Monday, December 29, 2008

Dang Level Winds and Braided Line

It was a beautiful day in the Bay yesterday. The guys caught plenty of fish including several sharks that they wanted. They also missed quite a few nice fish. The power pro got bound in their level wind reel so tight we couldn't get it out. The picture above isn't that clear, but if you look close you can see the bind on the left and the wind guide is to the right. Level winds and braid are great for losing big fish.

Some people love their braid and level wind reels. Here is some advice from a braid devotee:


I have used braided lines for years and used to have some of the same issues you seem to be facing. Here are a few things I have learned about braided lines over the years:
1. Braided lines must be spooled on the reels very tightly. A good test is to press down on the spool with your thumb. If it feels at all soft, then the line is not tight enough. When respooling braided lines, I have someone hold the spool with enough tension so the rod bends. That way the line goes on tightly and the spool feels hard. No digging in that way.
2. Use braided lines based on line thickness and not strength rating. For instance, 65 lb braided line typically has the same thickness as 14 lb mono. So, if you normally use 14 lb mono, then use 65 lb braided line. 12 ln mono typically equals 50 lb braid and so on.
3. Braided lines need maintenance. Watch it for frays especially when fishing around weeds or rocks. I imagine this will apply more to in-shore fishing.
4. Its important to put at least 10 yards or so of mono backing on the spool before spooling with braided lines to keep the whole spool from slipping. A similar diameter usually works well and a blood knot does the trick.

When Muskie fishing, I use 80 or 100 lb braided lines, which typically are in the 18 to 20 lb diameter range. I put the lines on tight and check for frays before every outing. The heavier line allows smoother and longer casts, less dig-ins, and much better durability.

Based on your picture, it may be the line on your reel just needs to be re-spooled tighter.

Good fishing. =)

I still say level winds and braid sucks.
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, December 23, 2008

Chicago Joe's Christmas fishing Vacation

Chicago Joe spends his Christmas vacation in the Keys with his family. They had fished with me in the past at Seadog. I ran into Joe at the Kmart last year and he booked me for this season. Joe and crew like action and shot at big critters.

Doc and I took Joe and his sons Joey and Tom fishing the Bay Sunday on Flatlines. Joe has fished the Bay before, but we caught one of those magic days where bait was everywhere and you could see Mackerel skying in every direction. Needless to say we had plenty of action. Unfortunately the big fish won most of the battles. We did boat one smaller lemon shark.

Yesterday we set out on a 29 foot cat he rented from Vacation Boat Rentals. Sweet boat but it took me a while to get used to her. With the winds at 20 knots we went down to the seven mile bridge to get out of the wind. Again we had plenty of action and the big fish won. Three or four large sharks managed to pull hooks or break 60 braided line. This reinforces my opinion that braid on level wind reels is not the way to go for big sharks. When a big one takes off the line tends to get in awkward angles on the reel defeating the drag.

The wind is howling at 30 knots this morning so our options are limited. One good thing about spending a week or more in the Keys is that one or two butt ugly days won't ruin your whole trip. This weekend should be prime time for sailfishing which I think Chicago Joe might enjoy. Stay tuned.

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, December 03, 2008

Start of the New Season

Now that I had to put on long pants and a sweat shirt, that means the new season has started. It has been pretty slow for the past few months. Now I am looking forward to putting a few dollars in my pocket and a bunch of fish in the boat.

What's hot right now is Sailfish. They are pretty thick on the reef right now. Live bait is the ticket because there is bait everywhere. There also quite a few king mackerel in the same areas a still a few dolphin and wahoo.

The Bay is just now getting right for the big spanish mackerel. The bite starts about 8 miles back in the Bay. Plenty of good size mangrove snapper are in the tall grass back there too.

The yellow tail bite has been great if the current cooperates and some nice mutton snapper have been coming home for dinner. So everything is coming together for a fine season.

When you get a little tired of freezing your butt off, come on down and do a little fishing. 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, November 28, 2008

Scuffle at Porky's Bayside

Marathon is a sleepy little drinking town with fishing problems. Some vacationers don't realize that as drinkers they are rank amateurs.

Down on Vacation Back on Probation: Scuffle at Porky's Bayside
In a rare event, a fist fight slash wresting match with a touch of martial arts action briefly broke out at Porky's Bayside restaurant Monday night.
View more »

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, November 23, 2008

Rental Boat Humor

Working on the water in the Florida Keys has many moments. Many of those moments involve rental boat operators. One of the funniest happened recently. A rental boat operator calls in for help on the VHF radio. He complained that his boat was full of water and that alarms were sounding. While the rental boat company tried to calm the operator and talk him through the situation, there was no calming the rental boat operator.

The rental boat company sends a chase boat to help the operator. As the chase boat arrives, the captain sees the bright orange PFD clad boaters frantically bailing water. They had been bailing for nearly an hour and were making no headway. As the chase boat nears the stranded boat, the frantic boaters were screaming to get off their sinking vessel to board the chase boat. The frantic boaters were screaming, the engine alarm on the boat was blaring and the chase boat operator yelling at the top of his lungs for everyone to shut up and stay put where they were. The chase boat driver then tells the renters to stop trying to bailout the live well and put the kill switch in to stop the damned alarm.

Now if you are a boater right now you will be chuckling. If you aren’t chuckling here is a little explanation. The kill switch is a safety switch that will kill the boat motor should the boater fall out of the boat. It works well if the boat operator remembers to clip the kill switch lanyard to his life vest. If the kill switch is not plugged in the boat won’t start and loud alarms sound when the key is turned on, hopefully reminding the boaters that the kill switch is not plugged in. Still not chuckling?

The particular boat that was rented has a below deck live well. Most of the live well is below the water line, so if the boat is in the water, water freely flows into the live well. The boaters looked in the live well, saw water and thought the boat was sinking. If you didn’t start chuckling during the second paragraph, I highly recommend you hire a guide before venturing out on your own in any boat.

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, November 07, 2008

Palermo? No Problem.

The season has not started in earnest, though a few captains are getting out. Hurricane Palermo is south of Cuba and should not pose a threat to the Keys. The fishing reports I have been getting are pretty good. Sailfish are showing up on the reef with two boats reporting sailfish while fishing for yellow tails. Along with the sailfish are good number of Cero Mackerel and a few nice size king mackerel.

Cobia have been spotted cruising the tide line in Hawks channel. Nice size fish from twenty to fifty pounds. You have to be a little lucky to spot them. The grouper and big mangrove snapper bite has been a bit slow. Mutton snapper are helping fill that void which is nice. Bayside reports are a little inconsistent. The Spanish mackerel are moving in, but they don't want to eat every trip. The next cold front should fire them up. So get ready to make tons of fish dip and fish cakes. You can check out my recipes in the cooking lable on the side bar.

The fish cleaning table is getting close. We had a shipping error so a few are wandering around the Midwest. Once we get a few more delivered we will start the testing program. The tiki drawing are approved for Monroe County. So I will be spending some time selling tikis and tables. I will try to keep fishing open three or four days a week. This is going to make my schedule pretty weird so book in advance if you can.

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, October 09, 2008

Grouper Closure?

Yep, they are planning a closed season on grouper in the Keys because of the Atlantic Gag Grouper issue. I hate to say it but that will kill a lot of charters in the Keys. It really makes no sense. North of Marathon is the Florida Bay. South of Marathon is the Straits of Florida. There is no Atlantic Ocean here. So why are we being held to Atlantic Fisheries standard? The Keys are a unique fishery needing unique regulations. The Fisheries Management Councils need to learn how to read charts instead of screwing the Keys with every new regulation meant for other bodies of water.

