Sport Fishing Key West
So far, it's been a much better Dolphin season than last year. Some big fish being caught and plenty of school sized fish around both inshore and offshore. Hopefully it will continue through the summer
March 27th, 2017-Sad news
I received a phone call today. One of my best customers/friends had passed away. Gary has been fishing with me for probably close to 20 yrs and was always a pleasure to have on the boat. We had a lot of good days........and some not so good days, but he always had a great attitude. One of the best things about this job is that many of your regular customers usually end up being friends also. That was the case with Gary. It always hurts to lose a good friend.
Take care my friend, I will miss you.
Here are just some of the fish he caught over the years:
August 6th, 2016
It's been an unusual summer for the Key West fishing community. One of the slowest years for catching Dolphin, (Mahi), that I can remember. Fortunately, Key West has such a wide variety of habitats that we usually have other things to fish for when one species does a disappearing act. Summer is when the Yellow Tail Snapper and Mangro (aka Gray) Snapper spawn. When they do, it's usually not too tough to catch a bunch and they are Delicious! They should keep biting for a few more weeks, (hopefully) and then we'll be looking for something else. Yesterday, we saw 4 or 5 schools of Tuna offshore, but only got one to eat. That may be our next target species as the summer starts to close. Business has been great, but now that the kids are getting ready to head back to school, it will probably slow down a bit. Kind of looking forward to a bit of a break. Plenty of TLC to do on the Southbound and on my house. Probably get in a little hunting too!
May 5, 2016
April is usually the best month for Sailfish and for the second year in a row, it was a disappointing month. We never got the "conditions", aka strong east current, that help make April a great month for sails. Granted, the strong east current also makes for big waves if we have any east wind, but I've always said, it would take the big "bumps" if it meant catching the fish, (My back doesn't always agree at the end of the day). Not that we won't catch any Sailfish in May, it's just that they're more spread out and less frequent.
The good thing is May is Dolphin season and we are starting to see some moving through. We want that same strong east current for the dolphin and yes, it means a bumpy ride many days, but big fish are worth it. So far, the east current is pretty far offshore, too far for a half day and possible too far for a 6 hr trip. Hopefully, it will move in soon, (yes, the Gulfstream fluctuates), and we'll be able to fish for dolphin on half days too.
Until then, We'll probably have to fish for Grouper and Snapper inshore. May 1 is the start of Grouper season, so we don't have to release any legal size fish. It's not like there are tons around but at least we can keep the ones we catch.
November 21, 2015
I'm always telling my customers I know how lucky I am. I make my living by taking people fishing on the waters of Key West, I have a nice house 1 block off Duval St in Key West, and Most of all, I live with the sweetest, most amazing woman I've ever met, Emalyn. 7 years ago, I asked her to marry me. She said yes, but didn't want to set a date because she had been married before and was in no hurry. That was fine with me, I wasn't going to do anything as an "engaged" man that I wouldn't do as a "married" man and Ema is worth waiting for. I've told her and anyone else that would listen, that I would marry her any day she wanted, just say the word.
Last Saturday night was supposed to be the night of a "House Concert" for some musician friends of our, the Carter Brothers, that Ema had organized. After a few songs, Ema asked me to come up on stage and help her with the cake. I though it was kind of strange to stop the band for a "cake break", but I never question when Ema organizes things, she really good at it. When they came around the corner with this "wedding cake" style cake I thought it was also a little strange. When I turned to ask her about the cake and she was on a knee, it suddenly clicked in my clueless head........Today was the Day!!
Ema was almost finished reminding me that I had always said I would marry her any day she wanted and this was the day when I blurted out "ABSOLUTELY!!!". I was even more shocked when, as instructed, I walked over to a restaurant next door to get ready and allow the stage to be redecorated and there was my whole family and all the home town friends I ran with back in the day. It's a good thing I said yes, because this woman owns me ! She has me figured out like no other! The wedding was a bit of a whirl wind and as the night went on, it got a bit fuzzy, (having a "shot of rum" as the signature drink for the wedding might of had something to do with that), but the end result is I now have a wife and I couldn't be happier. I have always said I'm one of the luckiest men on earth........and I just got luckier.
Thanks Sweetie, I love you
August 30, 2015
It’s been a much better Dolphin this season compared to the last few years. We spent a good part of the summer anchored up and snapper fishing in July and August in 2012, 2013 & 2014. We caught fish and my customers all seemed pretty happy. Yellow tail and Gray snapper are absolutely delicious. But Dolphin, (Mahi) and Wahoo are also delicious and a bit more fun to catch. Thankfully this year, we’ve been catching decent dolphin most days with a fair number of wahoo mixed in.
Personally I attribute this to two things. First, we’ve had east bound current in the deep water all summer. When the current is moving, the area of the ocean we’re fishing “renews” on a daily basis and also, it tends to keep the water cooler. You can’t see it, but when the water is moving east at a knot or two, it’s turning over so the surface of the ocean doesn’t get too hot and the fish don’t go deep.
Second, we’ve had a tremendous amount of Sargasso Weed this year. Sargasso is the free floating weed that grows on the surface of the ocean. It provides habitat and protection for billions of small critters. Shrimp, crabs, seahorse and small fish all inhabit the weed and the bigger fish know it, so they prowl the weed looking for a meal. If we have the weed without current, you can end up fishing the same patch of weed 2, 3 or 4 days in a row until it floats out of the area. Simply, it gets fished out. If there is current, even if it’s only 1 knot, the weed you fish today, will be 25 miles away tomorrow and the weed you fish tomorrow is 25 miles away today and odds are nobody has fished it! New weed, new bait and hopefully a new crop of dolphin and wahoo following it. The last few years, we’ve had the weed, but not the current and dolphin fishing got very slow by early July. I don’t know how long the current will hold but it’s helping to keep the fishing good which is good for my hair line…..well maybe too late for that, but good for my blood pressure and a good thing for the customers. I hope it holds……….we’ll see
November 26, 2014
Fishing has still been up and down the last few weeks, but with more ups than down, which is good. Black Fin Tuna and Wahoo have been showing up offshore finally and the schools of Ballyhoo, (bait fish), have finally moved out to the reef as the inshore water has cooled. This has made for great reef action most days, with lots of Cero Mackerel, Snapper and some Grouper biting well, especially on live ballyhoo. As long as the water doesn't get unseasonably warm, this should make for fairly easy action for the next few months. We're coming up on a full moon, (Dec. 6th), and hopefully we'll see a good Wahoo bite on this one. Black Fin Tuna we're biting well last week, but we had to go 25 miles west of Key West to get them. Definitely not half or 3/4 day range. The good news is yesterday, the Black Fin were much closer and hopefully, with all the bait on the reef, they will stay in the area. Normally with all the bait on the reef, I would expect to see sailfish coming in shallow to feed, but despite lots of bird activity, I haven't see a sailfish on the reef yet. Only Cero Mackerel, Jacks and snapper. Sooner or later they should show up, in the mean time, we'll keep busy with Wahoo and Tuna offshore and Mackerel, Snapper and Grouper on the reef.........I can handle that ;-)
September 29, 2014
It's been a mixed bag of fishing the last month or so. Inshore, there have been a few nice Wahoo and Black fin Tuna as well as some bonitos for the boats that are trolling. The reef is holding some nice schools of big yellow tail snapper. Generally yellow tails are not a big snapper, but when they get up to 3-4 lbs it's amazing how strong of a fight they put up. They can pull drag on 20 lb line no problem. In addition Yellow tail is one of the most delicious eating fish found in the Florida Keys. Talk about a Win- Win situation !!
Still a few dolphin offshore, but most days it takes a full day trip to get to where the fish are, but that may be changing. The Gulf Stream current has been way off shore for the last few weeks, but it's moving in closer to shore and with it, I expect the dolphin should come in too. We've had a little bit of a "Fall Run" of dolphin the last few years, if we're going to get it again this year, having the Gulf Stream in close is a good way to get it started. The next week should be a good indication.
July 22, 2014
The near shore water has warmed up and the gulf stream current has moved offshore. Both of these are not good for dolphin fishing. Most of the better Dolphin catches are being had out past the drop-off. If you're on a half day, odds are you are not going to get there. The good news is that the Yellow Tail and Mangrove snapper bite is definitely on. Great action and great table fare, these fish are a blast to catch on light spinning tackle. Most of the first timers are amazed at how hard they fight for their size, of course the fish has more to lose so they better fight their hardest. Expect the snapper fishing to stay good unless the weather or current picks up. A little current wouldn't be bad but if the Gulf stream comes in full strength we won't be able to get our hooks to the bottom. If this does happen, the trolling should pick up and I would expect to see Dolphin, Wahoo, Tuna and Sailfish catches back in half day range
June 17, 2014
Summer is here, Ok, well not officially for a couple of days, but WAY down here in the keys, it gets hot well before the "official" first day of summer. We've had temperatures in the high 80's to the low 90's and pretty much can expect it to stay there until October sometime. I know everyone I talked to this winter complained about what a brutal winter it was, but ours was pretty mild. I'm hoping the summer isn't too extreme either. I hope we keep getting a nice breeze from the south. It helps keep the island cool and usually helps with the fishing, (too calm isn't good). We've been seeing daily thunderstorms starting to build up most afternoons, typical Florida weather. It's not bad when there late in the day, it tends to cool off the island from the heat that's built up all day. Kind'a sucks when you get those mid-day storms. It just tends to make the rest of the day hot and steamy and we have enough hot and steamy weather with out that!
So far, this years dolphin season has been pretty good. Lots of fish and a few big ones around. The water is warming up but most of the fish are still in close. This is great when you have a half day. Later on, into July and August, as the water warms up the fish tend to move further offshore. The calmer it is, the more the water warms and the sooner the fish will move further out. The current also has an affect on things. Right now, the Gulf Stream is in very close. The current just outside the reef is running very strong to the east. Yesterday, I was trolling West at 1,000rpm and the boat was moving at about 2.5-3kts according to my GPS. When I turned East, I was moving at 8.5-9kts without touching the throttle at all! That's a lot of current!! The good thing is that, even if you go to the same spot to start each day, you still fishing a different part of the ocean. The water, debris and weed you fished yesterday is at least 50miles east of us and the water, debris and weed you're fishing today was at least 50 miles West of KW yesterday, so most likely, it hasn't been fished yet. Kind of like getting a fresh piece of ocean delivered to fish every day! When the current is running like this, you can troll west for 3/4 of your trip to the west and then turn east and get back to where you started or further east in the last quarter of the trip. Likewise, you have to be careful not to troll too far east or you'll never get home on time.
I've had mostly half and 3/4 days the past week, looking forward to my next full day so I can get offshore and see what's out there! Keep an eye on the catch of the day page
April 8th, 2014
Fishing has been very unpredictable the last 6 months. I think it's in part due to the many cold fronts that have passed through the area all winter long. Usually we get a week of consistent weather between fronts, but this year the fronts, while mostly mild, have been in rapid secession. This means the wind is almost never in the same direction for more than a day or two and so the conditions are constantly changing. When the conditions change, usually so does the fishing. In the past week we've had strong cold winds out of the north, Strong east winds, flat calm almost windless days and today, west winds as another cold front approaches. A big part of this job is based on following the trends of the previous days. That's why it's an advantage to fish most every day. It helps with the next days game plan. But when the conditions tomorrow are going to be completely different from today's and yesterdays it makes it tough to get a handle on things so to speak. For the most part, I think we've done a pretty good job at making people happy, but the stress is making my hair line suffer.......and those of you that know me, know all too well, I cannot afford it ;-).
Shark fishing has been outstanding all winter. Lots of Black Tips, Hammerheads and an unusually large # of Tiger sharks have been caught this year. Most are protected now days, so we catch and release them all, but when someone wants to fight a "big" fish, it's been pretty consistent.
We've seen some early dolphin in the last week as well as some sailfish starting to show. I expect to see more after the cold front tomorrow but only time will tell. Hey, At least we aren't getting any snow!!
March 7th, 2013
It's been a tough year fishing so far. The ballyhoo came into the reef as scheduled in the fall and we caught quite a few. Since the first of the year, Bait has been a little tougher. The past few weeks, we've had both unseasonably warm weather and very cold (for KW) weather. The good thing about the cold weather is that it has pushed the ballyhoo back out to the reef as the inshore water has cooled off. That's the good thing. We should be able to catch bait with relative ease for the next few weeks. Finding something to eat them has been the hard part. There have been some Kingfish up tight to the islands. A few Black Fin Tuna on the wreck and an occasional sailfish or Wahoo around. Even a few Dolphin,(Mahi) offshore if we get a day or two of south wind. March can usually be a bit of a tough month, fortunately the wrecks are usually excellent with amberjacks and a few grouper, (which have to be released because they're out of season until May 1) and some Mutton Snapper, (better eating than Grouper). What has most of us really excited is that April is right around the corner and April is Sailfish season. For most of the Captains and mates I know, it's one of our favorite times of year to fish. Last year was good, I'm hoping this year will be better. Only time will tell, but I'm excited anyway.
August 22, 2012
School started last Monday and that usually signals the end of my “fishing year”.
This year is no different. Week before last, I had 6 trips, last week I had 4 trips
and this week , only 2 trips. I’m not complaining, it’s been a great year.
I’ve been very busy with new and repeat customers and I’m actually looking forward to a
few slow weeks. It’ll give me a chance to get a few projects done, both on the boat
and at my house. There is an old saying, “Houses and boats are never done” and it’s true.
There is always a project to do. I’m very thankful for all those customers, both repeat and new,
that put their confidence in me and my mate to show them a great day on the water and I think,
for the most part, we did. Fishing wasn't always great, as a matter of fact; this was one
of the toughest years I can remember. But I believe that most of my customers walked away from the dock happy. I truly
hope so because I do care. I know how lucky I am, I have the best job in the world. I make a
living taking people out on the tropical waters of Key West and having fun with them catching
them fish. My customers and I get to see things most people only see on the National Geographic
channel. I’ve seen huge leather back turtles, whales and whale sharks, tiger sharks, marlin,
Cuban rafts, some with and some without people and much more. That’s the great thing about the waters
of Key West; you never know what you’re going to see during a day on the water here.
I’ve been fishing these waters for almost 30 yrs and I never get tired of it. I do get tired, getting up
every morning a 5 am and often not getting home until 5 or 6 pm makes
for a long day, but truth be told, I can’t think of anything else I would want to do. So from now until probably October, I’ll chill a bit, putter around the boat a little bit and play a little bit.
So Thank You to all those who fished with me this past year. I truly appreciate you faith. Hopefully, the coming year business will be as good and fishing will be better.
I’ll keep you postedCapt. Rich
April 14th, 2012
It’s been a very “up and down”
year. Dolphin fishing has really been a “lifesaver”, or maybe I should say a
“trip saver” a lot of days. Unusually warm weather all winter has kept the water
temps up. I don’t think the water offshore has been below 74 all year and the
water in the harbor hasn’t been below 70. Great weather for living or
vacationing in Key West, but it’s made the fishing a little crazy. Live bait has
been very hard to come by and ballyhoo have been scarce also. We’ve had a few
days of good Black Fin Tuna fishing, but by and large, not what it should have
been. Lots of calm days have translated into more boats going out deeper than
normal looking for weed lines and debris and dolphin. It hasn’t worked every
day, but more often than not, if you find something floating out deep, there
would be fish on it.
