Friday, December 29, 2006

Nice Day On The Water

The last few trips haven't been big news catch wise. Good size Spanish, Nice Mangs and a lot of other stuff. My crew had shots at bigger things, but that's fishing.

The Mackerel bite has moved back out in the bay a little further than last week. The bigger Mackerel and Cobia were a little out of range for the half-day guide trip this afternoon. Still there was fair action in close for a mixed bag.

I was telling my crew today how slow it was, but he was really very happy with the trip. I may be getting spoiled, since a slower than average day bothers me. As long as the customer is happy, it's all good. No pictures on this trip, just a very relaxing day on the water.

Tight lines,
Capt. Dallas

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Keysy Christmas

It is the Holiday’s again, time to enjoy family and remember the reason for the season. That means fishing to me. Christmas and New Years signals the start of the tourist season in the Florida Keys. While my posts of late have been few, they will start picking up in the coming weeks and months. Tomorrow as with most Christmas Days, I will be fishing for a living. An afternoon half-day as a guide for a nice couple that just arrived in town.

The game plan for tomorrow’s trip is a little Keys fishing 101. Show the customers how to boat around the area without tearing up their rental boat. There will be a quick tour and then we will fish areas suited to the boat they rented and their seaworthiness. Winter is a little breezy in the Keys. The fish don’t mind the weather at all, the boaters mind to varying degrees. Living on an island is a great thing for boaters that don’t like it rough. There is always a leeside and a place to fish. So after the basic intro to the Keys 101, we will move into how to not get your butt kicked in the Keys while fishing.

Next we will move into basic Keys fishing techniques. My customers aren’t familiar with saltwater fish or fishing. They have considerable fresh water bass fishing experience. My job will be to teach them the differences between the two and break them of their bass habits.

With the weather to blow up a little tomorrow, classic Keys bridge fishing techniques will be the order of the day. The snapper bite at the bridge has been great so we shouldn’t have any problem catching fish. Most vacationers are not really satisfied with just eating fish; they want a challenge, something Big! The bridge offers all of that. So a little basic Tarpon fishing and basic Shark fishing will be on the syllabus.

Hopefully, they will have a digital camera so I can post a few photos. I really need some more interesting pictures for my posts or all you guys will start going somewhere else. Just try to bear with me for a few days and maybe I can add a few attention grabbing glossy photos of big fish and happy customers.

Happy Holidays guys and save a little eggnog for me.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Big is in the Eye of the Beholder

Family fishing vacations to the Florida Keys are very popular. The local charter captains enjoy taking the kids out and have almost as much fun as they do. If you plan to travel to the Keys for vacation, bring the kids along they will have a great time. Just remember that a successful fishing trip with younger children is not always measured in big fish, but in big smiles.

The Florida Bay is often like a lake, making it easy to introduce young anglers to a great time. These calm days are prefect for the kids and the adults. The action is almost constant which is what you need to hold the attention of many young anglers. Your family will be fishing in shallow clear waters, so you and yours will see plenty of fish. Using chumming techniques, the number of fish behind the boat will continue to grow. Mackerel, snapper, blue fish, sharks and a variety of Jacks are just a few of the fish you will encounter.

In winter, which is the best time to visit the Keys, hundreds of Spanish mackerel will pay you a visit. The Spanish are fun catch for young and old alike with fish ranging from two to ten pounds. They are great sport on light tackle. Jacks, blue runners and Jack Crevelle, will often show en mass making it hard not to have fish on the line.

To challenge the adults, Cobia, Goliath Grouper and larger sharks will show on most trips to stretch your line. The Cobia is delicious table fare, perfect for a family dinner. In the Keys almost any local restaurant will cook your fresh catch for you.

In calm weather, the reef of the ocean side of the island offers Yellowtail Snapper, grouper and mackerel. As in the bay, chum fishing is normally used to bring the fish right to the boat for all to see. The Yellowtails are very tasty and while they can be finicky, will most often bite very well. The occasional King Mackerel, many weighing over thirty pounds are a great challenge for both the younger and older crew.

