The Trip So, I have been hoping to make it out to the Middle Grounds in the eastern G.O.M. for some time. Finally got a time frame that worked for me and headed down to Madeira Beach for the June 28-29, 39-hour trip out of Hubbard’s Marina on the Florida Fisherman II. Of course, covid-19 is on my mind and Florida is having a huge surge in cases, so I was extra careful traveling. Left Arkansas on Saturday morning and arrived Sunday morning (overnight in Tallahassee) and picked up some bait and extra tackle from the marina store and was ready to go. We loaded up and were headed out into the Gulf at our 3pm departure time. Seas were flat calm on the way out, and for that matter, the entire trip. It was also super hot, but it is Florida in summer, so it is what I expected. We got some friendly dolphins to play with the boat near shore, an awesome Saharan dust storm sunset, and then it was off to bed to try and catch some sleep. Around midnight, the boat slowed down and we anchored on some structure in about 150 ft of water. Our hope was a good bite of Mangrove Snapper. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the night fishing was very slow. I did manage to pick up three Mangroves (2 nice ones) and a large yellowtail snapper. I also caught a 35 lb AJ that tangled up a massive number of lines (sorry folks) and was, of course, released to cause havoc another day. So only five total fish for me in the night, which was about average for the boat (some people got nothing). At daybreak we made the move to some deeper water to target red snapper and grouper. We would spend all the daylight hours targeting these species. Fishing was mostly scratchy during the day. Most spots yielded only a few fish. Talking to the deckhands, it was clear that the bite was definitely off. We did however anchor on two spots that really saved the day. Late in the afternoon, we hit one really hot spot that got most people their red snapper limit plus a smattering of grouper (red, gag, and scamp). For me personally, it was not my best performance. I missed a lot of bites, lost a bunch of fish on the way up, and was generally not making it happen. By the end of the day, I got my four red snapper (up to 10 lbs.), plus a couple of other releases, and one red grouper (8 lbs.). Biggest snapper on the boat was around 20 llbs and biggest grouper was 28 lbs (Gag). Overall, it was only a fair fishing trip. The night bite sucking hurt the numbers badly and you really had to work for the daytime bite. Nevertheless, I still ended up taking home about 40 lbs of fish, which will make for some great meals this summer. Quality Review This was my first trip out of Hubbard's. Overall, it was a good experience. Fishing was a little off, but of no fault of the captain or the crew. The boat (Florida Fisherman II) is fairly roomy and has bunks both in the AC cabin and on an open (but covered) upper deck. Out of precaution for covid, I stuck with my upper deck bunk and the fresh air. The crew (Rich and Will) was excellent, personable, and eager to help. They both seemed excited about fishing. Captain Garrett tried a bunch of different depths and locations and was able to eventually find us some good fishing. The boat also has personal live wells for each customer on the main deck, which is a really nice feature. Each one can hold about 3 dozen live baits. They provide frozen threadfins and squid, but you have to purchase other baits, or can bring your own. Live bait is definitely recommended and they sell live pinfish and shrimp (their supplier did not have shrimp this time). They take good care of any fish you catch and they were properly packed in ice in the fish boxes, of great importance with the heat of summer. Unloading was relatively smooth and fast. There are an abundance of rod holders under the overhang on the lower deck or you can stack extra rods on the upper deck rails. They also provide a meal and drink package, which I took advantage of, and it was reasonably good. You theoretically have a limit on snacks and sodas, although they didn’t appear to be monitoring it. Water is unlimited with the meal package. The boat rode very nice, but it was also a lake out there, so it was hard to tell how it would ride in actual seas. It is a catamaran, which means it probably rides fine in side to seas, but is a little “lurchy” head on into the seas. The mates also do a seminar on the way out to teach newcomers about rigging and strategies. So, overall I was very pleased with the service and will be happy to return, probably after the pandemic is over though. They run several of these 39 hour trips each week in the summer, so you could do more than one trip in a single week. Criticisms Of course, no trip is without constructive criticism, so I hope nobody from Hubbard’s takes this the wrong way. They put 50 people on the 39 hour trip. Frankly, that is too many. I would much prefer they limit the trip to 40 and raise the price $100 to make up the difference. After the first stop, I moved up the bow pulpit which was, interestingly enough, completely empty, and I never had any more tangles of significance. For fuel conservation, the boat doesn’t speed out to the Middle Grounds, so you can troll. But those with stern spots have first dibs and there is not really an opportunity for others. It would be fairer to do a rotation for those who wish to troll. For those who did troll, there were a few bonita and kingfish caught. Some things are a little pricey. They charged $20 in the shop for a small bonita (2 lbs), which did catch me some fish, but is a little steep. Overall though, it is a good trip with good service and a crew that works hard.