Mid April is right in the heart
of Sailfish season. Conditions are lining up the way we want. We are seeing a
very strong east current and sharp color change the last few days. All we need
now is some wind and that’s coming the next few days. It will make it rougher,
but with a strong east wind and a strong east current, the sailfish should get
up and tail along the surface and allow for sight casting live bait,(if we can
catch any) to the sailfish as it heads down sea. It’s an exciting way to fish
and one of my favorite times of year.
Although the reef fishing hasn’t
been “normal” this year, by that I mean we haven’t seen the Cero mackerels we
normally see, nor the sailfish feeding on the schools of ballyhoo we look for.
This is basically because there haven’t been any schools of ballyhoo to speak
of. The Yellow tail snapper fishing has been pretty good all winter. The water
has been warm, but not overly clear, and if you chum heavy, some good yellow
tail fishing has been available when needed. April is the time of year when the
wrecks are loaded with Amberjacks. It’s the time of year when they gather to
spawn. Fish from 25 to 50 lbs are common with an occasional bigger one being
caught. Because these fish are spawning and also because they tend to be wormy
in these waters, we release all the amberjacks we catch. The only time we will
bring one to the dock is if it is unable to swim back down. Amberjacks bloat
when brought up from deep water wrecks and usually must be vented so they can
swim back down. They don’t all make it and rather than watch one float away, if
we can’t get it to swim down after about 3-4 attempts, we will bring it in.
March 8, 2012
It’s been a strange year! I guess when someone living in Key West says that, it might seem a bit redundant to most others. After all “Key West Normal” = “most other places weird”, But that’s a good thing, its part of the attraction of Key West for both visitors and residents alike. But for fishermen, weird makes life tough on us. Nobody wants to come to Key West and have cold, (by our standards) weather. If you’re coming to Key West, you want warm and sunny. I do to, that’s one of the reasons I moved here 30 yrs ago. But every place has weather cycles, some nice weather, some not so nice weather. Key West is no different. Nobody comes here for the cold weather, but it’s a part of life, or at least if should be. This winter has been different. Like a lot of the eastern seaboard, it’s been a very mild winter in Key West. Normally in February, you can expect daytime temperatures in the mid to low 70’s on a nice day and evening temperatures in the mid to low 60’s. A cold day is usually only in the 60’s, sometimes the 50’s and during an extreme cold snap, the 40’s. For most people, in January or February, even 45 degrees can feel balmy and if you’re coming from Upstate NY or Wisconsin or North Dakota, the 60’s feels like swim suit weather. In weather like that it’s easy to tell the visitors from the residents. Visitors are the ones wearing flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt. Residents are wearing socks, shoes, long pants, a couple sweatshirts, and if it’s in the low 50’s or 40’s, a ski cap, gloves and a parka. Yup, that’s right. There are people in Key West that own and occasionally wear a ski cap, gloves and a parka! I’m not one of them, (OK, I’ve got the ski cap, but it was a gift and it’s a NY Giants ski cap, so it’s sportswear). I do have a long underwear top, but Hey! It’s colder on the water. This year, my “sportswear” NY Giants ski cap sits proudly in my closet, as do most of my sweatshirts and my long undies. It hasn’t gotten cold enough to wear them. Yea, we’ve had a few mild cold fronts and a couple mornings in the mid to high 60’s, but not too often this year. Most days the temp is in the low to mid 80’s.We’ve needed air-conditioning in February! And that’s about 8-10 degrees warmer than normal and that's just wrong. This is the time of year when we’re supposed to get a break from the heat, we count on it. Yea it’s great if you’re on vacation, but I’m going to sweat enough in April-September, I don’t need it now. More importantly, from a fishing standpoint, we need the cold weather to cool the water off. This causes the bait fish to migrate south and with them come the predators - otherwise known as “the fish I’m trying to catch”. Sailfish, Wahoo, Cobia, Kingfish and Black Fin Tuna are like all creatures, they gotta’ eat. Usually the more bait, the more predators. This year has been tough. Oh, we’re catching fish most days, and generally sending people home happy, but it ain’t been easy. The only fish that has been better than normal has been the Dolphin, that’s a Mahi- Mahi to you west coasters or a Dorado if you’re south of the border. While the cold weather normally pushes many of our target species south to our waters this time of year, it also pushes the warm water fish like dolphin south away from our waters. Because the water hasn’t cooled off, we’ve been catching Dolphin all winter long. Thank Goodness for the dolphin. Fishing would be even tougher without them. I guess that’s really one of the reasons why fishing in Key West is so great. There’s (almost) always something to catch. A lot of places have an offseason, When the weather turns, the fish move and nothing else moves in. But Key West just has a different fish that is “in season” at different times of year. Cold north winds, Kingfish, Sailfish, Cero Mackerel, Black Fin Tuna, and more can be expected. Warm south or east winds, and we get dolphin. This is not to say, you can’t catch dolphin on a North Wind, I have. The wind and water temperature is only one factor that affects the fishing. The current and water color also has a big affect. Sailfish, Dolphin, Wahoo, Tuna are all considered “blue water” fish. So if you have blue water, as opposed to the green inshore waters from the gulf, Odds are there will be more blue water fish around. And, although it’s been a bit of a struggle so far this year, we’re coming into the time of year when the blue water starts to move in and (hopefully) we will start to see the offshore fishing really turn on. We had a late season cold front this past weekend and there is another one headed our way this Sunday. It might make the conditions a bit unpleasant in the short term, but that, along with the strong east current associated with the gulfstream moving in closer to Key West, should help the fishing a lot. Only time will tell, but it feels like things are lining up for a good run of sailfish and maybe some late season Wahoo and tuna. We’re booked quite a bit over the next few weeks, so we’ll find out. Stay tuned
January 28th, 2012
It's been a busy season so far and I really haven't had time to write anything here, My apologies. This report isn't about fishing either. As most of my regular customers know, I'm a big NY Giants fan. My team is in the big game again, so naturally 1st mate Ben,( A Patriots fan and self described Masshole) and I have a bet. My brother in law, (another Masshole), hasn't answered my text yet, but he knows he'll have to bet me or never hear the end of it. We'll keep it friendly, a bottle of his favorite Vs. a bottle of mine. But we gotta' bet on the game! My neighbor across the street is also a Patriots fan. Yesterday I came home and found a Tom Brady doll wire tied to my fence post. In the interest of historic accuracy in advance, we sent it back to here side of the street the way Tom is going to look on Monday morning.
November 5th, 2011
Here comes winter!
Summer is over, even here in the tropics. I know, everyone up north thinks that it’s summer all year round in Key West. Especially when they leave the frigid, icy January weather and walk off the plane at the airport in Key West and it’s a warm and sunny 75’ day. But we do have seasons here (and fortunately, 75’ during the day and 65’ at night IS winter for us). We have different seasons of weather, different seasons of fishing and different seasons of tourists, (and no you can’t hunt them during tourist season ;-). All three are tied together. As the weather changes, so does the fishing. The warm, humid southern breezes that push the gulf stream and It’s warm water and Sargasso weed in close to Key West gives way to cooler, drier northerly winds that pushes bait fish south and along with it, our winter fish. Summer is time for Dolphin, (and we still get a few in winter) and we’re generally fishing out deep, sometimes as far as 30 miles out and over 3,000 ft deep. Much of the bait is found under floating weeds and debris and that’s where you find the fish. As the weather and the wind turn from the north, schools of ballyhoo, (baitfish) start to cover the reef, and with the bait come the predators. As the water and weather cools, Sailfish, Wahoo, Tuna, Kingfish, Mackerel and more all start to prowl the shallower water on and outside the reef. In the summer, I think it’s most productive to troll quickly cover some ground. Dolphin aggressive, fast and not boat shy. It’s not uncommon to see them jumping out of the water as they charge toward the baits as the boat passes down a weed line or past some floating debris. If you’re trolling, you’re not going to out run them if they want to feed!
In the winter, drifting with live bait or sight casting to sailfish, barracuda or tunas is not uncommon. Most of the best fishing in the winter months is in close, usually water 300 ft deep or less. As the Capt/owner I like it because a shorter run because it means less I spend on fuel. It’s good for the customers too, because it means more fishing time per trip. Over the last week or so, we’ve had a few cold fronts, (pretty good one last night) and the ballyhoo are starting to show up on the reef. We had a good catch of Tuna yesterday, mostly out deep, (600ft deep), but as the day wore on, the fish were steadily moving shallower and shallower, (300ft deep). I expect to start seeing sailfish chasing ballyhoo on the shallow reefs, Mackerels and king fish will be flying through the air and crashing it to the schools of bait and barracudas, groupers, Jacks and Mutton snappers will be down below waiting to pick off a scrap or wounded ballyhoo. It’s an exciting time to fish and one of my favorite times of the year. We like to use 20lb spin or lighter on the reef, sometimes it can be challenging to keep a big snapper or grouper out of the bottom, and often we have to chase any sailfish we hook so we don’t get spooled.
I’m looking forward to another great “winter” of fishing. Hope you’ll join me for a day or two
Fishing report August 23rd, 2011
The fishing this summer in Key West has been much improved over last year. Business was good, it seemed we had a lot more people from Texas, Arizona, California, New Mexico and Utah. I suspect fears related to the drug lords and all the turmoil in Mexico prompted many of the folks that would usually go there to seek other places to vacation. I’m glad many picked Key West and I hope that we showed them what a great place it is and they will come back again.
Fishing was better this summer too! 2010 was an “off” year for dolphin fishing and we spent most of the summer fishing for Yellow Tail and Gray snapper. We did well and send a lot of people home happy with some delicious fish, but I did miss being out deep looking for bigger fish. Not to mention the fact it gets pretty warm sitting on anchor in Key West in July and August. Much more comfortable to be trolling and creating our own breeze!
This summer we only anchored up and fished for Snappers a couple of times, again we did well most days, but dolphin fishing offshore was generally good and we have been able to put a catch together most days and send my customers home happy…which is always the main objective.
It seemed we had more Sargasso weed passing through the area this year than in recent years, which is always good for dolphin fishing. Sargasso weed is a natural growing sea plant that grows on the surface and drifts with the wind and current. It provides a refuge and habitat for a “bazillion” small critters. Pick up a clump of Sargasso sometime and shake it over the deck. You’ll be amazed at how many little shrimp, crabs, fish and even sea horses will fall out. It’s these little critters living there that attract small fish. The small fishing are hoping to feed on the little critters in the weed AND using the weed as protection from larger fish such as dolphin. The dolphin are found around the weed because they are there to feed on the smaller fish and little critters, (they are not there for the “shade” as some people think ;-). So basically small critters hide in the weed to hide from small fish. Small fish hide in the weed from bigger fish and Big fish hang around the weed trying to eat them all! It’s called the food chain or Mother Nature at work. It always makes my pulse raise a beat when we come upon a big weed patch or line. The potential for good fish is always there. If you’ve never seen a big bull dolphin come streaking out from under the weed and across the surface to attack a bait you’ve missed one of the most exciting sights of dolphin fishing!
Normally the fishing tapers off a bit in August as the water temp rises, but this year August had some of the best dolphin fishing of the year. Stating around the 8th of August, we had a weed line start moving through the area. It started coming up from the west being pushed by the Gulf Stream current. It was healthy looking weed, lots of debris, (which also holds fish), infested with small bait fish and it was LOADED with dolphin! Nice sized dolphin. There was enough weed and enough fish that the entire fleet could all work it and catch fish. Not only was it loaded with fish, but it lasted for 5 days! Now, that might not sound that impressive, until you start thinking about the fact that the current was doing a knot to a knot and a half to the east,(That is about 1.1 to about 1.7 mph). SO if I fished a patch of weed today, tomorrow morning that same patch of weed will be approximately 25-40 miles east of where I fished it!!
To have a weed line pass through our waters nonstop for 5 days means the weed was approximately 100-200 miles long!!! Talk about a tremendous area of habitat to fish! When the weed finally came to an end here, the beginning of the weed was somewhere off Miami. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it in those terms.
The summer of 2011 was a bit frustrating for me in terms of billfish. I think we caught 3 Sailfish and no Marlin. Summer is always the time when we catch the most marlin. In part, this is because that’s when we have the most boats out deep dragging baits in the area where they live and in parts because that’s when the dolphin are here. Marlins eat the same food as dolphin AND they eat the dolphin. So if you find dolphin you always know you have a possibility of a Marlin. Unfortunately, this year just wasn’t my turn. Sailfish is by far our most common billfish in the Keys, and as I said, we got a few, but I always expect a couple shots at Marlin every summer, (last year we caught 2 blues). It didn’t happen. Oh well, maybe next year.
The biggest dolphin caught on the boat this year was a 52lb bull on July 5th. That’s a big ‘un by any standard. It was a lone bull, normally I would expect a couple cows, (female) dolphin to be cruising with him, but if there were, they weren’t hungry or they were smarter than the bull.
Probably the most notable fish of the summer was a 53lb Cubera Snapper we caught on one of the wrecks. We were actually shark fishing, using a whole bonito. When we hooked up, we were expecting just about anything except a Cubera. Shark, Goliath grouper, Amberjack, any of those would not have surprised me, but a Cubera is uncommon, (it was only my second) and a 53lb fish is pretty good sized, so we were very excited. For those that don’t know what a Cubera snapper looks like, think of a giant Gray (also called Mangro) snapper. The coloration, body shape and fin configuration are very similar, but Grays only get up to 8-10 lbs in general. I believe a Cubera can top 100, but I’m very happy with a 53lb’er. One look at the business end of the fish and there is no doubt why they call it a “snapper”. A Cubera has a very impressive set of teeth. Two large canine fangs and a row of sharp pointed needle like teeth lining the jaws. A lot of the teeth are recessed in the gums, so you can’t readily see them, but if you push back the soft tissue of the mouth, they can be seen and are impressive.
We later caught a 153lb bull shark on the same trip, so we did catch our “target” species that day. It was a fun day all around! And that was the biggest shark of the summer.
School has started in many parts of the country. Local schools started yesterday and that usually signals the “end” of season. Business drops off quite a bit and the town gets quiet. There are still fish out there, just not that many customers wanting to go. That’s ok. I’ve had a great year; I’ve got plenty of “projects to work on and I won’t mind a little time off, ( at least until another boat goes out and “crushes” the fish ;-). Hurricane Irene is turning into a good storm, (Good = going to miss Key West). If I can get through the next 6 weeks or so, things should start picking up by October. The weather should be starting to cool down by then too. October and November are two of the nicest months to fish or just be in Key West. I’m looking forward to it.
The wind has picked up, the current has picked up and along with it, the fishing has picked up too. After a week or so of very calm weather and gradually declining fishing, the Gulf Stream has moved back in close to the reef, (It was out 40 miles). Strong current and a bit of wind always make the fishing better. And true to form the last few weeks have been a blast. Dolphin, (Mahi Mahi or Dorado, not Flipper) have been moving through in good numbers. Some groups of larger fish, 20- 50 lbs are being caught in the 300-500 depths and a good number of schoolie sized fish are to be found on weed lines as they pass through the area. Floating debris has also been productive. One drawback to the strong east current is that any weed or debris found today is almost certainly out of range tomorrow.
