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Why the Florida Keys part 2

Just back from a weeks fishing in northern Norway way up in the Arctic Circle we had some good fish, halibut to about 80 lbs and cod to 24 lbs but have to say a few tough days as well. Maybe it is just such a big country and vast fishing grounds and the weather was a bit mixed as well and had to do a few plan B’s, but as they say all round the world it is called fishing not catching. What it did do however is put our fishing holidays in the Florida Keys into a new light, to me and it is a very personal thought the main difference is variety.  Variety in fish species, in Norway for our week we had just 6 species, in the Florida Keys in 10 years of doing fishing holidays we so far have had 117 species and the record week again so far is 56 species. Variety in fishing locations pretty much all the fishing we did was in deep fiords  yes we found some fish in the small shallow areas but these nearly all dropped of very quickly. In the Florida Keys we go from flats way out in Florida bay that even dry out at low tide to banks, grass flats and channels. Then we have all the bridges that take you to the huge area of the reef that goes from 8 ft to about 40 ft in 4 to 5 miles off shore. Then the edge of the reef that very quickly takes you to 100 ft water then a gradual slop over the next 25 miles that take you to the undersea mounds that come from 1000 ft to just 500 that we call the tuna grounds. Not to mention the Everglades where there are 1000’s of square miles of the most unique wildlife and fish environment maybe in the world.

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Also the variety of fishing methods we use in the Florida keys just blows most guys away from fly, spin, kite, troll, cut bait, live bait, freeline, float and many more. The other thing that does it for me in the Keys is the unexpected the first time I leadered  a giant saw fish just shook my head here was a fish near 800 lbs that had been swimming in these water even before T Rex was around and we were lucky enough to catch one and we have had an other one.  Then one day a few years ago we were again were lucky enough to come across a whale shark what a beast it was even bigger that my boat but in crystal clear water just awesome. There are just some of the reasons why the Florida Keys does it for me and there are many more dont get me wrong I can see why Norway does it for a lot of anglers but as they say its horses for courses. Also on a very personal note survival suite thermal, hat and gloves or tee shirt, shorts and bare feet, I wonder !

Snowbee’s new Skad lures

I have been working with Snowbee ( UK ) Ltd now for some years and have to let everyone know that a rod I helped develop has taken a Snowbee sponsored boat to win the Florida title of the SKA Championship and is lying second in the overall championship with just one event to fish for 2013.  Snowbee are now coming out with some serious tackle for sea fishing their new Release lever drag reel is just taking Norway in it stride no problem at all, the size of the halibut it dragged to the surface the other day was way in the hundreds till it spat my 6 lb cod out.  It has been said before it does not matter what rod and reel you have it is what is on the very end that matters and yet again Snowbee seem to have come up with a winner the new Skad lures.

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The guys in R and D at Snowbee have always had the thoughts that the shad and sand ell lures had their limitations so came up with a hybrid lure and called it the Skad, well let me know all you cod anglers this lure is cod candy big time.  The last few days have been a bit tough here in Norway the fiord systems are massive and it is really knowing where to go and what to do and there is so much different water depth you need a big helping of lady luck as well.  Yesterday we were not finding fish so I had an idea, they say you can take the guy away from the Florida Keys but you can’t take the Florida Keys out of the guy so I said what about a bit of trolling ?  Yes I know this seems to be the most hated UK style of fish but it does cover ground and makes baits move when there is no tide, so we sett up two rods 8 oz leads one to my Skad and the other to a sand ell then try to keep the boat moving at about 1 mph in 20 meters of water.  In no time my rod with the Skad slammed over and fish on a nice double cod then this happened again trolling comes to Norway well the Skad was out fishing the sand ell but as normally happens the other guys wanted to try the deep water. Yet again even in deep water doing the normal bouncing the lures on the bottom this new bait was doing the business if you are into your deep water lure fishing you must give the Skad a try.       Video clip a new Norweign sport halibut wrestling  !!!

An other busman’s holiday

Nearly time to head back to the Florida Keys and kick the fishing holidays into the autumn / winter session but time for one last trip of my own. A lot of guys who come to the Florida Keys also fish round the world and a place that is becoming very popular is Norway with very big cod, coalfish and halibut on the wish list. So when one of my guests said how about it I said yes and here I am north of the Arctic circle having my rod bent in a very dramatic country and bent very well. Flight for me was a bit of a night mare and in fact I could have been in my house in the Florida Keys quicker than here but when you get here WOW from the flatness of Florida to this just amazing.

