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Fish of the year

Well actually fishes of the year, on thing I love to do at this time of year apart from booking my tickets back to start an other year of fishing holidays in the Florida Keys is to look back on last years photos.  Could not pic out a clear winner of 2013 but here our three fish which were very special and brought what I call a smile that goes right round the face.

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First was a shark on fly for repeat customer Geoff from Jersey who after his first trip came back with some shark flies he had tied and after a very long and hard fight in less than 10 ft of water we had a stunning black tip in the boat.  I have to admit I have never been able to get my head round salt water fly fishing but for some people it is their passion and on my boat you make the rules so enjoy.  In all fairness this shark had the last laugh if you look at the photo you will see in its last run by the boat it broke Geoff’s rod but with fly lines being very strong we had it in.

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Next was our first mako shark on one of our trips to the tuna grounds at the Marathon humps. We are one of the few boats to shark fish out there nearly 25 miles offshore but if you have used the gas and the shark are there the tuna fishing can suck any way so why not enjoy.  This one put up an amazing fight, right enough once you have drifted off the humps which at the highest point are 490 ft you quickly are in water over 1000 ft and fish know this and go straight down.  I still remember seeing the fish coming up and with nearly 100 ft viability a very white and blue fish we were all saying marlin but at the boat side one very unhappy mako.

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Over the years I have guided to many tarpon but the smile on Derek’s face just says it all and is why the Keys are such a special place, once he had this fish on all he did was perfect showing people of any age can land a big one.  Both Derek and John who had the mako on the same trip are back out next year on their now annual trip to the Florida Keys.

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On a personal note and yes I still love to catch fish I had my first big UK shark a porbeagle  near 250 lb and for this fish I have to thank Rupert Dury who said at the start of the trip  ”  the first one is your’s ” an amazing guy and a stunning fish.  So what will 2014 bring for  Fish the Dream, well on our first trip we will have electric reels and swordfish are on the wish list.  So happy new year to everyone and watch this space !!!!!

Reality check

I consider myself a very lucky guy  for over 10 years I have been doing fishing holidays in the Florida Keys as Rex Hunt used to say  ” not a bad office ” during which a lot of repeat customers have become good friends.  I have a loving wife who has stood by me for over 40 years, have 3 children who I am very proud of and have given me 3 amazing grand children.  Spend half the year in the fabulous Florida Keys and the rest of the year in Northumberland with a holiday in Tuscany but last week I was sent a photo that brought me back down to earth especially at this time year from my local beach in Marathon Florida Keys.

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This boat had been built-in Cuba by people who just wanted a better life and were willing to risk all on a trip of over 100 miles across the Florida straits leaving behind loved ones and the place where they had been born to try for the American Dream.  It had been built of  steel rods mainly rebar, tin sheets, tarpaulins then filled with any bits of polystyrene they could find.  When first found it also had a rough sail and a broken rudder, I have been around boats all my life and would not have got in this to go across a duck pond.  I still can’t get my head around why they do this but the lure of a better life must be very strong but they made it and with the laws around Cubans fleeing to America will start a new life.

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On a slightly happier note came across this on the web and again at this time of year how very true, the youth are the next generation of fisherfolk and we must all do all we can to help our sport. When we have had children at Fish the Dream it has been nothing but smiles they even have fun catching bait and in my experience if you take a kid fishing they must catch fish and on my boat they certainly will.  With this in mind I am willing to do deals if you want to bring children just get in touch and we can work something out email rdngd@aol.com or phone 01668 216173.

Happy Christmas

A very happy and merry Christmas to all our past, present and future customers at Fish the Dream  fishing holidays in the Florida Keys.  During  2013 we have had quite a few new parties and I am more than happy to say all have been in touch and are coming back in 2014  so what ever we are doing seems to be right.  The only problem with our success is that we turn a lot of anglers away especially during tarpon season so for 2014 we will be running two boats.  Fish the Dream second boat will be that of local Capt Brent Kindell, accommodation  I hope will be self catering units at a local marina, which also has a pool and a bar.  Brent has fish the Keys for many years and all the guys I have sent to him have been more than happy.  I must stress the holidays if you fish with Brent will run just as are normal holidays you fish for what you want , when you want and for as long as you want.  So if you think it is to late to book a holiday I have been fully book for some time please get in touch and we will do the best to get you a 100 lb silver king.