Half-day trips are recommended for the younger members. All day trips can prove to be a little more than younger children like. If any of your children weigh less than fifty pounds, check with your captain before the trip to make sure a comfortable life vest is available. If you have a very young child, it is best to buy your own life vest. Let the young one wear the vest a little before the trip to become familiar with it before getting on the boat. All children under 13 years of age have to wear a vest. Your charter captain will have vests available for you and your family weighing over fifty pounds.

Bring plenty of drinks, light snacks, sunscreen and a hat for the sun. Your captain will have a cooler on the boat so check with him before bringinng your own. You and your children will have a great time. Do, not be surprise if the highlight of your child’s fishing trip is a small barracuda or shark. Remember, big is in the eye of the beholder.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Garmin GPSMAP 492C

With fuel cost causing issues in the charter business, I have been looking for a new charter boat that is more fuel efficient and versatile for the wide variety of fish here in the Florida Keys. While I haven’t purchased the boat, I have been shopping for new electronics. The boats that I am looking to buy are swallow draft center consoles. Center consoles have limited space making dual-purpose electronics very appealing. While I have never been a fan of most combination sounder/GPS machine. I recently had to change my mind.

The Garmin GPSMAP 492C impressed me. The compact unit combines Garman’s outstanding GPS equipment that I have used for years with a high quality color sounder. If you have used a Garmin, you know the ease of operation of the GPS units and the seamless nature of their chart plotters. While I have always preferred monochromatic displays, which were much easier to read with out digging out the glasses. The new color display was much easier to read that pervious models. With the backlight being adjustable from ultra dim for night fishing to high contrast for bright sunlight, I was able use the unit with no problems.

The sounder is a full 500 watts. Fishing in the Florida Keys, I may be fishing in fifteen foot of water in the bay one day and over 1000 foot past the wall the next. Having a sounder the can read 600 feet of bottom can make or break an offshore trip. If the striking fish aren’t biting a productive deep drop can put smiles on the crew.

With the center console I am planning to buy, the built in antenna means less rigging and money. Now there is no need for an expensive electronics box for the Tee Top. The 492 can be mounted on the dash by the compass. I like this because looking up at the box was always a pain in the neck. Dash mounted, access to the menu and control buttons is much easier.

All this was impressive until I found out that Bluechart comes installed with the unit. That saves $150 for the chart cost and $800 worth of aggravation keying in the 400 digit access code. If you are in the market for a new GPS for your center console, you need to checkout the Garmin GPSMAP 492C. Just look at the price.
Retail Price:$719.99 U.S.D.

Make fishing the Florida Keys your next vacation.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Don't forget the recipes and fishing basics link!

How to Have a Merry Christmas

It’s getting real close to Christmas and a few ladies out there haven’t wrapped up their shopping. Most men I know haven’t started yet. So for the ladies, it’s easy to please your fishing hubby, give him a Bass Pro Shops gift card.

Guys, pleasing the little lady might be more of a challenge. If you are thinking about a new vacuum or the Victoria’s Secrets catalog, my couch is only comfortable for about two days. Then you are on your own. But Bass Pro Shops may be your ticket out of the doghouse too.

Tip one, Sunglasses: A little BPS gift card so she can get proper eye wear for that tropical vacation she’s always wanted. You not only make her happy, you get to forget about shoveling snow and all the other honey do’s in the jar, and do a little serious fishing in the Keys.

Tip two Shoes

What woman doesn’t want new shoes, and boat shoes are perfect for that Sailfish trip you are taking her on in the fabulous Florida Keys because scraping ice of the windshield every morning is starting to chap your butt.

