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200 lb Smiles

What a tough week Rob and his boys from Jersey have had. Mother nature and the winds gods have not been on our side for sure. As they say when its tough the tough get going and top marks to the lads they have given it their all. The other morning we tried an early 4 am at the bridge raging tide very coloured water and lots of weed. After losing a fish last week I had reasonable hopes but with theses conditions it was going to be hard. At first light we found some tarpon so at least they have arrived but these were not feeding just rolling and slapping the water to show us just how big they were. What these guys needed was a big fish and at last with the tide running to the west it was off to our goliath grouper mark. After a long 45 min run we got there at least there was no one else there but with the wind blowing near 20 the seas were big and fishing it was just on the edge. Bait was fairly easy and after about half an hour time for the big rod. Poor Peter he did not have a clue what was about to happen but when it does wow!  At least the big boys were going to play and first bait down float gone and grouper on. Whippy walk and drag this sucker out of the wreck to see two grown men wrestling a fish must be fun must get the video going again.

Well the battle, its tougher than a fight was won and Peter had his 200lb + nearer 250 fish at the side of the boat well done if a group ever deserved a fish it was this one. We carried on but as the tide changed and Chris lost a much and I mean much bigger fish it was becoming ugly we even had to tack to get home but at last some Florida Keys smiles.

Cero smiles hogfish heaven

At last the winds have died back a bit the last cold front was a very deep one and the cold arctic air drop the sea temps from 78 to 67 in just one night. When the front passed over the Florida Keys air temp went from 85 to 67 in just ten minutes just like some one had put a air con on the very cold setting. In all fairness the sea was getting to hot and in my opinion upsetting all our winter spring fish migrations but mother nature put it right but maybe a bit to quick. As a guide said in a bait shop just like the wife running the cold tap as you are spending to long in a nice warm bath. What has happened is that our winter mackerel have gone not all together but the walk on their back numbers have that is the spanish mackerel. Our summer mackerel have appeared these being the cero mackerel not in the same numbers as the spanish but they are fatter, meaner and pull a lot more. They don’t just take the baits they EXPLODE on the baits. Yesterday we were using live ballyhoo set at just 1 ft deep as they are a surface bait and the mac attack just has to be seen to be believed. Anyway after two days of strong winds it was good to see the smiles back.

We had a good day just ashamed we lost a few good fish a huge jew fish made it back to the wreck no stopping him and we weren’t fishing for goliath. Chris was smashed big style on his ballyhoo the only thing about losing fish if only they would show only once it would not be so bad. We did have a 180 + lemon shark that took the no drag grouper rod, now that was fun all it wanted to do was run and with no drag just beat up poor angler big style. Fish of the day was a massive hog snapper thinking back of doing fishing holidays for over 8 years this was a boat PB. Skip was screaming net net these fish are to die for on the plate. One of the most weird looking fish in the Florida Keys with a strange mouth and teeth and rooster like fins they are normaly very shy and at the back of the que. This one gave a good account of its self and Rob a new species harder to do as I have lost count on the times my boys from Jersey have been fishing but Helen and I look forwards to their trip every year.

The grouper story

We in the Florida Keys are now into the third month of our four month grouper ban. Last year was the first time we were not able to take any grouper of any type for four months and for a lot of locals that hurt. The upside of the ban we have seen a massive increase of numbers just about every where. Yesterday Robs first day was far from ideal, winds near 30 but in the Keys we fish so of we went to 7 mile bridge at the west end of our island and fished a small wreck in a channel near the bridge. It always amazes guys on our fishing holidays that we can do this and I feel sorry for people in the south of the UK who are blown out all to often. In the cut we only had 1 to 2 ft seas well over 4 ft on the way down so very fish-able. I have a small wreck in just 6 ft in this channel so with a strong tide and lots of weed we had to float baits down going the same pace as the weed.

Grouper a plenty I lost cont gag and black and even fish this size pull very hard and as with all grouper all they want to do is get back to the wreck and some did so game over. We also had some nice porgies also hard fighting fish and very good on the table but all went back. So is the ban making a difference well from my experience yes very much so it just goes to show how good fish are at making a come back. Yes we are very lucky in Florida with little or no commercial fishing and very heavy controls fish are here to catch and enjoy. The other up side is during the ban we are eating a lot of other fish and finding some very good ones we would not have tasted without the ban. The weather is due to get better all week I have been given some more marks in the bay can’t wait to drop the pick.

