Friday, April 24, 2015

Dolphin Bite Getting Hot

As I mentioned in the last post, if the winds lay down a little so boats can cover some ground the dolphin bite should pick up.  They did and it did.  Quite a few really nice size fish and full boxes are starting to hit the dock.  Capt. Dave for example had a trip yesterday that produced a number of gaffers plu a forty pound big fish.  Capt. Bob Brown has had a few back to back trips with nearly full boxes of gaffers/heavy swingers plus a fish or two over forty.  Most of the kids have been sailfishing, it the Key West tourney and got some nice checks btw, but I expect they will be hitting the dolphin after their celebratory hangovers subside.  There is never a guarantee that you will whack them, but with winds under 10 knots you have a much better chance of finding fish especially, if you are on a smaller boat.  I am open until the first of May if you are having any difficulties and are close to Marathon.   I have had some requests for trips out of Key Largo and such, but that is a bit outside my normal stomping grounds so I recommended guys with a bit more local knowledge.

The reason I am sitting is likely due to the grouper season nonsense.  As you may know, Gag grouper have issues in the Atlantic north of Daytona and Red Grouper have issues in the Gulf north of Tampa.  Since the Keys are stuck in the middle we get nailed by both fisheries management groups and they close down ALL grouper in the Keys from January until May unless you are close enough to run into the Gulf where you can hit Red Grouper, then you get April back.

Since the daily temperatures have gotten in the mid 80s I broke down and stowed the winter clothes and got the air conditioners running.  While I was at it I looked at a few of the projects.  didn't do anything, but I did look at them which means I might restart a few.

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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

More Family Fun Fun

I got a call yesterday from a young father of two that took his wife, two young daughters and another couple fishing for dolphin and managed to bore the hell out of them.  So I showed him how to keep it simple, catch fish and keep the short attention span crew happy.  There is a lot to be said for simple.  Now the family fun stuff will never impress the big game crowd, but it has its place.

The family fun trip netted about 8 hogfish, a porgie or two, a few yellowtail, a trigger and a lot of releases including one huge boxfish.    It was dinner and a show kinda thing which satisfied the admirals.


I think it was a cowfish, but I have never seen a three pound cowfish before so it might be one of the more exotic varieties.  If they email me a photo I will put that up, but for now it was big and an usual.  That photo is off of Wikipedia and you can follow the link to learn more about the photographer and the alleged Humpedback Boxfish.

The reason I post this is because offshore has been hero or zero.  There have been some very impressive dolphin catches provided you find that magic trip saving floater.  There has also been some impressive sailfish bites, but nothing I can report on that someone might actually be able to match.  However, the winds are laying down a bit so boats can cover more ground which cuts down on the luck factor.  Family dolphin trips with small kids can be a disaster if you actually want your significant other and offspring to enjoy the trip enough to do it again.  So if you plan a family dolphin trip I recommend having some knocker rigs and frozen shrimp as a backup bait should the crew start looking mutinous.

Back up plans are as or more important than plan A.  If you have a big boat with an air conditioned cabin, full bar and galley plus a reasonable dvd library for the appropriate age groups, plans B through Z are not such a big deal.  On a center console though, catching something is pretty much mandatory.  While dropping balleyhoo chunks or squid for last minute trip savers normally works, shrimp is a sharper tool to have around for the short attention span set down here in the Keys.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

This Year's Fishing Product Test



Last year I got two Sea Striker Aries spinning combos at a pretty fair discount and tested them out.  the reels hung in there just fine despite a complete lack of maintenance which is part of the testing.   One of the graphite rods broke while we were fishing for big bottom fish with the drags cranked down.  Graphite rods are great, but they really are pushing the limit in order to get that light weight and fast action, so all it takes is a nick, like say from banging the hell out of the tee top a few times and they are subject to break.  If you buy a big name brand you can send the rod back and get it replaced most of the time, but it can cost some shipping and handling and other hidden stuff along with the time out of service.  Lots of people go that route, but being excessively frugal, I rather just get a cheap replacement.

The Sea Striker combos cost me $75 dollars a piece and I still have one in great shape and switched the reel to another cheap rod so I never missed a beat.  For $31 I can get another matching rod, but when looking I found out I could get another outfit for about the same price.

