Group photo at Key West.
Sloppy Joe's at Key West.
Watto goes on the pull.
And it tries a last
desperate bid for freedom...
Before finally deciding to
just get in the boat.
Fish offal. Chum. Nice.
Aside from the
brilliant fishing on the flats down in Biscayne Bay and the Keys, and the
great fun-fishing to be in the docks, marinas and around the bridges,
there are, of course, thousands of other species to be tried for in the
turquoise waters off Florida. During our stays there we have tried for
Tarpon, Rays, Sharks, Barracuda, Amberjack, Sailfish- as well as a
multitude of other smaller reef species, and you'd have to say that in
most cases the reels have very rarely been quiet!
Of the most
memorable days there were perhaps three which really stand out- for
differing reasons. Firstly there was the one where Watto and myself
managed 5 Tarpon between us, with the biggest being around the 120lb mark.
Now that was quite good enough for me, but to put the icing on the cake,
right at the end of the day Watto had put out a deadbait which was taken
by something very, very big indeed. The hooked fish screamed away from the
boat on an amazing run, and finished it off by leaping from the water
perhaps four or five times. Watto and I just stood agape as a huge (200lb
plus) Eagle Ray hung in the air like a huge spotted tablecloth some 100
yards back from the boat, before crashing back through the surface with
the most amazing 'slap'! It took almost an hour to subdue the fish, before
eventually it came into view, rising up in the water column like
some alien from another world.
It took both Watto and Bouncer to just to
get the fish far enough over the edge of the boat to get a couple of
photos. It was certainly never coming in the boat: 1. because it was too
big to fit in there anyway..., and 2. because once in we would never have
been able to lift it back out!
great day was a kind of 'variety day' we decided to have, whereby we
trolled tube lures and Rapalas for Barracuda and caught lots of them,
was amazing because the wreck was in 50ft of water, and time and again the
'Cudas would come off the wreck to hit a tube lure skipping right across the
surface. We then
moved onto some wrecks to drop huge jigs and some live mullet for the
stubborn old gits of the sea, the Amberjack, and get some sore forearms
(if you can imagine winding a sack of cement up 200 feet of water you
might have some idea). The day then finished with a bit of light
tackle bait fishing over some reefs to get a few small Grouper and Snapper
etc. Great fun, easy fishing, and bites all day. Oh, and the sun was
Finally, there was a day
spent out on the blue water after a bit of everything again (variety is
the spice of life, after all). The weather was quite lovely to be out in,
with a temperature up in the 90's, and barely a breath of wind. This
however, we were told, was far from ideal for our first target species for
the day, the Sailfish, since they love a good chop on the water. Still, we
gave it a go anyway, and put out some Herrings on flat-lines around the
boat, and went on a drift with the tide. Some half an hour passed, when
suddenly, not 20 yards from the boat, my Herring bait started to get
agitated. It then panicked and swam from right to left a a great rate of
knots, rattling the rod tip as it did so. Then there, approaching at high
speed was the reason for its angst! A huge sail sliced through the surface
film, and for the second it was in full view in the clear, mirror calm
ocean, with it's whole flank lit up in an iridescent neon blue sheen, before
smashing into the bait with great fury and snapping the line straight out
of the clip! A sight and experience that is indelibly imprinted on my
memory, and something which wouldn't have been half as spectacular if it
wasn't for the flat calm conditions. After setting the hook it gave the
most memorable fight on 20lb line and a heavy spinning outfit, giving
numerous cart-wheeling leaps before being released boat-side.
rods are yours now", I said to Andy R, and it was great that within
half an hour he too was battling it out with a similar sized Sailfish,
which amongst other dodges, tried to jump into the boat twice! All good
stuff, and so, with our Sailfish under our belts within the first couple
of hours, we then decided to target a shark or two.
Again, the calm
conditions weren't great for this (apparently), but it was still just
lovely to be out on the ocean. Anyway, we found some Bonito and had great
fun for a while catching some of those on light spinning rods, before
setting up a couple of 50lb class outfits with slabs of our fresh, bloody
Bonito on. The baits were set at different depths, and we set about
getting a chum lane going consisting of fish offal from the docks and a
few pints of fish oil & blood. Jesus- it really is enough to make you
Unfortunately, we only had one piece of action on the shark rods all
afternoon- and that was from a Big Nose Shark (I believe it was called),
and perhaps the smallest one in the sea! However, it was far from dull,
since the sun shone, the wind never got above a feint breeze, the beer was
cool, and we passed our day with some opportunist fishing, catching a few
more Bonito on the light spinning gear, and even managing a new species
when a school of Cobia circled the boat for long enough to have a couple
of freelined live Herring flicked in front of them. Its always nice to get
a new species on the list! Couple the great weather, with some good
company, some nice fishing and the spectacle of a large school of Dolphin
cavorting around the boat for us, you have a really special day out
The 'Silver King' makes and
acrobatic bid for freedom.
But eventually circles the
boat a beaten critter.
Hooked into an Amberjack
over 200ft plus of water. Get ready for some pain.
A nice Amberjack
Blue Circle Jack!)
Bonito. Great sport on
light tackle. Great bait too!
An opportunist Cobia taken
on livebait as it circled the boat.