Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A little near offshore action

Yesterday we had a full day is gusty southeast winds.  What we did was easy out and just trolled the edge of the reef out to about 200 feet.  Other than a 2 hour dry spell fro 12:00 to 2:00 we had a slow by steady bite of dolphin (mahi mahi), little Tunny and a mackerel here and there.  Nothing big, largest dolphin was about 10 pounds, but we ended up with 8 dolphin, two mackerel and a load of little tunny.  The little tunny are a PITA to fillet out to get the little tenderloin fillets, but they make good tuna snacks.  Dolphin of any size are always great fun and great food.

Once the little tunny get over about 5 pounds you have to be a serious tuna lover or a bit nuts to enjoy, but the small fillets are very white and tasty after removing the blood line.  On most boats I wouldn't bother with them but Captain David is a big fan so we ended up with a bag full of little tunny fillets (about 5 pounds).  Like I said they are good but it takes a lot of time, so we spent a couple of hours at the cleaning table.

Thanks to my happy pills I was able to enjoy most of the day on the fly bridge and only dipped the bow a dozen times or so.  David's cell phone and wallet plus most of the stuff in the cabin got a salt water wash down and the boat got a less less than thorough scrubbing in the dark.

I should get some pictures from the crew so I will post them we I do.
 
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, December 28, 2015

Chicago Joe and Crew 2015

Well, unfortunately the bad back and weather didn't let us do the kinda of catching we are used to.  Normally we have a northerly wind so we can fish the rock piles in Hawk Channel for the tasty mixed bag.  This year we had to stay closer to the island than normal and fish the Bay Side.  Most of the time the winds and currents didn't make things easy and getting the anchor to hold was more of a pain than normal.  So it wasn't a great catching trip but the crew did manage to have fun and get dinner.

I am pretty booked up for the rest of the week but I may be able to slip in another day on a split if the weather lays down.  Tomorrow is offshore on the Lady Catherine the a half day on LC and a guide trip.  Hopefully, I will get an off day before I get too beat up because the first of the year is looking pretty busy.  Feast or famine this time of year.

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, December 25, 2015

The rare full moon on Christmas day fishing adventure

We had a nice family fun half day today on the Lady Catherine which can be a bit of a challenge in gusty winds.  Family fun is basically fishing with a bit, snorkeling a bit and a bit of sightseeing.  We couldn't talk the crew into keeping any fish because of travel issues so we put them on sharks, mainly Bonnet Heads with a possible reef/sharp nose.  Kind of hard for me to tell without breaking out the book.  Anyhoo, about a dozen sharks were enough so we switch to a mixed bag spot out of the wind that produces mainly action with enough good eating fish to keep everyone happy.  Today, the eating part of happy falls on Captain David with Mutton, Mangrove and Yellowtail Snapper and me with a  bag of Porgy fillets.

The entire crew really enjoyed the non-stop action with lots of photogenic fish then a brief dip Molasses Key.  That action as usual was at the last of the tide current through the change.  Bridge or any place close to the bridge on the full moon you get about 1 or 2 hours of pretty good fishing around the slack tide.  Unfortunately, you get to hear more of my jokes than normal before and after the magic hour because more often than not the rest of the time sucks, except for sharks of course.

I was really surprised we didn't get any Spanish Mackerel today since they have been just about every where, but I guess they are liking the Bay Side since the ocean side is pretty churned up.  So it was a slower than normal day but we had the right crew for what we could find and they have Christmas day catching pictures with a tan.

Tomorrow is the first of a three day set with Chicago Joe.  He almost didn't make it down this year due to back problems so I guess I will have to take it easier on him that normal.;  Looks like a Bay day with chance of bridge.

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 23, 2015

Even a bad day of fishing is pretty good

Had a nice group today on the Lady Catherine which we really wanted to take to the reef and rock piles but the seas were confused enough we punted and went to the Bay.  Near full moon current against a pretty stiff winds are just a tad less than optimal conditions.

The crossed up wind and current made things a lot more challenging and limited options but the Spanish Mackerel did their job, though we only managed to get a couple of Mangrove Snapper.  The Spanish were respectable sized and with tide and current together it should not be hard to fill the freezer.  On lighter tackle the Spanish are always fun, it is just an question of matching the right recipe with the Spanish once you get into them.