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I must warn all anglers who wish to tick the 100 lb + tarpon of the bucket list many times once you have done this is is all to easy to catch Tarponitis.  Once you are infected especially if you caught the  Florida Keys strain you might have it for life, nightmares can go on for ages, a mad skipper shouting  ” wind, wind, wind now hit the sucker for all you are worth ”  The sight of your fish feet in the air then forgetting to bow to the king. The when it is all going well the pointy fin appears and gets bigger  SH**  a 1000 lb shark !!  So what can be done for Tarponitis,  not a lot and you might have it for life all you can do is take the yearly medicine  a fishing holiday in the Florida Keys.

The bucket list

In the early years of doing fishing holidays in the Florida Keys on their first trips a lot of anglers came with a bucket list on their first trip as I said in my last blog things have changed with my regulars but back then it was fun and a challenge.  I suppose in the Florida Keys the number one on the list was a 100 lb tarpon, strangely enough for me this was and still is an easy one.  Yes we still lose a lot but the hook up is nearly ever morning, just keeping them on and away from shark is the hard part.  In the 15 years plus I have been fishing the Florida Keys it is my opinion that the tarpon are in fact getting bigger more fun for the angler but they can be a pain for me and it can become a spectator sport for the other guys.  However it is all worth it and looking back at all my photos the biggest smiles are always from guys with a tarpon on their laps, I have always taken great care in the release and I am happy they all go back OK.

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Next on the bucket list was a very big shark, still this fish has a very special place in most anglers minds jaws has a lot to answer for but it’s just the way they swim and those eyes.  The Florida Keys certainly has many big shark from the 1000 lb hammerhead we had a few years ago in just 10 ft of water to the near  600 lb bull we had in over 1000 ft of water on the tuna grounds last year.  I still like to see the boat go into total panic when a big tiger swims up the chum slick and then the look of horror when the fresh bait gets taken right by the boat.

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An other fun one on the bucket list is  ” I want to catch a fish bigger than me  ”  well most guys are less than 400 lb so again not a hard one for me or the Florida Keys just get some help from my friends the goliath grouper.  I am very lucky with these fish and now we have 4 top wrecks which all have fish over 500 lb and are always there and are nearly always hungry.  I still have to thank my friend  Jim  Whippy who worked out a way to get these fish back to the boat for a silly pic and my friend Kev for jumping in just to let you see how big !!

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So there you have it if you have a fish bucket list you know where to come and I am here in the UK so just give me a call and I am sure I can work out a deal  01668 216173.

Rob’s roundup

Well as Rob Shipley and the Jersey boys finish their latest fishing holiday in the Florida Keys they came very close to breaking the species count for a trip they had an amazing 52 species close to the base record of 55.  To me this is one of the main reason people come to the Keys it is for the varity of fish, fishing locations and ways of catching fish on the same day you can be catching tuna in over 1000 ft then end up catching fish in less than 10 on a crystal clear reef.  Talking about the reef it was here that the boys added number 52 to the week’s list a strange fish called a doctor or surgeon fish, it is called this because it has two scalpels at the base of the tail that it uses for defense and fighting strange but true. This was one of the staggering 7 new species they added to the base list taking it now to 124 in just over 10 years of doing fishing holidays.

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One thing I have noticed with parties who have fished with me over many years is how their wish list changes and how battles turn into fights.  I still find on most people’s wish list in their early trips it is all about size then when they have done big and for us this is very easy grouper and shark in their hundreds of pounds are there for the taking it starts to change.  Medium to small fish on light balanced tackle seems to tick more boxes and at this time of year it has to be our mackerel, they just tick all the boxes fun, bait and good to eat.  Many times I will take a party just to catch a few mackerel for bait then it is hard to get them to stop catching  ” Oh please just a few more  ”  is often the call. Rob ended his normal thank you email with the line, like Arnie says we will be back, any time Rob you and all the Jersey boys are welcome any time.

The Humps at last !

Despite his last trip being his tenth Rob and the boys from Jersey have never had the pleasure of fish our tuna grounds or as the locals call them the humps.  This is a very special place but unfortunately is some 26 miles offshore and also often well in the reach of the main gulf stream currents all this means not a place you can fish ever day.  The reason it is called the humps is due to a range of under sea mounts that come up from over a 1000 ft to less than 500 ft this blocking of over half of the water depth causes massive up swelling that the bait fish can not swim against and are forced to the surface.  The feeding frenzy can sometimes just be jaw dropping, tuna forcing the bait to the surface then the hoards of feeding birds taking their share as the bait leaves the water as well and whilst this is all going on the scream of reel drags as good as it gets.