Tip three Luggage:

With sharp looking new wheeled luggage, she can keep up with you while you are running to the ticket counter to get your boarding passes to get on the plane that is taking you away from the slush that used to be snow and to the once in a lifetime fishing vacation/second honeymoon that will save your marriage and your sanity! In the Florida Keys of course.

Tight lines and a Merry Christmas to all,
Ho Ho Ho
Capt. Dallas

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fishing the Florida Keys - Sailfish Basics

Fishing for sailfish is a pretty big thing this time of year in the Florida Keys. Sails normally run November through April. The peak time will vary some each year and some years are much better than others. It is still pretty much world class fishing every year. A charter having four to six shots a day is a good average. Most of the sailfish are caught on live bait, Pilchards, ballyhoo, goggle eyes and other, in that order. Dead bait trolling and lures will produce, but not as well as the live bait.

More and more captains employ drift fishing with live chumming as their preferred method. Kite fishing is used by a few, but isn’t very effective if you have not found the fish. I prefer to mix it up, running and gunning a while to locate bait and sails, then live baitfish for them. Sight casting to the fish is really what I like once the fish are found, but drifting in a good area loaded with bait is what happens most of the time.

While a bait tank full of Pilchards or ballyhoo is preferred, sometimes you have to go with what you have. Blue runners, pinfish, yellowtail snapper and even needlefish have produced sails for me.

Rigging for sails is pretty much like rigging for tarpon. On the spinners I have 5 to 8 feet of double line and 6 to 8 feet of monofilament leader. Normally fifty to sixty pound leader is all I use and I fluorocarbon is a big deal with me. The hook is a 5/0 to 7/0 J or a 6/0 to 9/0 new type circle; it depends on my mate and my customers. With Pilchards or any live bait other than ballyhoo, just hook them in the nostrils. With ballyhoo, I hook them in the upper lip and us a short piece of copper rigging wire to wrap the bill and hook shank. Blue runners are tough to fish because at the first sign of a sail they try to climb back in the live well. This means I will use a balloon about six in front of the blue runners. This make them look a little more stupid and I can keep an eye on them. Having a bait look stupid isn’t a bad thing. Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory explains the reason. Stupid or defective critters are removed from the gene pool quickly.

For conventional rods, I use the wind on leader setup described in the six basic knot posting. I use the conventional a lot of the time when I have rookie anglers and no mate. I the anglers how to let the bait on the conventional tackle out and drive the boat in front of the fish. This also works on regular drift fishing. I really like having my customers fight big sails on light spinning outfits. Catching an 80-pound sail on ten or twelve pound test is a hoot that you can brag about later. The tournament guys use 30 pound on their spinners and thirty to fifty pound on their conventional rods to rack up numbers. That’s fine, I know how to do that too, I just prefer the light tackle and the shorter leaders. Who was it that said its not destination, it’s the journey. That’s fishing and me.

Finding the fish for me is the fun part for me. I’m looking for birds working, bait sprays, black trash bags in the water (that’s what a sailfish looks like swimming in the water) and free jumpers. Free jumping sails are neat to see, but you rarely get one in your lines. That said you have to check them out anyway. Come on! You got a shot right!

Best depths to hunt for sailfish in the winter is 100 to 300 feet. They can be on the reef or all the way past the ledge. Whether you need to run to alligator light or the Sambos is your guess. I normally work from Bonefish towers to Bahai Honda. Well, once I ran to American shoal and did pretty well. It’s all fishing and sailfish are a very worthy adversary. If you have never tried it, get off your dead butt and give it a go!

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Baitfish Tranquilizer

There was a comment I added to one of the Posts in Florida Sportsman forum "Keys General fishing" that needed a little more clarification. So I though I would add that to the blog just incase y'all don't read FS. The use of Oil of Cloves to annestize bait is a little trickier than was stated in the forum.