Smoked and smoked fish dip are the most common treatments with a few promoting Spanish the ceviche and sushi, but just plain old fried, fresh Spanish is pretty hard to beat in spite of what some might say.  You can get a bit snobby and compare it to higher dollar fish species, but you probably shouldn't be frying the high dollar stuff all the time should you?  Butter milk soaking is often recommended, but I think that is more of a last ditch salvation of frozen mackerel.  A little salt, pepper and a health dash of Old Bay will transform Spanish fillets into tasty fish fingers.

For long term storage though I still recommend freezing after some sort of cooking.  I was solidly in the smoked camp for years, but about any method will add to the freezer life and poached actually gives you a few more options, like pretty tasty fish cakes.

 I didn't take any photos today but there were a few taken that I might be able to add later.  

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, November 28, 2015

First Real Front of the Year

We had an afternoon half day yesterday on the Lady Catherine and the winds had. just shifted to the Northeast.  With the shift the ocean side gets less sporty which is great for the Lady Catherine which is docked on the ocean side.

The trip was just a fun fishing trip with two young anglers doing the work and the women folk doing the chillin' and photography.  We caught dinner but the Spanish Mackerel and Ladyfish were bait for some larger toothy critters.  We boated a Blackfin and Sharpnose for on the water pictures and had a few larger sharks spin up and break leaders, but the big nurse shark which is a lot easier for a novice to handle was the hit of the 10 to 12 year old angler set.

Even in Hawk Channel we could have done pretty good on the Spanish if that was the plan and the mangroves and yellow tails were respectable for the area we fished to stay out of the wind.  The Ladyfish were a welcome surprise because they get aerobatic and make great bait.

I didn't take any pictures as I was more busy posing fish and replacing rigs with all the toothy critters around.  A few boats made it offshore and seemed to do well plus there were some cobia caught on the further than Lady Catherine can run Gulf wrecks.  So it looks like the Bay Side winter fishing complex is open for business.

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, November 05, 2015

Yellowtail Snapper Closed to Commercial Harvest and Big Mangrove Snapper


When the fishing is great that is when things get closed down, weird huh?  At least this time it is a commercial closer meaning that commercial yellowtail snapper fishermen have had a banner year.  With the Hogfish closer it was "general" which should have meant the state would close the recreational harvest.  This is where the "system" really breaks down.  Quotas don't really let you know anything about stocks because fish have good years and bad years.  Quotas tend to keep people out of the business just like any regulation will and tend to divide people, just like most regulations will.  For most kinds of fish gear restrictions are better at doing the job.  Since by far, most fish caught commercially are by nets, trawls, seines and gill, limiting their use makes it hard to catch more.  Size and bags limits do fine regulating hook/line and diving catches and recreational fishermen are currently getting hit harder than they should because of not all that great management.  "Other" grouper are regulated just because they can not because there is a need, red snapper are no where near as "endangered" as thought and Jewfish aka Goliath Grouper are close to being over populated in lots of ares.  Well, enough of that rant.

Yesterday we had a nice little half day on the Lady Catherine.  I thought I had cleaned my lens but instead just smeared it so this was about the only picture worth posting.  That mang was just over 5 pounds which is nice in anyone's book plus we had a 4 pounder, a 4 pound yellowtail along with  a fair number in the 3 pound range. We had a live bait issue where some small pinfish were supposed to be delivered that didn't make it in time or there would have been more.  There was also a tax collector in the slick that took several larger fish.  We thought is was a shark but it could have been some big king mackerel.  Whatever ti was it wouldn't take heavier gear with live yellowtails as bait.

Some of the crew got green but were troopers so we fished almost the full time.  So you could say things were slow but we did all right.  Seas were a little higher than predicted due to

 one of those scattered showers but not really that bad.   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 01, 2015

Dallas Darts Score In Venice Lousianna





Ray set me some pictures of their trip to Venice along with a message that they took some Dallas Darts.  I am sure the darts where just part of their lure collection, but I imagine those blackfin tuna found the darts pretty tasty.  In any case it is fun to find some of my students doing good.

Perhaps they will stop by and add some comments on what worked and what didn't.

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 29, 2015

Getting Close to Mackerel Time

I doubt there is any place in the world that Spanish Mackerel fishing is better than in the Keys.  For locals it isn't a big deal catching Spanish over 5 pounds and a ten pounder most years isn't really a bragging fish.  I like fishing the Bay Side kiddie pool for ridiculously fast Mackerel action on light spinning rods or fly rods while most of the fleet heads out to the ocean side for sexier species like Sailfish.

