Monday, March 26, 2007

Trip In the Winds

It was blowing yesterday and it was blowing today. When I got the call from Scott at Almost There for a Tarpon/Permit last night I was flabbergasted! I told Scott I would go, but with winds out of the Northeast at 25 plus knots?

It was an early start for me to get everything ready for the seven o'clock departure from Cow Key Marina. The best shot for tarpon under the conditions was the Demolition Island area in my opinion. Actually, the best shot in these winds was the marinas! That would be cheating though.

Luckily, my crew knew that the conditions were less than optimum. I told them I would give it my best shot. If no tarpon/permit we would at least stretch a line.

After a couple hours of fishing, I thought I might have to eat my words. I was not slow from seven to nine, it was dead! With the wind against the current, I settle on a section of Calda Channel where we could anchor and fish out of the back of the boat.

Calda Channel can be loaded with fish, but I hate fishing with all the boat traffic. With the wind howling, traffic was bearable. There was enough activity from the variety of jacks and snapper to keep everyone entertained while we waited on the big one.

Unfortunately, the tarpon that normally show, just to check things out, had made other plans. The flats were totally dead with everthing being blown to the west with the Wind. We did hook four or five mystery fish, (ones that got away)that gave the crew a feel of what big fish are all about. The first, my angler palmed the spool on an unknown brute that kicked in the afterburners. Snap! Game over.

The second was probably a big grouper, not the fish of choice for twelve pound test.

The third, my lady angler hooked into a nice shark, that would be a blacktip or spinner. Before I could start the boat to chase, a hundred yards of line was stripped off the reel and contacted the barnicle encrusted channel marker. Snap! Game over. That fish was hauling hiney!

The last, my angler did everything right. Great drop back, patiently waited for the fish to turn, solid hook set and fish on! This fish ran up current with a quick but steady pace. I'm thinking Cobia as I start the boat. Just as I get ready to turn the anchor loose, the hook comes unbuttoned!

Thankfully, we had plenty of action with good sized Jack Crevelle, large blue runners, lane snapper, mangrove snapper and a six pound or so bonnet head shark my lady angler had a blast catching on light tackle.

We finished the day with one shot at a tarpon in the twenty to thirty pound range. The baby tarpon looked at the pinfish, flipped me a fin and swam away. It was a disappointing day for me with five lost chances. The crew had a ball and will come back in April when the tarpon are more consistent.

So why would I tell you about a mediocre trip? With twenty-five knots winds gusting to near thirty, where else could you get five shots in a 21 foot bay boat? That is one thing that is great about the Keys. There is always somewhere to fish when the wind blows, If you just give it a shot.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

March Winds! It Sucks When They Blow!

Only managed a few trips last week with the winds. When they lay down I should finally get busy. Fishing wise, things are looking good. Saw a few more tarpon at the bridge. The full migration isn't here yet, but some have shown. There is a decent sailfish push off Key Weird that should move to Marathon. We might end up with a short but sweet sail bite soon.

The stream is in close right now, so the big slammer dolphin will be in close. There have been plenty of blackfin tuna around if the wind will let you fish. The reef has been getting much more consistant. Nice yellowtails, grouper and a mutton here and there. Most muttons are still deep, but should move in closer.

Hawk Channel rock piles are holding good size mangroves and lane snapper. A keeper grouper or two can be found if you get to the spot first. There are even a few big kings and keeper cobia in the channel.

So get your butt down here and go fishing!

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New Boat Review: Cape Horn 21 Center Console

I have been fishing. The reports are like a broken record though with mackerel and snapper out back and at the bridges. So I thought I would give you a little boat review.

The Cape Horn 21 is great example of a well laid out center console. Cape Horn has always built a solid boat but now they are refining their design to improve fish ability with a cleaner look. One new feature is the Plexi-glass electronics box in the console. A great idea because the GPS and/or depth sounder can be mounted where they are easily viewed and accessed. When the electronics are mounted in tee top electronics boxes they are often difficult to see and adjust. The dash mount location is perfect, providing for a clean look.