First Clove Oil is fairly potent. When the baits chill they really chill out and have to have extra O2 added to the water because they don’t move enough to breath well enough on their own. Pinfish require less added o2 and ballyhoo require much more. The o2 added also depends on the volume of the bait tank and the temperature of the water. I had a 28 gallon bait tank, with o2 set at minimum which was about one liter per minute, two bags of ice to get the water to about 72 degrees F and two drops of clove oil (mixed in saltwater before adding to the tank) and the bait pump turned off. With this combination, I could overload Pilchards and get them back to the bait keep with very little loss.

If I had to keep the bait alive longer, that’s when the IV drip came in. With the bait pump running, a diluted mixture of the clove oil and saltwater was used to maintain the concentration in the tank. I had a 1200-gallon per hour bait pump. That’s 20 gallons a minute of saltwater changed in the tank per hour. The 20 drops per minute was an easy to setup drip rate, so I adjusted the clove oil concentration to get one drop of clove per 20 drops of solution. That’s one part clove oil to twenty parts saltwater. The ice was a one shot deal it just gave the bait a good start. Problems were, the bait pump flow would change. I little too much bay grass in the pickup and the whole load was in peril. The system showed a lot of promise. I was working on a venturi pick up that would automatically vary the clove oil mixture with the bait pump flow. Fortunately, (or not depending on your view), I started running too many trips to play with the design.

As you probably see, this is a little more complicated than most people wanted to deal with. It can come in handy for live chumming for Sailfish. Giving you enough time to overload the bait tank and travel to a good spot past the reef where you could put out a nice wad of live Pilchards for your first drift. After a couple of drifts, shut the system down once there is a normal load of Pilchards in the bait tank. SKA anglers might want to play with the system when they need to make 50 plus mile runs in tourneys.

The reason I started doing all this was to keep live ballyhoo overnight. I only had limited success, probably because I couldn’t keep the water temperature low enough. A water cooler cost more than I wanted to invest. My not too overly scientific experiments showed the system worked but there were still bugs to workout. The same basic system is used for shipping large fish with great success; it is just a bit trickier with smaller baitfish.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fishing Guides

Recreation fishermen visiting the Florida Keys for the first time, even regular visitors can benefit from a good quality local guide. Anyone that trailers his boat to the Keys or is renting a boat locally should think about a guide service. This is how I got started in the keys. People renting boats would hire me for a half day, just to give them a quick look at how to get around without tearing the boat up or getting lost. Some would just hire me for a hour to refresh their boating skills. It wasn’t long until they started getting me for full days with quite a few getting me for a week or more.

While it is harder not to catch fish in the Keys than to catch, the quality of the catch seemed to be better with me on the boat. So I have been recommending people hire a guide for a while until last week. That’s when I found how much people are charging. Anything over $150 a day is a bit much!

That makes me think it might be time to start a guide referral service. I know three very qualified guides here in Marathon, that don’t have a problem working a half-day for $80 and a full-day for 150 dollars plus gratuity. Gratuity is typically 10 to 20 percent of the guide fee. We know that if you have a bad trip, getting stiffed is to be expected. It was always my policy that I’d refund anyone that didn’t have a good time. In my first 800 trips or so I refunded four times, mainly because of weather.

So between captains, Pete, Howard, Chris and myself, there is a pretty good start to a solid guide service in Marathon. Add in captain Jim on Big Pine and captain’s Jeff and Josh in Key Weird and captain Lee in Islamarada, that’s a pretty network of guides.

Don’t expect any guide to give you a bunch of numbers for honey holes. If you fish the same guide for a few trips, he might throw you a bone here or there. But don’t count on it. The biggest thing the guide will do is show you how and which public numbers to fish. The Top-spots charts have a few pretty good numbers in areas where there are better ones. A little local knowledge can really kick things up.

So if you might be interested in a fishing guide, let me know.