It make no sense. Here is what does make sense. Send Secretary Gutierrez an old fashion letter. Whether you live in the Keys or just visit, drop him a line. That includes my English and Canadian fishermen also. I don't ask my readers to get viral often, but past this link or the address below around.

US Department of Commerce
Secretary Carlos Gutierrez
1401 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20230


Now that is out of the way how' fishing? Pretty damn good! The reef is the main story with plenty of Snapper and big King Mackerel. The Bay is pretty hot with Mangrove Snapper everywhere. You will have to wade through plenty of smaller Mangs to get the bigger fish, but plenty of action. Mackerel in the Bay a pretty thin, but should start showing after a few cold fronts. Offshore has been a little spotty, but there are still good size Dolphin, Wahoo, Tuna and some humongous Rainbow Runners.

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, September 23, 2008

The Pilchards are here!

The Pilchards are here! The Pilchards are here! I am always harping on your bait makes your trip. Pilchards are the best all around bait in the Keys. Now that they are showing up things will bust loose down here. Sailfish, Cobia and the Mackerel will start getting thick feeding on these tasty white baits.

Pilchards can be caught hook and line with Sabiki rigs, but the best way is to use a cast net. If you don't know how to throw a cast net it's about time your learned. I or captain Jeff pictured will be glad to show you how.

I know money's tight right now. If you are Jonesing for a fishing trip keep checking my blog and I will let you know when you can get the best bang for your buck.

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

By the way I have added another charter to the list. Capt. Bo Sellers with Shallow Minded Charters. He does flats and backcountry in the lower Keys. Nice guy, check him out.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mark's Custom Harley a Winner

With not to much going on with fishing this week with all the bikers in the Keys for the Phil Peterson poker run, I am going to talk about Mark Rowden's success yesterday at the bike show in Key West.

Mark and Johnny at Captain Pips started a little custom bike shop called the Little Shop of Choppers. Over the past few years Mark has gotten pretty good shooting paint and building bikes.

While his bikes have done well in shows, this is the first time one of his bikes took first place in the Sportster division. He enter another bike in the Softtail division and that one took second place. Pretty dang impressive if you ask me.

I write for Associated Content so I did a little interview with Mark that I have published there.

Key West Poker Run: Mark Rowden Built Custom Chopper is a Winner
Phil Peterson's 36th annual Key West poker run was special for the Little Shop of Choppers in Marathon Florida. Mark Rowden and E. R. Burk entered custom Harley Davidson bikes they built and walked away with first and second place plaques.
View more »

If you like custom bikes, check out the article and give him a call.

Fishing has mainly been Yellowtail Snapper and Cero Mackerel time. The offshore bite has been slow since the full moon. There are Dolphin around they are just finicky. The dolphin bite should pick up some, but we are in the tween time when the snowbird fish haven't moved in and the summer fish haven't moved out. So offshore will be a little slow for a while.

The Bayside has been pretty good. Nice catches of mangroves, starting to see more Mackerel and we have been jumping some Black Tip sharks that are a bunch of fun. The bridge has been a little flaky due to the moon and Ike's winds. It is still worth a shot, but the bite is slower than normal.

I expect my Hawk Channel spots to start heating up pretty soon. When that happens you should see plenty of good eating fish.

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, September 03, 2008

Yellowtail Fishing Techniques

Fishing for yellowtail snapper on the reef is probably the most popular type of fishing in the Florida Keys. They are good eating, generally easy to catch and you never know what else will show up to make things exciting.

While fishing for 'tails I have caught Grouper, Mutton Snapper, King Mackerel, Cero Mackerel, Hogfish, Dolphin, Cobia, Sailfish, Tuna, Amberjack, Wahoo and even had a shot at a 200 plus pound Yellowfin Tuna. So don't underestimate the potential of a little Yellowtail fishing trip.

The by-catch pictured above are common though the size of the Amberjack is a bit bigger than average. The 75 pound Amberjack for example ate a twenty inch 'tail right behind the boat and was landed on a twenty pound yellowtail rod with a size 2 yellowtail hook. Hogfish are mainly caught with shrimp on the bottom in sand patches around heads.

There is a good post on the Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum here. This link is broken due to changes at FSFF. I will try to fix it asap. Later today I will start picking out some of the more interesting points and compare them with my post on Yellowtail fishing. So stay tuned.

ETA. Bait size depends on the conditions. Slower currents with clear water generally means smaller baits, but I will mix it up a bit to see what they want. I generally start with 3/4" strips or whole Silverside minnows. When I have small Pichard sardines alive or dead I will try them whole from time to time. This is mainly to pick up muttons or big Mangroves, but flag Yellowtails like them too. If there are a lot of mackerel in the area smaller baits help reduce mackerel cut offs

Flourocarbon leaders is never a bad thing. A whole reel spooled with Flourocarbon tends to not be that good. I don't know why, but Flouro tends to be prone to nicks at least when freeline fishing for 'tails. I don't start with the long Flouro leader. Three feet is plenty unless you are fishing trained fish. I like dumb fish because they make me look smarter and reduce rigging. Still you have to be ready to adjust to the bite.

Heavy chumming to start and putting around the area chumming before anchoring are good ideas. To make it easier I leave a box or two of chum out of the cooler to partially thaw on the way out. The big mesh bag is a must in deeper water and a good idea any time. A smaller mesh bag can work just fine in shallower water at a trained spot. I do tend to use less chum than most unless I am targeting flag 'tails. By targeting 17" to 20" average 'tails you can use less chum and still have a fine catch.

The soaked rolled oats trick can work wonders. It can be a bit messy so I avoid it and sand balling whenever I can. To do that I will often fish coral heads that have had less pressure so the fish are not trained. The bite starts slower, but you have better odds of picking up Grouper, big Muttons and Mangs. I always have a few trained spots in case I need a plan b.

Fishing a faster current I will use a swivel at times to add weight and reduce line twist. In a faster current getting the fish close to the boat takes a lot more chum and time. The swivel trick sometimes lets you start catching fish faster. Varying hook sizes can also help adjust your sink rate for the current. Finding the right combination of hook, jig head, weight, drift rate and bait size is key to filling the box. So don't be afraid to experiment.

Drift rate that keeps the bait in the chum cloud is what you want 90% of the time. The other 10% is when you have a mix of small and larger 'tails. Starting your drift before making the chum cloud will sometime help get the bait past the hoard of small fish that inhale the chum.

Training fish really means fishing the same spot all the time. While it would seem that fishing the same spot all the time would fish it out, that is not the case with the yellowtails. Fishing a trained area will reduce your chances for keeper grouper and muttons that tend to be more territorial. Trained areas also mean predators can be a problem. Here is the link to my older Yellowtail post. I will update that soon to mention the Gulf regulation changes that apply more out of the Key West area than here in Marathon.

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, August 29, 2008

Wacky Weather

With Gustov and Hanna dancing around in the tropics your chances of finding an open charter boat on Labor Day are pretty good. The chances of me posting any fishing reports are a bit low. The weather right now is pretty nice and Gus looks like he won't be much of a problem for the Keys. Hanna is predicted to miss us to the North a good ways but the computer models five days out are goofy, so who knows.