So pictured are the excessively frugal spinning combos.  The rods are by Sea Striker which I got for $13 each and the reels are a Chinese knock off model DK6000 whatever that means.  I spooled them up with Berkley Big Game clear of course 15 pound line so I have some very light yellow tail/patch/rockpile rods which I only have to tie a hook on in order to catch fish.  The clear 15 pound works just about as well as flourocarbon when it is brand new which saves a lot of rigging time.

Just like last year I am going to fish these til something breaks and not bother breaking them down for maintenance.  With shipping, tax and line, a little over 200 yards each, each outfit cost less than $35.

Don't expect to get a matching outfit for the same price I paid.  I happened to get lucky on the rods which generally sell for $30 online and $60 in your local "discount" fishing/athletic department stores.  The reels though are easy to find, just no one in their right mind would buy one based on the goofy Chinese attempts at marketing.  If the Chinese could get a better interpreter, they would sell more but I have been studying English for a while now and still haven't got it down, so I understand their predicament.

The ads for these reels list things like 11 or 12 ball bearings plus one and things like they are carp catching machines.  The reels I bought actually have two ball bearings in the normal sense of the term and two bushings, with a respectable front drag and composite body.  The composite body will have some flex if you confuse the reel with a winch, but then the other trial combo reels had the same issue.  Not really a problem in my opinion, but it does turn some folks off.  I though can live with the flex thanks to the weeks worth of groceries price difference.  That would be compared to just a mid range reel like say a Penn Battle which retails for around $125 the last time I looked.

 I do have two larger Chinese knockoffs on order, $15 each including shipping from the Far East that should hold close to 300 yards of 20# line, but I haven't decided on what cheap but sexy looking rod to pair with them yet.  It is hard to find a 15-30# rod that is graphite and inexpensive, relatively speaking with the full cork handle.

Fishing wise my book is open other than a family fun half day on the Lady Catherine tomorrow.  The winds are predicted to be borderline PITA for the next week so I doubt I will get many calls until they calm down a bit.  Since the Easter rush is over I haven't seen many reports from the locals and most of the snowbirds are packing to head back north again.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I get a break for a day or two

Joe and crew from Maryland are on their way home and I am chillin'.  We never did get offshore thanks to the winds and never hooked that tarpon on Joe's bucket list.  We did at least see a tarpon, but on the whole it was a weird bite on the back side of the full moon with winds averaging close to 20 knots.  Fishing the bridge was a major PITA due to the grass and water conditions associated with the higher current and winds.  That made the rock piles and bay side wrecks the most productive place to fish for my crew.

I was surprised we din't get more mangrove snapper and keeper mutton snapper.  The main fish in the box were porgies, lots of nice size fish up to a couple of pounds and hogfish with a few yellowtails, triggerfish, yellow jacks, but the barracuda got the muttons.  Great eating but not exactly what we had envisioned at the start of the week.

It appears is wasn't just me.   A good number of the better captains had slow trips and there were of course the captains that hit the right spot at the right time and kicked butt.  Sailfish bit well for a couple of boats while we were chasing tarpon.  If you guess right you are a hero, guess wrong and your are a goat.  Of the four days with Joe I was a goat on one, a hero on one and just so so the other two, but we did catch fish every day.

Now that all the components have arrived, I have my sharp looking, crap outfits ready to fish.  I have two 15 pound spinning outfits with graphite rods and Chinese knock off reels.  Other than one cheesy flash chrome bit that serves no useful purpose, the reels look like they will make pretty good yellow tail catchers.  15 pounds is a little on the light side, but can be a lot of fun and if some kids (age 0 to 80) happens to drop the outfit overboard I won't lose any sleep.

I have always had fun catching big fish on cheap crap gear so hopefully a few of my customers will as well.  The main thing with the reel is drag and line capacity.  These have a drag similar to to the Daiwa BG series which is okay if you keep them clean and close to 200 yards of 15 pound CLEAR Berkley big game.  The Contour rods are rated for 8 to 17 pound line so the combo actually has a nice balance with a light weight.  Of course they may break the first time out, but what the heck.

