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Down the Docks



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"Ok- now touch your nose and walk along this line please sir...."

Blue Parrotfish from Crandon Marina...



Houndfish from next to one of the bridges down in the Keys.

A revelation to us, was the fun that could be had fishing in or by the hundreds of docks, jetties and bridges littered throughout Florida. A light rod, a bag of shrimp, a six pack of beers and a couple of hours in the evening were all that was required to fill your boots with juveniles of all kinds of species, the like of which you would just love to see in an aquarium back at home. Several times, after arriving back at the motel after a days 'serious' fishing for the big boys out on the ocean, we'd retire for sundowners and a complete change of scenery and tactics by heading down to the docks to relax and spend a couple of hours sitting on a jetty, and work our way through a few beers while getting a bite a cast. It really is lovely fishing, and you just don't know what you're going to catch next. Snappers, Puffers, Grunts, Jacks, Doctorfish, Mullet, along with several less common species like Lookdown, Lizardfish and Parrotfish can all put in an appearance at any point. But don't think it's all strictly small stuff. Watto dropped out a section of Houndfish flesh on the bottom one evening on a spinning rod & 15lb BS mono, just to see what happened. Within ten minutes he had a bite, struck... and then ended up watching his Baitrunner get spooled as the unseen adversary bolted along the dock, under and around a couple of jetties, out towards the exit to the ocean before breaking the line with ease! What it was we can't be sure, but in all probability it was perhaps a large Stingray or Eagle Ray. He was never gonna get it out, whatever it's identity. In fact, we were sat taking it easy one evening, and a boat just down from us was throwing the livebaits out of the live-well at the end of the day... and a Tarpon appeared in the inadvertent chum-lane at the stern of his boat just snaffling them as they hit the surface. So his young son hooked up one of the remaining baits, flicked it out... and ten minutes later had a forty pound Silver King on the boat. Just like that.

Of course, you could soon get into a shoal of one particular species. So once you've had enough of those, you just walk 20 yards, change mooring and set about another shoal of something different at the next one! One has to be careful though, because nearly everything you bring ashore there has spines, teeth and mucous, and I can vouch that getting a spine from a Catfish's pectoral scraped across your hand does you no good at all. If you do, get some antiseptic on it sharpish!

If you're ever in Florida, enjoy fishing, and are looking to kill a few hours, and yet don't want to fish with a guide (or can't afford to, which is more to the point...) I don't really think you can beat it. And it's dead easy, which suits me down to the ground.

There are two meanings to the phrase "down the docks" though, as we found out after a late night down at the Monkey Bar in the Keys. Ho hum.

And a quick shot to show how lucky I was to get it out... look at those barnacle crushing gnashers, and yet somehow it didn't bite through the 6lb BS mono!



The ubiquitous Catfish. Covered in slime and spines, stinks to high heaven, and usually vomits whatever gunge it's been sucking off the bottom that day upon capture. Not pleasant.

Shiny silver Lookdown. Weird looking creature.

Follwed by a Mojarra for Watto. Or as he liked to call them, 'Kate Mojarra'. Poor.

Cute Grouper.

Prize for the ugliest? Maybe. A Toadfish. Clearly related to the Turdfish?

Pretty little Grunt.

A junior Yellow Snapper from the dock- just one of a multitude of different juvenile Snappers to be found in most docks.

Lovely little Grey Snapper.

Juvenile snapper again. Not sure of the species of this one.

Lesser Spotted Lizardfish. I had no idea what this fish was, but fortunately thee was a student from the university there who had a reference book. It's scales even felt like a lizard.

A trophy Jack Crevalle. One of only two I've ever caught that didn't pull my arms off!

A species of Doctorfish for Watto.

And Watto shows off the bright red mouth.

This one was from outside Islamorada branch of Dunkin' Donuts.

Another really pretty species of Puffer. If only we could get stuff like this home for the aquarium.

A juvenile Mackerel. Obviously it was lost.

A mess off Butterfish caught by chumming with shrimp pieces until they were in a mini-frenzy.

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