As for the fishing, its pretty good. Dolphin are decent sized and close in to the reef. Yellowtailing is a little frustrating because the small fish are every where. You have to use a lot of chum to get the big ones up. I try to get people to burn a block of chum fast and reload before putting a line in the water. Rolled oats is really a big help this time of the year. It really gets the fish up close to the boat making it easier to pick out the larger fish.

Sandwich size Mangrove snapper are everywhere with quite a few over two pounds in the bay and Hawk Channel. There are some fatties at the bridge now that the spawn is well over.

I haven't been fishing the flats lately but have heard it is worth a shot if you are so inclined. The lobster season is going gang busters right now. Fay got them moving so they are a lot easier to find.

The photo above was taken last year. I haven't tracked down the photographer so I can't give proper credit. Hopefully, I can fix that soon. By the way, I was underneath the larger water/land spout trying to get my own photo. As ominous as it looks, the only casualties were two umbrellas and a trash can down at Pips.

With things looking slow for a while I am going to try to rearrange the blog to make it easier for people to find stuff. The boat ramp link is going to take a while because the photos are a pain to load. I may end up using slide shows to make things easier.

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, August 21, 2008

After Fay and Other Stuff

Tropical Storm Fay came through a few days ago so no fishing reports. The yellowtail bite on the reef should be hot as a firecracker for the next few days though. Fay didn't do much damage. We never lost power and the cable only blinked off for a few minutes. After taking care of the boats it was great napping weather.

Tourist are starting to trickle in now. With Fay stalled over Daytona it may take a while before the North Florida regulars can get away for a Keys fishing trip. You South Florida folks may want to wade out to your car and come on down for some fishing.

As mentioned in the earlier post the fish cleaning table is coming along nicely. We will be looking for a few volunteers to help test the table pretty soon. What we are looking for is a few crafty kind of folks that can build base stands or cabinets for the top. Then send us some nice pictures and hopefully good reviews of the table. We can still make a few tweaks to the design if need be based on the feedback. The table will probably be free for the volunteers though we may have to charge for shipping.

We will also be looking for distributors in various locations around the world. Anyone wanting to sell the tops keep checking back and I will give out the web address for the marketing director when we are ready to go.

In the photo above is is a view of the bucket holder. Let us know what you think.

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, August 13, 2008

Fish Cleaning Table

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. I have have been fishing some but mainly trying to work on the fish cleaning table and a few other projects. A couple of days ago I finally got one of the hopefully last prototypes. This one is made out of the real deal HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), the same thing Starboard(TM) is made of. The molding process proved to be a bit of a challenge using HDPE. The end result of the struggle looks like it was worth the effort.

Let me know what you think.

Here is a photo with me at the table for scale.

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, July 26, 2008

Let the Buggin' Begin!

There has been a lot going on lately. The trip to Las Vegas to attend the ICAST trade show, working on new products to go with the new fish cleaning station and fishing. The final version of the table should be out soon. Once it is in production things could get hopping down here.

Mini lobster season start next Wednesday. This is always a zoo as thousands of boats descend on the Keys to catch Florida Lobster. It seems like every year someone dies chasing bugs. So if you are a bit out of shape and planning on participating in the mini season don't over do it. If you are boating remember that there are thousands of people in and on the water and a small percentage are totally clueless. Drive defensively and watch out for divers no where near their dive flags.

Fishing has been inconsistent. One day they bite and the next they have lock jaw. The outgoing tide has been best on the reef with the incoming very slow. Offshore the fish seem to be biting early (before 10) or late (after 2). Mid day is a good time to switch to deep dropping or looking for tuna.

A fair number of marlin encounters are being reported with few anglers ready for the visit. Having a heavier rod ready to live bait with schoolie dolphin is a good idea if you want to tangle with a big blue.

Inshore is about the same with the last half of the outgoing be much more productive than the incoming tide. We have been catching nice mangrove snapper all over the bay and bridges but you have to wade through a number of smaller fish before the bigger ones get nosy.

We are seeing fewer tarpon but they are still plenty around. Like everything else the outgoing tide early or late is when I see the most activity. Deeper channels near flats are good places to start looking for the silver kings.

Bonefish and permit are hard to find close in to Marathon, at least for me. Further west from Big Pine to Key West both have been fairly easy to find.

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, July 11, 2008

The Fish Cleaning Table

Finally, the first fish cleaning table is out of the mold. The table is five feet long and 30 inches deep. It can be mounted in a variety of ways including under a custom tiki hut. The table needs a catchy name though. Aqua Table and Conch Clean are on top of the list. If you can think of a better name leave me a comment. Then come on down here to see how it works.

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, July 09, 2008

Jacob and the Balleyhoo

Thanks to la nina the winds have been abnormal this season. Southeast 20 knot winds in July just ain't fun in a small boat. Most of my die hard client are just a bit miffed. Then along comes Jacob and his sister Megan.

Young kids just want to catch fish. Bait like Pinfish and Balleyhoo are great kid size entertainers that the parents can trade in for something more challenging. Jacob pictured and Megan caught plenty of bait which they and dad traded in for a variety of sharks, barracuda, snapper and mystery fish. Mystery fish being critters that spool your light tackle when you are expecting something smaller. All of the action was within two miles of the dock in sheltered water.

Add a trip to a deserted island with a nice beach to explore and the kids were nearly as impressed as the parents.

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, July 04, 2008

Dolphin and More!

Tons of dolphin offshore and finally the winds are cutting the small boat fishermen some slack. The dolphin were mainly undersized last week with a lot of hunting required to find keepers. Now the school fish are almost all respectable. Big fish are hard to find but, a few slobs are coming to the dock.

The reef which has mainly been closed for me this month due to winds, is turned on with a good current. Plenty of yellow tail snapper though the size is smaller than last month during the spawn. Mangrove should be on the reef to spawn this month so look out for nice fat spawn fish through the full moon.

The bay and bridges have been a little slow due to the mangs moving to spawn and the constant 15 plus knot winds that are finally dieing. Tarpon are still around. Most of the fish I am seeing are in the deeper waters near the flats. I haven't been in the back country for a while but, I hear permit are pretty thick from the Contents through the lower Keys Gulf side islands. As a reminder, if you are trailering a small boat down to the Keys keep it own the trailer so you can hit a few different areas. A good GPS map helps you find some honey holes around the back country islands.

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, June 09, 2008

Quick Marathon Fishing Update

Boy Howdy, there was a cold going around down here that kicked my butt. I am starting to get back to normal so back to posting. Not much to say, the dolphin are the main attraction. The reef is hot if you pick your tide.

Since I have been under the weather I need to catch some fish for dinner. A couple dozen live ballyhoo on the bottom should produce a few grouper, mutton and mangroves. Luckily, I know where to load up on live ballyhoo pretty close. After my small boat guide trip tomorrow, I may have to take a day just to kick some fish butt for the dinner table.

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 15, 2008

Big Dolphin Moving In and More!

I have been waiting to post this for over a month. The big slammer dolphin are here and chewing finally! I had been seeing slammers the last few trips but they were in no mood to play. Now that the winds are getting back to normal they are turning on. There have also been quite a few respectable size wahoo caught and the black fin and skip jacks are pretty easy targets.

