Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Cheap Charter Versus the Charter Adventure!

When I started fishing with Chris and Walkabout charters, I started off with lower rates than he is used to quoting. Since I have been doing this for quite a while, I know pretty much what works for my regular clients. They want to catch fish. While they would love to catch the mostest and biggest, they mainly are more concerned with the tastiest. I have no problem with that.

So the cheap or economy charter is bare bones but not a bait and switch charter. By bare bones, I mean that the range is limited to about 8 miles from the dock because fuel costs money and travel takes time, which is money. If I am pretty sure I can catch fish in that range I say so. If I think I can't, I say that too. I am pretty honest since my memory is too bad to lie. Other than the full moon or banana excuses, of course. I am even dumb enough to tell people before hand what the moon may do, the banana no, that is always the final backup excuse. :)

Another part of the cheap charter is gear. I am replacing my rods and reels with nice but not expensive stuff. So don't expect to see Shimano Stellas on custom Cape Fear blanks. Those cost a little over a grand a piece, If you want that kinda gear, bring your own, not on the cheap charter list of ingredients.

Bait is what is available. I catch my own bait most of the time, but I am not going to spend two or three hours chasing bait for the cheap charter. We catch our own bait on the trip and trade that up. Basic baits, shrimp, ballyhoo, and chum are of course included. If a customer has a line on some bait, bring it on, not a problem.

Tackle is pretty old school for me. I rarely use store bought lures or a lot of expensive stuff that most folk think are require to catch fish because they saw Roland Martin using it. Roland Martin's job is to sell stuff. My job is to catch fish. Most of the stuff works, I just don't think they work well enough to justify the cost. It is hard to beat live and "fresh" dead bait in my opinion, but lure can be fun, so bring your favorites if you like.

People that have fished with me know that I am not a stickler for many rule and I am a little vain, so if the bite sucks, I will bend my rules enough to not suck. If that is going to really get into my pocket, I will let you know, but most know when I have to go above and beyond and tip accordingly. After all that is what a tip is all about.

So after talking it over with Chris, $425 is the cheap charter rate. That is a half day rate if I am booked for the afternoon or the bite is off the hook, or about five or six hours if I am not booked or the fishing is a little slow.

The not so cheap charter rate is $650. There you get the heavier gear, we spend time catching bait and the range is more flexible. That is for about 6 hours to allow for more travel time in reason. Some times when the dolphin are way offshore, we may need to add a little for extra fuel and that would include a hump trip for tuna which is $100 more for fuel, since the round trip to the humps is nearly 60 miles. All that $100 covers is fuel by the way.

Most of these prices are to save y'all some money and me wear and tear. I am trying to limit my fishing days to around 6 hours or so. I have Chris for the guys that want the sun up to sun down adventures.

I thought I would post this just to make the rates more official. 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, January 26, 2012

It's a Family Thing

Since I can't remember names worth a dang, I will just use Mom, London and little Miss Pinfish. Chris booked a family trip, for a pretty large family. He took the Dad and older girls to the reef, I took Mom, London and little Miss Pinfish to the Bay.

Since it was a family outing and some of the kids required the Coast Guard mandatory wearing of the life vest thing, we outfitted the younger members with team West Marine ski vest PFDs. Stylish and comfortable attire in matching blue. As captain kiddie, I generally get the younger passengers, probably because I never bothered to grow up myself.

After hearing that my personal best pinfish in the bait net catch was 5 in a scoop, little Miss Pinfish proceeded to show me what dipping bait was all about. She tied my personal best twice, but never bested me. She did manage to put about 100 fresh live pinfish in the live well along with the couple of hundred pilchards.

With Alex mating, LMP and London caught the entire family dinners of Mangrove snapper and Spanish Mackerel. London, a statuesque, 3 foot 2, boated the largest Spanish and tied for largest Mangrove. Her Spanish was just a foot shy of equaling her height. We even forced Mom to catch a fish or two, though she was the designated outdoors photographer for the day.

The more adventurous family members managed the largest fish of the trips with a respectable 25 pound king mackerel while searching for Bodine tables. The wind did blow up a bit on them while Captain Kiddie and Alex munched on fried chicken watching LMP show us up in the cockpit. A true fisherkid, LMP enjoyed freshly caught fish fingers at Salty's while the offshore crew made their way back to the dock.

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.