There have been a decent number of Blue Marlin as well as a few White marlin either seen and /or caught over the last few weeks. A Marlin eats the same food as dolphin and they eat dolphin so if you’re in the dolphin, you always have a chance at a Marlin. I caught two last year, both in May. I haven’t been lucky enough to hook one this year, but I’m still optimistic.
Not many Wahoo around, but the ones that are being caught are usually big ones. Mostly in the 40-50 lb range. No real rhyme or reason to the Wahoo. They are where they are and you just have to put your time in.
I haven’t done it, but I hear the inshore fishing for Tarpon is red hot. I haven’t see the large schools of tarpon rolling in the harbor which is typical of this time of year, but I do see quite a few boats hooked up both in the morning on the way offshore and in the afternoon when we return.
May 12, 2011
The weather has been absolutely breathtaking for the last few weeks. Clear Skies, moderate temperatures, (mid 80’s- moderate for Key West), and calm seas. Anybody that has gotten seasick in the last week should take up tennis because it doesn’t get any calmer in the ocean. In truth, in my opinion it’s too calm. Calm seas may be great for the fishermen, being on the boat is like sitting on your back porch, but it’s not necessarily great for the fishing. It seems when we get extended periods of very calm weather that while the fishing is great, the catching usually starts to suffer. I have a theory, and this is just a theory, I have nothing to back it up with. My theory is that when it’s calm the bait fish are sitting on the surface watching for predators and they can see very well. But if it’s rough, that same bait fish is getting bounced around 3-4 ft with the waves, (that’s equivalent to you being bounced up and down the height of a 4 story building), it’s much tougher to observe your surroundings. Ever try to read a sign while riding a rollercoaster?? Not so easy. The predators know it and they can get much closer to their prey. It always seems the ocean is much more active with a bit of waves. You will see more bait jumping, more fish jumping, just more activity in general. So far, we’ve been putting a catch together, although it’s been tougher on a half day trip as the better fish are deeper than normal this time of year. May is usually an excellent time of year to fish, so I’m optimistic that we can keep producing good catches. Only time will tell
Too much calm weather has a couple of other drawbacks too. First, calm seas means no wind and no wind makes it very hot around here. The “big heat” of the summer doesn’t usually start until June or July with August and September being the worst. May is too early to be sweating this bad and spending this much on AC. It’s going to make for a long summer. Another thing that’s bad about too calm is that the wind helps to cool the water. Without it, the water temperatures start to climb and warm water is conducive to hurricanes. Now I’m not predicting an epic hurricane season, but storms gain strength when they get over warm water. The earlier it gets warm the earlier we may start seeing storms. There are other factors involved, so it’s not like hurricanes will start popping up next week. But the waters around Key West are over 80 degrees now, by late July or Early August, when we’re getting into the heart of hurricane season, they may be much warmer. I know it’s tougher on the people, but I’ve always said I’ll take a beating in rough seas if it means catching good fish. I’m hoping for some wind!
April 30th. 2011
Sorry to take so long between reports. There's actually lots of fishing to report, I've just been so busy running trips and catching fish, which is good), that I haven't had the time or energy to post a report, which is bad)
Many customers ask me “what’s the best time to fish?”, and while we have good fishing all year round, I always tell them April is one of my favorite months. It’s a “big fish” time of year. Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Cobia and Hammerhead sharks can usually be found along the color change* and big amberjacks on the wrecks. This April has lived up to expectations. We’ve had a good Sailfish run and it’s still going on. Strong east current is continuing to cause a strong color change to form up and sailfish are still migrating along that edge. Live bait has been the most effective, but trolling baits are starting also working.
Sailfish are not the only fish found along the “change” this time of year. Lots of big Hammerhead Sharks are cruising through. Hammerheads are the most common shark to see swimming on the surface and lately it’s not uncommon to see 5-6 a day. Yesterday we caught and released a scalloped hammerhead that weighed about 200lbs on 50lb test line. Even of relative heavy tackle, it took over 45 minutes to land the fish.
Black Fin Tuna are still migrating through and there have been steady catches also along the color change. Occasionally, schools of fish can be seen on the green side of the color change and have been cooperative when presented with a jig or live bait. Most of the bigger tunas are being caught on the blue side with live bait. I haven’t caught any over 30 yet this year, but most are in the mid 20lb range and we had one right at 29lbs on Monday
Amberjacks spawn on the wrecks in March and April and right now the wrecks are loaded. On one of the wrecks I fish, the schools of jacks were so thick, my depth sounder marked them as bottom . I was in over 2oo ft of water and the bottom machine was saying the bottom was 90ft down. That’s a solid mass of fish to mark that strong. Bites on live bait are easy and jigs seem to be working well also. Most of the fish we’ve been getting are over 5olbs with some in the high 60lb range. It’s a hell of a fight on 30lb tackle. Most people don’t want to catch more than a couple before their arms need a rest.
*The color change is where two bodies of water having different clarity and current meet. Commonly a strong east current, usually the Gulf Stream, pushes in close to the reef and the green inshore gulf waters push out. Where the two meet can be a pronounced edge: Green water with little or no current on one side and deep blue water with 1-3 kts of current on the other side.
This is what a "Color Change" looks like. The darker blue water is clearer and has more east bound current than the lighter blue.
It’s just not fair! Fishing that is. I always leave the dock expecting to have a great day, and I realize that not every day will be. But it still drives crazy when we have a slow day. I hate it. Like I’ve always said, I don’t like fishing, I like catching. Last week I had a very nice family on board. Two young boys, about 6 and 12, Mom and Dad. The trip was all about the boys, mom and dad would have been happy to sit back and watch the boys “reel ‘em in” all morning long. I would have been too, but it just didn’t happen. It was one of the more frustrating days I’ve had recently, (thankfully). Whenever I have young ones on board, I feel it’s especially important to catch fish. At that age a good day or a bad day will establish their impression of fishing, possible for the rest of their lives. If it’s good, fishing will always have that good connotation. If it’s slow, fishing will represent a boring time. It’ll be like going to buy shoes, pretty dull and a waste of time, (if you're a 6 yr old boy or a 54 yr old boat Capt.). Unfortunately, try as hard as I could, we only caught one small dolphin on a half day. I fished the blue water, I fished the outer bar, I fished the reef, I stopped at wreck on the way in, I even trolled from the Fleming Key bridge to the no wake zone, (almost at the dock).
We had two trips that day and in the afternoon we went right back to the same area and same depth, using the same bait, same rigs, same pattern – same everything. We caught 5-6 dolphins, a black fin tuna and a 34 lb wahoo! Naturally, my afternoon folks were very happy.
The morning family took it well. No complaints, no sour faces, they tipped my mate and said “that’s fishing” and “thanks” and went on their way. By this time, they’ve probably forgotten it, but I haven’t. It’s still bugging me. That’s why I say it’s just not fair. I hate the slow days. But a bad day doesn’t mean you had a bad plan. If you know what works and hopefully after 20+ yrs I’m starting to, you have to stick with it. Sometimes I wish I could ration out the fish evenly so everybody has a great time, but “mom” (Mother Nature) won’t let me do it. You get what you get, when you get it and there ain’t nothing you can do about it. Like one of the “old timers” once told me: “thems that’s yours don’t get past you”.
Tomorrow is going to be really good !
March 4th, 2011
After fishing here in Key West for over 25 years, you can just tell when there is change in the wind or waves. Fishing the last few days hasn’t been great. There have been some good days and there have been some days where we put a catch together, but it was tough. There is no way I can be sure, but I just get a feeling it’s about to break loose. It’s March and it’s quite possible to get a major cold front again this month, even next month. But it doesn’t feel like it. Yea, I know that’s not scientific, but hell, even with all the millions of dollars the National Weather Service spends, they’re wrong about 30-40% of the time. So even if I’m 50-50 I’m not far off the mark. Anyway, call it intuition, call it experience, hell call it wishful thinking - Doesn’t matter, I just feel that the fishing is about to go bonkers. I’m starting to see some schools of ballyhoo, (bait fish), on the reef again. They were gone in Jan and most of Feb. The water Temp is up to 75 degrees offshore and baring a prolonged and very strong cold front, it’s not going to cool down again this year. The water has been very green for the last few weeks, with an occasional little eddy of blue-ish water sliding in to tease us, but yesterday the water offshore from about 300ft and deeper was a definite blue. There was some Sargasso weed, a little early for weed lines, but Sargasso holds bait and that’s never a bad thing. The current was screaming to the west. I’d rather have east current, but some current is better than no current and west current and East wind makes it calmer offshore, (West current GOES west, East wind COMES from the East, so they are going in the same direction). And the wind, although it’s blowing pretty strong, is starting to come around to the East. Our dominant wind in the winter is north. Northwest on a cold front, due North or Northeast after that. But in the spring, the wind starts to come around to the east and that’s good for fishing. It can make it rough as the East current, (the gulfstream), will eventually move in close and when that happens, the wind and current will oppose each other. Just as wind and current going in the same direction has a calming effect on the seas. Wind and current opposing each other will cause seas to build, sometimes dramatically. It can make it very ……ah “sporty” shall we say, (we never like the word rough). But “Sporty” can be good for fishing. The ocean always seems to be more active when there is some wave action. Now we don’t always need 8-10 ft seas, but 2-3 is better than flat calm most days.
So we’re starting to see it all. Wind direction, blue water, bait fish, still need the current to change direction, but that will come. Hopefully we’ll start to see some Sailfish showing up soon and if the wind goes a little southeast, we’ll probably see some dolphin too, (Mahi, not Flipper) . I’m optimistic, but then again, I have to be. I have to get up every day expecting to catch fish, looking forward to a good day. In part, because it’s my job, I would be doing a disservice to my customers if I showed up at the boat all gloom and doom. Thinking positive won’t guarantee good fishing, but it doesn’t hurt and it always makes the day go better. Also, I have to have a positive attitude out of self-preservation. I’d be hating life if I went out everyday thinking it would be bad. No thanks! When I get up in the morning, the first thing I think about is coffee, (hey just being honest)………..and the second thing I think about is a game plan for the day of fishing. I’m looking at the wind speed and direction online. I’m thinking about the temperatures and water color the last few days. Is there current and which way is it going? In a small way, it’s like mental chess. I’m planning out my moves in advance. If plan “A” works, great, but if it doesn’t than I’m not going to stick with it. I’m going to move on to plan “B” and then plan “C”, and then plan “D”, etc as long as time allows. Sometimes it all works and you look like the greatest Capt. ever! And sometimes none of it works. The trick is to always keep trying. If you do most people will be able to tell and will appreciate your efforts even if the fishing isn’t great.
Today may have been tough, but tomorrow is going to be a good day!
Feb 22 update
Black Fin Tuna are biting! The water is a clear green, not blue, but there are black fins crashing bait everywhere for the last two days. The seas are calm, the weather is warm and the fishing is easy! Gotta’ love it. We caught 10 black fin tuna in a half day yesterday. Only 4 in the morning, (and some bonitos), but that’s still good for a half day, (about 2 ½ hrs fishing time). Yesterday, we used live bait and caught fish up to 27 lbs on 20lb spinning tackle. Today we just trolled, (no time to catch live bait on a half day), but it was just as effective. Off tomorrow, 1st time in 10days, but looking forward to Thursday!
February 21, 2011
Fishing in Key West is always changing. After a tough week of fishing, conditions seem about to change for the better. We’ve had very green water, no current and cool water temps (68’), for the last week or so. Much of this can be attributed to the full moon and an extended period of unusually low tides. None of this is conducive to offshore fishing here. We want blue water, at least some current, preferable eastbound and water temperatures in the 72-74’ range. These variations can make all the difference in the world.
The full moon is passed and hopefully we should see some blue water and east bound current start working its way in shore over the next few days. We’ve been catching fish and having a lot of fun, but we’ve had to change our game plan a bit the last few days. Mostly we’ve been anchoring up and shark fishing along with drifting live ballyhoo for mackerel, Kingfish and whatever else wants to bite. It’s been working very well and the sharks have been a lot of fun. Mostly Black tip and Spinner sharks in the 40 – 80 lb range, not huge, but when you’re catching them on 20 & 30lb test line from an anchored boat, they put up a great fight. We’re getting mostly Cero and Spanish mackerel on the live ballyhoo, but the few Kingfish we are getting are large, in the 25-30lb range.
For the better part of 2 weeks, I haven’t seen any schools of bait on the reef, but yesterday we found a large school of Ballyhoo on the reef. After anchoring and netting a few for bait, the action was non-stop. If you find the bait, you’ll find the fish. We were catching large Cero mackerels, some big Barracudas as fast as we could put the baits out. Using 12 and 20lb spinning tackle really adds to the fun because any fish can put up a great fight. An added bonus was the school of Yellow Tail Snapper that came up in our chum. They’re not as large or strong as Mackerel or Barracuda, but they are excellent table fare.
February 14th, 2011
One of the great things about Key West is that, no matter where you go, it’s always great to come home. Now I’m sure folks living in Buffalo or Peoria or Cleveland all like their homes and after a getaway, they’re looking forward to seeing their friends and family. Maybe even looking forward to getting back to their job, but can you really look forward to Cleveland……….especially in February? Nah, I don’t think so. But Key West is almost like going on vacation when you’re coming home from vacation. As I write this, I’m 30,000 feet in the air flying back from a quick weekend getaway with my Sweetie, Emalyn. We went to Austin Texas to see Willie Nelson live on his “home court” at the Austin City Limits concert at the Moody Theater. Seats 4 rows back from the stage. Awesome show! I like Willie, but Ema is a big fan and this was her Christmas/Valentine’s Day present. Everything went great. Flights were great, Austin was great, Hotel was great and Willie was great. It was a wonderful 3 days, but now we have to go home. That’s what’s so cool about living in Key West! For us going home IS going to Key West! For everybody else in the world, going home is Buffalo or Cleveland or who knows where. For us our “going home” is the same as they’re “going on vacation”. Sure, we’ll be working tomorrow while the true “going on vacation” people will be sitting on the beach sipping an umbrella drink, but we’re still in Key West! We get the same warm weather, the same ocean breezes, and the same warm sunshine. We don’t have to hurry up and do “things” because we’ll be here next week too! I don’t mean to gloat, but every once in a while I need to sit back and realize just how lucky I am. Not sure I deserve it, but I’ll take it. The good news is that for all of you that don’t live in Key West, we have plenty of sunshine to go around and ………………………………we’re always willing to share!