Inshore the yellowtail are thick, the Big Mangroves are on the reef and the muttons are getting ready to spawn. Big kings are eating some of the 'tails so a balloned 'tail on wire might produce the biggest king you ever hooked into. I have been picking up a good size black grouper or two to spice things up. Speaking of grouper, the FWC is planning a closure from December through March on all grouper. Also starting June there will be a Gulf reef fish gear change. Circle hooks only, venting tool and approved de-hooking device. Ah, will the regulations ever end.

Wreck fishing is almost impossible right now with all the big sharks. If you want to tangle with a bull or hammerhead over 300 pounds now is the time. Tarpon are still thick and even willing to take a fly if you are so inclined. If you like to just relax and catch a nice mess of fish the bay is the place. Nice 2 to four pound mangroves and sea trout.

If you have been waiting for the bite to start it is time to pull the trigger and get your butt down here.

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 08, 2008

New Moon in May Fishing the Florida Keys

I have been pretty busy fishing. If the winds stay down it looks like the rest of May will be a great month. With the new moon tides having the wind lay down made fishing more productive and comfortable.

Flats/back country fishing is pretty good. With the big tides and light winds the water is clear and fish easy to spot. Last trip we had shots at six tarpon. Didn't see any permit, but there were some jacks following rays that got our heart going and one Bonefish that spotted us before we spotted him. There was also a gazillion Barracudas and sharks.

Bridge fishing is starting to get hot. Tarpon are everywhere and some of the big Mangrove snapper have start returning from the reef. Permit, pompano and hogfish are being caught near the slack tide. There are plenty of weeds though making the moving tides a challenge to fish.

The reef is hot as fire if you catch the right tide. The last of the outgoing is the tide to catch right now as the incoming is gin clear. The same for the patches and rock pile in Hawk Channel. There are plenty of grouper though most are short. The keepers I have been getting are on isolated heads. Muttons are on any isolated head or bump in the 100 to 130 range waiting for the next full moon to spawn.

Offshore the tuna are still biting and dolphin are out there. There are big slammer dolphin, but they are tricky to find and moving fast. Bill fish, mainly sails are still around which is nice. The bill fish are mainly hitting rigged fresh Balleyhoo, but we had a big sail nail a bullet head fast trolling back from the hump.

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 23, 2008

Marathon Hump April

We hit the hump yesterday. We only spent an hour and a half on the hump. We got a dozen tuna. They were footballs. Tasty little footballs, but nothing over 12 pounds. We caught them all trolling darts. There were several jiggers out there, but they where catching one every now and again while we had two or three on at a time. Jigging looks like work to me. If you want to deep jig, go for it. Old school still works so I will keep old schooling.

Speaking of old school. I used to always pull combos or naked rigged dead baits. I get to the Keys and the plastic guys convert me to plastics. Plastics are a great way to cover ground. Now there is a trend back to chin weighted ballyhoo and all the old school stuff. What goes around comes around again. While I have no problem with natural baits, trolling plastics in scattered weed makes life simple and catches fish. Just keep a spread of ballyhoo ready if you hit the honey hole. Finding fish is the key to offshore fishing in the Keys. Depending on how the fish react, be ready to change tactics.

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, April 22, 2008

Marathon Fishing April Full Moon

Every full moon is a little different. This moon has been a weird one. With some of the highest tides I can remember and super clear water. The fishing has been okay despite the conditions.

One big plus is the clear water is revealing hidden treasures in Hawks Channel. We have found some awesome coral mounds that are not charted. That will be some great news for bottom fishermen for years to come. Some of the mounds we found have fifteen foot profiles and are less than thirty feet across.

Offshore there are dolphin but the big slammers are not think yet. They should show soon and things will get hot. Sunday I tried to fish the wall but got side tracked by a crew member that got green on a two foot seas day. We found one decent gaffer dolphin, a bull around fifteen pounds and pulled the hook on a good size tuna. With the late start and short trip that wasn't that bad.

The wrecks are loaded with big permit. They are also loaded with bigger sharks. So count on a finicky bite and not getting many fish to the boat. 'Tails are biting in the clear water. There are some huge mangroves on the reef as well. This is definitely a time for Fluorocarbon.

The clear water and high tides are making flats fishing a little more fun. The few flats guides I get are normally frustrating because the customers have trouble seeing fish. Yesterday, we saw plenty of fish. No bones, but blacktips, jacks, small permit and one school of cero mackerel ambushing glass minnows. My customer was acting like a kid in a candy store with the ceros. Not your typical flats fare, but ceros strike hard and give a good tug.

Bayside there are plenty of mangroves and seatrout for the small boat guys just looking for dinner and a relaxing day. The bay wreck are load with permit that are hungry and fewer sharks to molest them.

Tarpon are at the bridge pretty thick. The bay grass is thicker, so fishing is a challenge. When the tides calm down the bite should be great. Right now, drifting with the grass, er current, is the easiest way to get hooked up.

Heading offshore this morning. If the crew can hang we will fish the wall and the humps. I need a few big gaffers to make my crew happy.

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 12, 2008

Where are the Dolphin?

Just a quick note. The Dolphin are running behind schedule. Oh, there are small dolphin to the teens here and there but the big slammers must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.

There is some good news though. Off Key West there are a few boats seeing huge schools out near the Wall. Those fish should be here soon. When the dolphin get thick I'll let you know.

Until then, the reef has fired up for yellowtails and the mangroves are back to biting. There are still good numbers of sailfish hanging around and some nice Cobia moving through on the ocean side.

The bridge is starting to load up with tarpon. The night time bite has been pretty good. Pretty good meaning you have two or three shots a night. I had some guys out the other day that thought tarpon fishing was fast and furious. That ain't the case guys. We had two hits yesterday. Lost one to a big wad of weeds on the line (that's part of bridge fishing) and one got us wrapped around a bridge pier while we were cutting the boat loose to chase (that happens, but it really hurts when it is a big fish).

Anyway, I have got to go fishing. Will try to update later.

Okay it's later. I blew off the oceanside today and went bayside to do some scouting. The best snapper bite was in the deep grass away from the wrecks everyone and their brother is hammering. One of my spots is so loaded with Goliath Grouper nothing good made it to the boat. My crew enjoyed catching and releasing the Goliaths so that wasn't a wasted stop.

They were supposed to be serious tarpon guys, but waiting a couple of hours for a bite wasn't their cup of tea so I had to find spots with constant action. They also wanted eating fish. So let me explain tarpon fishing. It is like watching paint dry for a few hours until the fish get in the mood to bite. The bite can happen at any time or not happen at all. If you just want to catch fish and have fun, don't book a tarpon trip. If you are serious about tarpon, permit and bonefish it may take some patients and extra effort on your part.

So what I really need to write about is realistic expectations. There are average times required for prize catches. Take sailfish, with four anglers on the boat, what are the odds that all four anglers boat their first sail? This isn't leadering a sail, it is boating a sail for a photo. It is over 50 to 1 in season. Tarpon are a little easier than sailfish in season. So the odds are around 35 to 1 of all four anglers boating their first tarpon. This based on estimate performance per trip.

I will try to get more numbers, but if you can't devote over three hours of your life without getting antsy for something to happen, some of the fish in the glossy magazines may not be for 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

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What is a Good tip?

The past couple of days I have tried hard to catch big fish and sucked. We caught fish. I am having a great fish dinner tonight because we caught fish. But I didn't catch the big guys.

Yes, that happens. Sometimes the big guys get away or don't bite. So I am at the dock this morning fuming because of missed shots the day before. The crew on the dock are talking about how much a guide should get tipped. This really got me going!