Capt. Dallas

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gulf Wreck Jewfish

I have written a couple of posts about the Gulf Wrecks. I want to add one more if that won’t bother everyone too much. The trip was in November a few years ago. I had a regular crew from upstate New York that fished with me every year. They had been to the wrecks at least once a year for about four years with me. Every one of the crew had tangled with a big Jewfish and one was about all they wanted. The big fish just kick your butt. So they started bringing a new victim each year just for Bubba. That’s the name give to the 130# outfit I use for the Jewfish.

My crew, Big John, his son Luke and Alley, brought along one of Luke’s friends that played football for some school like Ithaca State. For the like of me I can remember the boy’s name, but he was pretty healthy. Standing about 6-foot tall and weighing 275 pounds, he wasn’t all that worried about a little old fish. Normally John would have run his own boat but boats break so we ran the trip in Captain Pips 28 Topaz. Normally I wouldn’t take a mate on these trips, but Mike was around and pretty sober so we took him.

It was a chamber of commerce kind of day. Flat seas, a perfect current and good clean water. We had a good load of pinfish for live bait and the crew had plenty of cold beer. The game plan on these trips is for the crew to catch bait for the victim. John, Luke and Alley dropped and started catch big blue runners and Jack Crevelle that we shot to the bottom on Bubba. Normally this is all it takes, but the big guys on the bottom weren’t in the mood for Jacks. So Alley brought up a nice red group that went on Bubba instead on the ice. That red didn’t make it to the bottom before a big Jewfish inhaled it. The football player took the rod and much to our surprise, whipped the big Jew fish’s butt.

Mike, Luke and the football player managed to drag the 300-pound fish over the side for a nice photo op. That is the fish in the side bar along with Mike and the football player. While the crew was taking pictures, Alley had brought another red over the side. Mike put the red on Bubba and asked the football player if he wanted another fish. He did and he was hooked up on one in a heartbeat. This time the fish did its job. The football player was grunting and groaning. This fish kept digging for the bottom and was wearing the football player out. I watched the veins on the football player’s neck bulge and he turned as red as a beet. With the fish still about 20 feet down, the football player started begging for somebody, anybody to take the rod.

Now the crew was getting what they came for. The way the football player had handled the first fish had us all scratching our heads, but now the real deal was happening. No one would take the rod, though Mike was there to grab it just in case. The football player bore down and finally got the Jewfish to the side of boat. This was a smaller fish, only 250 pounds or so, but it was spunky. We all ready had a good picture so we just let this on go without a photo op.

The football player did one heck of a job. He was two for five on big Jewfish. I have had guys go zero for 10 before I could find one small enough for them to catch. So if you know somebody that’s pretty tough that you might like to tighten up a little. A Jewfish trip to the Gulf wreck is probably just the ticket. Be careful before you pick up Bubba though, you might be opening up a can of whoop ass you can’t close!

Tight Lines,
Capt. Dallas

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fishing the Florida Keys - Marathon's Fine Dining

Many visitors to Marathon and the rest of the Florida Keys don’t realize that most restaurants will cook your catch. While I am all for catch and release fishing, fresh caught fish is just too good to pass up all the time. There is just something special about the flavor of freshly caught yellowtail snapper. So I’m going to give you a quick review of my opinion of Marathon’s fine dining.

First on my list has to be The Castaway. They offer a well stock salad bar and mounds of fresh honey buns with each meal. Evening diners will have their catch cooked three or more ways and served family style. The Castaway has a full bar, live entertainment on the weekends and a quiet waterfront dining area. The alligator tail appetizer is the finest I’ve ever tasted.

Tied for second:

Cabot’s, a bit pricey but worth it. Full bar, great food, waterfront dining with a great sunset view.

Annette’s Steak and Lobster, great food, a great salad bar, a full bar and a nice atmosphere. Inside dining only and no water front but still a Marathon favorite.

Key’s Fisheries, Some of the finest seafood in the Keys. Waterfront dining, a very casual atmosphere and a full bar. While they have only been open for four years, they are all ready a Keys tradition.