February 10, 2011
It’s always a bit strange talking to friends and family this time of year, especially when they’re having a severe winter such as most of the country is experiencing now. I feel a little guilty when the subject comes around to the weather, which it always does. Yea, it does get chilly here every once in a while. I’ve seen it get in to the low 40’s on rare occasions. But lately it’s been in the high 70’s to the mid 80’s in Key West for the better than a week. I think the last “cold” day was January 29th and that was a chilly 62 in the morning and warmed up to around 70’ by noon. We get very spoiled after a while and honestly after almost 30yrs in Key West, I can’t really comprehend living, driving, shoveling or freezing in the snowy winter weather you all have been having. Sure, I have distant memories of getting up in the morning and wiping the snow off my car or scraping the ice off the windshield. I vaguely remember walking through thigh deep snow or ridding a toboggan with friends at the local golf course. I also remember wearing so many clothes that I looked like I weighed 220lbs well before I actually weighed 220lbs. Everyone looked like the Pillsbury dough boy/girl. It would always be a revelation when spring came and you would see girls you’d met over the winter and think, “hey she’s not really fat!” Of course, there were also the “wow, I guess that wasn’t a bulky coat” girls too.
I spoke to an old friend of mine this past week. He lives in Vermont. It hasn’t been above freezing since sometime in NOVEMBER! HOLY CRAP! That’s over 2 months! One sixth of the year! More than 16% of a year and it’s not over yet. February is not a month you would expect a thaw in Vermont. NO THANK YOU! There is no way I want to spend that much of my life being cold. I rate winters by “sock days”. That’s how many days I have to wear socks to keep my feet warm. Most days I wear sandals or flip flops, (Never wear socks with either- ultimate nerd alert). My “winter” shoes are sneakers and the only ice we shovel around here is from the ice machine into a cooler. If you see Ice on the street in Key West, if means somebody spilled their drink and that works just fine for me. As I’m writhing this, I’m barefoot and shirtless. The doors and windows are open and it’s only about 74’ outside, (but it’s early so it should warm up). Now that’s my kind of February! Sorry folks, but nobody said you had to stay in the cold just because you were born there. The good news is that we have lots of hotel rooms in Key West and that means you don’t have to freeze all winter. Thank Orville and Wilbur, (Wright), but there is a way to take a break from the cold. It’s your choice. You can sharpen the edge of your snow shovel and hunker down as the next winter storm approaches or fly the friendly skies and break out your best dress flipflops and come to Key West.
Everything is here, the weather, the restaurants, the bars, the beaches, the fish and lots more.
Everyone deserves some “no sock days” in their life
January 22nd, 2011
Conditions have finally lined up and fishing was red hot the last few days. The combination of the full moon, calm seas, East current and clean water all came together this week and the Key West fishing went off. The bite
is on for Sailfish, Wahoo and Black Fin Tuna . Saturday was non-stop action! West of Key West in 120 to 180 ft of water you didn’t have to wait long for a bite. Most of the Black Fin Tuna have been good size, mostly in the
15-20lb. Single hookups were not uncommon, but more often than not, 2,3 or ever 4 fish were hitting at a time.
The wahoos have been over due. They were expected around the full moon in November and again in December but didn’t show. The full moon was again this week and this time we weren’t disappointed. Good catches of Wahoo were reported by the trolling boats from East to West off Key West. Multiple hooks ups, known as “Wolf packs” were not quite as common as I would hope, but there were a few. Most of the wahoo bites were single or doubles, but there were definitely enough to go around. I heard of a few fish in the 50lb range, but most of the ones were catching have been in the mid 30lb range. That’s still a respectable fish any day!
Sailfish have been mixed in with the wahoo and Black Fin Tuna. The fast trolling speeds that are preferred for Wahoo and Tuna are usually a bit fast for Sails, but some fish just can’t resist. Most of the Sailfish are of the “full sized” variety, 40-60lbs, not the 10-20lb juveniles that we tend to see in the fall.
There were still a good number of small Dolphin being caught during the past week as should be expected with the South winds we’ve had. That should drop off with the passing cold front, but expect it to pick up again if the wind goes to the south for a day or two.
Kingfish and Cero Mackerel are still being found on the reef when the action is needed.
The cold front that passed through the Key West area on Saturday night is not expected to be a very strong one. It will probably not affect the fishing to any great degree or for any length of time. Expect red hot fishing to return as soon as the weather clears. If the weather service is correct, Sunday should be good, and the early part of the coming week should be right back to red hot fishing.
January 13, 2011
The New Year has started out well for fishing in Key West. Sailfish are still coming up on the reef to feed on the schools of ballyhoo, (bait fish). Sailfish are also being caught offshore, both trolling and live baiting.
There have been a surprising number of dolphin, (Mahi or Dorado, not Flipper) caught over the last week, mostly due to some mild weather and a few days of South winds. Most of the Dolphin caught were fairly small, in the 3-6 lb range, perfect for table fare. There were a few big fish caught, we caught a 25lb bull on Sunday. I’d be happy with that fish in May when big dolphins are expected!
There has still been some good mackerel action along the reef and Kingfish are starting to show up. It’s a bit later than expected, but we caught some nice sized Ceros up shallow and a few Kings in the high teens over the past few days.
On Tuesday, we finally got a decent Wahoo bite. It wasn’t ballistic, we’re still due for that, but boats were consistently catching Wahoo from East to West. The strong cold front that came through on Wednesday, will probably put the kibosh on the Wahoo bite for a couple of days, but expect more fish to be caught after the seas calm a little. This weekend should be good. At least we know the fish are finally here. Better late than never!
January 1, 2011
Good Bye 2010
2010 YEAR IN REVIEW
2010 is over. As always the years pass by and we look both back the year we leave behind and forward to the upcoming year. 2010 was an interesting year to say the least. It started in January with one of the coldest winters I can remember. Normally when we get a “cold” front here, it’s chilly for a day or two and then gradually warms up over 3-4 days until the next front. Not January 2010, it was unusually cold for 4-5 days at a stretch and then 1 warm day and then right back to cold for 4-5 days at a stretch. My girlfriend took a picture of the “sock” aisle at one of the local dept. stores and it was decimated.
Socks, while normal winter attire in most of the country, are not as common here in the land of sandals and flip-flops, (sandals and socks is a dead giveaway that the wearer is a foreigner ……….or total nerd). Anyway, I’ve been known to rate winters by how many “sock days” there were. In 2010 I lost count sometime in January.
January also saw the loss of the M/V Gulfstream III. The Gulfstream was a long time local party boat here in Key West. When I was mate and later Capt. of the M/V Can't Miss, the Gulfstream III was our main competitor, but it never stopped me from being friends with the owner and crew. I respected them and also the boat and over the years many of the customers fished both boats. Late in 2009 the current owners of the Gulfstream III downsized to a smaller faster boat and leased the Old Gulfstream out as a commercial fishing boat. Unfortunately it's didn't last long. On January 20th, 2010 the Gulfstream III caught fire and sank offshore west of Key West. The two crew members were picked up by a nearby charter boat unharmed, but the boat burned to the water line and sank. It was a sad day for the current owner Jamie Snediker and also for former long time owner Joe "Joe Mac" Mercurio. Joe had owned the Gulfstream III when I was on the Can't Miss and we are friends to this day. Joe took a lot of people fishing on that boat over the years and caught a hell of a lot of fish. It was a shame to see a boat with a proud tradition go that way, but sometimes that's just the way it goes.
There were still some spectacular
sunsets to be seen in 2010 as always in Key West. I took this picture on Feb
26th on the way in from a late afternoon trip. I've seen a lot of sunsets over
the years, but for some reason this one stands out as one of the most beautiful
I can remember.
As an “offshore” fishing boat, I was fortunate. The cold weather caused the temperature of the near shore waters and in the flats to drop down in to the 50’s, and most of the fish left or died from exposure. The water on the reef and deeper stayed in the 70’s and fishing was good for us.
By mid-February, the weather had gotten back to normal. Highs in the 70’s and 60's at night. The fishing remained good - sharks, wahoo, tuna, kingfish, cero mackerel. Life was good. The first part of 2010 was better than the year before by a substantial margin. We were clicking along through March and April, with a good many trips and catching our share of sailfish and looking forward to the summer. Then the BP oil spill occurred. The true tragedy of the Gulf Oil Spill is the loss of those who died on the platform the families that mourn them. Many of us that make our living on the waters of the Gulf were affected financially, but in truth, our losses cannot compare to the loss of a father, son or a brother.
The spill did not bring business to a grinding halt as it did to many of the coastal towns closer to the spill and we NEVER, NEVER had any oil here. But the perception that we did was enough to cause what was shaping up to be a great “rebound” year to turn south. I was lucky, I had a good May, mostly advanced bookings that called and still fished once I reassured them that we didn’t have any oil. And fishing was good in May. Traditionally, May is when the big dolphin come through and this year was no exception. It’s an exciting time of year to fish. Looking for frigate birds on the water as they follow groups of big fish migrating west, and then trying to get a bait in front of them. I’ve seen big fish tailing down the waves toward me many, many times over the years……….and it still gets me excited every time I see it. I think sailfish in January and April, or dolphin in May, are the most exciting times to fish for myself as a Captain. It just never gets old. We did catch two blue marlin in May. We have marlin here, but they are not really common. I've caught 10 sailfish in a single day, but my best year for marlin is 3, 2 white marlin and 1 blue, so 2 blue marlin in May made me very happy. They were the first marlin I’d caught with my winter mate, Ben Garfield, on board. As always Ben did a super job. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any good pictures, but it was a thrill!
Unfortunately, once the winds died in late May, so did the dolphin fishing. I can’t say the oil spill had anything to do with it, as some fishermen claimed, but then again, I can’t say it didn’t. I’ve seen years in the past where the fish just aren’t there. Maybe this was just a normal year in the cycle of the fish and maybe it wasn’t. It didn’t matter at the time as I still had to catch fish for my customers. Fortunately, there were lots of yellow tail snappers to be found along the reef line. It can be tough fishing at times. Rough if there’s any wind and blistering hot if there’s not, but the fish were there and we caught our limit many days. Yellow tails are a tasty fish and we’re not the only ones that think so....sharks love ‘em too! Some days the sharks would be a pain in the butt stealing our fish on the way in, but they also provided some “big fish” action for those that wanted a challenge. Most of the sharks were black tips, lemons and Caribbean reef sharks. Usually no more than 150-200 lbs, not huge, but still a great workout on 30lb standup tackles from an anchored boat. We caught a heck of a lot of yellow tails this summer and in truth, I would have rather been offshore catching dolphin. They are bigger, stronger and more fun to catch. But I, and most of my customers, would rather be catching a lot of smaller fish inshore than not catching big ones offshore. We sent a lot of customers home happy and that’s the important thing. I did lose a few trips by being honest with people who were looking for dolphin and nothing else, but hopefully they appreciate my honesty and will check with me next time they’re here. It’s the best I can do.
The yellow tail/ shark fishing served us well into August, but as we got into the heart of hurricane season and schools opened, business slowed as usual. No complaints, it was a decent season, and we fished hard, so I was ready for a little break. We didn’t fish much in September; I think we had 10 trips which really isn’t bad for Sept. The most interesting trip was on September 3rd. We had two trips scheduled for the 3rd. A 6 hour trip in the morning and a late 4 hr trip after that. The morning trip was a bit slow unfortunately, we caught a few, but it’s wasn’t what I had hoped for, (Of course, I’m always hoping for great fishing). The afternoon trip was a 3-7pm split charter and two of the 4 people didn’t show up. The other two were young guys and they couldn’t charter the whole boat by themselves. I could understand that and there were no hard feelings as I canceled the trip. They were just about to walk off the boat when we got a report of a dead sperm whale floating south of Key West with a large school of tiger sharks feeding on it. I’ve been fishing these waters for close to 28 yrs and I’ve only heard of this one other time about 7 years ago and I missed it. I wasn’t about to miss it again. I told the two customers to hang loose for a bit, called my sweetie, Ema, at work and told her to grab her camera and cut out early. We had gotten the call about the whale from Capt. Brice Barr, a good friend and former mate of mine that now owns the Double Down Charter Boat. He was on his way in and wanted to see this too, so we waited on him for a few minutes. Dan Smith, who mated for me the previous summer was on the dock also and he jumped on board, so off we went, two customers, one girlfriend and 3 mates, (Skip Ragsdale had been mating for me that week and he was on board too) heading off to see something most people only see on TV or in magazines. It was worth the run!
We pulled up to the whale and we
were in awe. There were at least a dozen tiger sharks, up to 500 lbs., circling
and feeding on the whale. Between the 3 mates and myself, we probably had 80 yrs
fishing experience on board and we stood there like little kids pointing at one
big shark after another as the slowly circled the whale carcass. They were not
afraid of the boat and at one point; Brice reached down and grabbed the dorsal
of a 10 ft tiger shark as it was trying to get a bite (of the whale). We were so
excited; we didn’t even put a bait in the water for the first hour or so. We
were just too busy watching and taking pictures of this amazing sight. When we
did finally put a bait out we had a shark on within a minute. We ended up
catching two tigers, one for each of the customers we had on board. Two fish
is usually not the mark of a great day on the water, but this was a trip I’ll
remember for a long time as I’m sure everyone else on board will too. Sometimes
the things I get to see out here are amazing and this was one of them. Nature at
Hurricane Season was great this year, just the way we like it…….we had none! And October brought a break from the late summer heat. The offshore action was a little slow in October, but the reef was great. Big yellow jacks, groupers, barracudas, mutton snapper and the usual assorted fish were plentiful.
By November, the ballyhoo, (baitfish) had started to show up on the reef and we started netting them and using them live. A dead ballyhoo is good bait; a live ballyhoo is great bait. Sort of like the difference between a burger and a NY strip steak. One’s good, the other’s real good!
In late November and into December we started to see sailfish coming up on the reef to feed on the ballyhoo. This made the reef fishing even better. Steady action with mackerels, snappers, jacks, barracudas and now an occasional sailfish. It makes for a fun day.
As December came to a close we started to see the offshore fishing pickup. Black fin tuna are a bit late, but starting to show and there have been a few more wahoo caught. There should have been a good wahoo bite on the last full moon and there was not, maybe in January it’ll happen. It would be a great way to start off 2011! We’ll see!
2010 Was a good year on the Southbound, I hope it was a good year for all of you too!! Thanks to all those that fished with me.
I'm a lucky man and I know it. I have the best job in the world in the best place and I live with the most wonderful woman I've ever met. Thanks Emalyn
Happy New Year To all and hope to see you on the Southbound in the New Year!
December 17, 2010
Fishing is shaping as expected as the weather cools. Large schools of Ballyhoo, (bait fish), are attracting lots of hungry predators. The water is clear which is keeping some of the more desirable bottom dwellers less active, but lots of nice sized Cero Mackerel and Jacks are providing great action especially on spinning tackle. This time of year is a very exciting time to fish because in addition to the normal reef fish, Sailfish tend to come up shallow to feed on the schools of Ballyhoo too. It’s an incredible sight to see a single fish, or even groups of sailfish, chasing the ballyhoo in 15-20 ft of crystal clear water. I’ve seen pods of up to 8 fish at one time and they’re not usually boat shy so you can get within 10 ft at times. Because there is so much live bait on the reef, it’s sometimes difficult to get them to eat pitched bait. They’re full and there is so much bait to choose from, they sometimes don’t see the one we threw, but with so many opportunities, you’re going to get some takers. On Friday, we say about 20 Sails, We threw baits at about 9, we hooked 5 and we caught 2. This type of action should continue into January, (I hope!!)