A guide should get tipped whatever the customer wants to tip them! Then they start talking about mandatory gratuities. That's an oxymoron, there is nothing mandatory about a gratuity. A gratuity is a show of appreciation for what was attempted or accomplished. If you had a less than expected experience, don't tip! I would recommend buying the guide a beer if he is walking around talking to himself about how stupid it was to chase hero fish when he could have kicked butt inshore.

Fishing is fishing. I am one of the few I know that if you have a bad time I won't charge. Do I guarantee Fish? No, I guarantee you learn something and catch fish.

Like today. I have a crew that rented a boat from another boat rental company that I won't name. They had been fishing for three days and had not caught squat. The rock anchor on their boat has no chain and the line is tied direct to the top of the rock anchor. Rock anchors are trip anchors that can't trip if tied to the top. After borrowing some chain and a shackle I rig their anchor up so they can fish though with only 60 foot of line it is still a challenge.

After catching a few good fish in the morning until the current change into the wind, I started the tour of where to go if you have the right conditions. Yes, the bite sucked after the current change, so I spent most of the afternoon helping them plan their next day and showing them how to operate the boat. It wasn't that big a deal. The boat renter had a 27 foot twin engine and had never driven any boat over 23 or any twin engine boat. We spent an hour while the bite sucked learning how to turn and dock a twin engine boat.

We also spent time learning how to operate the GPS, how not to run aground, how to read the water, how to anchor and how to catch fish. So how much was the gratutiy? Exactly what it should be because it is what they felt was right.

There are no mandatory gratuities fishing. You tip how you feel you should. Are there guide lines for tips? Yes, most say 15 to 20% of the service charged is normal. I tend to get more than that but maybe I offer more and ask less.

On the Fishing 101 trips, come with the attitude to learn and have fun. Whatever you tip is fine. I have never told anyone other wise.

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, March 29, 2008

Fishing the Florida Keys the Past Week

I have been booked all week and the wind has been blowing enough to make it uncomfortable if you head out to the reef or beyond. This is why I make the big bucks. It can be blowing over 20 knots and I can still find a place to fish and most often fish to bite.

That doesn't mean you catch fish from start to finish. You have to deal with a little slow bite until you get the right current. Wind against the current is tough fishing. That is the time to forget the chum and fish the bottom. The bite is slow but you do catch a few fish waiting for things to get right.

Another thing to remember is when the bite is slow the fish may be finicky. We lost more good fish this week by customers getting anxious and pulling baits out of the fish mouths. Many species, Mangroves in particular, will pick up a bait on a slow day and just hold it in their mouth. If you try to set the hook you just pull your bait off. A slow bite is a great time to set your rod in a rod holder. The rod holder has the patience of Job. It doesn't fiddle fart around trying to feel a bite and prematurely try to set the hook.

The guys that listened to me this week had nice fish dinners and some fun with a few big fish. The guys that didn't listen are probably talking bad about me. (Not really, they realized they had shots.) But that is the thing when fishing is slow, you take advantage of your shots and it is a good trip. You don't and it is not.

We did have a few days that it was not that rough and we could have kicked some fish butt. This is a great time for me to give y'all a couple of reminders:

1. If you think you are going to get seasick you will. Take regular Dramamine the night before and one in the morning to ward off Mal de Mer.

2. Upgrading to a larger boat is a good idea if you can. For Pips customers I recommend upgrading because of the bigger live wells and smoother ride. If you bring your own boat down you can't upgrade your boat. You can change your tactics. Between the bridges, lee side of the islands and lee side of flats, there is plenty of fishing.

This week in the smaller boats and bigger boats with greener crews, we caught keeper Red Grouper, Hogfish, Mangrove Snapper, Lane Snapper and Mutton Snapper plus a variety of jacks, sharks other critters. Not a chamber of commerce kinda catch, but my customers had pretty big smiles and a tasty dinner.

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, March 27, 2008

Photo Tour of the Florida Keys Boat Ramps

Okay, I have been busy fishing and getting tiki prices together and a few other things. Because of that my post are a little behind. Doc, has started a photographic Tour of the boat ramps here in the Keys. As he and I get time we are going to build a blog and later a book of the launch facilities available.

Right now I want to turn you trailer boaters on to the photos library. Details like directions, parking limitations and other stuff will be down the road. As soon as I get a day or two free I will build the blog and start writing.

For now here is the link to the photos. Some are pretty funny if you were planning to using the ramp.

Here's the link:

This is the link to the Boat Ramps of Monroe County where we are building the ramp guide. It is under construction so there will be changes and additions.

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, March 17, 2008

Fishing Fun

Yesterday was a slow day fishing. We had a west wind which is generally not a good wind. We caught a few dolphin, but the bottom bite was not happening. The crew was a bunch of guys from England that where a riot. As they goofed on each other and me I started thinking of other slow trips I have had.

Off of Jacksonville, Florida I had one of the slowest trips ever. We had been trolling for 5 hours without a single bite. I looked at a new guy on the boat and told him check one of the baits. When he got the lure in I said, “No wonder we aren’t catching anything, the bait’s on backwards!” I then take the perfectly rigged lure and rig it backwards. As the new guy put the lure out we hook a good size dolphin.

A few months later I hear that the new guy got into a big argument with another crew during a big fishing tournament. He was telling them they didn’t know how to rig baits. I busted a gut laughing.

Slow bites and kids are a bad thing. They get discouraged pretty quick if they aren’t catching fish. On one trip I had two boys about nine years old. They started getting on my nerves so I told them the best way to get the fish to bite is to take a nap. They didn’t believe me of course, but I got them to go into the cabin. They popped back out about two minutes later saying that I was goofing them. I convinced them that they had to actually doze off for the trick to work.

A couple of hours later we got into a school of fish and I woke them up. They had a ball fighting the fish and as soon as the bite quit, they ran back into the cabin to get another bite going. Those two are a joy to fish with.

Some customers get on my nerves too. They get excited just like kids and get in my way while I am loading the boat. When they do that I tell them they need to get the emergency bait. The emergency bait is Dion’s fried chicken from the store across the street from the marina. The chicken has to be hot and fresh for it to work. Since Dion’s never has chicken out until eight o’clock, the customers are out of my way.

When it gets to around noon, I tell them it is time for the emergency bait. I take a bite of a piece of chicken and drop a small piece in the water. Then I take another piece and put it on a hook. Mangrove snapper love chicken so I almost always catch a snapper. That gets the crew fishing with chicken while I enjoy a nice lunch.

Yesterday with the bite dead slow, I switched to trolling on a color change from bottom fishing. The crew started getting a little rowdy so I told them the only way to get a bite going was to get the guide a beer. About half way into the beer, we hook up a dolphin.

Things like this inspired me to write a couple of articles, The Zen of Fishing and How to Catch More Fish: The Banana Myth and its Impact. Fishing is fishing. The main thing is to have fun and catch a few fish. So if you have a slow day, think about some of these tricks.

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, March 13, 2008

Marathon Reef Report

Since the wind laid down yesterday the reef is open to more comfortable fishing. The yellowtail bite yesterday was pretty good. We came close to limiting out. We would have limited out quickly if it wasn't for tons of big king mackerel eating our flags.