The Island Tiki Bar. The, happening place in Marathon, great food, full bar, waterfront dining in a true native tiki hut. Winter sunsets can be gorgeous! And the wait staff is pretty gorgeous too!

Tied for third (they don’t have a full bar)

Burdine’s Cheeki Tiki, Excellent food with a fantastic waterfront view. If they had a full bar they would be pushing The Castaway for number one.

Porky’s Bayside, known for their barbeque but their seafood is excellent. Family style cook your catch, waterfront dining, nightly live entertainment in season and cold beer.

The Seven Mile Grill, not the keys icon that it once was due to Wilma renovation but still a great spot to cook your catch. The fried yellow tail sandwich is reasonable priced and delicious.

Herbies, another Marathon classic, great food served in a casual atmosphere. All of their seafood is great, but fresh cook your catch just makes it better.

The Village Café, while they have a full bar they didn’t score higher on my list because of their location. Located in a strip mall they just don’t have a Keys atmosphere. The food though is outstanding! So if you get a little home sick, this will remind you of a New York neighborhood café. Upper Eastside New York that is.

I’m starting to get caught up with my local flavor stuff so pretty soon I can get back to fishing. Just bear with me gang.

Tight Lines

Capt. Dallas

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fishing the Florida Keys - Moon phases

Now that the winter season is here my fishing reports are going to sound like a broken record until around March. This is the time of the year where colder water temperatures north of us have driven most of the bait and predators down this way. Mackerel, (Spanish, Kings and a few Cero) will be found almost anywhere. Sailfish will be along the reef line and out. Most sails being found in 100 to 300 feet of water. Snapper will be found about anywhere you fish with the occasional keeper Grouper, Hogfish or Mutton. Cobia will be cruising just about anywhere too, though the bay is still your best bet for a couple months. So I think I should add a little something else to keep you entertained.

Most people that come down to the keys on vacation don’t take the time to consider the moon phase before the trip. The moon can affect your fishing, so let’s take a little look at what to expect.

The quarter moons are generally accepted as being the best moons for fishing. These provide the average current flows, so the fish are normally settled down to a normal pattern. So these are great moons to plan your trip around.

New moons have higher tides, so there will be stronger currents. Coming up on a new moon, most fish will bite a little better. They are taking advantage of the stronger currents moving more bait past them. As the new moon passes, the bite will slow a little, but the fish rarely get lockjaw. I’ve never had much trouble finding fish on a new moon unless the tides are exceptionally high or low.

The full moon is the weirdest. As with the new moon the days leading to full normally have an increased bite and the days following a bit of a slow down. But unlike the new moon, following the full, the fish can just shutdown. Most people blame the full moon’s light at night causing the fish to gorge themselves, so they aren’t hungry during the day. There can be a lot of truth in this, but a friend of mine that raised fish gave me a little better theory.

Most fish spawn around the full moon. Depending on the type of fish, the timing of the spawn varies. Pelagic species tend to spawn before the full. This helps insure that their roe gets scatter to the maximum, helping improve survival. Bottom dwellers, tend to spawn just after the full moon so their roe will be spread, but still have the maximum time in normal currents to hatch in the general area of the spawn. This way, grouper and snapper larvae are most likely to end up in a friendly environment and not in the middle of the Gulf Stream.

In the winter, spawning isn’t really on the minds of most fish because the water temperature is too low. But fish really aren’t renown for serious thinking. With everything right for the spawn except for the temperature, some fish will just get confused so to speak. So snapper, which pretty much only know how to eat, procreate and defecate, forget about the first. Because of this, one or two days following the full moon, the Yellowtail bite can just plain suck. Dolphin, a pelagic suffers from the same confusion, and one or two days prior to or the day of the full moon may do the same thing, with a bit of a slow down following the moon.

Tarpon tend to fire up around the full moon. This could indicate that tarpon typically spawn well off the full moon or that they just don’t give a rip. Hogfish, Porgies and Mackerel tend to behave like the Tarpon do and will bite just about anytime.