November 8, 2010
Our first winter “cold front” passed through the Keys on Friday and while it made fishing a bit uncomfortable for the majority of the day and into the next, it was a welcome change. First, If you live in Key West and stay through the summer heat, You look forward to that first blast of cold air, (and yes, 65’ is cold to us). After 5 months of temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s we can finally turn off the AC and open the windows. For a few days, at least, you can work outside without sweating buckets. Second, and most importantly for those reading this, we need the cold fronts this time of year to keep the fishing right. It’s normal and if conditions don’t follow their normal routine, then fishing won’t either. The fish we expect to see this time of year won’t be here if things don’t line up right, so I’ll take the cold weather, (alright, cool to the rest of the world), and the rough seas if it means catching the fish. I’ve always said, you don’t feel the waves as much if the fish are biting!
The first day of the front, Friday was pretty dismal all around. Besides being rainy and rough, the fish didn’t bite and that’s no fun. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Anyone that says they never have a slow day of fishing, doesn’t fish much. It goes with the territory. We tried live baiting and trolling and neither worked well. Catching live ballyhoo was tough in 20+ mph winds, but my bad through with the cast net didn’t help. Our plan was good, it just didn’t work on Friday.
We went out again on Sunday afternoon. Same plan, different day and different results. Bait wasn’t easy on Sunday, but we caught enough live Ballyhoo to work with. It was still windy, but not as rough as Friday had been and there was barely a cloud in the sky. Most importantly, the fish were biting. We caught barracudas, Mackerels, groupers, Yellowtail snappers and a few assorted bottom fish. The weather was good and the fishing was better. What a difference a day makes!
Over the next few weeks, I would expect to see more sailfish on the reef chasing the schools of ballyhoo, (baitfish). Offshore, this weather should get the Black Fin Tuna going. The full moon is on November 21st. I expect to see some Wahoo biting around that time. The reef should stay active with Cero Mackerel and bottom fish. This cooler weather is perfect for pushing Kingfish south into our waters. Along the reef edge, inshore and in the gulf should be good for those that like fishing for Kingfish.
October 20th, 2010
The summer fishing has pretty much ended with the exception of a few odd dolphins. We’ve started getting our normal mild cold fronts for this time of year making for great conditions also. Mild winds out of the North have provided cooler drier temperatures and gentle seas for most of the month. These conditions are one of the reasons that October is one of my favorite months.
The reef is loaded with schools of ballyhoo which has made the fishing excellent. We’ve been pitching live ballyhoo out on light tackle the last few trips and it’s been working great. Lots of large Cero Mackerel, some Big Barracudas, Some huge Yellow Jacks as well as a few Groupers, Mutton Snappers and Sharks. With the live ballyhoo the action has been very steady.
Offshore there are some Sailfish around and that should continue for the next few months. There have been a few Black Fin Tuna around and that should get better as the fall progresses. Look for the Tuna bite to be first thing in the morning or late in the day. I haven’t heard of any Wahoo in the last few days, but expect a good run of Wahoo sometime in the next few weeks.
August 20th, 2010
The Blue water and east have returned and the offshore fishing has started to heat up. Most of the summer the blue water has been out deep and there has been no current. The green water we’ve had in our area is great for the snapper fishing we’ve been doing with great success, but not so good when you’re trolling for Sailfish, Dolphin, (Mahi), Wahoo or Tuna. Over the last few days, the trolling has been nonstop action. Lots of Bonitos, not considered good as table fare, but they put up a great fight and it’s not common for every line on the boat to hook up at the same time. Black fin tuna feed similar to bonitos and it’s not uncommon to find one with the other. Yesterday we hooked two black fin tuna along with the bonitos we were catching. There hasn’t been much in the way of weed lines around, but a small area of weed produced five nice dolphins up to 15lbs to go with our tunas. There have been some Wahoo around, still not seeing the really big fish (50-70lb), that I expect this time of year, but they will show up, just gotta’ be there fishing when they do! Sailfish still slow, but with many boats racing around looking for Wahoo and tuna ,(they like a fast troll), it may just be a case that the sailfish are there but not interested in the high speed baits.
There has not been any oil at any time in the waters off Key West and none is expected
August 2, 2010
Snapper is fishing still going strong. We’ve been getting our limit on Gray snapper and/or Yellow Tail snapper most days we’ve been looking for them. This should continue for a few weeks more. After that the Gray snappers might slow a bit as the summer spawn ends, but the Yellow tail will probably still bite. Check out the picture below. It shows Gray Snapper and Yellow Tail Snapper on the surface feeding on the chum.
Sharks are still active, mostly lemon, Caribbean reef and bull sharks, especially around the boats fishing for snapper. The water is pretty clear so it’s not uncommon to watch one eat your snapper as you’re winding it in. It can get very frustrating if they start eating too many, but it’s also amazing to watch how quick and agile the sharks can be when they want to.
The offshore fishing continues to show signs of life with a few more dolphin, (Mahi) showing up our past 400 ft of water. We’ve had mostly west current and green water all summer long and that’s not good for dolphin fishing. The east bound current and blue water are finally starting to work their way closer to shore and this should bring in some good fish. There have been a few Wahoo around, mostly under debris and along the color change. Sailfish, which have also been a bit spotty all summer, are also getting more active. Some have been in the blue, but don’t be surprised if one pops up in the green water along the reef or outer bar.
The Black Fin Tuna bit great for a day or two and then shut down, but at least it lets us know they’re around. Expect sporadic feeding over the next few weeks, but decent sized fish when they do.
Summer is hot in Key West as everyone knows, Temperatures in the mid 90’s most days. Make sure you drink plenty of liquids, Water, Gatorade and or Juices. Don’t let yourself get dehydrated. Once you are dehydrated it’s very hard to “catch up” while you still out in the sun. Cold beer and fishing go together like body paint and Fantasy Fest, (aint it wonderful), but make sure beer isn’t the only thing you drink on a hot day of fishing.
Still no oil or any sign of oil in Key West or the water near here and none expected.
SNAPPER FISHING MADE EASY!
July 24th, 2010
Maybe it’s because the island of Key West is so small, but it seems we dodge more bullets than Rambo, (always amazed how 1 guy with a hand gun can take out six guys with automatic weapons).
First, we've dodged the BP bullet. No oil anywhere near Key West and none is going to get here.
Then again this week, weather forecasters were discussing the impending doom of Key West with the approach of Tropical Storm Bonnie. It’s always the same. Key West will be right in the middle of the “5 day Storm track” , otherwise known as the “Cone of Death” as we call it and all the news stations are calmly discussing the mathematical probability that “we’re all gonna’ die!”. Everyone is a state of near panic and apprehension and then……………..nothing. Ya’ missed us, Bonnie! nyaa nyaa, ya’ missed us! It rained for a total of about a minute and a half and the winds were 5-10mph all day. Oh yea, it was sunny almost all day. Now THAT’S my kind of storm!
July 14th, 2010
One of the reasons that Key West is such a great place to fish is not necessarily because of any particular fish that we catch here. It’s not because we have great offshore fishing, it’s not because we have great reef Fishing and it’s not because we have world class flats or back country fishing. It’s because we have ALL of it in one place. There is always something to fish for. If the offshore is slow, we have the reef. As anyone that has been following my website for the last few weeks has seen, we’ve been on the reef catching lots of snappers, a few exotics and some barracudas and sharks. Offshore fishing was a bit slow in June. We had a great month, my customers all walked away happy, because we caught fish and they had fun. If the reef slows down we’ll go tarpon or maybe shark fishing, (I’ve got a spot in 8 ft of protected water that is always calm and usually good). Or maybe we’ll go in the Gulf. Because we have easy access to the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico, we have more habitats to fish and therefore a better chance to catch. Most times even weather doesn’t stop us. If the wind picks up, from the south, we can go in the Gulf of Mexico and the islands block the wind so it’s relatively calm. If there are strong winds from the north, (usually a cold front) we can hide behind the reef. I’ve had some great days anchored up behind one of our many reefs in protected waters catching mackerels, kingfish, barracudas, snappers, jacks and even sailfish. Sitting there as comfortable as can be in 2 ft seas with winds of 25+. I can’t tell you how many customers have thanked me for talking them out of canceling after one of these days. In my mind this is the real magic of Key West fishing. There is (almost) always something to fish for and someplace to fish on any given day. This past winter was the worst winter I’ve seen in my 29yrs in Key West. Very cold and windy, but through it all, I only cancelled one half day trip all winter. We fished, we caught fish and we sent people home happy and after all, that’s what we’re here for!
Update: Still no Oil anywhere near Key West waters
July 6th, 2010
Fishing is still going strong in the Key West Waters. The reef action has been excellent with good catches of Yellow Tail Snapper along the outer edge as well as some Grouper. We’ve been catching our limit or close to it most days. I would expect the Yellow Tails to keep biting until at least the end of the month unless conditions change drastically.
Shark fishing has been great in the shallows. Sharks in the 60-100 lb range have been active and biting well when the current is running. Current is very important to shark fishing. They hunt by smell, so anytime you have tide or current running is good. Avoid the slack water time of day. If nothing is moving, they can’t find you.
The trolling offshore has gotten better, but the Dolphin fishing still isn’t what it should be. There have been a lot of big Bonitos around. They are a member of the tuna family, but unfortunately not a good eating member of the clan. We mostly release them or keep a few for bait. They’re very bloody so they make excellent shark bait and Snappers and Groupers live it too!
Wahoo are a natural predator of Bonitos and with the concentration of Bonitos we’re starting to see some Wahoo show up. We don’t get a lot of Wahoo in the summer, but if the food, (Bonitos) is present, there will always be a few around. The two biggest Wahoo I’ve ever caught on the Southbound, 74 &76 lbs, were this time of year. I expect to see a few big one caught in the next week or two.
The weather has been very cooperative lately. We’ve had the usual summer breeze and some intermittent cloud cover keeping it very comfortable offshore. Early June was a Scorcher, but generally speaking, the last week or so has been beautiful. Enough breeze to keep it comfortable, but not so much that it’s rough. It’s a great time to go fishing in Key West
OIL UPDATE: There is NO oil in the water around Key West
June 28th, 2010
Yellow Tail Snapper fishing has continued to be excellent on the reef and outer bar. A steady bite of fish has been making our days easy for the last couple of weeks. It’s nice when fishing is this easy. On most days we’ve been anchoring in one spot and staying there for the entire trip. Some days it takes a little while to get the fish to come up to the chum, but most days they’re up and in the chum in a matter of minutes. Still getting some nice sized trigger fish and an occasional barracuda too.
We’ve had a couple of Shark trips in the last week also. The lemon sharks have been very, very cooperative, God bless ‘em. Most of the sharks have been in the 50-100 lb range. That’s a pretty nice fight from a stationary boat on 30lb tackle.
STILL NO OIL IN THE KEYS, and I don’t think we’re going to get any. IF any oil does come out of the gulf and around the tip of Florida it will most likely be the light surface oil that can been seen in the news photos. I believe that most of that will be carried by the Gulf Stream to the South and past the Keys. To be honest, I think the Outer Banks of N.C. has as much of a threat of oil on their beaches as does the Keys. I hope it doesn’t happen; because I’ve vacationed there and I love the beautiful beaches.lt would be a tremendous tragedy.Most of the heavy thick oil is staying down in 2,000 ft of water, and according to a NOAA website I’ve been monitoring, (Visit http://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/ofs/viewer.shtml?-gulfmex-cur-0-large-rundate=latest); neither the Gulf Stream nor the Loop current go that deep. They run about 500 ft deep but after that, there is simply nothing moving at that depth to push the oil around the tip of Florida. It will be very bad for the sea floor in the gulf, but it may make it easier to clean up if it stays in the deepest part of the gulf
June 16th, 2010
Conditions have remained fairly constant the last week, which is good and bad. The Bad is that the Dolphin fishing is still slower than it should be, but the good is there is still no Oil anywhere to be seen. Let me say that again, THERE IS NO OIL HERE IN KEY WEST! I’ve been getting phone calls from customers and friends asking about the oil and we may get some eventually, but for now there is no sign of oil in any of the waters in the Keys.
The Yellow tail snappers are still biting well. Yesterday, we were chumming heavy as usual and we had the fish up right behind the boat. It’s a pretty cool sight to see and it makes fishing easy. There have been a few Ocean Tallys mixed in and a Barracuda or two just for fun too! It’s truly great to be able to fish here. Just so many varieties of fish to catch, it makes it tough to have a bad day!
I have a suggestion for cleaning up the oil spill. Let’s take all the expensive business suits from all the executives at BP and Halliburton and line the beaches with them. I’ll bet they’ll soak up a lot of oil. Might give BP Tony and the others a little idea of what they’re putting people through.
June 11, 2010
The lack of current and wind have probably been a blessing in terms of the BP oil spill. There has been no Oil in our water or on our beaches so far. The Gulf Stream is way offshore, (yes, it moves in and out) and even if the oil does come out of the Gulf right now, it’s quite possible it will sweep the oil far to the south and past Key West. We can only hope. The same lack of current has affected our fishing. Normally this time of year, we’re catching Dolphin, Wahoo and some Bill fish offshore, but the water is not moving and not blue. Dolphin fishing is definitely slower than we would like. Fortunately, this is Key West and we have more than one fishery. If the offshore isn’t doing it, we can and have anchored up along the outer reef and catch Yellow Tail Snapper. The bite has been steady with some nice sized fish. Yellow Tail are a true member of the snapper family and considered one of the best “table fare “fish in the keys. Sharks can be a problem at times , they like Yellow tail too!, so you have to wind fast, and even then, sometimes the shark wins, but all in all there have been enough Yellowtails to keep everyone busy and the sharks haven’t been too bad. For those that want a “big” fish, we just put a big line out and usually we can hook the sharks. Most of the one’s I’ve seen behind the boat have been lemon sharks in the 100+lb range. They put up a great fight on 50 or even 30lb test line. The Gulf Stream is slowly moving back in over the last few days, it should improve the offshore fishing, and we’ll just have to see how it affects the oil. Keep your fingers crossed
May 17th, 2010
First, sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated my report. The last month has been very busy, thankfully, which means I’ve had very little time to do things like updating this report. I’ll try to do better.
Sometimes you got to earn your fish. There are those perfect days, when everything works and all the stars align. The seas are calm and the big fish are everywhere and no matter what you try, it works. Those days are great, but that doesn’t happen every day. Someday you just got to hang in there and earn a good fish. This past week was a good example of “earning’ a fish. Traditionally, May is a windy, blustery month, but it’s also the month that the big dolphin moves through. The fishing is actually better when it’s rougher or “sporty” as we like to call it. On Monday, the fishing was a bit slow in the morning. Seas were calm and we caught one small dolphin and lost one nice bull in the first 4 hours. Then the wind started to pick up and so did the fishing. By the end of the day we had 4 big dolphins and a couple of smaller ones. A pretty good come back from a slow morning. As the week went on, the wind continued to blow and the fishing continued to improve. On Friday, it was blowing at least 30mph when we left the dock in the morning and it picked up from there, but the fish were biting. Seas were 5-7 ft with an occasional 8-9 ft wave for fun. We took a bit of a beating, but when you’re catching big dolphin, the waves don’t feel so bad. My customers all week were awesome, especially the guys on Friday, the roughest or sportiest day of the week. Not a single person got seasick all week. The hell with Dramamine, It’s amazing how well catching big fish prevents seasickness. The winds are supposed to start dropping today and I expect we’ll see a few less big dolphin for a couple of days. They’ll be biting again in a few weeks when we start seeing the Sargasso weed move in, and I do enjoy fishing the weed patches and lines. But there is something about working through big waves to get under a bird and in front of a big fish. Sometimes you can see them coming as the swim down the face of the waves toward the bait. It’s an exciting way to fish. At the end of the day, you’re tired and maybe even a bit sore, and most nights I was asleep by 9 pm, but if you can look at a rack of big fish, it’s very satisfying. It makes you feel alive !
