No review of a year fishing in the Florida Keys is complete without the mention of the two iconic fish of the Keys the tarpon and the permit. 2016 was a good if not better than other years the only problem I now have as people have grown old with us as we enter our 14 th year of doing Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys catching that 100 lb plus bar of silver is no longer top of the to do list. We have guys who first came out for their 50 th have been coming back year on year past their 60 th and are still coming back. So when your Captain says see you all at 3 am and yes we still loose 3 in 4 fish, and yes you might be a spectator for 2 hrs, and yes a 1000 lb shark might want your tarpon more than you, not quite the same replies as I used to get all those years ago. However saying all that there is still in my opinion nothing in fishing that comes close to seeing your 150 lb tarpon many feet in the air as the sunrises in the Florida Keys pulling you around like a rag doll. 2016 saw the return of two of my hard core tarpon parties Rodney Rigby and Neil Ford both were still well up for it and both parties did very well. I know I have said this before and it seems a bit silly but it is so true ” the people who catch most tarpon are the people who fish for them the most ” I hope you understand that and I cant make 3 am move.
Rodney was rewarded this year and I have to give him 10 out of 10 for effort as for years he has always wanted to catch a tarpon on his beloved Moocha reel a type of centre pin reel. Well in 2016 his efforts were rewarded and the fun started with no good drag or any sort of gears he did an amazing job the rest of the boat did not help at all in fact we were all in hysterics. However he proved us all wrong and in about an hour he had the fish to the boat leader touched and job done stella. Also during the tarpon season we lost a few fish to the grander 1000 lb + shark they are only doing what is natural to them and it makes the holiday for many anglers. To see the whole attack is just a once in a life time experience yes not the end you wanted but when an apex predator wants a tarpon its only going to end one way.
Permit again a fantastic year by far the best year ever for trophy fish and also the best year for a lack of shark on the wrecks where the permit spawn. The big plus facts on permit fishing in the Keys no early start and fight not often over 30 mins and often the case more than one on at a time. An other big plus we often due to the fact the wrecks are 8 miles offshore get a shot at passing blue water fish feeding birds giving them away and the fact we drift fish for permit we are quick to react So what will 2017 bring well more of the same I hope but what was the saying ” the early bird gets the worm ” so Tarpon.
First a belated Happy New Year to all and as we start our 14 th year of Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys its always good to look back on a year. Whilst there have been some changes to Fish the Dream due to circumstances out of my control our mission statement remains the same, to provide small party custom designed fishing holidays. The paying angler has always been our driving force, start the holiday when you want, fish as many days as you want, fish for what you want, start and finish the day when you want we are always there for our guests and happy to change anything to give you a better holiday just ask.
It was great to start the year with my oldest fishing friend Martin and Brian. Martin has been bringing a smile to my face for over 50 years and I always love to watch the style of Brian a true technical fisherman. Not the best of the weather at the start of the year but here we have two guys who just like catching fish and with the topography of the Keys bad weather no problem. I often say on a flat calm day we now have near 500 marks in the GPS as the wind picks up the number of marks drop but you can still fish. For the traveling angler it often seems surreal but on days with winds over 20 mph we will travel deep into Florida Bay to fish on the leeward side of banks that come up to 6 in deep taking all the wave action off the water. The one thing you need to keep in mind that in the Keys big fish do not need deep water our all time biggest fish well over 1000 lbs was hooked in just 10 ft of water.
One of my fun memories of 2016 was when Capt Mike asked Dylan Bruce and Brian what was their biggest fish ever. Mike was becoming very good at catching our goliath grouper so fish to 400 lbs are common so it was normally easy to give a new comer a new PB. When Mike asked them what was their biggest fish ever the look on his face was priceless when the replies came back, 500 lbs, 600 lbs and 800 lbs they were marlin fishermen. It was great as always to see at the start of the year my Jersey boys now on their 11 th trip again a group who just get it so right and I have got old with them over the years. Smile of their week seeing poor old Rob destroyed by an amberjack in over 500 ft of water despite good advise letting a very large jig go down to deep I said it would only end in pain and it did.
My local boys the Slater party whilst they enjoy their fishing and are very good at it still like the holiday part of a Fishing Holiday and always have a good time in the Keys when they are off the boat and without fail every year they come on more than one occasion I will be reduced to tears of laughter. More of the changes to Fish the Dream in my next blog but what ever happens in 2017 we will be ticking boxes and making dreams come true.