Fishing around the full moon can be fantastic. Just be a little more flexible on the species you are looking for. I’ve done pretty good fishing for what’s biting instead of what I want. This is called no brainer fishing by some, but it works for me. So don’t worry about the full moon too much, just listen to your guide or captain and go with the flow. Even big time Marlin fishermen that hate the full moon will still fish it. Some of the biggest Marlin hooked up, have bitten on the full moon. And you bill fishermen should remember that sword fishing peaks on the full. So just go with the flow.

Tight lines
Capt. Dallas

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tarpon Fishing Basics

Before we start, tarpon fishing isn’t my favorite. It’s fine when they bite, but tarpon can be very closed mouth. They also tend to bite at night. I tend to prefer drinking at night. So I’ve reached a compromise with these big silver guys. I’ll fish for them between dawn and at dusk. While tarpon will take a plug, pinfish, crab or dead bait, I don’t go bridge fishing if I don’t have live mullet. That said, here we go with the basics.

The rig for Tarpon is fairly simple, 5 to 10 foot of double line, with 5 to 8 foot of 50 to 80 pound clear mono leader with roughly a 6/0 J or 9/0 circle hook. The size of the hook really depends on size of the bait and the size of the fish you are targeting. For first timers, the J hooks are more productive and don’t really injure very many fish. Why, because first time tarpon fishermen normally freak out and do every thing wrong! The J hook is more forgiving. Depending on the current and the bait, I may add a swivel in the leader about 3 to 4 feet in front of the bait. I normally only use spinning tackle, conventional and bait casters tend to back lash too often.

Circle hooks are the way to go with Tarpon if you know what you are doing. Sizing the circle is very important. The gap has to be wide enough to catch in the jaw of the fish. Most of these fish are pretty big, 60 pound and way over. With the new style circles, you get a wider gap with a lighter weight hook. Look for a well-made circle with at least a half-inch gap. Snelling the circle hooks using a Uni-knot is very easy, but tying straight works. Circles hooks require a drop back on a tarpon pick-up. When dead sticking, my method goes back to old school. On a spinning outfit, use a piece of copper rigging wire at the reel seat to loop a half turn around the line and leave the bail open. When the wire trips, let the fish take enough line to turn and close the bail. There is no hook-set, just let the fish tighten the line in his own good time. When the hook sets on a Tarpon, most people notice. Then it’s game on! When drifting or free lining the mullet, the angler has to be like the release wire. Let the fish eat, turn and then close the bail, NO HOOK SET!

Bridge fishing, your captain will have an anchor ball so he can cut lose and chase the fish. The first minute or so is critical. Tarpon have a tendency to take anglers around the bridge structure. With the hook-up, your captain has to hit the right hole in the bridge to follow the fish. Don’t put any pressure on the fish if it looks like she has taken you around a pile. Let the captain work it out and then start fighting the fish. With a good current at the bridge, tarpon are more predictable fighters and normally go with the current. This makes everybody’s life easier. When the Tarpon jumps, just keep a bend in the rod, don’t bow to or over pressure the fish on a leap and the hook will normally stay put.

With J hooks, only a short drop back (normally just point the rod at the fish) and one or two firm hook-sets. Make sure these hooks are sharp and filing down the barb a little isn’t a bad idea. Tarpon have a very bony mouth and can be difficult to hook. Live blue crabs, pinfish, live or dead ballyhoo, will all produce Tarpon so you should be well armed bait wise. Chunking with dead sardines or herring can be very effective if you have Tarpon rolling in the area and not moving on your live baits. This is also extremely effective on resident, off-season, Tarpon. Plugs like Bomber long A’s and the like work quite well, cast to the fish, let it set for a few seconds and start a slow retrieve. On the strike again, one or two firm hook sets and play your fish.

