Monday, June 27, 2016

Pretty nice Yellowtail



Imagine that, the camera worked and the lens wasn't completely covered with crude.  Anywho, that is a 25" Yellowtail with is pretty nice.  I haven't seen many over 20 inches for a while so this is a good sign.

It was caught on a reef 101 after we hit a few other spots.  Plenty of Mangroves and Yellowtail every where, but there are so many barely legals you have to work a bit to find the bigger ones.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.


Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Full Moon and Bananas

I have gotten two messages about fishing on the full moon today.  The full moon is a PITA for a variety of reasons, especially in the summer.  Just about everything down here spawns around the full moon when the water temperatures are right.  So you can have some critter that you don't fish for like sponge worms spawn, screwing up your bucket list tarpon trip.  Then you can have Grouper or Snapper move to a different area to spawns show you don't find them in their usual places.  Plus with the faster than normal currents you can have a bite that doesn't last as long for some species and longer for another.  There can be so many things happening that you have trouble finding the right combination.

To keep things simple, planning a trip for the quarter moons is the way to go unless you are looking for spawn fish and you know where they are.  You can kill plenty of fish if you fish at one spot at a particular time of day and on a particular tide.   That particular time seems to be late, at night and/or early, but fish love making a liar out of folks so you never know for sure.

I am not a fan of hammering spawn fish so I avoid that, but there are some fish that are more than plentiful enough to hammer once or twice a year, so it doesn't bother me much.  Night time Mangroves, they are pretty plentiful, but I have noticed years when perhaps a bit too much hammering occurred.  Mutton snapper are also plentiful, but that is subject to change as more and more people figure out that combination.  They will bounce back as long as just hook and line fishing is used and the coral pretty much eliminate serious net fishing so they are good to go.  Amberjack were hit really hard about 15 years ago by commercial semi-long liners using 20 to 50 hook rigs with live bait, but most of the serious depletion has been with nets which are heavily regulated now.

Luckily, the Keys has a huge variety of targets and lots of fishing styles so even on a full moon you will likely have better fishing than you are used to back home, but magic trips are more likely around the quarter moons.    For example if you want to catch yellowtail snapper finding a good current that last long enough to really work them is tougher on a full or new moon than it is on a quarter moon.  You can still peak away at them, but that huge ball of fat yellowtails is more common and bite lasts longer when the current is just right.

If you are stuck with a full or new moon in your schedule, then plans C and D might be in order, but you can find something willing to bite.  This is a great time to forget bananas completely and don't forget your lucky fish hat or whatever just in case.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.


 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Let the Dolphin Whining Begin

This year's offshore season is a bit different than most years.  We had a mild winter thanks to El Nino and sea surface temperatures have been warmer in shore so it is hard to find a normal temperature break.  The Gulf Stream has been close to missing in action off Marathon so the usual spots are not having the usual up welling currents.  And since inshore waters have been warm, the winds have been a bit different.  Blah, blah blah, there are plenty of excuses.  The result is just it is harder to find fish.   There are still fish out there and still plenty of gaffers, just you cannot run out an fill the fish box as often.  So you need to have your plan Bs and Cs in order.

Deep dropping and Mutton on the 150 to 250 foot wrecks are the main plan B for guys that have good numbers and the right gear.  I have mentioned trolling off the reef in these depths with your sonar tweaked in to find a few spots if you don't have magic numbers.  You also have artificial reefs that might be a bit more crowded than normal when the other bites are slow.  The 70 foot to 90 foot ledge on the reef only runs a few hundred miles and has been known from time to time to produce a few fish.  then there is the reef proper, patches, rock piles, bridges and flats so you have a few more options than just running offshore and slaying dolphin.

Yesterday we found two beautiful floaters loaded with bait that should have been loaded with fish, but were not.  So we gave up on Dolphin a little before noon and hit the back up plans.  Since we are close to a full moon, the bite was weird meaning you have to work harder, chum heavier and move more often to get a respectable box of fish.  For locals, this is pretty weird stuff so you might hear a few words a bit more often than normal.

The real challenge with a slow bite is that lighter tackle is often needed get things going and of course Murphy's law requires big fish hammering your light tackle.  You also need better quality bait than normal and live shrimp in summer might require magnifying glasses, so don't forget fresh or frozen shrimp which have saved more than one trip and fresh or live pin fish, ballyhoo or whatever other bait you can find..

One interesting thing about the warmer than normal waters is that bigger than normal fish are common.  As usual in summer, early, late and night fishing gets increases in popularity.  So in that hot middle of the day time, trolling a little faster than normal kicks the A/C up a notch and is a great time to look for some new to you fishing spots.  Just plan on going with the flow and Marathon in the Florida Keys still a great fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Update on the Cheap Spinning Combos

I bought the first cheap combos for kid friendly charters.  These were Aires AS60 reels with a seven foot contour graphite rod.  Nice and light with a cork handle that is easy for kids to use.   I really didn't expect the reels to last a full year, but thought the rods would be pretty rugged.  Surprisingly, the reels lasted nearly two years before the first one bit the dust.  One rod broke, which was also a surprise.  The one reel that is still working has a spritz of WD 40 after a little soap and water so it is still going strong.

