“With Groovy, what you see is what you get,” said Capt. Mike Graef. “He’s just as patient as patience can be. He never gets upset and he’s always reliable, which makes my life a whole lot easier."
EDITOR’S NOTE: For the next few weeks leading up to the October Destin Fishing Rodeo, The Destin Log will take a look at some of the men that help ensure that folks fishing aboard the boats have a good time while hopefully pulling something over the rail.
DESTIN — He got the “fishing fever” when he was in junior high, and he’s still sick with the fever today.
Craig Davis, known on the docks as “Groovy,” has been fishing local waters for two decades.
For the past 12 years, Groovy has been working the back deck of the Huntress with Capt. Mike Graef. The two work well as a team on the six-pack boat located on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar.
“With Groovy, what you see is what you get,” Graef said. “He’s just as patient as patience can be. He never gets upset and he’s always reliable, which makes my life a whole lot easier.
“He’s the star on the boat. He’s the Aaron Rodgers of the Huntress,” said Graef, who’s a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan.
Groovy is most likely so dependable on the boat because fishing is his passion.
“I got the fishing fever when I was in the seventh grade,” said Groovy, who’s now 35.
Originally from Virginia, he’s family moved to the area in 1989 and he grew up fishing on the Okaloosa Island Pier every chance he got.
After high school he went off to college at Florida State, but came home during the summer and walked the docks looking for fishing job.
“I got lucky and found a boat that would hire me green,” he said, noting he went to work for the Moodys.
Groovy finally transferred from Florida State to University of West Florida so he could be closer to the water.
“When I went to Florida State, I did good,” he said. “But when I got back around the water, I didn’t go to class anymore. … I went fishing.”
Groovy said he would go to the pier in the morning before class, and if the fish were biting. that was his excuse for not going to class that day.
“If they weren’t biting, I’d tell myself they are going to start biting. So I had an excuse either way,” he said.
After working with Tom Moody, Groovy went to work for Capt. Bernie LeFebvre on the Enterprise, and from there he got on board the party boat Destiny with Capt. Cliff Atwell in it's first year on the water.
It was on the Destiny that he picked up the nickname Groovy, which has stuck.
Groovy said the first couple of days aboard the Destiny, the captain couldn’t see what they were catching, so every time a fish came over the rail the deckhands would have to yell in a speaker to the captain what species they were catching.
“We were catching ruby red lips, so every time one would come over the rail, I’d say, ' ruby, ruby, ruby, ruby.' Then after awhile Cliff got on the speaker and said what’s so 'groovy' down there. Then it just stuck.
“Cliff thought I was saying groovy instead of ruby. ... It has nothing to do with me being groovy at all,” he said.
After the Destiny, Groovy got the deckhand job with Capt. Graef on the Huntress, where he’s been for the past 12 years.
Groovy says he likes the six-pack, or six-passenger boat, fishing better than party boat fishing.
“You get more variety in fishing and, obviously, you make more money,” he said. “We catch a little bit of everything. The main thing (Capt. Graef) goes for is action. Whatever is biting. The name of the game on here is time spent with the rod bent.
“Bait ’em up and hope for the best,” he added.
The Huntress runs from March until the end of the Destin Fishing Rodeo in October.
“We fish non-stop. It’s a lot,” Groovy said.
He admits he gets tired sometimes, but he loves it.
“It’s a 180 days in a row, and that alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m.,” he said.
The Huntress does a lot doubles in which it runs two six-hour trips, or an eight and a four-hour, or a six and a four-hour trip.
“We don’t do doubles past 12 hours much,” Groovy said.
And to make those quick turnaround trips work, Groovy suggests a “sharp knife. It makes all the difference in the world.”
During the heart of the season, Groovy said he shows up at the boat about 4:15 a.m. to get ready for the day.
“I like to get here early so I can get all my stuff done, so I’m not in (Graef's) way when he gets here,” he said.
His “stuff” consists of getting ice, filling the water tank, getting bait rods ready and such.
The one thing Groovy couldn’t do without is his mackerel leader straightener.
“I freak out if I don’t know where it’s at,” he said.
Groovy said the small silver tool helps to straighten a leader out after a mackerel gets it kinked up.
“That way you can use that same leader again,” he said. “I couldn’t survive without it.”
Although they catch most everything on the Huntress, Groovy said his personal favorite fish to go after is cobia.
“I like to hunt, and it’s basically hunting for a fish,” he said. “It’s both of the things I love to do at the same time.”
As a matter of fact, as soon as the Rodeo is over, Groovy has plans to be in the woods the next day.
“When I’m not fishing, I’m sitting in a tree,” he said. “One way or another, 365 days a year, I’m trying to kill something.”
When asked if he couldn’t go fishing what he would miss, he said, “everything."
“Fishing in general, it’s really all I know. Whether it’s fishing or hunting ... how to kill stuff, that’s all I’m good at.
“I just love fishing. And you know to do this job, you’ve got to love fishing or you can’t last,” he said.
And Groovy wouldn’t fish with any other captain.
“I wouldn’t be here without (Graef). He takes very, very, very good care of me and Isabel keeps us busy,” Groovy said of Graef’s wife, who books the trips.
The two work well as a team on the docks, which can be seen in the massive catches they continuously bring in. They are even superstitious to a point.
“We do the same thing every day ... don’t change it,” Groovy said. That includes how they unload to how they stand for photo opportunities.
“Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” he said.
The two have worked side by side for so long now, not much has to be said.
“Our motto is pretty much ‘let’s just go fishing,’ " Groovy said. "Don’t over think it, just go fishing. Bait’em up and hope for the best.”