canal toward the power plant. He was trying to pull us and the boat under the fence. He had us pinned up against the fence and was almost to the point of pulling the side of the boat under. Everything was happening very fast. Bill started yelling “CUT THE ROPE”, CUT THE ROPE”!!!!!! As I frantically searched for something to cut the rope with, we began taking on water. The fence was now bowed out and the nylon rope was stretched to the breaking point. I remember looking at Gene and I seeing pure panic in his eyes. We all thought that we were fixing to die. And just about then, the rope could stretch no more. POP!!! It sounded just like a .22 rifle shot. And just that quick, it was over. It suddenly got very quiet. All of us fishermen have felt that feeling. When that trophy of a lifetime, breaks your line and just swims away. As we sat there, staring at each other, it began to rain. It turned into one of those good old Florida monsoons. Making up for lost time, I suppose. It rained for days. With so much rain, the river water turned dark and murky. In just a few days, it was too dark to even dive in. We went back down there a couple of times, but never dove back down there in the murkiness. It was just too dang scary, especially now since he was also probably pretty ticked off and probably just daring us to come back down there. We’re all getting pretty old now. Bill went on to become the leader of “The Golden Road” Gospel Quartet. Eugene became of all things a South Florida Game Warden. My wife and I just recently took a boat trip down memory lane to where we both grew up. I stopped along the way and took this photo. I also parked the boat along side that same chain link fence forty-three years later, and just sat there for a few moments. I was wondering about just how long a Jewfish might live, and if that mini-van might still be down there. And if he was, I wondered if he might remember that summer day back in 1966, when he won a victory as he and three river rats all battled it out. Oh well….win some, lose some………..that’s just fishing!