All at Fish the Dream Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys wish all our past, present and future customers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and fantastic and fishy 2017.
As we start our 14 th year of offering holidays in the Florida Keys we have had to make a few changes but the prime object of mine has always been about catching fish and with 127 species to the boat so far and the best week 55 different species we are still on course. To me this is what the Keys have always been about not just the massive tarpon and huge grouper and shark but just the variety of fish and many different ways of fishing. Ticking boxes is what we do and with many people now coming back on their 10 th trip is appears we seem to be getting right. One thing I have noticed more and more the guys who come to just have a good time always seem to do well, yes you can try to hard have the basics right knots, hooks ect and the rest will just fall into place. I was taught many years ago always try to learn from a lost fish so as not to do it again or use every bad experience as a leaning curve.
Nice to see the local coastguard getting into the festive spirit I have always had total respect for the Florida Coastguard and it the many times we have been stopped at sea for a safety check we have always passed with flying colours. In fact they are always impressed with our over stocking of all safety equipment I have had over the years always worked on the principal two is better than one and 25 miles offshore the shops are a long way away. So here is hoping for an epic 2017 and ticking more boxes but please remember have fun.
Ever since I have known Rupert he has always been a big fish guy, years ago I witnessed an epic fight on his boat in the North Sea with a massive porbeagle shark and it was only going to end one way fish to boat and so it was. So knowing of all the 100 lb plus fish we catch all I had to do was get him to the Florida Keys and it would be game on. At last year I managed to get him over and the rest is history hook, line and sinker as they say he was hooked. On his first Fishing Holiday in the Florida Keys one fish did it more than the others I think, our good old brawler the Goliath Grouper. We are so lucky now having many shallow water marks where these awesome fish live take baits freely grow to over 500 lb and beat you up better than Mike Tyson so on his current trip I knew just what he was going to ask our captain to target and how right was I was.
A few video clips with this blog and sorry about the somewhat colourful language but it a load of boys and mega grouper so it’s not going to be ” what a nice big fish ” you can always turn the sound off. Will we ever get one of the granders back to boat time will tell its a very hard balance of line strength and reel drag we have even been broken off using 200 lb line. There is just so much power and they use it so well and know all the places to hide in the wrecks the odds are always on their side. Something has to be done about the numbers though these fish eat up to 10 % of their body weight and the total ban on harvest has meant on some wrecks now there is little else again time will tell. I admire the US fish regulations but when you give an apex predator total protection it can get out of hand and numbers in my opinion need to be controlled for the benefit of all fish stocks.
It was great to see Rupert Dury back in the Keys after years of trying to get him to come over it now seems he can hardly keep away. After now doing Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys for over 12 years we can now see and record changes in the fish and fishing. Take the African Pompano these used to be rare fish in the Keys and we caught them on the deeper wrecks near 200 ft in the Atlantic. I n recent years we are catching more and more on our distant wrecks in Florida Bay in just about 12 ft of water. Rupert’s party had great fishing for these AP’s as they are now being called even getting double headers not only are these hard fighting jacks but stunning table fare if you like me love eating what you catch. The strange thing about the AP’s they keep their long streamer fins which they are born with in the bay but lose them when they migrate to the Atlantic. In the past for a first timer you will hear the shout rooster fish no its just an African but how cool would it be if we had rooster in the keys.
They also had fun on our cuda wreck still not sure why but we have one distant wreck in the bay that has a very large population of Barracuda. The numbers can be so high that on a hot sunny day often the come over to the boat and seek shelter under the hulls. Talk about frustration to see near 40 lb fish just lying under the boat and not taking anything very annoying. Also hard to take is the fact they often follow lures right back to the boat and turn away at the last moment. Often the cause is the angler who slows down the lure as he sees the fish this will make the fish turn away rather than strike. It was taught to me many years ago why with the example if you are being chased by a lion would you slow down if he got closer, no its the natural thing to do to speed up and try to get away. Next time you are lure fishing and see a fish wind faster and move the rod tip and your strike rate will go up.