In the fifty plus foot range The only 'tails we could get to the boat were barely legals. Every good size fish we hooked got ate about twenty feet from the boat. So since the crew didn't want to play with thirty plus pound kings we moved to the 30 foot range. In the swallow water we didn't get any flags but a good number of 17-18 inchers with most of the box in the 14-16 range. Not fantastic, but plenty of sandwiches.

The bottom bite was a bit slow. Only two nice porgies came home for dinner. The crew did lose one big grouper and a few nice hits that I believe were muttons or big mangs. In the shallow water the kings were not a problem but cero mackerel were everywhere. So we were using short light wire leaders 'tailing to save hooks.

Even though the crew didn't want mackerel, they seemed to have fun fighting the 6 to 10 pound ceros on the yellowtail rods. They even put a couple in the box dinner.

Most of the other boats 'tailing were singing the blues about poor catches. They stayed in the deeper water the whole time. Sometimes you just have to hit the kiddy pool (shallow water) to make a trip.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next yellowtail snapper fishing vacation spot. 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

PS: The Three Day Getaways are starting to get popular. If you want a quick fishing weekend without the hassle of lugging the boat and all your gear down, check it out.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hogfish or Hog Snapper a Tasty Treat

One of greatest things about fishing the Florida Keys is the diversity of fish you can catch. One my personal favorites to catch is Hogfish also called Hog Snapper. First, I think they are neat looking and most of my customers have never seen one. Second, they have the whitest, firmest flesh you have ever seen.

Catching Hogfish hook and line is not all that easy. Because of all the other critters that share their neighborhood, you end up catching just about everything but Hogfish. So the best time to catch Hogfish is when nothing else is really biting. On the reef that is when you have clear water with very little current. The favorite bait for Hogfish is shrimp, the fresher the better and live is as fresh as they get.

Hogfish feed on the bottom, so jigs or weight of some sort is normally required. Even though using a jig you don’t really jig. Let the bait set on the bottom and just once and a while lift slowly to see if you have a bite. Most of the time you won’t feel a Hogfish bite, you just find you are hooked up when you lift your rod tip.

Hogfish can be found anywhere in the Keys and in nearly any depth. They do tend to like areas with sea fans on the bottom that they use for cover. If you try to target Hogfish, the reef in the 15 to 30 foot depth range is a good place to start. Remember clear water works to your advantage Hogfishing. You will probably catch a few Porgies fishing for the Hogfish. If they have any size to them you won’t be disappointed if you invite them to dinner.

So if you are having a slow day on the reef, think about shifting to Hogfishing until the current changes.

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, February 29, 2008

Big Pine Key Back Country

For some reason we had two great weather days Sunday and Monday, but no one wanted to fish. So I went to Big Pine Key to sea trial a McKee Craft 16 foot skiff with my buddy Doc.

We launched at the Old Wooden Bridge fish camp and headed out Big Spanish channel. If you have never made that trip you need to put it on your list. It is one of the best boat rides you will ever take. The fishing can be outstanding for tarpon, permit and bonefish if you can get around in skinny water.

Big Spanish Channel ends on the Bayside at Harbor Key and is just a mile from the Content Keys. There is a mixture of sand and grass flats with deep channels in between. It is a back country fisherman's paradise. Near the islands there are a few spots you can catch Mangroves and even a keeper grouper if you aren't much into sports fishing. Bird watchers will have a ball in winter and spring.

We took a couple of rods but weren't serious about fishing. Since we were breaking in a new motor we didn't have that much time anyway. We did drift a few flats seeing mainly baracudas, sharks and mangroves. Now that the skiff is ready to run and we figured out a few things, I will make a few more serious scouting trips to areas I can't access with the bigger boats. Once we get the Pangler running, we should be able to run some top notch back country trips.

Speaking of the Pangler, that idea is placed on hold but not forgotten. With any luck that boat will be available for next season starting in November. That should give the economy enough time to turn around and Conchtiki should be making some money.

With the Pangler I will be able to fish everywhere in the Keys. For instance from Marathon, the Contents is a forty minute run by water. Flamingo is a little longer run, but there are several good areas to fish along the way. I will also be able to trailer to other areas to take advantage of the bite.

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, February 25, 2008

Small Boat Fishing in the Keys

There are a lot of people that like to trailer their small boat down to the Keys for their fishing vacation. There is a ton of great fishing you can do from a small boat or skiff in the Keys. Even when the wind blows you can find a place out of the wind to enjoy a day on the water.

To use your small boat to your best advantage don't forget that trailer. From Marathon you can launch on the north or south side of the island to avoid the wind. Marathon is also in the middle of the Keys. A short trip either east or west will take you to new fishing spots. Out of Big Pine or Cudjo Keys you have access to some of the finest flats fishing in the world. There is more than just bonefish tarpon and permit around the flats. The deeper water between the flats and around the back country islands hold snapper, grouper and even a cobia at times.

Navigating the waters can be intimidating. To make life simpler, have a GPS map system on your boat and a good chart of the area as a back up. Plan your trip in advance and have a float plan ready for a friend in case you get caught by the tides.

The small boat owner can have a great time exploring the back country and on calm days can fish the reef and near offshore waters. The Florida Bay is accessible on most days for the small boats and has some great fishing.

When fishing own your own, I recommend hiring a guide for your first day or two on the water. Navigating around Marathon is pretty easy, especially with a GPS map system. The back Country out of Islamarada and Big Pine Key to the west is a little trickier. Get a local guide for the area you are fishing. The everglades National Park has great fishing and some of the toughest navigation. A guide out of Key Largo, Taverner or Islamarada will make your trip productive and easier on your wallet.

I have good knowledge of the waters from Marathon to Key West. Still there are a few areas I would recommend a more local guide to get the best bang for your buck.

Another advantage of the GPS map system is that most of the boat ramps are listed and easy to find. I will try to add a few links to boat ramps in the near future. Right now I am heading to Big Pine for back country trip. The sun is high enough to read the water and spot the fish.

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, February 24, 2008

The Full Moon

I have posted before that the full moon can make fishing a challenge. Most of the fish targeted here in the Keys are current feeders. The full moon currents and the light of the full moon cause the fish to change their feeding habits.

Daytime fishing can become a challenge on the full moon. Normally, there are only one or two days at and just after the full when daytime fishing, well sucks. Night fishing on the other hand is fantastic. So if you are vacationing around a full moon plan on scheduling a night trip.

Tarpon guides are all geared for night fishing. On the full moon the bite can last all night long. Reef fishing charters at night are very productive if there is a favorable current. Yellowtails, mutton and mangrove snapper are great night feeders. The biggest complaint about night fishing trips is that they are short. With the ten fish per person aggregate snapper limit, it doesn't take long to limit out when the current is running with the wind.

So does the full moon mean all day time fishing sucks? No, the big tide changes can be very productive for flats fishing. At low tide, when flats are fully exposed, bonefish, permit and tarpon can be targeted along the edges of the flats. This is a great time for you to get in touch with your light tackle side and have some fun.

Fishing on the reef can still be productive, but you have to change your tactics. Because of the stronger tides, visibility on the reef will be either very clear or very dirty. In the clear water target grouper, hogfish and porgies. Use live or very fresh dead shrimp on light jigs for the hogfish and porgies and live pinfish, ballyhoo and pilchards for the grouper. This is normally a slower bite than chum fishing, but can produce a very good catch. The key is to cover a lot of ground and hit plenty of live coral fields. This type of fishing is where flourocarbon comes in handy. I use 12 pound flouro with the jigs. While any jig head will work, I have better luck with the white buck tail jigs just heavy enough to get to the bottom. For the grouper use a long leader, six to ten foot, and keep the bait about five feet off the bottom. The grouper bite will be slow, so just dead stick the grouper rod and work the jigs.