April 18th, 2010
It's been an unusual year so far. We've had extremely cold weather by KW standards. We’ve had lots of cold fronts and very windy days and (naturally) very little sympathy from the rest of the world. Nobody sitting at home in 20 degree weather is going to feel bad for you when it's in the 50's. It's just the way it goes. I've been lucky in that even with all the wind and weather we've been having; I haven't lost a single day to weather this year. I've postponed a trip or two, but not many more than that. All in all, we've been able to get the trips in and by and large catch some quality fish. But the weather can affected the fishing. March, which can be a bit of a slow month, was great. Kingfish, Bonitos, Tuna, Sailfish and some great reef action. So far April, which is one of my favorite months to fish, has been tough. The reef is very green and, even with live bait, the fishing is tough. Offshore has been beautiful, deep blue water, flying fish everywhere, but the big fish have been a bit fewer and further between then I would expect. There are some nice sized Amberjacks on the wrecks and a few Sailfish around and to be honest the Shark fishing has been great.
I expect it'll just be a matter of time, but sooner or later, the big fish will start biting. They always do. If the bait is there, (flying fish) and the water is blue, It WILL happen. If there's one thing I've learned over the years is that if you put your time in, you will catch. Dolphin season should be starting up in a few weeks and I was afraid the cool weather would delay the fish from moving through, but it has been warm the last week or so and the water offshore is warming up. I’m hoping the Sailfish will “turn on” again before the end of the month and I’m expecting the big dolphin to start moving through offshore in the early part of May………………..And when they do, I’m gonna’ be there waiting them.
On Wednesday, We had a great "National Geographic" moment. We came across a school of small Bluefish, we do get a few from time to time, that had wandered out to deep water and near a wreck. The water was very clear and when the Bluefish got close to the wreck, a bunch of the predators, sharks, Barracudas and Amberjacks, came charging up and attacked them. The Bluefish were in a tight, tight circle and you could see the predators taking turns crashing through the school. Bluefish were flying in the air trying to escape. You could see the dorsal fins of the sharks charging through the middle and an occasional Barracuda would go flying through the air with a bluefish in it's mouth. It was an awesome lesson in the circle of life in the sea that most people only see on their TVs. We were lucky enough to see it in person. It was pretty cool!
March 21, 2010
The action has been great the last week. Lots of big Cero Mackerel, Kingfish and Bonitos. We've had great action on the reef with Barracudas as well. The offshore has been on the verge of busting loose. There have been a few Black Fin Tuna late in the day and an occasional Wahoo and Sailfish around. We've had a strong East current all week, which is good, but the wind has been out of the West all week and while it keeps the seas calm, (East current goes East and West wind is from the West, so they are both going in the same direction). This is not the best for fishing. Unfortunately, when the wind and current oppose each other, (East wind and East current), The fishing is much better. Sailfish get up and "Tail" along the surface. Those conditions are starting to line up. A West wind on Friday and only a few Sailfish seen. An East wind on Saturday and some boats caught over a dozen Sailfish. It's rougher, without a doubt, but if the wind goes East and stays there and the current continues to run to the East, look for fishing to get red hot! Sailfish, Bonitos, Hammerhead Sharks, and Cobia will all be "tailing" down the color change.
March 9th, 2010
Conditions are lining up for an early Sailfish run. Strong East current pushing up against green water from the Gulf Of Mexico are causing a beautiful color change. There have been some Sailfish tailing along the edge as well as all the bonito you could ask for to keep you busy. A few King Mackerel and an occasional Black Fin Tuna are also being caught. On the Green side of the color change we're starting to see some Cobia migrating through and outside the color change in the Blue water there are still a few small dolphin being caught. NOW is the time to go fishing. These conditions are normally seen in April. Hopefully they will stay until then and if they do, we should have a fantastic Sailfish season.
March 1st, 2010
Weather still erratic, hot and sunny one day, Cool or even cold the next. Fortunately, the offshore fishing has been good. Black Fin Tuna have been around, although predicting where and when they will bite is not easy. We've had a couple of days where conditions were perfect for a good Tuna bite. The Moon, Water color and sea state were just exactly what you would want and very few Tuna biting. Then other days were the conditions were not great and you can't get away from them. That's fishing! There have been a fair number of Sailfish around and the reef action is still good with Cero Mackerel, Cravalle Jacks and some King Mackerel. Moon is full or near full so I would expect to see a few Wahoo caught over the next few days.
Friday, February 19th, 2010
This Weather Sucks!! I know pretty much everyone else in the country is experiencing colder weather than we are here so I don't expect much sympathy. But This Weather Sucks. It's been cold down here since about he middle of December. The last 4 days the temperature hasn't gotten above the low 60's. Now that may sound like a heat wave to many people in February, but it's not supposed to be this cold here.........EVER!! Where YOU live, it IS supposed to be cold. It is February after all. But not here in Key West. Here it's supposed to be warm and sunny. Not all the time. Sometimes it's really hot and sunny, but it's not supposed to be cold and cloudy. And if it gets cold and cloudy it shouldn't last for 1 or 2 days at most, Not 8 weeks. Most years I rate winters by how many "sock" days there are, that's how many days I have to wear socks to keep warm. Some years there's no more than a dozen or so. I can't remember the last time I didn't wear socks, or didn't wear a sweatshirt, Long sleeve shirt AND a jacket. I don't own ear muffs........but I'm thinking about them. Pass the Rum and Thanks for letting me rant. Oh yea, Reef fishing is pretty good, lots of action. Offshore is a little slow. Occasional Tuna, Wahoo or Sailfish.
Sunday, January 30th, 2010
Fishing has been excellent the past week. Lot’s of bites and lot’s of fish on the reef and offshore. The cold weather we had in early January seemd to have affected the fishermen more than the fish. The offshore water never got below 70 degrees so whiile the fishing may have been uncomfortable, the fishing remained good.
There are still large schools of Ballyhoo on many of the reefs and the action is outstanding. Many large Barracuda, Cravalle Jacks and some Cero Mackerel have been tearing up the bait schools on he shallow part of the reef with bonitos and Sailfish coming up on the edge to feed as well. Trolling dead ballyhoo can be effective, but if you can catch some ballyhoo live the bites come fast and furious. It is not uncommon to see “ showers” or “sprays” of bait of bait as the predators go through the schools and feed. Look for Birds, especially Frigate birds hovering low on the water as this is a sure sign of fish feeding. That’s where you want to be with your live (or dead) bait. There has been some a decent bit of King Mackerel on the deep edge of the reef with a few fish in the 30 lb. range.
Offshore, there have been some quality fish caught on the troll. Wahoo and Black Fin Tuna are still to be found outside the reef. There have been two Blue Marlin caught in the last week and another one missed. Two of the fish were in less than two hundred foot of water, which is unusual. Dolphin, (Mahi Mahi), normally more common in the spring and summer, are being caught mostly just outside the outer reef and along the trap lines. I don’t fish the flats, but I’ve heard that the water in the shallows has warmed up with the weather and the fish in the flats are biting again. Fishing should continue to be good. The weather looks like it will cooperate for the next few days a the very least. We’ll see you offshore.
Capt. Richard Houde
Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Being a charter boat fisherman is a great job. Basically you take a group of people, who are in a good mood, out on the tropical waters of Key West, Florida and try to catch them fish.
The vast majority of the people are fun to be around, Most of the time the fishing here is good and usually we have great weather....................but whenever you're on the water, things can go very bad very quickly.
Yesterday that point was made very obvious when a 65 ft boat called the Gulfstream III caught fire and sank about 10 miles SW of Key West. The Gulfstream III had been, for many years, one of the bottom fishing party boats that docked at Charter Boat Row. It was recently taken out of charter service by the owner when they downsized to a more economical and faster fiberglass boat. My understanding was that the boat was being used to commercial fish. It was anchored in about 60 ft of water and we were fishing about a mile west of her yesterday, around noon, when a friend of mine half jokingly came on the VHF radio and asked if it looked like the Gulfstream was on fire. I looked up and there was some smoke coming from the boat, but it had old Detroit 12-V92 motors. Not uncommon for old diesel motors to smoke a bit when they started up. Unfortunately this was not the case. Before I could answer my friend, one of the 2 crew on the Gulfstream III got on the radio and called for help A fire had started in the galley and they couldn't put it out. All the boats in the area pulled in their lines and sprinted toward the Gulfstream III, As I was doing this I put in a call to the Coast Guard. The Charter Boat Eva Marie was the first on the scene and by the time it got there, the the crew had abandoned ship. The Eva Marie pulled the crew from the water as the boat quickly became engulfed in flames. Not much could be done but watch and when we learned there ware a couple boxes of ammo and some propane tanks aboard, we put some distance between us and the burning boat. We finished our day of fishing and headed home a few hours later. As we entered Key West Harbor I could still see the smoke rising in the distance to the Southwest. I later learned the boat finally sank around 5 pm in about 300 ft of water. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. There was some personal items and gear lost by the crew and the boat owner may have a big loss, but under the circumstances, it could have been a lot worse. I can only imagine the chaos if the Gulfstream III was still carrying passengers and had 20-50 people on board instead of 2. Yes, it could have been much worse!
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Fishing has been great both offshore and on the reef. Lots of Ballyhoo on the reef are causing the Mackerels, Bonitos, Barracudas and some Sailfish to go into feeding frenzy mode. Large "showers" of bait fish come out of the water to avoid the predators charging from below. It's a great show and if you have live Ballyhoo, (we did), the action can be great.
Bait being chased by predators jump out of the water trying to get away
Sunday, January 17th, 2010
Cold weather has finally eased up a bit. Temperatures were in the high 70's yesterday and it's warm again today. There is another cold front expected tonight, but the extreme cold, (40's -50's) we've been experiencing the first part of January are not expected. The "cold" part of the front should only be in the 60's and then back up into the 70's in a day or two. That's the more normal weather pattern for this time of year. There is a tremendous amount of bait schools on the reef right now and lots of activity. The Sailfish we caught on Friday was in 20 ft of water on the reef. Sailfish, Bonito, Black Fin Tuna and other fish are up on the reef feeding on the Ballyhoo. It's an exciting time to fish. I have a trip this afternoon and it should be good!
Tuesday, January 13th, 2010
The unusually cold weather has continued all week but it's finally starting to ease up a bit. The air is still cold and it has definitely cooled the waters down. Most notably inshore. The channels and the harbor have water temperatures down in to the 50's. There have been reports of fish kills up and down the keys. Any of he fish in the shallow water that could not find their way into deeper water as the shallows cooled down are at risk. In early December the water temperature was in the mid to high 70's. A drop of close to 25 degrees in just a few weeks is too much for many of the fish to survive. Boats that use pilchards may have a very difficult time finding bait. Fortunately (for me) the offshore water has stayed warm. The water is still in the low 70's. The cooler weather has moved some of the schools of bait off the reef, but there are still a few schools and more should return quickly. Sailfish are starting to come up on the reef to feed on the schools of ballyhoo and the Barracudas are ravenous. We had a good day on Tuesday with Black Fin Tuna but the boats that went to the same area today didn't catch any. The weather is supposed to gradually warm up to near normal temperatures on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I expect the next few days to be excellent fishing
Friday, January 8th, 2010
Been very cold by Key West Standards, Temperatures have been in the 50's all week. Normally we get a bit of a post-holiday lull in business and the cool temperatures aren't helping. People come to Key West to be warm. They want to fish the "Tropical" waters of Key West, not the North Atlantic. They; could stay home and do that. So we haven't been fishing all week. We have a trip later today so hopefully I'll have something to post tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Karma Bank- Had an interesting series of events happen this week. Makes me think my karma bank is fairly full. On News Years Day, My girlfriend and I went for a mid morning bicycle ride down Duval St,( scene of all the New Years Eve Madness). Down around Sloppy Joe’s Bar, I ran over a piece of glass and got a flat tire. My girlfriend rode her bike home and got my pickup truck, came back down and got me and we went home. I put the bike on the front porch, where I always put it, but, because I had planned on fixing the tire that day, I didn’t lock it up. Well, I got busy with one thing or another and also had an afternoon charter that day, so it never got locked up. Now, I’ve been here 28+ years and I’ve never had a bicycle stolen, but then again I ALWAYS LOCK IT UP. I figure it’s easier to lock it up, than have to buy a new one and always lock that one up. On Monday evening, my girlfriend and I went out at about 10 pm to see some friends in a band play at the Hogs Breath Saloon. We stayed until about 2am and when we got home, yup, you guessed it, no bike! It was gone, My Trek, my old faithful ride, the one with the Comfortable seat, the bike I’d been riding for close to 15 yrs was GONE! Pissed me off! Not only loosing the bicycle, but the fact that some scumbag was up on my porch tends to make you feel like your space has been violated. This town is known for bicycles being stolen, I’m one of the few (long term resident) people I know that hasn’t had a bicycle stolen. I was kinda’ proud of it. I had been outsmarting the bike thieves for 28 years and now, one of them had gotten the better of me! Sucked! I walked around the neighborhood a little, figuring whoever stole it, couldn’t ride it with the flat, so they would probably have stashed it in the bushes nearby and come back later to get it with a truck or a bicycle pump. Good idea, but no such luck.
On Tuesday, I was driving in town when I see a man and a women walking over by the cemetery and he’s pushing a bicycle………a blue Trek……..with a seat just like mine………and a light mount just like mine. He was headed up a one way street and I would have had to go the wrong way to get to him, so I quickly went around the block and waited for him at the top of Solares Hill, (Yes we do have a hill in Key West, Just one and it’s about 12ft above sea level. Altitude is sickness never a problem). It’s been cold here, like the rest of the country, and I was wearing a nice leather jacket I bought in Spain this year. So I took it off as I waited at the top of the hill. I didn’t know what would happen when I confronted my (alleged) bike thief buddy, but I figured it’d be stupid to ruin a $400 new leather jacket to recover a $250 15 yr old bicycle.