P.S. It appears that the new light tackle gear situation is resolved for now. Not a big name manufacturer, but the gear works and is kid friendly, as in I won't freak out if one get released to the sea. More on that later.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mangrove Francais

Francais is just French for French. If you take a refresh fish fillet, say from a 17 inch bridge caught Mangrove Snapper, season it with salt and pepper, dredge it in flour, then egg wash then seasoned flour. Then saute that in butter plus olive oil until golden brown. You are getting French with your fish. Then if you happen to saute some mushrooms, peppers and onion in the same pan, deglaze with a little white wine add some clam juiced with a touch of corn starch to thicken, you are getting a little more French with our fish. Seasoned with every step of course.

What do you have? What's for dinner, is what. Right now the Mangroves at the bridge are more than willing to get French with you. That is about the least expensive fishing trip you can make. You can do it on your own at any of the Keys fishing bridges, or hire an old guy like me to show you the ropes. With Chris' folks in town, Mangrove snapper is on the menu after our relaxing morning half day of catching. No monster fish, just tasty and respectable sized Snapper. Capt Jeff is going out this afternoon to catch the hero 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

Monday, January 23, 2012

It is All About the Money

Here is a news flash, charter fishing is about making money. This topic came up shooting the breeze with the captains at the dock. Why? Because they believe that all charters should have about the same sticker price. I think all charters should have about the same profit margin. It is a profit thing in my opinion.

The reason this subject comes up is because I have cultivated a blue collar clientele. I am a bit on the frugal side myself, I want the most bang for my buck, so I expect the same from by customers. I like eating fish, if I owned a working freezer that wasn't full of unrecognizable bait and chum, I would be inclined to stock up on fish that freeze well.

So over the years, I have gradually slid into an unofficial business agreement with my customers, "if you want me to charge less, expect to do more yourself." Being a cheap skate, er.. frugal, I can squeeze the bait, fuel and ice budget to death and still catch fish. That involves spending time catching bait on the trip instead of having it ready at the dock, using less chum by targeting stupider fish and not running to the Bahamas for fish I can catch at the bridge. Some people like that, some don't. Different strokes and all that.

The boat and me can make a good living on $400 a day. This is were the confusion starts, to me a day is a day and a fishing trip is a tide. It bores the hell out of me to sit for a couple hours knowing damn well the bite is going to suck. Since there is about 5 hours of productive enough tide to not bore me, that is a fishing day. In order to extend that productive time requires time and money, my time and the boat's fuel consumption money. So I call my trips, flexible full days. We go catching for $400 bucks, not catching costs $75 bucks an hour.

If the crew needs a mate on the boat, the mate costs money. Without a bump in the boat economy, that means productive fishing is more like 3 hours instead of five. I like my mates, but I also like making a living. No mate means more work for me, more money for me, or more work by the frugal customers. I am flexible and most fishermen I know do a fair job of cleaning fish and boats. I will step in if someone tries to butcher either.

When I had plans of starting my own charter, with my own boat, I was going to call this the "Grunts" special. Grunts can either be the target species or the sound I hear while the customers are cleaning the boat and/or the fish.

I also like to gamble a little and brag when I win. So if I think I have fair odds of making the kids at the dock look bad by bringing in bigger or fancier fish, I am inclined to do so on occasion. Kids do need to be reminded that the old farts can catch fish from time to time.

So what I need is a little consumer feed back. Is this too complicated so should I just charge $750 a day so I blend in with the kids?

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, January 18, 2012

Mike Can't Catch

Fly fishing aficionado Brian had to go back to the real world leaving his buddy Mike all alone with big ferocious fish that made is Chesapeake Bay tackle look a little wimpy. Yes, that's right sports fans, big fish made Mike work for it and his luck and gear just wasn't up to the task.

Mike has a slightly aging Mitchell spinning reel. It is a classic among classics. An estimated 90 pound fish toyed with Mike and his Mitchel for a while, but when the fish went into turbo mode, it got away. Mike also has a Penn level wind trout rod/reel with 14 pound test. For about an hour Mike and his trout combo felt the power of an unknown Keys species. During that hour I reminded Mike that the fish is not caught until it is along side the boat. After dancing around the anchor a few times, going around the boat a few times and chatting about chickens (I was going to raid his fried chicken lunch stash) something bigger than mike's fish made its move. The guy in the brown suit, Mr. Bullshark, ended Mike's dream of fishing glory. Mike did manage a Cero Mackerel, King Mackerel and Little Tunny (Bonita)in whole condition for the box.

Oh, Mike also has a Penn 4/0 with broom stick rod and about 50 pound test line that did not quite cut the mustard. I will let Mike tell that tale :) Anyway, Mike wanted BIG, he got BIG.
Update: Once the wind laid down, Mike found another guide to put him on some smaller fish :)

That is a nice Mutton he caught with Capt. Howard out of Captain Pips Marina.