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

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Still Trying to get Offshore


The winds have been just high enough to make an offshore trip no fun unless the fish are close.  So while I watch the satellite water temperatures we have been catching dinner on the rock piles, Hogfish, porgies and yellowtail snapper mainly since the Lane Snapper have been avoiding us, and playing with Jacks, mainly Jack Crevelle with a few nice size Yellow Jacks which make good bait for bull sharks.  We released a Bull yesterday that was in the 200 to 300 pound range.  That was on the crews list of things to catch, but with rental boat time constraints we haven't played with a tarpon yet and only made a couple of drifts looking for permit.
 
The winds and full moon currents have had the bridge water churned up pretty good making sight fishing pretty hard.  I haven't seen others hooking up tarpon while we were out so I guess the bite is real early or there just isn't much of a bite.  We will give the Tarpon a more serious shot tomorrow early when we should have the cleanest water.

The winds Friday should be tolerable for the boat we have if Wind finder is right, so that is planned to be the offshore day.  That is were the SST composite comes in.

If we can hit a warm water edge less than 20 nm south of the light we should be able to find some good size dolphin without getting too beat up.  Some of the bigger boats I know have aborted due to seas the last few days and we are fishing a 26 foot Sea Chaser which while a fine boat, ain't all that comfortable in sloppy 6 foot seas.  My back is good for about two hours of pounding then I start getting a touch grumpy.

Now for a couple of pictures that suck.

Hogfish in camo.  While not as sexy as a monster dolphin, Mr. Hogfish makes a great appetizer.  Roberto turned out to be the hogfish master on the Monday trip.  He also put a couple of respectable Yellowtail in the box using the same knocker rig and shrimp.

The i phone in the picture got better photos, but you can make out some of the bull shark which seemed to make the crew's day.  It will likely grow depending on who relates the tale, but it was close to 10 foot long with 250 pounds a fairly accurate guesstimate on the weight. The low light of the day was losing a BIG mangrove that took his crew with him after getting away.  Other than that yesterday was slow in my opinion but memorable for the shark hunters.

I was supposed to be fishing today but got bumped which is just fine with me.  I need a break every couple of days to unlax from the relaxing.  Back at it tomorrow.

In the mean time, I have found some rods to replace the broken ones from this winter.  I typically use Ugly stick blanks which are almost indestructible, but the lighter graphite rods which like to break are all the rage.  I also found some dirt cheap reels which I am going to test in the coming month.  The reels are Chinese which used to be a bad thing until everyone of our "American" manufacturers started out sourcing to China.  I see no reason to pay a premium on crap when I can get the crap direct for 25% of the going rate for crap.  In fact, the crap I ordered online should last a season, then I can replace it for less than repairing the brand name crap.  These outfits though are just big enough for yellow tail and light tackle stuff, but 200 yards of 17 pound test can surprise you.

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tough Fishing the Past Few Days


I don't know if we zigged when should have zagged, but haven't found the temperature breaks and floaters offshore.  Part of that is due to the last cold front pushing cold water out.  We saw water temperatures on the ups and downs drop a couple of degrees.  The free sea surface temperature data we get from Hotspots gets blanked out by cloud cover but there are some composite charts available from NASA which you can use with Google Earth.  So I am playing around with that to see If I can make that easier to use.  The color scale they use is pretty course, but that temperature break is about 27 miles south and we stopped a few miles short of that the other day in order to get back in shore in time to do something else.  The something else, the old stand by rock piles was slower than all get out other than grouper we couldn't keep anyway, so the trip sucked in my opinion.

We did have a couple of knock downs, likely by sailfish in my opinion, but I never got to see what was spraying the bait.  Since the Lady Catherine is docked near Vaca Cut, we try not to run too far West, but the current has been pretty weak meaning it isn't all that easy to get a bite going.  I am not sure what the guys want to do tomorrow, but if it is dolphin and tuna we probably will have a lone run without much time to change plans.  If they want a shot at the sailfish, then we have plenty of back up plans.  Most of the bad trips I have is when we roll the dice and go for the hero fish which is part of fishing, but slow doesn't impress the folks at the dock.

Ballyhoo on the ocean side have also been scarce and those live wigglers can really come in handy.  Winds are supposed to be nice in the morning so if that is right we might get some nice rollers that get the sailfish tailing.  In any case, no bragging fish the past two days but there have been a fair number of sails caught close and some nice dolphin, wahoo and tuna if you get out far enough.  In the middle is just about dead.


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