With the Florida Keys having their first deep ” cold ” front of the year yes the night temps this week could go down to just 72 and highs through the day 78 , the first lows lower than 80 brings out the locals in some very funny clothes just have to laugh. What it does bring on is the first autumn or fall as they say, runs of mackerel and early sailfish offshore. What the mackerel mean to our guys on Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys is fun fishing on so many levels and the taste if you like of stunning table fish and more important to us UK fisherman a ready supply of one of the best baits in the Florida Keys. Biggest numbers are the Spanish mackerel if you are very lucky up to 8 or 9 lbs but can be on huge numbers and they once you have them on the feed will take any thing you want. From dead baits or live to all sorts of artificial and if water conditions are right fly as well. Strange thing about fly fishing for mackerel we found a deadly method a few years ago by accident when an angler was sorting out a tangle and the fly was just left in the tidal stream bang fish on. We tried this method again this time with no tangles and sure enough fish on in no time I think its your fly looking like it is swimming against the tide and not winning that triggers a strike but hell it works.
Next is the cero mackerel a bit bigger than the Spanish and the biggest always come to live baits our ballyhoo being the number on bait by far. Once you have a good feeding school of ballyhoo behind the boat its game on with a live one fished just below the surface just behind the main school and looking like a lost fish just way to tempting for raiding cero. The biggest plus with the cero is that they are way at the top of table fare in the Keys from stunning sushi yes we always have the kit on the boat to any way you want them cooked at night at the many local restaurants.
Then we have our biggest and baddest mackerel the King Mackerel and it’s not called the King for any reason with the biggest well over 50 lbs and we have them both sides of the Keys and let me tell you a fight with a near 50 lb mackerel in just 8 ft of water will remain with you for a long time. One very special and productive method is kite fishing if the wind is right it is possible to keep a live bait just on the surface with no visible signs of trace or line. The take is spectacular to say the least with an explosion on the surface then the screaming drag of the rod which is just left in the rod holder, strange just how many fish the rod holders catch they always do just what we ask them to do. Nothing till the fish is on lesson learnt you hope so but alas often not the case the angler strikes on slack line and the fish spits the bait.
So there it is bring on the cold fronts and bring on the mackerel and long live the King.
Well with all the fun I had with my upgrade to Windows 10 my advice don’t it cost my a good laptop and a lot of lost files ect yes I know I should have backed up a lot more which I do now but you dont think an up grade will cause problems but my Windows 10 did. I did have nearly all my photos of over 12 years of doing Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys but some good underwater videos seemed to have gone for ever, however while going through some old memory sticks I had backed up and saved a lot of videos phew !
The first one a good release of a tarpon at the boat no matter how good the fight is and with tarpon is not just hooking the fish, it has to stay on during the many jumps you have the fun of getting it out from the bridges then there is always the worry of it being a snack for a 1000 lb shark. So with all that in mind it is the best feeling to see it swim away to maybe do it all again with an other angler.
Next video shows the power of one of our goliath grouper such a fun fish and watching the video you can see with that huge power house tail and boy does it use it. The first few seconds are the most important we used locked drags and just drag the fish out of the dangers of the wrecks if it turns its head flaps that tail its game over.
Last video is one of the Keys many hammerhead shark we have had them to well over 1000 lbs and they are nothing but a pain during tarpon season but have to be one of the best looking shark in the sea. Many times when we have lost a tarpon the angler says ” that was a pain but just awesome ” and the ease that they just bite a 100 lb fish in half just amazing.
Now there’s a word that sparks a whole host of emotions for different people in different situations around the world. From pure panic for the surfers and swimmers on warm water beaches, to utter disappointment and frustration for an angler who has done everything right for over an hour to see his trophy tarpon devoured in seconds by a fish well over 1000 lbs. To the utter delight of an angler who knows he is about to start the spectacular fight with the fish of his choice and his bait and tackle has proved right. Well over the more than 12 years of running Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys we have been more than lucky with our shark fishing having fish to over 1000 lbs, 12 different species and one stunning day when four very tired anglers boated 63 shark. Bangs for your buck as they say the shark in the Florida Keys tick all the boxes, you get them to come to you plenty of chum and oil you don’t have to get up at 3 am they run and jump to give you a very full on fight. Take freely and very rarely pull the hook and are more than happy to take just about any fresh or frozen bait doing all this all year-long no high or low season.
