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John’s roundup part one

What a week just too much to get in to one blog so here we go with part one. Some guys are lucky with weather and as I say on a calm day I have nearly 200 marks to go too and as the wind speed picks up this number goes down. Yes we are also very lucky in the Florida Keys with a fantastic variation of fishing marks from the Everglades to the flats, channels, bridges, reefs, offshore and the tuna grounds. Apart from the Everglades John’s party nearly did it all and we had fish and good ones everywhere. The one thing John’s party have very right is they just like catching fish I know that sounds very obvious but they were just as happy catching small hard fighting fish on light gear as being beat up on the shark rod. I have said it before but I will say it again in my opinion once you have lost the joy of catching small fish I think you have lost a big part of fishing. Below a selection of photos of happy fishermen and just some of the fish we had I have also been asked to let you know what the fish are as regulars know but there are some of you who don’t.

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Silky shark taken sight fishing on the tuna grounds 26 miles offshore.

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Cobia from a wreck 20 miles north of Marathon in just 12 ft water.

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A nearly 20 in yellow tail snapper from the reef edge in 80 ft water

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Avery large over 10 lb margate also from the reef edge

Now fully booked for 2013 and we are booking very fast for 2014 so if you are thinking about a trip to the Florida Keys don’t delay as they say when it is gone its gone. Most guys just rebook when they stay the other week the party booked their 9 th trip so I guess we are doing something right.

Tuna for all

One thing you hope for as a guide is that when you are on fish that everyone on board gets one and this was the happy case the other day on the tuna grounds. What has happened with our tuna fishing that it has changed over the years I have been fishing here in the Florida Keys. Years ago all our tuna were taken trolling on top water lures from the good old cedar plugs which still work very well to trolled dead baits with skirts. This is all very good but relies on one thing the tuna have to be feeding on the surface this normally is the case at day break but then very often the bite just stops. Well that’s what we all used to think but what was happening was the fish were still feeding but just down the water a bit maybe 200 to 300 ft and would not come up no matter what you dragged. So with the arrival of butterfly jigs from Japan it was game on as soon as you find the fish every one can catch and you can fish all day not just at day break.

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The other big thing that has helped has been the sale of depth indicator line I use Tuf Line which  you can get in the UK from Snowbee this line has four colours that change every 10 ft so it is very easy to work a depth. We now normally start at 200 and work the jigs for 80 ft then add an other 60 at a time till we find them then just count the colours back and everyone can match and get fish. Over here the more brutal the action when you jig the better, jig wind jig wind they are not pirks and need to be worked in a very different way. One guide once told me if you can jig for two drifts you are not doing it with an enough effort he also told me is you are not catching do something different with the action a slight change can get fish.

Tarpon time

At Fish the Dream we have over the years been very lucky with tarpon and I join the exclusive 200 lb club a few years ago with a 80  x  44  fish that came out at 209 lb. Last year we had two epic 3 hr + fights with fish of the same size or bigger just amazing and once you get tarponitis you are never cured but just have to take the medicine ever year. Now this year water temps have been all over the place but this weeks boys were keen to keep up are tradition and have a tarpon in March. So we packed the boat and made ready for a 5.30 start to get down to seven mile bridge for my normal one hour before sun rise start. Yes I know you can fish in the evening but over the years morning has worked so well for us and if you are into a long fight getting  lighter is good and you can see the fantastic jumps and get better pics. Sitting watching lighted floats drift down past a 100 year old bridge knowing that any moment 100 lb + fish could be in the air and on your line just does not get any better.

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Well after half an hour nothing and not a sight or sound of any fish so up pick and move to a bank just north of the bridge which has given us some very big permit as well as tarpon. Then on Derek’s second run back float gone fish on, fish in the air,r reel screaming yes we are into our first tarpon of the season. Derek has not had a tarpon before but did all he was told just like a seasoned pro and in a relative short time the fish was by the boat. Not sure why I did not take the measurements sorry all a senior moment I was just so happy for Derek who was smiling from ear to ear and then some. How big well over the years I have lifted many tarpon then measured them so I am going to give Derek an honest 130 lb a stunning fish and a free dose of tarponitis well done again.

