Saturday, March 29, 2014

Nearly April

The crew from Tennessee finished up fishing Friday.  The weather and bait didn't cooperate for a sailfish photo op, but the crew had a fine time fishing the Bay for steady action and a little bridge fishing.

Weather and bait have been big topics lately.  Pilchards are harder to find that normal and ballyhoo on the reef have been iffy.  Several guys are starting in the Bay to catch the more reliable ballyhoo and pinfish before heading out top the ocean side.  Even the Threadfin Herring on the bait spots are playing harder to get.

Most of the weather problem and possibly the bait problem is the variable wind direction with way too much West wind for my taste.  A west wind down here just seems to make catching much more difficult since the prevailing wind is normally Easterly in these latitudes.  Friday we had an East to Southeast wind between 15 and 20 knots most of the afternoon which is normally very fishable even in smaller boats.  However, since the winds have been variable, the chop was more confused than normal for what should be a fishable breeze making things more of a challenge.  With April nearly here the west wind associated with the more wicked of the northern cold fronts should be less of a factor.

April is a major transition month into our more summer species, Dolphin, Tuna, Tarpon and Permit.  The Spanish Mackerel and Kings will be thinning out and heading north along with most of the Cobia than haven't found a wreck.  Snapper, Mangroves, Yellowtail and Muttons will be a little easier to find and likely a bit larger on average moving into the summer spawn and there is only one more month of Atlantic Grouper closed season.

More predictable winds should also make it easier to book in advance.  The way things have been going I have everyone trying to book the same week which makes it tough.  My dedicated reef Yellowtail guys should be able to plan a trip with more confidence.

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 22, 2014

New Crew

The new crew from Tennessee has arrived so we will be doing a mixed bag over the next day or two.  Since they we Jonesing to get out on the water we managed a quick part day of mainly boat checking and load with a block of chum worth of yellowtail fishing.

 The bite was a little slow likely because the water was so clear and calm, but the fish that did want to play were respectable.  The plan for tomorrow is the bait basics with bridge and rockpiles then since Yellowtail basics are pretty much covered, perhaps a tuna/dolphin basics since they are biting pretty good at the moment.

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, March 21, 2014

Hair of the Dog

I am supposed to be fishing part two of a fishing 101 today but instead I am sitting in the RV looking for more stuff to fix.  The reason is one of my customer is sick.  I have some customers that are fortunate enough to have an event free vacation and some that aren't.

Their vacation started with winds that set their trip back a couple of days.  Not a big deal since I try to set aside a couple of weather days this time of year.  Once the weather laid down, I met the guys and we did the pre-fishing shopping trip so they had the right basic gear for fishing in the Florida Keys.  They bought a pair of the Aries AS 60 combos I am testing and a 7 foot cast net along with the basic hooks, weight etc.

The next day I meet the guys and we get ready to head out.  The sister of one of the guys was staying with them and had brought a dog imported from Honduras named Oso.  The first thing Oso did was bite me.  That might have been an omen.  Then during the introductions I thought I was standing outside of Oso's leash range, but he had a good reach and managed to bite me again.  That might have been an omen.  

After locating the bandades and sterile paper towels for compresses to stem the close to profuse bleeding, we started towards the Bay with one of the original customers and Oso apologetic owner.  The other guy was too ill to fish due to something from either an allergy to TB, in any case bad enough that he was ready to get on the water.

Leaving the dock I asked where the cast net was.  Dunno was the answer so after a complete search and back track the cast net was declare stolen by migrant labor so we added a pinfish rod to the mix for bait catching.

The first spot in the Bay started a little weird but we managed to catch plenty of pinfish, the goal of that spot and hair hook a fair number of live ballyhoo.  I mentioned how nice it would be to have the cast net so I could finish teaching basic bait catching and we could load the boat with ballyhoo that were every where.  One of the ballyhoo on a wire trace produced a nice Cero mackerel that Oso's owner caught which was another goal of the fist spot, to have the guys hook something large enough that I could critique their angling technique.  We intended to get a photo of the Cero, in the roughly 5 pound range, but there was no gaff on the boat.  This is another part of the fishing 101, shaking down the boat and crew to find out what else they may need.

Then we did a little basic navigation tour from the Bayside to the Ocean side stopping at one of the rock piles out in front of the old Seven Mile Bridge.  That spot produced a couple of triggerfish and mangroves for the box plus several Grouper for photo ops had the camera worked.  We left those fish biting to head out to the reef for basic reef fishing.  While chumming on the reef I noticed that there was a cast net in the T-Top netting well above all our heads.  Due to consumption of red wine the person that stowed the cast net in the T-top netting had forgotten where they had stowed the cast net.