The big problem with cheap tackle isn't so much that they break but when they break.  You really don't want gear breaking on your fish of a lifetime.  However, if you are targeting dinner or wanting a five year old to fish without constant supervision, you are a bit more tolerant of things breaking and going overboard if they aren't expensive.  So you have some trade offs to consider.

I did put the cheap stuff to quite a few tests on big fish, and that is really more of a drag test than anything else.  The drag design for most of the cheap reels is similar to Daiwa BG series drags.  Not a great drag system, but pretty reliable as long as the washers are reasonably clean and you don't make a habit of hammering your drag down.  I go a bit heavy on my drags but not over 50% of line rating.  Since I use mono and not braid, that is considered light drag to many.

Part of my test was to not do anything other than rinsing the reels off with fresh water.  Just off the shelf and in the water which is pretty common for vacationing do it yourselfers.  Had I broken the reels down and added some quality lube, I am pretty sure both would still be in action.

Since I expected the reels to die early, I bought a few super cheap Chinese reels for back ups.  These no name reels are a complete crap shoot.  One brand I bought sucked big time but another actually has potential provided I do the break down, lube and grease drill.  both cost less than $15 which is pretty much ultra cheap.  Handles and the anti-reverses are the major issues.  These are both things that need oil more than grease or the buildup is just about as bad as the corrosion.  This could mean a revival of old school Vaseline which protects and lubricates without buildup only with the need for regular application plus knowledge of how to spray WD 40 on things that are supposed to move.  Even the ultra cheap can do a good job with a little TLC.  The sad part of this test was that the cheap stuff, less than $30 isn't that much worse than the mid range stuff, $50 to $100.  

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.


 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Friday, May 27, 2016

May '16 Roundup


I try to avoid tarpon trips mainly because of this.  You get out there sometimes and you get to see thousands of tarpon not wanting to bite.  If you fish tarpon a lot you get into the crazy bites, but just going once and a while and during the normal 8:00 to 4:00 schedule you can get skunked.  I believe the bite on this day started around 6:00 which is pretty normal, a strong bite from 8:00 to 4:00 is fairly abnormal, but you get to see plenty of fish that are not biting.

Since most of my clients rent boats and rental boats are not allowed out after dark, I rarely get a chance to fish the peak times for tarpon.  When I get to change the schedule I do all right, but I have had a large number of crack of dawn starts turn into crack of noon starts thanks to Duval Street and finding lots of live bait not being so lively, a lot like the clients that did the Duval Crawl.

In any case, the tarpon bite has been hot for them that are dedicated to fishing for tarpon.  Crabs are the primary bait now that it is May, but when they are biting they will eat just about anything.

As usual most of my trips were more generic catching/drinking excursions designed to avoid rough water.  Thanks to the luck of the draw, I didn't get offshore the past two weeks which has also been a pretty good bite provided you are willing to travel a good bit.  The Gulf Stream has been spending more time well South than normal so some of the "hot" spots aren't.  I heard the Islamarada Hump was dead for a few days so the Islamarada gang was fishing the 409 hump and the Marathon gang was having to go a bit past the wall.  There are plenty of fish in closer but you have to be a bit luckier than normal when the current is dead.  Because of this a lot of charters are doing the deep drop routine or hitting Mutton wrecks to make their day.  Nothing wrong with having plans b through d to fall back on.

Booking has been a torment as usual.  More walk-ups than prebooks but such is life.  We are moving into the "easy" offshore season when the ocean seems to be full of schoolie dolphin.  My last few offshore trips have been nothing but gaffers, meaning not a lot of fish but a lot of good fish, and now it will become lots of fish and not a lot of "good" fish requiring a gaff to get into the boat.  Its all good.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Fun Offshore

While everyone else is fishing for grouper it seems, we had an offshore trip yesterday.  Over all it was slow but the fish were worth it.  In spite of losing two dolphin that would have gone over 20 pounds, we still ended up with four nice dolphin to twenty, all gaffers, a pair of Skipjack tuna, one nice Blackfin tuna and a tripletail.  One of the dolphin was caught on a fly rod while trying to get tripletail.

We saw a good number of fish following lures that didn't eat and it was just rough enough to make it a challenge.  We had a bit of Bermuda Triangle phone and camera day so about 30 minutes of video was lost along with one of the 20+ pound dolphin being fought on light spinning tackle.  Even the first set of photos at the dock didn't take but the customers did get a few which they said they will email me :)  We'll see, but it is pretty rare for them to remember.

The electronics issues were likely due to salt spray.  While it wasn't really rough the wind and seas were sporty enough to keep everyone fairly wet during the day.  The little Lady Catherine is a dry boat most of the time but with the front coming through the southwest winds proved there is no such thing a dry center console.  The highlight of the trip was a white 55 gallon drum that had nothing but large Tripletail holding on it that we found on the way in.  We managed to hook one of the Tripletails before a school of gaffer dolphin mugged us.  Damn the bad luck :)

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

 Tight lines,

 Capt. Dallas