The Cape Horn is a non-liner boat. With out a liner there is less weight and few parts and hardware to foul up. The lack of a liner can give a boat a flimsy flexibly at the gunwales. Not the case with the Cape Horn. A foam filled gunwale bolster, for lack of a better word, stiffens the hull along with the unique rub rail flare design. The rub rail flair is a 1 ½” counter lever molded into the gunwale cap around the boat. In the past, vertical ribs were added for stiffening the hull. While effective, the ribs were dirt catchers and toe knockers. Now the design is clean, clear and functional. This boat is built like that outhouse you have heard about.

Everything on this boat is through bolted except the deck mounted components for obvious reason. That includes the through bolted rub rail. That means less repairs in the future. The factory wiring is cleanly installed. It would be nice to have a little larger fuse block in the console. The standard fuse block has only one unused slot and one unused accessory switch (two without the spreader lights).

The 21 comes standard with 40 gallon circular live well in stern. This is becoming a must have feature in many areas if you are to have a successful fishing trip. Other standard features are: 10 Year Hull Warranty, Lifetime Transom Warranty, T-top w/electronics box, (2) spreader lights, fiberglass or aluminum leaning post, leaning post back rest, raw water wash down, Richie F-50 compass, console cushion, swim ladder, center mount hydraulic steering, bilge pump, low profile bow rail, 129 gallon fuel capacity, bronze thru hulls, 6’ - 300 qt. insulated fish box, 10 rod holders, large console storage and self-bailing cockpit. The rental version I test drove was delivered without the raw water wash down, spreader lights and T-top electronics box.

After taking the motor, a 2007 Yamaha 250 four stroke, through the five hour break-in, here is the performance scoop. 38 knots at 6000 RPM based on the GPS. At 4400 RPM, a comfortable 27 Knots. Tweaking the prop can improve performance. Depending on sea conditions and load, this should translate to about 2 miles per gallon. While the 21 is not a speed burner, this is good, economical performance for a 22 degree dead rise, deep V hull design. That deep V means a smooth ride in choppy seas. The bow flair and counter lever rub rail design provide for a dry ride.

There are not many negatives to report for the Cape Horn 21. The plastic hatch covers are one. While they are functional, they are prone to damage from ultra-violet light. From experience I know they tend to break. The anchor locker is a pain with its vertical hatch and the fish box hatches are a bit small for big fish.

The 21 has to be one of the easiest cleaning boat I have ever been aboard. The unique interior non-skid finish and lack of many hard corners makes this the case. The fish box can be a challenge to clean with the small hatches. The Cape Horn 21 is a solidly built fishing machine well worth a look if love to fish and hate boat cleaning.

Come on down and try fishing the Florida Keys in this Cape Horn for a fantastic fishing vacation.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Friday, March 02, 2007

Just and Update

Fishing has finally picked up. Haven’t been doing much sexy fishing offshore. Mainly fishing 101 trips for small boat renters. Josh, a former mate of mine had a great swordfish trip a couple of nights ago. Captain Jeff has been doing pretty good on tarpon at the bridge over the last week. The fishing the bay is a little inconsistent but the mackerel, seatrout and mangrove snapper still show most of the time. Sailfishing is almost dead off Marathon. Not completely dead, but close. A better bet has been anchoring in the 80 to 100 foot range and ballooning a live bait while doing some ‘tailing.

In case you were wondering, the charter boat investment deal is still alive. With the slow start to the season I let it slide for a while. The numbers have changed due to the late start and the 2007 model Panglers. There is also and longer term option being discussed for tax purposes. The longer term will most likely include the Andros 26 footer and more equipment for depreciation. This would be a $60 to $100 thousand investment with a four to five year term. The CPA’s will have to work out the details, but the 30 plus percent tax bracket guys will benefit. I not sure how the end game will work just yet but a trust that takes the profits and invests in local real estate seems to be likely.

The regular fractional ownership has two serious and a couple of maybes investors lined up. As I said with the late start, the numbers have changed. Still it is a win-win situation for regular vacationers that like to fish.

Take it easy and tight lines

Capt. Dallas