The reef bite was slow so we continued our tour of a few snorkeling areas and spots that were extremely close to their dock so that quick trips could be planned in case the allergy/TB/red wine sufferer wanted to risk a fishing trip that he was paying for but not yet able to experience.

Today, the weather is absolutely gorgeous and I can almost hear the fish calling, but instead I think I will wax the floor in the RV.  

BTW, the Aries AS60 combos they bought came with spare drag adjustment knobs (one broke in the store while I was explaining how they can break in the store) and I have found that Loctite, the low strength type should be another item provided with the AS60 Combos.  Several of the screws cannot be torqued down enough to stop them from trying to back out so a dab of Loctite easily fixes that issue.  I am amazed at how what could have been a kick butt fishing combo is getting a bad reputation because of poor planning.  But that may be good news for you.  Knowing what to expect you can prevent problems and get a very fishable combo dirt cheap.

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, March 02, 2014

First on the water test of the Aries 60S spinning combos

This is Mary hugging her Yellowjack caught on one of the Sea Striker Aries combos that I am testing.  Mary volunteered to be my inexperienced angler today and George my experienced angler.  No photos, but George brought to the leader a 25 pound or so sharp nose shark and Mary a 30 pound shark both on the same combo.  The drag worked fine but the audible drag alarm (the thing that makes noise so you don't wind against your drag), was not very loud.  Not a real bad thing, just a thing to think about.

We lost a half dozen or so Blacktip sharks that ate mangroves hooked on the combos so they got a pretty fair work out even for a half day trip.  The balance and action of the combo is nice and the graphite rod and reel body make the combo easy on the angler.  Graphite reel bodies tend to be a bit unreliable at times, but so far so good for the Aries 60S.
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 01, 2014

Cheap Spinning Combo Trial

I get a lot of customers that ask me what kind of fishing outfit they should have to fish the Florida Keys.  There is no one perfect outfit for everything, but a 20# spinning outfit that holds at least 180 yards of clear mono-filament line will catch most of the fish you are likely to encounter in the Keys provided you have some patience.  Just a short list of fish I have (meaning me and/or my customers) have brought to the boat are sailfish to around 90 pounds, Amberjack to 75 pounds, sharks to about 400 pounds, snapper to about 20 pounds, grouper to about 60 pounds and cobia to about 50 pounds.  Nothing humongous, but all respectable size fish on a simple spinning outfit.  400 plus pound sharks are not all that big a deal in the bay by the way, the boat does most of the work.

The next question is which kind.  I have absolutely zero product loyalty.  Every brand has its good and bad features and the quality control of any company is subject to change. I have had Shimano conventional reels that lasted 10s of years with no repairs and others that broke or corroded in less than a year.  Who knows what company wants really earn your loyalty anymore with all the buy outs and mergers going on in the world.  So just for grins I ask Dave at the Tackle Box what spinning combo he would recommend for the average Joe that fishes the Keys once every few years and doesn't want to break the bank with a high end outfits.  His answer was the Sea Striker Aries AS60 spinning combo.

This is one of the outfits I bought for the trial.  If you look close, the drag adjustment knob is missing.

As you can see, the brass nut is on the shaft but the housing on the knob is broken.   This happens all the time.  If you want to buy one go ahead and try to adjust the drag in the store, it will probably break and get a replacement.  If the manufacture had bothered to lube the shaft or selected a different metal for the drag adjustment knob, it would not happen, but they didn't so they almost always break if the reel sits for any time.  To try and fit that I filled the new drag adjustment knobs with white lithium grease.

So why am I writing about a spinning rod combo the breaks before you get on the water?  Because other than this brain fart, the combo is not bad at all.  The reel has 5 ball bearing, infinite anti-reverse, a solid bail and the graphite one piece rod it comes with is above average quality.  Sea Strikers seems to have the right idea, just poor quality control.  Dave and I both knew of the drag knob issue so I already have both replaced

Normally, when I buy new gear I tear it down and make sure lubrication was applied where the factory is supposed to lube the product.  Other than the spring in the drag adjustment knob, this time I am just going to see what happens.  Tomorrow at the Seven Mile Bridge I should be able to test the drag washers since there are tons of 5 to 7 foot Blacktips sharks everywhere.  If Sea Striker holds up to that, we will find some other challenges for the mid range spinning combo.

By the way, the Walmart price of the AS60 Combo is about $80.00 US.  I get a little bit of a break, but you really shouldn't have to pay more than about 80 bucks depending on the rod portion of the combo.

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