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, January 15, 2012

Spanish Mackerel on the Fly

The wind started in the twenties early, so I recommended a later start. Mike and Brian, from the Maryland area agreed. We tried a close spot first because of the winds, no luck. So we headed into the wind back in to the Bay. We had already added a Danforth anchor on to the rock anchor, just to make sure we would stay put.

We started chumming about 10:30 and by 10:35 we had our first Spanish in the box. Not a big fish, in the 2 to 3 pound range, but enough to impress the crew. We used both pichards and live shrimp baits to start, then moved to spoons and finally, Brian broke out the fly rod.

I don't know what it is about fly guys, but they get all excited when they see their backing. Brian saw his backing three of four times on the five or six Spanish he caught. Pretty common thing down here, must not be so common up in Maryland.

Mike said he would send pictures of Brian posing, flyrod and Spanish in hand. I wouldn't hold my breath on that, but I will remind him Tuesday when we go in search of bigger Mackerel, the King, on the Oceanside, weather permitting.

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, January 14, 2012

Well, the Boat Didn't Sink

Long ago, in a place that seems so far, far away, a commenter on the Florida Sportsman Fishing Forum mentioned that the reports on the forum were all good, no one ever mentioned the not so good. I am a firm believer in never saying negative things about people or fishing trips. But, since honesty was requested, I compromised and say more realistic things about the less than stellar trips that happen at times. Most of the time there is some humor in the telling that makes up for the negative side of the truth which people seem to want, but rarely truly appreciate. Today, the boat did not sink :)

Bill and his lovely wife Chris hired me to fish with them on their lovely boat, which had thoughts about sinking, but decided not to. An unnamed worker for an unnamed employer working on a boat of unnamed manufacture, with twin brand new Suzuki outboards, forgot to dog down a hatch. It made for interesting conversation back at the dock and a rather slow day of catching. So fishing wise, we caught the largest Pork fish I have seen in ages, a large variety of small but very attractive fish and an appetizer size portion of legal Mangrove Snapper.

I would love to say that I was the hero of the day, but that honor goes to boat of unnamed manufacture and the brand new Suzuki four stroke outboard engines. The villain of the day is Karma.

After four straight days of absolutely gorgeous fishing weather and no customers. The weather report on Friday the 13th looked good for offshore on Saturday the 14th. With visions of tuna and cobia for dinner I awoke to 24 knots winds and no hot water. I blame the cat for the lack of hot water. Heck, I may as well blame the cat for the high winds. As I drove to dock with the cold winds buffeting the Tahoe, listening to the cheery weather report of 10 to 15 knot winds and 2 to 3 foot seas, I could only chuckle. Because of the winds, we changed plans, deciding to fish the Hawk Channel Rock piles for Lanes and other critters waiting for the bait to show and the winds to die. Then we may have a shot at the reef later. The current was not bad, it was horrendous! A surface current out the back of the boat and an under current straight up the anchor line. I brilliantly decided to head to the East in the sheltered channel to catch the Seven Mile bridge current to get the wind with the tide. That lead to the discovery of the boat's plans and later the discovery of the cause of the boat's plans, once we had returned to the dock.

After the boat was bailed out and things placed in reliable order, we headed to the Long Key Bridge, with two additional anglers who had discovered that fishing the reef was not all that great of an idea. They may have listened to the same weather report on the radio. With bait, live shrimp, enough for two anglers we arrived at the bridge with four anglers and managed to turn two anglers worth of bait into 3 keeper mangroves just before the current got right to catch many more Mangroves. I think this was plan G or H by this time and I did forget the bait situation somewhere around plan F.

So the short version is we went out and returned safely with nearly enough fresh fish for an appetizer.

The moral, dog your hatches, maintain a sense of humor and keep a cat around so there is someone to blame for bad Karma :) Tomorrow is another day, with another angler and with these winds, another bridge. Catching wise, we will probably do better, though the day may be a little less exciting.

Londonfisherman, this post is for you.

Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our boat not sinking 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.

Tight lines,

Capt. Dallas

Friday, January 13, 2012

General Rental Boat Stuff.

I try to keep the Marathon Area boat rental information current. Somethings, like what boat is getting new power or who is getting new boats, some I pick up, some I don't. One of the guys online did his homework, checked my blog and checked out a few companies on the list for what his needs were. He was nice enough to give me an update, which I am going to post,

A couple tidbits for you ont he folks I called if you want to post it...