One mad mako

Yesterday was one of those very special days here in the Florida Keys that I dream about and I am sure when you book a fishing holiday you dream about as well  yesterday we all Fished the Dream. Stunning day clear blue skies calm seas and not hint of wind all day so boat packed to the gunnels pointed south to the tuna grounds. As you might expect we were not the only boat there but what it was nice to see was more than one boat into fish already. Not the sunrise bite I like on the tuna grounds where nearly all fish are on the top but as it was midday the fish were down a bit so out with the heavy metal and we found fish at about 150 to 200 ft. Not big but let me tell you these fish to nearly 10 lb pull way above there weight and later in the day I had one on a light 20 lb braid rod and that fight was insane. Then it started to happen during a fight one rod went solid then up to the boat came half a tuna and the cry went up shark. After my friend Lee’s epic trip here the shark rod was ready to go we had a take straight away with a very worried angler on the rod I helped things by saying my normal words the first hour is the worse. Derek was doing a fantastic job and despite some very long and deep runs the fish was soon to the boat and what a fish. As readers of this blog know I love my shark fishing but all my life one has eluded me the mako and yes I was looking right down the very toothy jaws of my first mako.

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What a stunning fish very blue and white and what a sett of teeth and boy did he want to use them the boat and the de hooker all were given the mako treatment no tee bar here. Not big by mako standards they go well over 1000 lbs I would say near 100 lb but what a climax to a day on the tuna grounds and species number 112 to my boat here in the Florida Keys. Plonker of the year award has to go to me yours truly all this would have made fantastic video but when I fired up my new toy got the message no SD card DOH !!

Smart shark ?

What happened yesterday here in the Florida Keys was the mother of all fishing stories but thanks to my Go Pro we have it all on camera. It was John and all his friends first day and it less than perfect seas but a getting better day we all decided to go into the bay for a days wrecking. As they are all from my neck of the woods the NE of England and fish most days in the north sea this was a very good day for them. Boat on wreck one so off to wreck two and clear but lumpy but loads of fish and soon all rods were bent and reels screaming a normal day but then it all started to happen. It was Ian’s turn on the shark rod float gone and drag screaming not a lot he could do but just hang on first run was amazing well over 100 yds and a few jumps this year the blacktip have been stunning. The fight was going as normal give and take then it all went very solid shark still on but no way could Ian make any line. This time of year Florida Bay has many crab pots and it is not common to have a shark go round one so throw the pick and go to the shark. Well when we got there we were all speechless this fish had decided the only way not to get pulled to the boat was to hang on to something and what better than a crab pot. It was holding on to the pot float and was not letting go of the rope at all. Even with the hook out no way was it letting go John as you will see in the video had to shake the rope to get it to let go just amazing. Not sure what has happened with the video upload but press play it will come up not just an other fishy story we have proof !

New guides

For the last two weeks one of my light spinning rods has had a sett of the new microwave guides and I have been very impressed. The rod is a Shimano 7 ft 6 in medium rod we use for all our light spinning with 3500 reels and 20 lb braid. When you put the guides on all placement is very accurate the first guide had to be 19 and 1/2  in from the lip of the spool. The guides are made by American Tackle Company and if you go to their web site and look for Microwave guides you can see all about them. Yes they do increase casting distance in  very rough tests using two identical rods the Microwave rod was casting nearly 20 % more not a lot but how many times would a yard or two hit the fish.

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What is interesting is their reasoning behind the ” claim wind knot elimination ” this is what they say. Converts ” pushing line energy ” through a guide ring into ” pulling line energy ” preventing line from traveling beyond the larger stripper guide. Wind knots to me are not check the spool before you cast knots any loose line will turn into a wind knot wind or no wind. Last year on a flat just using a shrimp for bones the only way was to wind the line back between two fingers a pain but stopped the knots and I had some good fish. Final thoughts on the guides time will tell but so far as they say they do what is says on the tin and any more distance means you lures cover more ground and more fish. If you have any old spinning rods with less than good rings I would consider these and company’s like Mud Hole rod building in the US will ship.

One lucky grouper

Here in the Florida Keys we are now into our third month of the four month grouper take ban still enjoy fishing for these powerful and hard  fighting fish but they all have to go back till the first of May. The ban started last year when the gag grouper became a bit under pressure in Gulf waters the only problem the gag and our black grouper look alike so to help the gag to have to include the black and to make it a no brainer include the red as well. May be a bit over kill but we all noticed a big increase in fish numbers last year so helping fish does work as they show in the US many times. Last week we fished one of my top grouper spots and yes we had what would have been a keeper red but it went back to fight an other day.

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If you like eating fish as I do and a lot of guys on fishing holidays do all you have to do is take the fresh fillets into any of our many restaurants and they will cook it for you any way you want. Talking to local guides a few tarpon have been seen but yet an other cold front is coming and this one has strong NW winds which will drop water temps yet again. Great to keep our winter fish the mackerel and blue fish but I think there are a lot of people who are just waiting for our silver darlings to arrive on mass. At Fish the Dream we have always had our first tarpon during March so when next weeks guys get here we will have at least one early on seven mile bridge.