So there I stood, at the top of the hill, ready to rumble. I had my cell phone in one hand trying to call the police, (I had filed a report), but they put me on hold. Now, I have a small caliber gun in my truck, but I left it there, didn’t want to go “wild west“ over a bicycle, there were other people around. I always carry a pocket knife, (I’m a fisherman, it’s a tool not a weapon) and that where it stayed in my pocket. But I’m just under 6 ft and I weigh around 240, (with a bit of a belly). I’m not real big, but I ain’t real small either. My approaching (alleged) bike thief buddy was much younger, thinner and probably in better shape……….but much smaller than me. As I stepped in front of him and the bicycle, he looked kind of surprised. When I accused him of stealing my bicycle in a tone that let him know I wasn’t F#@king around he took a step back and hesitated. He denied stealing the bike and said he found it in the bushes but if it was my bike I could have it back. Smart move. Now, if we had to start swinging for me to get it back, I was willing to go there, but if he was willing to give it up without a fight, that was fine too. Over the years I have found bicycles in and around my yard before. Bikes that I figured were stolen and dumped there, so he could have been telling the truth. I don’t know. He didn’t look like a dirt bag but he didn’t look like a choir boy either. He didn’t like it when I took his picture with my cell phone. Too bad. But he gave it up without any arguments or violence so I let it go. All that matters is that I had my old ride back and I wouldn’t have to spend a couple hundred dollars on a new bike. As he and his lady friend headed off, I put the bicycle in my pickup and headed home. I can no longer brag that I’ve never had a bicycle stolen in the 28 years I’ve been here. But I can say I’ve never LOST a bicycle in 28 yrs. And the best thing………….He was only walking the bicycle so he could talk to the girl he was with, ...........It had a New wheel, New tire and New tube!
Friday, January1st, 2010
Happy New Year to all. It's been a very busy week here. Traditionally the week between Christmas and New Years is the busiest week of the year. The last few years have been off a bit. I still had good weeks, but not completely full. I was nervous about this year because at Thanksgiving I didn't have a single booking for the week. Fortunately, the bookings started coming and I filled the week up completely. Even had to turn a couple of trips down, (always hurts). Fishing was pretty good all week too. The offshore was hot and cold a bit. Some days were good with Wahoo, Black Fin Tuna, a few Dolphin and a Sailfish. A couple of days the bites just weren't there. The Reef action was excellent. Lots of Cero Mackerel, Barracuda, some Yellowtail Snapper and some nice Mutton Snappers. Caught a lot of fish on spinning tackle which is always more of a challenge, but also more fun. All in all, it was a great week and a great way to end the year. I know many boats as well as many people around the country struggled this year. I know I was very fortunate. I had a good year business wise and fish wise. We ran well most months and we caught some good fish. Here's to hoping that 2010 is a better year for all. Happy New Year!
Monday, December 21st, 2009
Some times life just isn't fair. After 17 years of getting salt spray in the face on almost a daily basis, I finally broke down and had an Isenglass, (clear plastic) enclosure made for the flying bridge. It was installed on Saturday, just in time for today's trip. A strong cold front came through Key West this weekend. The air was cold , but it wasn't real rough. Still, I threw a little water as I headed east this morning. I was really enjoying NOT feeling the salt spray and NOT feeling the cold north wind................right up until I ran over a floating rope and got it tangled in both propellers. I tried to maneuver the boat to the reef , but the vibration the rope caused made it unwise to keep the boat in gear. SO we dropped anchor right where we were and , After staying warm and dry all day up to that point behind my nice new Isenglass, I had to jump in the water and cut the rope out of the props. Just not fair!!
Sunday, December 20th, 2009
More seasonable weather finally blew through the Keys on Saturday. The artic blast that the upper 48 have felt the last few days pushed our unseasonably warm weather away and temperatures are in the high 60's today. While it's not as pleasant as the warm and sunny weather we've been experiencing, we do need the cold fronts to make the fishing work. Last week, the water temp was 78-79 degrees. That's much too warm for mid-December. Fortunately, this cold front is strong enough it should cool the water down relatively quickly. The cold front brought a lot of wind with it. That's to be expected when extremely warm air meets artic cold air. So it's been rough the last few days, but the wind should drop off by Monday or Tuesday and I would expect fishing to be good. There were some Black Fin Tuna around before the weather changed and cooler weather and water should make them bite even better. There was a fair amount of bait on the reef, (mostly Ballyhoo), but this weather should push even more bait out to the reed and expect the action to improve. There have been some Sailfish coming up on the reef to feed on the ballyhoo and this weather should bring more Sail in to feed, especially if the schools of bait increase. There were a fair number of Wahoo around on the last full moon, but that slowed down as the moon faded. I think the cooler water may make the Wahoo more active too. I didn't catch any, but last week I heard of some decent Dolphin, (Mahi or Dorado not Flipper). This weather will have an adverse affect on the Dolphin fishing. But if everything else improves than I'll take. Fishing tomorrow, we'll see if I'm right
Tuesday, December 15th.2009
Unusually warm weather is taking it's toll on the fishing. There are a few Sailfish around and some if you're fishing a full day, there are some Black Fin Tuna down to the west biting late in the day, but other than that it's generally slow in the blue water. The reef is fairly active, a decent amount of Ballyhoo available, but even the reef action isn't what it should be. The fish just seem lethargic. The water on the reef is 78 degrees, much too warm for this late in December. I know the central part of the country has had some bitter cold weather, but it hasn't made it's way down here yet. Cold fronts are a pain in the butt when they pass through, Cold, Windy, Rainy and just generally miserable conditions for fishing, but you need them because they create the conditions that we need. Besides, after sweating from April until October every year, we need a break from the heat. It will be in the high 80's today. I'm still using my AC in the house. I know I'm not going to get much sympathy from anyone in sub zero weather, but I'm ready for some cool weather. I hope it's soon.
Thursday, December 9th, 2009
Fishing has been good most of the week. There have been a good number of Wahoo around and the Black Fin Tuna are biting early and late. The Wahoo bite will probably fade a bit as the moon does, But I expect there to be a resurgence on the full moon at the end of the month. Black Fin Tuna should continue to bite, especially first thing in the morning and right before sundown. Sailfish have started to come up on the reef chasing ballyhoo and hopefully this should continue for the next couple of weeks as long as the bait stays strong. I've seen some good size schools of bait, but they're mostly small baits and not on as many of the shallow reefs as I would expect this time of year. It's been unseasonably warm, so perhaps a good cold front will push more and bigger ballyhoo out to the reef.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I received sad news this morning. George Boyer, who started fishing with me my first year in business, had passed away. He was 81 years young. George was the first customer to take me up on my 3 day Sport Fishing package and has been back many times since. I still remember him saying he didn't want any fish for dinner after our first day. He didn't eat fish. So his buddies only took enough cobia for 3 of them. They made the mistake of letting him try some at dinner and the next day they were all complaining he ate so much there wasn't enough for them. In later years, George would never tell me when he was coming down. I'd be backing the boat into the slip and look up and there he would be, smiling, but expecting to see some fish come out of the fish box. I remember one time when George was in his mid 70's. As always, before the trip he told me it might be his last time because he was getting too old to go. But later that day, there he was, off shore in 4 ft seas, running lines up and down the out rigger, bringing in lines that need to be re-baited and generally moving around like a second mate. Oh Yea, I forgot to mention we caught a big Spearfish that day! .........not bad for a guy that was "too old". One winter we were fishing for King Mackerel. Trolling along at about 4 knots and a 25 lb King skyrocketed the outrigger. When it was at the top of it's jump, George pointed to it and exclaimed, "What the hell is that?" "That's your fish", I replied and about that time the rod next to him doubled over with the drag singing his song! I had a lot of good trips with George and caught a lot of good fish with him. I will miss him. Thank you George
Wednesday, November 24th, 2009
write this, I'm sitting on a jet liner headed to Annapolis Md., for a family
Thanksgiving gathering. Traveling was a bit hectic up to this point as our
flight from Key West was delayed because of the weather. We sat in the "new
improved" Key West terminal for about 2 hours because our flight diverted to Ft
Meyers on its way to Key West. It's has been raining all day and apparently
there was too much water on the runway for the pilot to land. In effect, our
flight was delayed because of Puddles! Yup that's right, Puddles. The little
"Puddle jumper" planes that some of the smaller airlines fly into Key West made
it in just fine. But we were on a big fancy high tech modern jet. I guess you
would have to call it a "non-puddle jumper". Anyway after a two hour delay, we
took off and about 90 minutes later we landed in Atlanta about a half hour
before our next flight........plenty of time, right? Nope. we landed alright,
and sat on the runway for 10 minutes while the other plane that was using our
gate was moved, then we waited while they brought the gantry way up to our
aircraft and then we waited while............I don't know why we waited, might
have been a card game in the cockpit and somebody had a hot hand, or not, but
either way, we got off our first flight about 4 minutes before our second flight
was scheduled to depart. We looked to see where our next flight was departing
from and you guessed it, we were departing from the furthest possible terminal
and gate from where we arrived. We busted our butts to get to the next gate just
in time to see the walkway moved away from the plane. Three of us, Ema, myself
and another passenger from our first flight stood at the window, short of
breath, looking at the pilot shrugging our shoulders.
The pilots were looking at us... and shrugging their shoulders. We looked at the ground crew and pointed to the walkway. The ground crew looked at us....and pointed to the walkway. This pantomime went on for about 3-4 minutes. Us staring at them, them staring at us. Pointing, waving, we looked at the ramp and they looked at the ramp. Finally the holiday spirit or maybe a little guilt prevailed and they brought the ramp back up to the plane and we were allowed to board. We just rushed on the plane, very appreciative of the flight and ground crews kindness and we didn’t have time to find out who decided to take pity on us. I wish I had their name so I could thank them in person. We’re on Delta flight 1058 and we left from gate T-1. So, to whomever it was that got us on board and made our Thanksgiving happen, thank you, you just got a whole bunch of karma points from us. Put ‘em in the bank.
Of course, I know that there is no chance my luggage made it too
On to the fishing report. The weather has been pretty nice, but to be honest the fishing has been a bit slow. The water is warmer than it should be this time of year. Its’ still a little over 80 degrees. There are some Sailfish around, but not a lot. We should be seeing Black Fin Tuna and Wahoo showing up. We’ve seen a few, but not like it should be. There is a cold front that is supposed to pass though the keys on Friday and while it might make conditions difficult for a day or two, in the long run it should help things. I won’t be back until Sunday and my next trip is next week sometime, but if the water cools off a bit, as we come up on the full moon, I’m betting we’ll see some Wahoo bite and probable some Black Fin Tuna. The cooler weather won’t hurt the sailfishing either. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted
P.S. Luggage update- I was wrong again, It made it too!
Thursday, November 19th.
Time for TLC!! On a boat, it's not uncommon for the windows to leak a little. The front windows of the Southbound used to leak quite a bit and try as I might, I couldn't get them to stop. Finally, I removed them and fiber glassed over the openings, then I painted them on. Now they don't leak. It actually makes the cabin cooler because the windows would cause a "green house" effect and make the cabin warmer. Unfortunately the side windows still leaked a little. So on Tuesday, we replaced the side windows and that should take care of any leaks there. Monday morning, I opted to fish and make money instead of paint and spend money, not too tough a decision. But, the painting still needs to be done. The Passenger area of the boat hasn't been painted in two years and it needed it. We've spent the last two days sanding, priming, filling and taping. The boat is all ready to paint, and weather permitting, we should painting our way around the boat today. Should take most of the day, and then about a half day to put everything back together tomorrow, but it'll be worth it just to see the difference. When you work on the boat every day, you don't notice the gradual change. Everything loses it's shine at the same pace. But when you paint, you bring it back in one day and the difference is dramatic. It's a lot of work to do it right, but it's worth it.
Monday, November 15th, 2009
Sitting on the dock this morning, getting ready to do some painting and annual TLC on The Southbound when 4 folks from So. Jersey walked up and asked if I could take them fishing. Well I had the choice of spending money and working on the boat OR stopping what I was doing, going fishing on a beautiful day and MAKING MONEY! Not a tough choice ;-)
We just fished the reef looking for Mackerels, Yellowtails and Barracudas. Mission accomplished! We'll be painting tomorrow. We actually have a few days of maintenance scheduled. I have new side windows arriving today. They should be installed by tomorrow. A charter boat is just constant maintenance. You fix it up, work it all year, beating it up and then fix it up again. Same process year after year.
Sunday, November 14th, 2009
Sailfish are starting to show up in our waters. It's normal to get a "Fall" run of Sails. It's different than in the spring because we don't usually have the pronounced color change and strong east currents we see in April. Also, we tend to see a good number of smaller Sailfish this time of year. We've caught two Sailfish this week when only fishing for them a limited time. One was over 7 ft and weighed 40 lbs or better, the other was probably 4 1/2 - 5 ft and probably only weighed 12-15 lbs. Both put on a great show and there is no such thing as a "bad" Sailfish. We should be seeing some more Wahoo than has been the case, but conditions are getting "right" and I think there will be some good catches of Wahoo in the next week or two. I only hope I'm booked so I can be out there catching them.
Saturday, November 13th, 2009
Fishing has been up and down the last week. We started off the week with strong SE winds and rough seas on Tuesday. I knew it was going to be rough, but I hoped after 4 days of strong winds, ( it blew 30-40 mph from Friday to Monday), that there might be some good fish out there. It's November, but we haven't had any significant cold fronts and the water is still warm, so I hoped there be some Dolphin around, (Mahi or Dorado, Not Flipper). I went out to 600 ft deep water on Tuesday to no avail. Didn't see any bait, Weed of signs of fish. All in all it was a very slow, rough day. Wednesday, we changed game plans and went to the reef for action and it was great. There are lots of ballyhoo on the reef so netting them for bait was easy. The Cero Mackerels, Barracudas, Mutton Snappers and Yellowtails were hungry and the fishing was easy. There hasn't been much offshore besides Sailfish and we've gotten on each of the last two days. This time of year there are a fair number of small Sailfish around. We got on of those trolling on Thursday afternoon. We had just started fishing and barely gotten 4 baits out and one popped up and ate. On Friday, We got a full sized Sailfish using live bait. We had been live baiting for about 2 hrs and not much was happening. My customers were getting bored and at about 12:15 they asked if we could live bait until 1 pm and if nothing had happened by then, could we go to the reef and try to get some dinner. Patience Pays!! at 12:46 up popped a full sized Sailfish and the game was on! We caught this one on 20 lb Spinning tackle in about 35 minutes and the fish put on a fantastic show. Tail walking, Jumping and just generally going crazy! We got a great picture and sent it on it's way. Hope we can find another one tomorrow!!
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009
What a difference a day makes!!! The last two days were great and today was the complete opposite. The wind did pick up a little bit, but it wasn't rough. The water color looked good. We fished the same area as yesterday, We used the same bait and rigs, We trolled at the same speed - everything was the same.......except the results. Today, the fish did not bite. It's frustrating when it happens like that. This morning I was anxious to get out on the water, because I was looking forward to another day like Tuesday. The great thing about being a charter fishing Capt. is that the vast majority of mornings I wake up and look forward to going to work. For me, even after over 20 yrs, it's still fun. I like the water, the fish and the people. So, when fishing gets good for a couple of days and you get all excited about being out there and then everything goes South, it really kinda' sucks. I especially feel for my customers, the folks I had today were great. They had fished before and they understood everyday is different and the vast majority of people are the same way, but as the Capt and owner of the boat, a slow day still bugs the H€ll out of me. But you've got to let go. Tomorrow is another day and it might turn right back around again and be red hot. Just got to be ready and give it our best and see what happens. I'll keep you posted.