While fishing for Spanish you have some usual suspects that might show up ranging from sharks of course to Cobia.  Mangroves Snapper are normally around too but I have had a few trips where there are so many other fish around that you cannot catch one.

Table wise Spanish have mixed reviews.  They are most popular smoked but fresh they are a lot better than most give them credit for.  They don't freeze well in my opinion raw but lightly grilled or poached they do freeze well and make great fish cakes, dips, spreads and salads.  A lot of folks are finding they make fine Ceviche, Sushi and tempora courses with a little attention to detail.  Letting the fish dehydrate in the fridge for a day or two firms the flesh for Sushi and using just the nuggets or whitest meat portion of the fillets they can be used in about any fish recipe.

Since they don't freeze well raw, preparing them as cakes, breaded fish bites or just precooked portions means there is a bit more to be considered before hand that with many other species.  As I have mentioned before, Porkies Bay Side will smoke the fillets for you for a share or you can get their prepare fish dip already made in exchange for fillets.  They have a great recipe the general restaurant crowd.  You can make your own, but the trick for most award winning dips is the brine which is a bit of a secretive art.  Some of the salmon and chub recipes should work just fine with Spanish but I am a bit lazy and just use soy sauce most of the time more as a marinade than a real brine.  I have also gone more to grilling than smoking due to after burp.  If you don't have access to a grill, marinading then quick poaching works better than you might think.

In any case, once the sea water temperature off Tampa hits 75 degrees they generally move into the Bay following baits that don't like the cooler water temperatures.  Since Pilchards are getting easier to find they might show a littler early this year.

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, October 10, 2015

October 2015

September and October are my slowest times of the year and I generally like the break.  I get to see a Football game or two, mess with people online, plan some new project I won't finish and generally relax.  With any luck the first cold front will drop down soon and I can actually enjoy piddling around outside.

As usual the fishing reports are on the slow side but this year there are some interesting ones.  Several blue marlin have been released by the usual suspect Sea Boots and the kids have post a number of tiny sailfish caught during their offshore trips.  Dolphin are still out there with some big boys but with the wind shift for Joaquin, they are having a little more trouble finding fish.  That means more blind trolling so there have been more Wahoo caught.  Skipjacks and Lil Tunny seem to be more regular than the Blackfin right now.

Lots of good sized Jack Crevelle messing with the yellowtail fishermen which are fun to catch but not high on many fish eater lists.  They aren't bad smoked in my opinion but that isn't much of an endorsement.  They are the ticket though if you want to tangle with a shark or two.

When the current isn't right, the patches are producing as usual with a nice Black Grouper hitting the dock from time to time.

I have had a couple or three trips that got delayed/put off so I haven't gotten my one or two I normally get this time of year. Now that the weather appears to be getting more predictable I should start picking up a few, but the book doesn't start getting busy until December, with a maybe or two before Thanksgiving, as usual.  I did notice that the buzzards are starting to show up which means it won't be long before the Spanish Mackerel start showing up.  If you happen to be a smoked fish fan you might be able to get an early start this year.  Spanish Mackerel catching is fun whether or not you like smoked fish, btw.

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, September 13, 2015

Hogfish closure



Because Hogfish landings hit the magic ACL, Hogfish are closed in federal waters until the first of the year.  The State of Florida hasn't closed Hogfish in state waters.  State waters extend three nautical miles from any land into the Atlantic and nine nautical miles from any land into the Gulf of Mexico.  So you can still keep Hogfish inside those boundaries.  You should stick with State limits on other species if you plan to keep Hogfish.  For example the Federal limit on Mangroves is 10 per person per day and the State limit is five per person per day.

American Red Snapper are open year around in the Atlantic State Waters and closed all year in federal waters.  On the Gulf side you both State and Federal closures that most of the time tend to agree.  Right now Saturdays and Sundays are open until someone changes their mind.

I normally try to stay away from the loophole fishing, but given the highly skilled and ultra intelligent elected powers at be we have to deal with, I have to.  However, for the average visitor trying to have a somewhat stress free vacation, sticking with the Florida Saltwater fishing regulations is the easiest way to go.  Of course, any time you try to stick with State laws someone is liable to make a Federal case out of it.

