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A Fish of a Lifetime

Posted by The XTREME Team on 22 February 2008 at 08:33 AM

Based on 1 review

Perfect Conditions and Perfect Gear

The divers of Team Head-Hunter have been out on the Gulf of Mexico many times, but this trip was special. Never before had perfect weather, perfect timing, perfect planning and perfect gear come together to let them catch “THE FISH OF A LIFETIME”.

Ritchie Zacker helps Dan MacMahon into his dive gear. Dan used two Zeagle Flathead-XP regulators on his twin 120 steel tanks. He carried two more Zeagle Flathead-XPs on his two “mixed Gas” bottles. His BCD is a Zeagle Backplate with a “Big Bertha” redundant bladder system. At first glance the background in this picture might seem uninteresting, until you realize that it was taken in the Gulf of Mexico nearly 200 mile west of Tampa with over 400’ of water below. It is very rare to see such smooth water that far from land. The weather conditions that created this calm water, also created excellent visibility and light penetration at depth.

Dives like this one don’t just happen. Although the team never could have “planned” for the great weather and water conditions that week, they certainly did plan everything else, by making use of their years of experience from hundreds of dive trips into the Gulf of Mexico.  Dan and his crew have taken their share of trophy fish, but he has always dreamed of hunting for the Gulf’s largest legal grouper, the Warsaw. Few divers have even seen the Warsaw Grouper because its normal habitat is 300 ft and more in the warmer parts of the ocean. Dan began laying out the details of a technical dive necessary to challenge the Warsaw in its home territory, over a year ago. It required many hours of planning and the acquisition of the latest high performance dive gear.

By the time he was ready, Dan had assembled 60 cylinders, 10 stage bottles, 4 oxygen bottles, 400 gallons of diesel fuel and 1.5 tons of ice. With the help of his friends, he had it all loaded aboard the 37 foot “Head-Hunter” out of Hudson Florida.

The target was the wreck of a freighter known to be inhabited by Warsaw Groupers. The wreck stands 50 feet off of the 425 foot bottom. The picture above shows Dan as he begins the descent. He and Rick Hampton were outfitted with five tanks. Four of the tanks held breathing mixtures, the fifth was just for buoyancy control. The breathing cylinders were outfitted with four Zeagle Flathead-XP regulators.

The wreck came into view as they passed 250 feet. Dan and Rick took 3 minutes to reach the deck at 397 feet. The visibility on the wreck that day was 150 feet in all directions. They immediately saw six Warsaws in the 40 to 100 pound range and prepared to deal with them, but then Dan saw “The Monster” about 100 feet away. By the time Dan had his buoyancy all trimmed out, the giant Warsaw was charging at him. “Time seemed to slow down” Dan says, as years of effort, training and preparation all came into focus in a few minute struggle. Dan got two good shots into the fish. “The fish and I crashed into the wreck at 397 feet and I had my hands full”, said Dan. After finally subduing the giant, Dan positioned the Warsaw with its tail up and fed air from his regulator into the fish’s gapping mouth. This created positive buoyancy that rapidly sent the fish up to the waiting support crew who wrestled it into the boat.

Dan and Rick had some time to pass decompressing, before they could see their catch at the surface. Their first stop was at 170 feet. The photo above shows them at the 20 foot stop, enjoying the unusually calm conditions for that location.

Finally, Dan got to see his catch. A 403 lb, 7’ - 11” long Warsaw! A fish and a dive that Dan will never forget!

Of course the whole week-end trip was not spent on one fish. The rest of the team was active too! In the picture above, Ricky Hampton shows off his 72 lb. Warsaw grouper.

Here is Ken Lacasse with a 52 lb. Gag Grouper that he speared on a small wreck at 255’ on the day before the “Monster” was caught.

On the long trip back to shore, there was even time to do a little “Rod and Reel” fishing to get some “smaller” fish. The photo above shows Ken Lacasse, Jason Stanley and a 54 lb. Wahoo caught on a trolling plug on the way back from the great dive.

As the week-end progressed, the fish were gutted and packed in ice. None were wasted. Since Dan holds a commercial license, what wasn’t kept for personal use was sold to local fish markets.

Team-Headhunter is a group of highly skilled and dedicated spear-fishermen. They carefully select their gear to deliver the performance they need, during great physical activity, at very challenging depths. They choose Zeagle Regulators and BCDs to give them the performance and safety they need. From left to right, the team members are Dan MacMahon, Rich Waters, Jason Stanley, Ken Lacasse, Ritchie Zacker and Rick Hampton.

“I would not recommend that ANYONE attempt to dive to 425 feet. We prepared for this trip for nearly one full year, and did so with the full knowledge of all of the risks involved. Thanks to Zeagle for making quality dive gear that not only took us there - it brought us back safely as well!”

- Dan MacMahon

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  • Yo, this is awsome! Hard work really paid off. Congrats guys.