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Fishing was excellent today. This time of year Wahoo and Black Fin Tuna are normally biting. and that's been true lately. We got 2 Wahoo yesterday, the biggest was 43 lbs and 1 Wahoo today. Today we got 7 Tunas total, 4 Black Fin and 3 Skip Jack Tuna. You troll fast for both of these, usually faster than I like for Sailfish, but today, the Sails didn't seem to mind chasing their dinner because we caught (and released), 3 Sailfish and missed a couple of others while buzzing around at over 7 knots. The weather was beautiful, the fishing was great ! Don't you just love it when it all works the way you planned ....and then some!
After the day of fishing, I had a Sunset Cruise. One of my best Customers came down to KW for a few days of Birthday Celebration with a group of her childhood friends, so we went on a short Sunset/Moonrise cruise. To be honest, the Sunset was obscured by the clouds a bit, but still beautiful. The moon rise was awesome. My digital camera is not good enough to take a good picture at night from a moving boat, but just imagine a big orange glowing ball ( 1day past full), rising up from the water. Absolutely beautiful. I was tired after a full day of fishing, but just the sight of the moon coming up made it worth being there. Sorry I don't have a picture of it, you'll just have to come to KW and see it yourself.
Sunset Birthday Toast on the Southbound
Saturday, October 31st, 2009
I came home from fishing yesterday and my sweetheart, (who is wonderful) met me on the front porch with a tall cold Rum & Coke. Usually this means some things up, Last time she had painted the Kitchen without asking my opinion, (she’s got good taste, it looked great), so some sort of major decorating change was my first suspicion. I was wrong. Lo and behold she had acquired two inflatable "fat, pink Ballerina" costumes for fantasy fest and we were going out for the Friday night “local’s parade starting in 45 minutes. There is no doubt that I love this woman. I would not go out in public as a fat, pink Ballerina for anyone else in the world. Anybody that knows me and saw me was surprised as I am known for wearing the lamest costumes if any. Many, Many pictures were taken...........................there goes any hope of every running for political office!
Friday, October 30th, 2009
It's the slow time of year in the fishing business so we haven't been fishing much. I've been playing "landlord" and getting a vacant apt ready to rent. We did fish today on a 6 hr trip. We caught live ballyhoo for bait easily and a few nice Cero Mackerels while we were anchored getting the bait. Drifted for a while looking for a Sailfish but never saw one and we weren't getting any bites from other fish either so we decided to go to the reef and get some action. It was not red hot, but decent, got a Mutton Snapper, some Yellow Tail Snappers, some more mackerels and released some Barracudas and Jacks. We've got 4 trips this week so we should have more to report.
Saturday, October 18, 2009
It's the slow time of year for charter boats, so we haven't been going out too much lately. We fished yesterday for the first time in a week and had a good day. It started out a beautiful day, light west winds and calm seas. Fishing was slow at first, but we finally got into some Black Fin Tuna around 10:30 and picked up a nice Wahoo too. We finished the day with some bonitos and a Cero Mackerel then had to run through the leading edge of a squall line being pushed by a cold front. There were some impressive water spouts all along the leading edge and then some torrential rain we had to run through, but that's what they make foul weather gear for. Gave the boat a good washing and it was sunny again by the time we got to the dock.
Dan, who has been mating for me this summer has finished up his "tour of duty" with the Southbound and I thank him for a great summer. We caught some really good fish and had a good time doing it. Ben, who has been working with me for the last 2 winters returns on Wednesday. He's been in Portland, Maine since May working his boat and business, Go Fish Charters, catching stripped bass and other "cold" water fish. Usually, Ben's "summer" is from Oct. - May when he's in Key West, 'cause it's warmer here in the winter than it is in Portland most summers, especially this past summer from the reports I've heard. Wouldn't you know it, but it looks like Ben is bringing the cold with him. We had our first cold front pass through the Keys last night. We needed it as temperatures in the high 80's and low 90's is too hot for this time of year even for Key West. Woke up this morning and it's a "frigid" 68' outside........where the hell did I put my parka? The nice thing about "cold" weather in Key West is that even if it's cool/cold here, it's still usually warmer than anywhere else in the country. Looking forward to another great winter of fishing with Ben
Friday, October 2nd, 2009
Been back in Key West a few days and today was my first fishing trip since we returned. I could not have asked for a better day. The weather was beautiful, and the seas calm. We started out fishing for yellowtail snappers and at first I was a little nervous. We could see the bottom in 65 ft of water and usually that's too clear for yellowtail. Fortunately, we chummed heavy and the fish bit well. We caught over 30 nice yellowtails and also a 12lb Cubera Snapper. Around noon we decided to troll and see if we could catch a Wahoo, Tuna or Sailfish. It was just one of those days where everything worked as planned. We caught a Wahoo, a Black Fin Tuna, 3 small dolphin AND a small Sailfish. If everyday went like that, my hair wouldn't be near as grey!! It felt good to be out on the water again
Saturday, Sept. 26th, 2009
Arrived in Llafranc, Spain yesterday. We drove from Barcelona. It’s about 90 Kilometers; I’m not sure what that is in miles. Thank god for GPS. We would never have made it without one. Llafranc is a small resort town on the Brava coast in Northeastern Spain. Beautiful rocky shoreline coming down to beautiful blue Mediterranean waters. Our hotel is right on the beach and we could hear the waves from our room all night. I get the feeling this is one of the places where the rich and famous of Spain and France come to play. Many incredible houses all up and down the steep rocky shore line. Ema stopped in to talk to a local realtor just to compare prices to Key West. From what we could tell, it’s still cheaper here.
We got up early this morning and drove to the town of Cartdedue to go on a Globus, or as we call it, hot air ballooning. It was great. Perfect day for it. We drifted gently from one end of a valley to the other, at times we were treetop level and at another point we were over 2,000 ft high. It was a great way to see the Spanish country side after spending most of the earlier part of our vacation in Madrid and Barcelona.
The balloon is starting to inflate Ema and I are ready to go!
Here we are as were preparing for takeoff This is the view from the balloon at the highest point of our trip
Going Diving this afternoon. Looking forward to it, but the water is cold by KW standards.
Tomorrow we got to the coastal town of Sitges for our last night in Spain
Friday, Sept. 25th, 2009
Leaving Barcelona Today. We’ve been here for 3 nights and it’s a great city. It’s smaller in terms of population than Madrid, but it feels bigger, more “city-ish” if that makes sense. Our hotel, once again is in a great location. We’ve been walking through many of the old city streets and shops and restaurants. The Food in Barcelona is the best of any place we’ve been so far. Maybe we just got lucky, but we’ve eaten in Tapas bars, the local market counter and nice restaurants near the port and all have been very good.
Two views of the Sagrada Familia. This section was done by Gaudi.
You could stare at it all days and keep seeing something new in the details
Part of the Facade of The Segrada Familia.
We spent yesterday touring some of the more famous sights in Barcelona. We started at the Sagrada Familia, an amazing cathedral that was designed by Gaudi, a famous architect/artist. The building has been going on decades, with long periods of inactivity during WWII and also the 60’s. Gaudi is long dead, but construction is in full swing and I’ve never seen a “half- built” building that was so impressive. When it’s done, and that’s estimated to be another 20 yrs, it will be one of the most amazing buildings on earth. Pictures don’t do it justice, but I’ve got a few anyway.
We also visited La Pedrera, a famous apt building also designed by Gaudi. The man was ahead of his time and had a style all his own. Again pictures don’t do justice, but they help
We didn’t have anything scheduled for yesterday, (no tours) so we took a day trip to Montserrat, a monastery built on a mountain. Incredible feat!! To think of building large stone buildings in the days of horse and buggy or donkey carts is amazing enough, but to do it thousands of feet up a very steep and rocky mountain is simply amazing………..I can’t say Why? But it’s amazing none the less.
Looking up toward the Monastery as we ride the cable car. Ema and I with the Monastery in the background
To give you an idea of the scope of this place. If you look at the first picture, you can barely see the Cross in the distance. The small center picture shows it better.
We leave for the coast today; we have a hot air balloon ride on Saturday. We should get some great pictures on that.
Monday, Sept. 21st, 2009
Hello from Marrakesh, Morocco!
We left Spain yesterday, (Sunday) after 3 great nights in Madrid and arrived in Marrakesh, Morocco around noon. Sunny, warm and dry. I feels like a very nice winter day in Key West. The sun is hot, but very comfortable in the shade. My Sweetie and I have been traveling a bit lately. Going to new places and really enjoying it. But Morocco is by far the most exotic place we’ve ever been. So totally foreign compared to living in the U.S. No, I take that back. Living in Key West is foreign compared to living in the rest of the U.S. Morocco is worlds away from anything remotely close to Key West. Different language, Arabic and French. I haven’t found many people that speak English. Different money, still haven’t figured out the exchange rate yet. I THINK its 8 dirhams to the dollar. Only the coins don’t all have numbers you can read, so you have to know the differences by size and color. The bills are Ok, varying in size and value like Euros so they’re not bad. It’s still a bit confusing especially since I was just getting the hang of Euros. All I know is we just spent 585 of them for dinner!!
This is one of the nicer looking market stalls with a variety of treats for sale This is the "Parmacy" The man on the right makes the medicines from the contents of the jars
Anyway, we spent the afternoon at the central square of Marrakesh. Guys in turbans, women in Burkas, (sp?), Beggars, Merchants, A guy with boxes of live monkeys, snake charmers, real cobras no less. Oh yea, did I mention the people on scooters? They’re everywhere, darting between people in the narrow alley ways between the stalls of merchandise. It’s crazy!! It was very crowded as today is the last day of Ramadan. At 7 pm this evening, after a month of fasting from sunup to sundown, everyone, (Moslem) can chow down again. The Square was bustling with merchants setting up grills and food stands hoping to make a profit when the sun goes down. Everything from oranges to goat’s heads and I mean real goats heads….Yummmmmm!! The mixture of smells of all the different foods with different spices was totally foreign but very interesting.
Old Woman These guys sell water to locals and the daring on hot days Real snake, not a cobra
Not too many Americans around as far as I can see and I get the feeling Ema and I kinda’ stand out as Yanks. (Of course, My NY Giants T-Shirt might have been a giveaway). Definitely got our share of attention from the beggars on the street. This place like something out of an Indiana Jones movie
On Second thought, Beggars, Street performers, people dressed in bizarre clothes……….maybe not so different from Key West after all?
One more day and night in Morocco and off to Barcelona on Tuesday
Saturday, Sept, 19th, 2009
Hello From Madrid, Spain. Very cool city, We arrived Yesterday, (Thursday) and are still a bit jet lagged due to the 6 hr time difference. Flights all went well but American Airlines has nothing on Air France. Last May we went to Greece on Air France and there is no comparison. Seats were big and relatively comfortable, service was great..... and the drinks were FREE!! American Airlines had a smaller, less comfortable plane, Flight attendants were pleasant and the drinks were more expensive than many bars in Key West. But we made it. Didn't get much sleep due to the uncomfortable seats so we crashed pretty hard when we got here. Fortunately, Madrid is a "late night" City, (I've heard all of Spain is ) Things don't really get going until 10 or 11 pm. Many restaurants don't even open until 8:00 pm. I don't know when they start winding down, 'cause I'm not much of a late nite person. Too many years of leaving the dock at 7 am I guess.
Spent the day on Friday in Toledo, the original not the one in Ohio. We took the High speed train from Madrid to Toledo. Europe's mass transit system is excellent. Clean, comfortable and efficient. Had no trouble finding our way around. Toledo is an amazing little town. We had a private tour guide, only way to go. You would miss so much with out a guide and I don't like being headed around like Cattle. Our Guide, 'Nando, was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about Toledo. Built on the side of a hill and surrounded on 3sides by a river, the town, had great strategic importance in ancient times. At different times, it has been run by the Romans, the Visagoths,(sp?), the Moores, (Moslems) and the currently Christians. I'm not much of a church go'er, but, the Cathedral was breathtaking. The architecture, the carvings,, the artifacts and icons, the art work were all beautiful. I don't know anything about art, but even I recognized the names of the master that painted some of the pictures, Rafael, Greco and many others. Unfortunately, your not allowed to take pictures inside, so I can't show you what it looked like, but I doubt pictures could do it justice anyway. If you ever get the chance to go to Toledo, (again the original, not the one in Ohio), I suggest you go.
Main gate of Toledo, Ancient walled city in central Spain Emalyn and our guide, 'Nando, at one of the city gates
Partial view of the Cathedral of Toledo front entrance Side entrance of the Cathedral known as the "Clock Entrance" because of the clock above the arch.
Unfortunately the city is so closely built, you can't "stand back" far enough to fit many of the buildings in the pictures
Saturday Morning- had a guided tour of Madrid. Not near as old as Toledo in many respects, but a very cool city. Very nice mix of old an new. We've done a lot of walking around the area near our hotel. We lucked out in that regard as we are near many of the shops, squares and sights you would want to see as a tourist. There is some sort of big festival tonight called la Noche en Blanco, or the White Night. Not sure exactly what it's about, but we're going to enjoy it just the same. We haven't been parting very hard at all, but I have noticed that there are not a lot of rum drinkers here, must be a tropical thing. Not a big deal, besides the wine is very good ;-)
We leave for Marrakesh, Morroco on Sunday.
Sunday, Sept.14, 2009
Not much going on right now. Business is pretty slow, but that's to be expected in Sept. There won't be many fishing pictures to publish for the next few weeks because Emalyn, my sweetie, and I are going to Spain and Morocco starting Wednesday. I'm going to try to keep the website and Blog updated via my laptop during the trip. I don't know how how the internet connections will be, especially in Morocco, but check back and see how we're doing
Sunday, Sept.6, 2009
Welcome to a new feature on my website - The Southbound Fishing Report and Blog. I decided to make it both a fishing report AND a blog because I've got so many regular customers who want to keep up on what's going on with the fishing in Key West and also what's going on in Key West itself.
Fishing has been fairly slow in recent weeks, both business-wise and catching-wise. Business-wise, it was a good season. I didn't count how many trips I ran, but I know I ran better than most and for that I'm grateful. Many, Many thanks to my regular customers. Your repeat patronage and faith in me has sustained me for another year. That's good enough for me, in this business you just gotta' take one year at a time.
The best fishing as of late has been anchored up and yellowtail snapper fishing. Yellowtails are a relatively small snapper, 3 lbs is a large one, but it is one of the best eating fish you'll find anywhere, white, flaky and not fishy tasting at all. Sharks have been a bit of a problem because they like Yellowtail too. We've had to refrain from using our 12lb spinning rods, they're more fun, but you can't boat the yellowtails before the sharks get them. 20lb spinning gear seems to have enough "umpff" to muscle them in .....most of the time. We haven't been fishing for the sharks much, but if anyone wants to catch a shark, this is a good time to try. Mostly Caribbean Reef sharks, Lemon sharks and a occasional Bull shark. They are a lot of fun on 50lb tackle.
School has started and Key West is very quiet right now. It's Labor Day Weekend and I've only had one call for one seat all weekend. To be honest, I've got plenty of projects to keep myself busy between now and when things start picking up.
That's all for now. I'll try to keep posting on a regular basis ;-) promise!
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