Capt Pips 15 miles Atlantic or Gulf, Bahia Mar to Duck Key. We pick up
Fish n Fun 10 miles off hill, and 10 miles E/W from Where you stay. Free Delivery
Tropical 25 miles either Side. We pick up. 5 miles from Duck. Cleanest newest fleet
Vacation 25 miles off, either side. #8 getting new Suzuki right now. Free delivery. Return by 4:00 of last day. $300 deposit, refundable w/in 15 days.

Price wise.. in the 20-22 ft range:

Pips Pips Fish N Fun Fish N Fun Tropical Vacation
Rental Rental Rental Rental Rental Rental
23ParkerF225 20HornF150 22Parker150 23Parker175 22SeaChaseF150 22SeaChase150S
1500 / wk 1210 / wk 1100 / wk 1230 / wk 1253 / wk 1195 / wk

So, vacation was actually the cheapest, let's me take the boat the farthest in case it's slick calm one day, they deliver for free and have ZERO east / west restrictions... just 25 from the hill. AND they say they're putting a new motor on mine. We'll see. I was actually eyeballing that 20ft Pro Cat pretty hard, but it was already taken. My favorite of the bunch was the 23 parker... especially if it had tabs on it. With that flat back I bet it sips the fuel and with 23 ft of waterline I'm sure I could ease off the throttle a little bit and punch through a pretty sporty little sea out there, PLUS have a low draft in the bay. Oh well, they only wanted to give me 10 miles, so... If it's slick calm I might want to venture out a little farther than that. Especially if the boat has a decent VHF and antenna. I'll also be bringing my personal EPIRB just in case we want to venture out a little farther than some would in a single outboard. Sure makes me nervous in somebody else's boat. If it's a new Zuke I'm pretty comfortable, though.

I could easily have gone tropical, but the free delivery was just hard to beat. It's our honeymoon. We'll probably get in late Saturday... will be nice to wake up and have the boat just appear before we go lobster scouting.

Thought y'all might find it interesting. The new power, the Suzuki and free delivery were big factors. I can see that. Range is another that comes into play for most of the way off shore guys. Price wise, they are in the same range, noting that the first Capt. Pips boat is a bigger with a bigger engine. As I have said a dozen times, all these rental companies do a fine job, it just boils down to your needs and your budget.

Most Keys regulars know that range is not that big of an issue, unless you are planning to do a Keys tour, fishing wise, you don't have to run far to get fish. Which is why I am down here, I got tired of having to run 40 to 60 miles to find fish up North :)

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, January 12, 2012

Muttons Honey

Lil' Chris, er.. Captain Chris Morin, with his angler Dave from the frozen north country posing with what's for dinner, a mutton snapper of respectable size. This is Chris with the Walkabout Charters LLC which I be fishing with. Lately, he has been doing the mutton thing while I do the bridge thing. It's all good, I catch more fish for the guys that want more meat and more action, he catches bigger fish, though not as many, at least today, it was a little slow. It was slow probably because the weather was freakin' beautiful!

I sat at the dock today experimenting with chocolate lava cupcakes. I need to adjust the chocolate melting point a touch to get the right flow rate, but taste wise, the first try was not bad at all! Tomorrow, will be bait catching and mangroves for dinner, then four days with the private boat and rental boat guys.

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, January 09, 2012

Decisions Decisions

Decisions on what manufacturer for my new fishing gear. I have had custom made rods with Daiwa spinning reels and Shimano trolling reels for the past 12 years. With just the general maintenance, both have served me quite well over that time, both have little issues which I would expect every manufacturer would. I am not desperately loyal to either since neither sponsor me or offer a direct discount of any kind. I do get a pretty solid discount on the Daiwa products, since I am a nice guy I guess.

The most major issue with Diawa spinning reels is the bail roller tends to lock up. That is not a major issue if you know ahead of time because you can take the reel apart and lube it with some of that expensive PTFE or some alphabet lubricant to keep it right, but you have to use the not so tight Loctite(R)on the threads to be able to maintain it down the road. None of the manufacturers seem to have a handle on that, use of alphabet lubricant stuff to make maintenance easier. Since they don't work for me, I can fire them, but I can mention that they might be able to make an improvement of two.

I was thinking US manufacturers this time around, but it is hard to tell if the US manufacturer manufactures in the US or not. I do know that our stimulus money has stimulated US manufacturers that manufacture most of their stuff outside of the US. So I would not like to be dumber than a politician and let anyone think that I have a clue where any of the stuff is actually made. If anyone does know of a real made in the good old US of A reel manufacturer that some one could afford their product, let me know.