Tarpon make great shark bait so don’t get too surprised if a hammerhead or bull shark eats your fish. It’s just nature doing it’s thing. The sharks will also take your bait so don’t be surprised if you end up with a 300 pound shark dragging you all over the place.

Daytime Tarpon fishing (more than two hours after sunrise) is more like hunting than fishing. Once you find fish that aren’t moving down the road, they will fall for all the baits previously mentioned or nothing at all. I’ve been surrounded by hundreds of Tarpon that just would not feed. When they turn on, they really turn on. But if they don’t want to bite, grab a cold beer and your camera. It is fishing after all.

April, May and June are my favorite months for tarpon. As I said, morning and evening trips are all that I normally, run in these months. Full day backcountry trips are also productive for Tarpon, plus you have a large variety of other critters to play with. It is all good, just be aware of what you are getting into. It may take a couple of trips to put you on the fish you really want. I wanted to add a photo, but since hurricane Wilma wiped out my other computer along with just about everything else I own, I can’t. I’m looking at a nice 100-pound fish on my bulletin board. Maybe I’ll go scan it and add the photo later.

Tight Lines,
Capt. Dallas

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fishing the Florida Keys - What a Bite!

As I mentioned last time, Permit are being caught at the bridge. Offshore has been pretty hot for Sails, which is normal for this month, but Wahoo and Dolphin are included in every report I've gotten. I asked how the tarpon are biting in Key West and one boat out of Almost There Charters had three on a trip two days ago. The Bay is hot as a fire cracker! Not only tons of Spanish Mackerel, but more cobia than I've seen in years. While I was driving to Key West yesterday, every flat I drove past on the ocean side was loaded with bait. Pelicans, terns and gulls were every where! It looked like birds behind a shrimp boat, only there were no boats anywhere.

Driving over the Seven Mile bridge, I saw four boats fishing along the way and all had nice size Mangrove Snapper coming over the side. To help you understand what I just said, normally there would be fifteen or more boats and you might see two fish, for all four boats to have fish on, that's just plain outrageous! Every bridge that I passed, that had anglers, someone seemed to be taking pictures of fish. Not small stuff, but three pound Mangs and one guy had a either a big pompano or a small permit. Heck, I got a great fishing report just driving down the road! So I stopped by a few docks to get reports from local charter guys in Marathon and not a single boat in the old town had been out in two days. We are in the middle of one of the best bites I've ever seen, and no customers!

This is one of the most frustrating starts to the season I have every seen. Fish every where and not a customer is sight!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fishing The Florida Keys - report

A few boats have been getting out. Most have been taking advantage of the Mackerel bite in the bay. Action is great back there and getting better. Good Spanish action in Hawks channel reported as well. Offshore reports are still mentioning Dolphin in faily close, a good thing. Sails are being reported, but the reports are a little slow for this time of year. Not because of the sails, but because charters aren't getting booked like normal. The season seems to be off to a slow start, but is picking up. Had one report of a nice sword early last week, scattered reports of nice size Black Fin and lots of Kings.

So all the usual suspects are here, you just need to winterize you house and get your butt down here!

Tight Lines
Captain Dallas

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Getting Close!

I think the pangler issues are resolved. We located one with the leaning post live well. Also have a lead on a custom built fish box for the bow. This should make a great casting deck. Pull up cleat for the bow will clean it up nicely for my fly guys. The live well and the fishbox will also even out loading to reduce the wet foot problem. Adding ping pong ball scupper stops will help too. Going with a very simple Garmin combo GPS/sounder to keep it real clean looking. All of this will add a couple of grand to the price, but much less than I thought.

A bait cooler wil fit perfectly in front of motor splash well. The drink cooler will be the only thing really in the way. I may go with another custom cooler to clean that up a bit. Have a few really neat ideas for tackle storage. This boat is going to be the cat' ass.

Tight Lines

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Cooking Your Catch

I've added a recipe or two on the tips and recipes page. Bacon wrapped stuffed yellowtail. YUM!