Was it a tarpon ?

Well the last day of Vic’s fishing holiday came as always to soon they had not had the best of weather but still had great fishing. With fish to over 300 lbs and maybe, we will never know, a record as well. We had not had a tarpon the fish I suppose is the most famous fish in the Florida Keys. I sell tarpon fishing April, May and June when you will get a tarpon nearly every morning as they make their migration round Florida feeding on their way in the Keys. Last year we had one in March so plans were made to have a go on the last morning. To say tarpon fishing is a steep learning curve is an understatement. Big, over 150 lb fish, lots of jumps, near bridge pilings, screaming runs and all this in the dark. As tarpon feed best at night I like to start a good hour before daylight so at 4 am we were heading down to 7 mile bridge with three very nervous anglers. You try to give good instructions but in the back of your mind you know first timers are in for the shock of their lives. On getting to 7 mile no run slack water as they say no run no fun so we just drifted till the run started. The tarpon use the bridge as an ambush point for bait but over the years we have had some drifting during the slack. From nowhere Steve shouted floats gone then fish on well this one was not for stopping and a screaming run. It was dark and I have to say I did not see what happened but a very loud crack Steve fell to the floor and fish gone. Well was it a tarpon, we were using crabs so only tarpon or permit but I did not see or hear a jump so we will never know if it was a permit it was very very big.

Daylight came and with no more takes on the crabs Vic and Steve switched to pinfish and had fun with the jacks up to 10 lb leaving some good shark bait for the next party. Fun week, fun guys and with a very nice email they are already planing their next trip back to the Florida Keys joining my happy bunch of regulars.

The gentle art of catching

We have fish in the Florida Keys that you have to maximum pressure and more from the start or you will lose them. If you let a big goliath grouper turn his head just for a millisecond it is game over he knows where to go and no way will you get him out. We also have plenty of fish which when on only you will lose. What was the saying gently, gently catchy monkey well this is so true with big fish. To often people say after losing a fish that’s why they call it fishing not catching well they are not right all the time. Twice last week Vic demonstrated the art of playing fish. Once at the bridge a barracuda nailed his snapper on the way in and the jig stuck in the cuda. We had a strong tide but Vic let the fish have line when it wanted it and after a lovely fight he had the fish to the boat.

Next fish I watched him play par excellence was also a cuda on our lure morning. We had over 30 cuda that morning Vic’s fish at over 12 lb was the biggest but in water only 3 ft and less a gentle approach was the only way and it worked again. The one big kick I personally get after running fishing holidays in the Florida Keys for over 8 years is watching anglers get it right.  Last week watching Vic fight fish was a joy so right and the results, 300 lb grouper and more to prove it well done.

Daves’s day

In all our fishing holidays we always seem to get a quite one. An angler who just takes instruction and just gets on with it and is usually rewarded. Dave is just that type of guy I suppose running a bait and tackle shop for years has left him with bags of patience.  This week the weather gods have not been good and we have been fighting a lot of wind against tide not ideal still catching fish but some days hard work. The other day I had been given a new mark in the bay where last week cobia to 72 lbs had been taken so despite a strong wind we decided to give it a go.  Sods law after a hard run of over 40 mins a boat on the mark quick look at plotter and an other mark less than a mile away. I had not fished this on either so as it was close to plan A should be good as well. The only good thing about a strong wind up goes the kite and a small shark nailed the first bait. Mean while Vic and Steve were jigging to get more kite bait but all they were getting was small grouper fun but not kite baits. At the front of the boat Dave had taken the heavy ledger rod and was nailing large keeper grouper one after one. Mid way through our grouper ban skip was nearly in tears putting all that lovely food back in such is fishing in the Florida Keys just think about the big picture.

Tide died very soon then it was going to be wind against tide and it was going to get very rough so after a short session, Dave’s very much we went to find shelter. On the lee of a bank we found calmer seas still wing against tide but you can’t fight the tide gods. We did draw a 100 lb plus hammered to the boat and Vic had it on for a short time but it throw the hook. Again at the front Dave was doing his own thing then a screaming run big silver a massive cero mackerel the best this year 8 lb beauty. Just goes to show maybe patience is a virtue after all well done Dave.