Over 12 years the way we fish has not changed much and the very cool thing about shark fishing in the Keys most of our fish come from very shallow, less than 12 ft water which mean long instant runs. It is often the case we will run two long rods well back in the tide which look after themselves allowing anglers to fish for other fish and have plenty of time to change rods. Often it is the case with the bigger fish 300 lb plus we have to follow to get line back again this can be very exciting and a challenge having to go round some of the thousands of pot markers that seem to litter Florida Bay. The one thing that has changed over the years is our bait of choice whilst mackerel and jack will always catch shark often it will be demolished by smaller fish. Dont get me wrong blacknose and sharpnose shark along with smaller blacktip on the right light rod and reel are as much fun as you want but if they are hungry it takes then no time to devour any size bait. Not sure why bit in recent years we have lost lots of these smaller shark to guess what bigger shark so why not use these smaller shark as bait as we do for grouper. Game on as they say and when the rod goes with a 10 lb shark on as bait on you know its going to be into a monster, we have no problem using shark as bait it is all legal and there are days when these small shark are in plague numbers.
Just finished the Facebook challenge of 10 fish or fishy moments in 10 days having run our Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys for over 12 years and fishing for 55 years guess it was more about the fish to leave out rather than the ones to post. Despite Windows 10 ” Upgrade ” costing me many photos, yes I should have done more back ups, still fantastic fun going back through old photos. Still amazes me just how much our fishing in the Keys has changed in just 12 years, methods, baits and tackle just goes to show you can teach an old dog new tricks. None more so how one of our favorite targets the goliath grouper has changed now reliably giving us fish to 500 lbs and I still have to give the credit for this to one man Jim Whippy. When Jim first came out to do a magazine article on us the way we used to fish for goliath was to drift across the wrecks which were nearly all in very shallow water and with the power of these fish most just turned and went straight back to the wreck and game over. Jim came up with a plan this being to anchor up tide get the fish to come out of the wreck then with no drag just locked up use the full length of the boat to drag the fish back never letting off, no pump and wind so the fish never could turn and get back to the wreck.
Also the hooks have changed we now use massive 24 / 0 circle hooks all debarbed you can see just how well these work from the photos. As has the bait now our number one bait is one of the numerous small shark in the keys we have three species we can use not sure why but again have a look at the photos they just love them. We have to say we were the first in the Keys to start the swim with grouper way back in 2011 young Kevin jumped in and started a craze that is spreading to other charter boats for that photo of a life time a bit mad maybe but one of my top photos.
We at Fish the Dream as proud and honoured to announce that our Fishing Holidays in the Florida Keys have been chosen by Sportsquest holidays to be their chosen Florida destination. After over 12 years of making people’s dreams come true its fantastic to now be linked with one of the UK’s top sporting holiday companies. It will not mean any thing different if you book a holiday direct through us just as normal and yes my new website should be up and running very soon but if you want some one to do it all flights and transfers then they can do it all. The really good news is with their massive 113 different fishing destinations after your trip to us in Florida you will get a discount on any of their trips by booking through me. While we have a massive species list now 127 to the boat I know a lot of you still want a massive cod or a ton up halibut not to be found in the Keys and also long haul flights can be a pain. So why not have a look at www.sportsquestholidays.com and pick you new destination and tick a few more boxes.
Back in the Keys summer fishing is in full flow and whilst the tarpon is our iconic spring fish the dorado, mahi-mahi, dolphinfish is the true fish of the summer. Interesting that mahimahi means very strong in Hawiian, dorado comes from the spainish for gold and of course I still smile at newbies getting worried about the amount of fresh dolphin on the menus in the Keys. The facts around dorado still blow me away after all these years. They seldom live over 4 years reach up to 40 in just 12 months, mature at just 3 months, spawn up to 3 times a year up to 1,000,000 eggs and top out at over 100 lbs. Over the years we have had some very special ones and I still remember an angler telling me that I had ruin all his fly fish the sight of nearly 20 multi coloured fish chasing his fly in crystal clear water will live with him forever. Also one of our stranger fights was when we sight fished a group of larger fish we ended up with two anglers fighting the same 28 lb fish just goes to show even with a hook in it the fish still had to feed or as one Capt said those fish feed 25 / 8 .