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So when my stand in skip said the weather was OK for a trip to the humps I bet it was smiles all round and the quickest boat load up of all week.  It is always nice to see a sport develop and this one of ours is no exception and in doing fishing holidays in the Florida Keys for over 10 years maybe tuna fishing has changed the most.  In our early years it was nearly all top water trolling and don’t get me wrong if they are feeding on the top a very exciting way to catch, the sound of the lines coming out of the out riggers the screaming drags very cool.  However a few years ago butterfly jigs changed it all, many times especially during the afternoon there is little or no surface action some skips will feed live bait to get the tuna up but there is a much easier way jigging.  With the use of depth indicating line once the correct numbers are found it is fish for everyone and as Russell Weston said on his trip to the tuna grounds I have yet to find a fish that for its weight pulls as hard and for as long as a tuna.

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This year I had to come back to the UK earlier than expected and my US Capt Brent Kindell stepped for the last few days of Rob’s fishing holiday and what a blast they had.  While inshore the iconic fish of the Florida Keys are tarpon and permit offshore it has to be sailfish and the stunning dorado or as the locals call them dolphin fish.  I still smile thinking back to the first time I took my wife to a restaurant and the look on her face when the special of the day was dolphin and she said they can’t be serious can they.  One of the days Brent took Rob and the boys way offshore and they had a two small dorado an other one for the species list and some very good table fare.  The name dorado comes from the Spanish for golden or gold-plated and from the photos you can see why, also an other name is mahi mahi .

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Since 2002 the dolphin research program has been tagging fish of the south coast of mainland US and the Bahamas and the facts from over 350 plus recoveries have been amazing.  Longest distance has been 1,197 miles in just  51 days, average speed for all fish is 21.6 miles a day with the highest daily speed a staggering 93 miles a day.  Dorado are the fastest growing fish known and growth rates of up to 2.7 in a week have been found this 24/7 feeding has resulted in a 48 in fish weighing 40 lbs and less than 12 months old, but the growth rates does have its down side a very short life.  During the survey only 3 % of fish were over 1-year-old and the oldest fish ever found was just 4 years old but dolphin’s breeding facts are just as amazing.  They mature at just 14 inch long and only 3 months old and in a 39 in female 555,000 eggs were found.  What makes dolphin fish so much fun they just take any thing you want to throw at them and when you see the golden one in the deep blue at the end of your line not a lot beats it.

” What’s this one “

That was the cry often heard in the early years of our fishing holidays in the Florida Keys however as I had fished the Keys for many years before I had started doing holidays I knew most of the strange and wonderful fish found out here.  Over the years the number of species has risen greatly so we don’t hear the cry so often now however Rob Shipleys party decided to change that and add some very colourful fish to our list.  The variety of fish in the Florida Keys is just amazing up to the boys from Jersey we had 117 different species and they added an other 5 and we had one the week before.  In all fairness that is what I missed most from my trip this year to Norway not many different fish and Rob and the boys were on course to have 50 + for the week.

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The one from the week before a Flat Needle fish.

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The start of Robs fish a Blue Parrot fish.

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Then a Scrawled File Fish.

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A nice Nassau Grouper for Chris.

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A young Speckled Hind a long way from home.

I had to leave early and my Capt Brent Kindell fished with the boys for the last few days and I think they had a Vermillion Snapper so that would take the boat tally to 123 different species just amazing.

Shark numbers

In the 10 years we have been doing fishing holidays in the Florida Keys and the 5 years before when I first started fishing in the Keys we have been hearing more and more about decreasing shark numbers due to overfishing.  Well let me assure any one thinking of coming in the Florida Keys this is not the case at all, in fact in my experience the reverse is the case numbers and on the rise.  In the bay numbers of the smaller shark can get so high all you can do is enjoy them or move, I have said before I am lucky that most guys like catching shark so no problem.  However more than once recently in the bait shops flats guides bitching about the number of shark on the bone fish flats where they are not welcome at all.  The other day I managed to get Rob and the boys offshore and large amberjack were on the to do list but it was very strange fishing.

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We only managed on decent one back to the boat but our live baits were being hit on ever drop and hooked fish were coming off then it all became obvious what was going on.  Pete had a good fish on then when we all saw colour not an AJ but a shark and a silky shark at that  the culprits had been found out.  Silky shark are a true ocean-going shark and we find them in numbers on the tuna grounds where some days they will not let a tuna get to the boat.  So what were the doing in just 200 ft of water and just 10 miles offshore the only thing of is that the numbers are on the rise.  So if you like your shark fishing you know where to come dont bitch about them just enjoy them, all will pull your string and some for a very long time.