Chumming in clear water is optional if you are targeting the hogfish and grouper. If you do chum, you can catch yellowtail if you use very small hooks and light leader. I have had to go as light as six pound test and size six hooks to catch 'tails in clear water on a full moon.

If you have dirty water and a decent current on the outgoing tide, the reef can be just as productive on the full moon as any other time. The problem is the if. Tides in the Keys are a bit abnormal. You only have two to three foot swings and there is often a low high and a high high. This makes the currents very difficult to predict. So be prepared for any conditions if you want to catch fish on the full moon during the day time.

There was a comment on my last post about Oceanside 101 guides. As you all hopefully know, most of my trips are fishing 101's. While I can cover a lot of techniques in a day, most of my regular customers like to book me every year for the first day of their stay to learn something new. One thing I recommend is learning to throw a large cast net (eight foot or larger). The right bait can make your trip so try to add castnetting 101 to your lesson plan. Another thing is make sure your boat has a good round or oval livewell to keep your bait happy until it is time to fish. Most of the Pips and Vacation Boat rentals boats have good livewells. If you are renting make sure you have at least a twenty gallon bait well. Then your Oceanside 101 trip can be productive.

Make Marathon in the Florida Keys your next fishing vacation destination.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fishing is Good if you Have the Right Bait

The little guy in the photo is a pinfish. Each one of my fishing 101 trips starts with catching a few of these guys to trade in on something bigger. While pinfish are not as versatile as Pilchards, they are easy to catch and fish love these bite size snacks. Small hooks size 8 to 10 with small bait a quarter inch square are the ticket. A small Sabiki rig is fine, but cut it down to two or three hooks to reduce your frustration level.

Drifting pinfish past the old bridge piers will produce anything from a variety of Jacks to Tarpon. Big mangroves love pins and the bridge is holding big mangrove snapper. On the patches just on the reef and inside there are plenty of mangroves, muttons and grouper. Just do me a favor and use circle hooks so you don't gut hook the undersized fish. A light knocker rig, just an egg sinker free to slide on the line a 2/0 to 4/0 light wire circle, is the ticket. Adjust your weight with the current and bait size. From a 1/4 ounce to 1 1/2 ounce being the most you should need.

Fishing the down current side of a patch just in the sand is productive. Watching the fish take your bait is kinda fun too. If there are a lot of smaller fish in the area, try cutting a larger pin in half for bait. The little guys will go nuts pecking at the cut bait. Just let it lay until a big one shows to spoil their party.

If you hit a patch that is hot, don't wipe it out. Leaving a few bigger fish on a patch helps attract other big ones. If you take all the larger fish it can take months for the patch to reload. When you don't wipe it out they tend to reload in a few nights.

If you want sailfish, pinfish will work. The sails won't always eat the pins but they will check them out. Have a rigged ballyhoo ready as a pitch bait if they are window shopping.

Drifting the pinfish in the bay on a float will produce sea trout, mangroves, mackerel and even a grouper on occasion. On anchor, get your chum going and free line a couple and have a knocker rig or two out just like the patches.

By the way, Circle hooks are going to be required for all Gulf Reef fishing this year. Get used to them now. With circle hooks you don't set the hook, let the fish tighten the line and just reel.

Tight lines
Enjoy some Marathon Heart of the Florida Keys Fishing

Capt. Dallas

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Not Everyday is Fantastic

Today was a day from hell in my opinion. The live well took a dump and the New Moon currents threw my whole time table off. Yep, I was stooping and fetching to make anything happen.

I am a light tackle guy. I think in terms of 5 to 1's and better. Any fish that weighs five time more than the line test that caught him is my goal. With everything going against me I managed to squeak out a nine to one today. A just over one hundred pound bull shark on twelve pound test.

Most savvy anglers would say "Whoop de do, they caught a friggin' shark!" I agree, there is no way in hell that I would want to fight a shark on any tackle. But I am not the paying customer. There are folks that have never caught a fish that weighed more than the test of the line they were using. Sharks are a good way to move into big game fishing though.

So the day after tomorrow, I will try to place this satisfied customer on a few sailfish on light tackle. That is just a little more exciting than sharks in my opinion. Sorry, no photos of the shark, we were fishing the flats and I had enough fun driving the boat.

Hopefully, I will have some sailfish pictures for the next post.

Tight lines,
Enjoy some Marathon Heart of the Florida Keys Fishing

Captain Dallas

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Seven Mile Marina is Looking Good

The Seven Mile Marina is starting to look like the place to be if you are a charter captain in Marathon. The newly added finger docks on the back side of the boat basin nearly doubled the number of boat slips.

In addition to the new docks, there has been a lot of sprucing up of the grounds and a new restaurant built on the site. The restaurant is not open yet, so if you feel like running a restaurant in the Keys here is your chance.

I threatened a while back to list a few of the old town charter boats. So I might as well start with the new and improved Seven Mile Marina. All ready mentioned in my blog is Native Son Charters, run by Captains, Pete and Howard that I worked with at Seadog. Best Bet Charters, with Captain Jason has also been mentioned. Since then, Best Bet has add a new Cabo to the fleet. Blue Magic, with Captain Larry is back running out of Seven Mile after pretty much completing the refurbishing of his 30 foot Island Hopper.

First Light, with Captain Jay DeShay is running light tackle trips in his new 25 footer with single inboard diesel. Fuel cost had been hurting his business, but the new boat has things going the right direction.

Walk About Charters, with Captain Chris is just starting up at the Seven Mile Marina. Chris you should remember if you read my blog. He was my mate for the sailfish trip in "When it Blows it Sucks" post last year. If you haven't read it you really should, just click the link.

There are a few other captains that I haven't met at the Seven Mile. Hopefully I will get a chance to meet them soon and add them to the list. If you fish with any of these guys, mention my name.

Tight lines,
Enjoy some Marathon Heart of the Florida Keys Fishing

Captain Dallas

Here are a few photos of the Walk About.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What Kind of Fishing Gear Do You Need?

I am getting a lot of new customers from Europe this season. Traveling by air, it is a little tough packing all the fishing gear you think you will need. To make traveling a little easier here are a few tips for you guys.

90% of the fish I catch are on spinning tackle. A good twenty pound spinning outfit is a must for the Keys. To be what I consider good, the reel should hold at least 180 yards of clear monofilament line. A good drag is a must for the reel. While I don't use two piece rods, they are great for traveling. The rod length should not be over seven feet long. Fishing from boats with teetops, the longer rods are a pain. So stick with a six and one half to seven foot long spinning rod.

With this basic outfit, my customers have boated Sailfish to 90 pounds, Amberjack to 75 pounds, Tarpon to 150 pounds, Dolphin to 50 pounds, King Mackerel to 55 pounds, permit to 38 pounds and sharks over 400 pounds.

Lighter spinning outfits are lots of fun. Just make sure they have plenty of line capacity, 200 yards or more. Boating big fish on light tackle, under 15 pounds, is a big challenge. Not so much due to the fish over powering the gear, but due to obstacles in the water. Lobster pots, sea fans and bay grass cause a lot of fish to be lost. Just remember this before going very light.