The kids at the dock have fallen in love with the Penn products that were formally made in the USA which are now made in Asia mainly and only marked up about 8 times instead of the normal 10 times. I guess that is a step in the right direction. The Penn Battle reels seem to be preferred by the kids and cost about 30% more than the Daiwa with just about the same issues, a little more drag issue than roller, but close.

Since I am a little anal about having my stuff match, I would consider a matching rod if the same company can provide both with about the same level of quality. I am not particularly a fan of lifetime warrantees where you spend a good portion of your lifetime taking advantage of them. I prefer stuff that tends to not break very often to stuff that does break pretty regularly on a charter boat.

So the basic requirements are reliability, durability, kick butt looking and cost, pretty much in that order. If anyone knows some industry rep that thinks he or she has such a product have them shoot me an email or leave a comment.

Flatlines, the 30 foot Proline of Doc and Jerry, is scheduled to go on the hill this week for some badly needed dusting and cleaning. Doc wants me to work this boat into the charter mix somehow. That may be a bit of a challenge since its biggest selling point and clean head or potty, has a bad macerator pump that is a challenge to get to. So I could use some ideas for family friendly, once the toilet is fixed, adventures aboard the Flatlines. Flatlines, like Gale, Trainwreck or Bad Luck, is not one of my personal choices for a charter boat name, since flat lining is not just a fishing technique.

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, January 04, 2012

I'm Cooking Now!

After threatening to buy on of those counter top convection ovens with the rotisserie I did the deed thanks to a ding at Kmart. Hamilton Beach twin 12 inch pizza baking with rotisserie! Since is was cold and windy last night, it has perfectly bake four loafs of bread, a batch of bacon-cheese cornbread muffins and a pound of bacon. All the while keeping my little place warm and restauranty smelling!

Oh, wait! This is supposed to be about fishing.

I fished my buddy Sonny Monday. Sonny first fished with me about 12 years ago with his uncle Victor out of Captain Pips. Now Sonny is growed up with is own boat. This time he brought down a 30 foot Carrera with twin Mercury Verado engines. I had Sonny meet me at the Seven Mile Marina.

Now I did not know that Sonny had a new boat. Last time he was down with a 22 foot boat, so I was a bit surprised to see his new ride. The young gun captains at the marina were a little surprised to see the boat also.

Monday was a slick calm day, perfect for running offshore in a high performance 30 foot Carrera with twin Mercury Verado engines and a sound system nearly as powerful. So I took over the controls of the boat, push the throttles up to a comfortable cruise and nearly 2 minutes later pulled it back to neutral at the Mangrove snapper fishing hole by the bridge. :)

I'll take Sonny someplace a little further down the road later this year, Monday was a half day snapper trip. We did just fine with a near limit of fat mangroves, a Cero Mackerel of respectable size and a very fat yellow jack.

Both Cero and Yellow jack are not bad at all on the table. Cero is the best eating of the mackerel in my opinion other than Wahoo. The yellow jack is tasty with firm flesh and nearly white meat a lot like Cobia with a hint of tuna thrown in. It is one of the few jacks that I will eat not smoked other than pompano, both regular and African.

Now that I am done with the Christmas Rush, I have a few days to work with a few other boats I need to get into order. Flatlines, the boat my buddy Doc owns, should be running now so I need to get her cleaned up and hauled. The Walkabout is running fine, but I need to set up a few things so I can fish it easier single handed. Nothing major, but I need to rig the anchor so I can set it without climbing around stuff too much. To do that, I need to first get an anchor set for not too easy break away. Then I am going to run some less expensive half or three quarter days for my bridge and channel regulars.

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, January 01, 2012

Happy New Years!

Chicago Joe, Joey, Shelbi and I started off the New Year with a shark fishing trip. Hey, what can I say, people like playing with fish as big or bigger than they are. We missed a couple shots at sexier sharks but a sharpnose on light tackle and a large nurse, just for the photo op, we fine for the crew. Shark catching was followed by a light lunch at Burdine's ChikiTiki and a little swim on the ocean side away from the shark chumming.

Chicago Joe had more than enough snapper for dinner from the past couple of trips, so today was just a sleepy short day before turning in his boat. We could have had our way with the Mangroves or the Lanes again, but a photo op with a seven foot shark may just impresses the gang back in Chi town better than pictures of snapper grilled, blacken and fried.

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