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 09, 2015

Dolphin are Still Biting


Manny has been trying to fish with me a few years but things hadn't worked out.  This week he hunted me down to learn the "secrets" of dolphin catching.  Well, I guess the secret is perseverance.  We found a few dozen frigate birds out in 1000 foot of water working over smallish Skipjack tuna but nada on the dolphin.

So we ran back in to a spot on the Ups and Down I can general count on a bit of a rip or eddy current.  There was a trickle of weeds and a few floaters loaded with the cursed mini Almaco Jacks and micro triggers.  We decided to troll a bout further from the weed trickle to avoid the Jacks and managed to entice a few decent Mahi out that way.  The best tactic turn out to be patience.  We let all the Jacks and other baits make themselves to home under the boat until we were the dominate floater in the neighborhood and end up close to our limit in mixed swinger and gaffers.

Not the most impressive catch I have ever produced, but considering bananas in the ice chest pretty remarkable.  I have been known to use the banana myth on occasion and after the ceremonial flinging of the bananas into the sea, we managed a couple of the more respectable fish on live Pinfish.


Now I have to find my Queen Snapper crystal ball.  I hardly ever deep drop down here because it falls into the PITA fishing category a lot like deep jigging. Since most of my reasonable deepish drop numbers are loaded with the endangered genuine America Red Snapper, which are always closed since they are on the brink of extinction somewhere near the University of Northern South Dakota, I rarely even do the Mutton dropping thing.  However, if I can relocate some of those nearly lost brain cells I may have a deep drop post in a few weeks.




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 01, 2015

Nothing but Mangroves


Kind of rare really, fishing for Mangroves and putting nothing in the box but Mangroves.  I guided a crew back into the Bay today to see how the Mangrove bite was doing.  I expected to see a Sea Trout or two and a few Cero mackerel, but we boated nothing but Mangroves.  We did have one nice Cero to the boat, but swinging was picked instead of the gaff so that one got away.  Not a bad size Cero, but hey, pooh pooh occurs.

Anywho, the Mangrove bite was a bit slow but steady using chucks of fresh ballyhoo.  All the fish in the box are respectable with an average size of about 15 inches or close to two pounds.  There were a couple of mystery fish, I suspect large Mangroves for a couple along with a few sharks and more than enough pesky Needlefish.  The Needlefish are most likely the reason for no trout and only the one Cero.  Tons of Ballyhoo showed up in the slick and we of course had plenty of Pinfish for bait, though Ballyhoo chucks got the most use.

The crew really wants to do the Dolphin thing but the bay boat passengers require calmer conditions.  We will shot for a Thursday offshore if the weather cooperates.  Until then the crew has Mangrove to munch on, lobster to chase, cocktails to sip on by the pool  and your typical relaxing stuff to do.

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, August 24, 2015

Lady Catherine in Party Boat Mode


The crew had a lot of fun but it is a lot of work.  I normally sit out the party boat mode since I just have a six pack, but Captain David called me up to be a second mate.  We had nine healthy sized anglers, plenty of beer, a bottle of Jack and a bottle of Crown that got broke open about 9 O'clock.

Other than having to convince the crew that fish do have musical preferences, they mainly like old school music, the trip went well.  Unfortunately, we were cursed with the damn nears, as in damn near legal grouper and hogfish.  Releasing 23.75 inch Black Grouper broke a few hearts.

The Hogfish and Porgie bite was a bit off but we managed about 8 "high dollar" fish with the party boat staple grunts making up the bulk of the box.  Several sharks made the biggest impact on the crew and a Bonnet Head made in the box for appetizers.

Since most of the crew were active duty Army guys from south Florida, grits and grunts wasn't foreign vitals.  Old school grits and grunts call for whole scaled fish which is a bit time consuming but we didn't mind cleaning their catch in the proper manner instead of gringo style.

For anyone wondering, a half day party boat style trip on the Lady Catherine is $700 which works out to $70 a head with 10 passengers.  Since we don't do the ticket thing, customers are responsible for assembling crews and it is a good idea to make reservations in advance.   As always tips are appreciated, but if we suck we suck some that is your way of letting us know.  We didn't suck this trip and a few even mentioned that they had more fun on this trip than most other trips they have been on.