If you don't want to pack your gear for the trip, good quality spinning outfits cost from 40 dollars. Renting gear locally is pretty much a waste of money when you can buy for the same or less. The lower end spinning outfits are throw aways. This means that they are fine for fishing, but the reels are more easily replaced than repaired. The quality of these outfits won't impress anyone, but they are fine for a couple of weeks in the Keys. By the way that 75 pound Amberjack pictured was caught on a cheap Shimano outfit.

If you are planning on trolling for tuna, wahoo and a shot at a marlin, a couple of heavier conventional trolling rods are in order. Forty to fifty pound outfits with plenty of line, four hundred yards or more are recommended. Shorter stand-up rods are the best for small boat fishing. Mine are five foot long with a long fore grip. A one piece rod is the only way to go in this case. The shorter length rod makes packing for your trip easier. A good drag system is a must for these reels and I do not recommend level wind reels. Braided line is getting popular with traveling anglers until they fish the Keys. Braid is fine for bottom fishing, but trolling it tends to be more of a problem than it is worth. Clear mono is more forgiving and versatile.

For fly fishermen a heavier weight rod is recommended in the winter with lighter for the summer because of wind conditions. A nine weight is a good all around choice. For bonefish and permit, epoxy crab patterns are the ticket. Mackerel hit the fairly large (three to five inch)Clouser and weighted streamer patterns with yellow, Chartreuse and blue/white good colors. These work well for dolphin offshore also. One fun fly to use is a red headed popper with white streamer. It drive mackerel, jacks and dolphin totally nuts. Tarpon like the large streamers, crab patterns and poppers though the sponge worm pattern is the hot fly around sponge worm time. If you are like most fly guys you will spend some time at the World Class Angler shopping for flies or getting ideas for tying your own. They have a good selection of flies and material for tying your own.

A simple four tray tackle bag will handle all the tackle you need. For trolling offshore, lures like C & H stubbies, Billy Bait Turbos are the best for all around trolling. Having a medium Islander (eight to ten inches)in the mix is a good idea. Basic colors that work well are blue and white, pink and white, red and black and dolphin color. Hook sizes for these lures should be from 5/0 to 8/0 with fairly light leaders of 50 to 100 pounds. In most cases, these are rigged with clear mono, but a short wire leader is a good idea for King Mackerel and Wahoo.

For inshore fishing, mainly natural baits are used. Light leaders and smaller hooks are the norm because of the clear water and the free lining fishing technique used. size 2 to 4/0 in straight J hooks or thin wire circle hooks are most common. Weights tend to be light in the keys with split shot and small egg sinkers from 1/8 ounce to one ounce all that is required. For deeper water bottom fishing larger sinker are needed on occasion. It is much easier to just buy the larger sinkers here than lugging them in from home.

Leader material should be kept to the light side. Light size three wire and twenty pound mono or flourocarbon is all you need most of the time. An exception is shark fishing where heavier wire and 80 to 100 pound mono is recommended and Tarpon fishing where fifty to sixty pound mono helps prevent chaffing.

For catching your own live bait, size 8 to ten bait hooks should be included. Sabiki rigs are recommend for catching Pichards, threadfin herring and cigar minnows. The Sabikis will work for pinfish, but I normally use only two to three hooks per rig for the pinfish.

To really catch bait a cast net with six foot or greater radius is handy. Packing one of these for your trip is a pain, but you can get one locally for around forty dollars. If you are staying for more than a week, it is worth the investment. Don't worry I can teach you to throw one in about ten minutes. Having the right live bait really improves your catch. Most of the best baits, Ballyhoo, Pilchards and Threadfin herring are not sold because they are difficult to keep alive. Catching your own is required and is the first thing I teach in my fishing 101 trips. Live shrimp, pinfish and crabs can be bought at any bait and tackle shop in season. The cost of the pinfish is pretty high and they are so easy to catch on your own why bother. Shrimp and crabs are the only live baits I would buy.

Lures for inshore fishing can be kept pretty simple. Fairly heavy spoons like a four inch Drone spoon, light jigs 1/8 to 1/2 ounce with Chartreuse being a very popular color, and four to six inch casing lures like Bomber long A's, Yozuri and Zara Spooks. Natural colors and the old reliable white with red head are your best bet. Count on losing a good deal of these lures. Soft lures in shrimp, crab and fish designs will get plenty of hits and torn up with nearly every fish.

To round out your tackle bag include gloves, needle nose pliers and a fillet knife.

If you are staying at Captain Pips, most of the basic gear like landing nets, gaffs, bait nets are available on site. So you can save luggage space by not bringing any of that.

The best piece of advice I can give you is keep it simple. Don't overload your boat with too many rods and tons of tackle you will never use.

Tight lines,
Enjoy some Marathon Heart of the Florida Keys Fishing

Captain Dallas

Friday, January 18, 2008

I Need to Post More Often.

I just got a comment that I need to post more often. That is true. It is tough for me though since I am just a bit spoiled. To me news is kick butt stuff. I have had enough kick butt trips that just the normal things don't turn me on to write about. Doing the fishing 101 thing as much as I do it is hard for me to get excited about writing about it.

Today I took out a crew from the UK. That is United Kingdom not University of Kentucky. Gran dad is a serious fisherman, son could give a rip and the grandson didn't make the trip today. So I am teaching Gran dad how to catch bait and trade that in on something better.

While I am teaching Gran dad, the son starts thinking that the whole fishing thing is not that bad a deal. Now I am teaching the middle generation how to cast a spinning rod and catch fish. The middle generation had never caught a fish and never thought he would want to, now He is an angler. This is what I do. I teach people how to catch fish.

I teach more than just the fishing 101. I show people more advanced stuff and I get a lot of customers that want me on the boat every day because I put them on fish. A lot of different kinds of fish by the way.

So my old customer is right, I don't post enough because I am just a bit spoiled. An average day like today doesn't impress me much, but the crew had a great time and took a lot of photos. I just have to remember that a ho hum day to me may be another person's trip of a life time. And since Gran Dad never thought the father of his grandson would ever care to fish, today was a pretty big day.

Tight lines,
Enjoy a Marathon Heart of the Florida Keys Fishing vacation this year.

Capt. Dallas

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Boy Howdie!

With fishing, Tiki huts and general fixing stuff I have been busy. Fished most every day the last couple of weeks except during the cold front blow. That was a serious cold front! The iguanas were falling out of the trees every where.

Fishing wise, most of my trips were close in with the smaller boats which was just fine with me. The bridge has been holding some nice mangroves with sharks and various jacks for the out of towners to get their line stretched. Muttons and some keeper grouper are on the Hawk Channel rock piles. The bigger Spanish are moving in close in the Bay. Along with the Spanish we have been getting some very nice mangroves and a grouper here and there. With the cold front, the big King Mackerel are harder to find and the Cobia are playing hide and seek. I know they are out there, just have to find were they relocated.

The sailfish are off the reef, but you may have to run a ways to the west to get into them hot and heavy. Once things stabilize after the light front we had yesterday, they may pop up closer to Sombrero Key Light. I don't have a tuna report because of the wind. A few dolphin have come to the docks for the few that have tried getting out a little deeper.

For the flats guys, bonefishing has dropped off, but permit and a few tarpon are filling the gap.

Got to run. Tight lines,
Enjoy some Marathon Heart of the Florida Keys Fishing

captain dallas