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It is only day three but we have had one halibut in the boat and lost three a bit like tarpon and if only they could jump, we have so far had cod to 20 and some strange torsk fish and a shed load of coalies but so far no big ones. Just like any fishing holiday don’t be shy to ask the guys who are catching and today we are going to a different spot and trying a different method . If you don’t go you don’t know and as they say a change is as good as a rest. Despite all the talk it will be cold yesterday it was 16 and sunny the locals say it is a heat wave but for one Florida softie just warmish.

Was it a great white ?

After my last blog on shark attacks someone got it touch about the bite marks on one of the pictures.  It was pointed out to me that on the grouper that was clean bitten in two, the bite marks shows if you look closely to show distinct large single teeth marks with a gape between them and a straight bite off with little or no curve. If you look at the jaws below of a great white you will see what the guy meant large single teeth and gapes. While great white are not common in the Florida Keys they often visit this year they have been seen off Marathon, Key Largo and the picture below was one just 6 miles off Key West.

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Well we will never know but what a fishing holiday in the Florida Keys that would be and you could dine out on that one for a very long time. Recently we have had a dead porbegale washed up on the North East coast as it was in very good condition it was probably just by catch in a trawler and under current regs they can not land any at all. Many years ago I was a fish mechant on the west coast of Scotland and at this time of year porbeagle were landed nearly every week and made good money. I am writing this blog in Oslo air port on my way to the north of Norway to hopefully tick the halibut box of my wish list. As a young boy of 14 I had a very big halibut to the boat 3 times here in Norway only to lose it as they had nothing on the boat to land it so now its my time for revenge.

Shark attack

Love them or loath them shark are a major player in the Florida Keys. I am more than lucky that most guys on our fishing holidays are more than happy to tangle with a toothy critter but there are days when the men in grey coats are far from welcome. The last thing you want when tarpon fishing, you have come thousands of miles, you have jumped and lost a few fish, then at last one has stuck and you have got it out of the bridge and in open water then you see a pointed fin and your heart sinks.  Ever year during tarpon season big and I mean big many over 1000 lbs shark take up position at the Florida Keys bridges if you are a very big shark you need a very big meal and a tired 100 lb + tarpon will do very well. We loose fish every year as bad as it is and normally ends only one way as many guests have said one of the most awesome things you will ever see. A fish which might be the biggest fish you have had on the end of you line just bitten clean in two and it can happen very close to the boat I have even had anglers in a state of shock.

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The other place it sucks big time is on the wrecks during the permit spawn.  Ever year hundreds of permit arrive at the wrecks to spawn and you guessed it some years hundreds of shark appear as well.  Why spend time and energy chasing your next meal when some nice guys on a fishing boat will do it for you. Over recent years most guides will move away if the shark are bad again it will only end one way and the permit you lose might have come long way from a small flat so you could have a major impact if you stay and just lose fish.  Guys still find it amazing just how a clean-cut a shark attack can be from that mass of teeth sometimes it looks like a surgeon’s knife. Of course one can just break out the shark rods and have some fun as I often say you can only catch what is there.

 

Why the Florida Keys ?

We have been very lucky with our fishing holidays in the Florida Keys as we start our tenth year that a lot of our customers come back in fact next year all bar one of our bookings so far are repeat, in fact one group are on there 10 th trip. I do realize however there is always new people on their first big time trip abroad, so why chose the Florida Keys ? In my opinion, and make of that what you want, the Florida Keys just have it all. I can still remember my first trip now over 15 years ago just driving along US 1 the road down the Keys it just looks so fishy and the colour of the water, boats fishing everywhere, guys fishing on the bridges, multiple tackle shops on each island, boats with 4 outboards, just an anglers brain overload. You will always remember you first tarpon as a 100 lb + herring jumps clear of the water then the shock that you are attached to that fish. The colours of your first sailfish by the side of the boat so much better than any photo or TV show.

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The power of a 500 lb + grouper that only wants to go one way and with the drag sett solid it is still taking line. The sight of the sunrise on the tuna grounds and the first birds, then the tuna bursting the bait which is picked out of the air by frigate birds. The very subtle take of a permit on the offshore wrecks that is followed by a heart stopping crash dive all the way down to the bottom. The feeling of just how big will this one be when a shark float goes under, yes we have had them over 1000 lbs and the pain in a nice way that goes with it. Seeing a huge cobia on the surface turn on you bait and the feeling please don’t screw this one up. I could go on and on as yes I caught the Florida Keys bug so bad I have to spend nearly half the year there, please, please don’t just dream the dream get in touch and fish the dream !!