Steve’s day

It is a strange fact but on a fishing holiday as they say what comes around comes around and for the first few day Steve was having not all the luck then the other day it all changed. We started at my best wreck for goliath grouper in less than ideal seas and getting the pick right was a pain but it must be right if you want a big one. First rod out was what I call the long rod which we sett right back and has a big live bait as this time of year the big king mackerel sniff round these gulf wrecks  for any lost offerings. Now this party take turns on the long and shark rods so as it was Steve’s turn when it went he took the rod but this fish did not stop. First run well over 200 yds yes it was a big fish and it did not want to come to the boat at all. Not sure how long the fight was but have to say Steve did a very good job and at the boat side excellent, one shot with the gaff and then the trace broke but the fish came in and what a fish all 33 lb of mean mackerel.

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Not long after that Steve decided to have a go at a heavy ledger for grouper or cobia and when it is going well it keeps going and soon he had a keeper cobia in the boat as well. Top eating fish so all were going to have very fresh fish for supper and lots to give away here in the Florida Keys I freeze nothing as not a day goes by that fish eaters go hungry. What happened next was very strange we had some fresh mackerel so despite the now very rough seas we decided to give the goliath grouper a go. Not as instant as it can be here I think the rough seas and cold temps had a lot to do with it then I dropped the float only to see it go up tide not down. First thinking we had broken free and the boat was moving but no a very, very big fish was hungry and under the chum bag. Dave did a very good job but fighting a fish this size just under the boat very strange indeed but a cool video clip thanks Graham.

The boys are back

My crew from Bromley are back for what is their 8 th yes 8 th trip it only seems like yesterday their happy faces were at my back door for the first time. Graham, Dave, John and Steve just have it so right they enjoy their fishing what ever it is big or small just match the hatch with the catch as they say. The other day while waiting for shark at the bridge we had fantastic fun with mutton snappers not huge but putting a bend in a light rod and a fish a cast. This years run of blacktip shark has been of the charts and as I have said before on the right rod it does not get any better on one of my Gulf wrecks they all had fish to near and over 100 lb.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat has come as a surprise to all on this trip has been the temps here in the Florida Keys. This year we started off with record highs in fact breaking an old record having 16 days over 80. The sea temps soared and soon were in the 70’s not what our winter fish wanted at all.Then two very hard cold fronts and wind, water temps dropped 10 degrees in two days back to our normal so I guess the winter fish were confused. This week again has started cold as you can see in the photos but as they say when it gets tough the tough get going what matters it that we are catching fish and having fun.

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Yesterday the reef was on fire I have never seen so many mackerel and on a coral head in 40 ft they were nailing any thing from fly to jig. With the mackerel came a few shark and Graham had the biggest blacknose I have ever seen in doing fishing holidays for 9 years a solid 32 lbs wow. What happened next will live with me for the rest of my life as some one was catching a mac  the shout went up massive shark. I reeled in the big shark rod then we all saw a very large and hungry dolphin so I said throw it a mackerel. The dolphin turned and soon was taking fish at the side of the boat just amazing and I had it on video.

What a last day !

I have said it before and I will say it again why does the last day on a fishing holiday come so quick sad to say it does. In all fairness we did not have high hopes on Keith, Mike and Steve’s last day very windy, cool and showers but they were all tough guys so off to a wreck some 18 miles out in the bay.  Not good omens at all 2 miles away we could see a boat on our spot so off to an other, after doing this for 12 years lots of plan B’s. The next wreck clear and down with the pick and in no time Mike said I and stuck but then the stuck moved off  O  dear he was into a very large fish and on just 30 lb braid. Well what happened for the next 30 mins or so was a masterclass in how to deal with a very large fish on light tackle just stunning. I put it down to what I call soft hands the whole rod and reel are held very lightly so when the fish pulls you are a shock absorber as well as the rod and reel. It was what I thought a very big sting ray and soon on the boat for the pics hook out and back on its way in the sea very and I mean very well done Mike.

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Soon we had a very big pack of hungry shark not easy on a rocking boat but nice fish in the 70 to 90 lb range and a fish for every one so not a bad last day so far. Soon all the guys were sharked out so we said how about a trip back to our first wreck and see if the other boat had gone and catch some other species. The only problem with chumming fish to the boat once shark are there they will not go away so you have to move.

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Well what a good move no one on the wreck and soon loads of ballyhoo behind the boat being hit by big mackerel  and again a fish for every one and yes big fish Mike had the biggest one a fantastic cero of over 8 lb our biggest of the year. What a fun week and what a nice bunch of guys, my memoire well it has to be the Currant Bun song don’t ask once you hear it is very hard to get out of the head. Video me shark wrestling what I have to do to get those pics but you are right I love it.