 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, August 18, 2015

Bummer - Hogfish Closure

The National Marine Fisheries Commission has Annual Catch Limits (ACL) for a lot of species of fish for both recreational and commercial fishermen.  For some reason this year there is a spike in the recreation landings so it appears that Hogfish will be closed from August 24 until the first of the year.

This has been a great year for Hogfish so just about everyone and their brother has caught quite a few.  That is how it is with fishing and farming, some years are better than others and since the NFMC uses annual statistics, this year Hogfish will close for recreational anglers.

Since the NMFC isn't the greatest at getting information out, I am sure a few people will not get the word and get fined or worse.  Also a lot of people plan their diving vacations for this time of year so they can harvest Hogfish along with Lobster, Grouper and Snapper.

Now if you go to the link above you can see that the NMFS isn't all that great on updating their recreational data.  All of the Grouper species which are close are not even close to their ACL limits so the closures have been overly effective.  Instead of closing the season when there is obvious reason to close it, the NMFC just shuts it down because they can.  The way thing should work is like the Hogfish closure, close when it make some kind of sense instead of because you feel like it.

The NMFS can also use gear limits to control ACL.  Hogfish are primarily a spearfishing target so they could close Hogfish to spear fishermen using tanks or spearfishing in general.  There are lots of ways to do things and the NMFC seems to have a talent for screwing that up.

So anyway I am sorry that Hogfish will not be on the menu later this year.  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 07, 2015

Barbed to the Bone

I almost had a video of me removing one from myself, but the video and the hook both didn't come out.  I was barbed to the bone with one of those Sabiki rig hooks.  Those little hooks are a bitch to get out.  So it cost me some time and money to get an expert to show me how to deal with "Barbed to the Bone".

The expert was a doctor at the Fisherman's Hospital Emergency Room.  I have on several occasions removed regular barbed hooks from myself and others using the method above.  If you can hold the eye of the hook tightly down, it works like a champ.  If you can't, not so much.  Since neither I nor the ER doc could hold it down tight enough, there were a couple of no gos that seem to drive the hook in a bit tighter.

The ER doc and I had a bit of consultation after the no gos and he modified the method to include a very tightly cinched knot around the bend of the hook well on the barb side of the bend as opposed to the shank side.  That did the trick and got the little bastard out.


Since the video didn't turn out here is the first frame of the failed attempt.


While I am at it I may as well show one of their catch photos.  As I have been saying it has been a weird season and very inconsistent bite for many species but at least the Barracuda are back in form.  I am likely to be chillin' until Sunday and Monday when I have schedule trips aboard the Lady Catherine.  Since I have some fam coming down I have arraigned for my nephew Cary to fish with that group so we will have a real family fun trip or two coming up.

This provides an opportunity to explain "split charters".  Hardly any captain in the Keys likes to get involved with split charters.  We generally let potential split groups discuss things on their own so we can stay out of it as much as possible.  Most splits work out fairly well but there are always exceptions and one bad exception can cost much more than it is worth.  However, costs are getting ridiculous so it is an option.  With a split I like to evenly divide the generic catch between the crew and save the special fish for the actual angler.  Then it is up to the angler if he/she wants to share or not, but I like for everyone that wants fish to have fish and consider fishing a team effort.

Since a lot of vacationers don't have access to a full kitchen we recommend cook your catch restaurants that do family style meals with several varieties of preparation.  On the Lady Catherine, Lazy Days South has been kind enough to provide 10% discount.  They do a great job in my opinion but then so do most restaurants down here.

Shipping fish is expensive and can be a PITA.  In most cases, simply freezing the fish as well as possible and getting one of those insulated carry on bags does the trick.  If you don't have a freezer available, a few blocks of dry ice from Publix or WinnDixie does the trick and if the airline or whatever has a problem with dry ice I you can just pitch it in a trash can, which the TSA guys have available after a thorough strip search.  

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, August 03, 2015

More weird Dolphin Stuff


Kinda out of the blue I got called to fill in for Captain David today.  As you can see we found gaffer dolphin.

A few as a matter of fact.  Not a single dolphin strike trolling.  We found a school of heavy lifters/light gaffers and had a few live Ballyhoo in the well to get the bigger fish turned on.   So I think it might be worth while to spend a half hour or so getting sexy baits in the live well before heading out, at least until the full moon is a bit more behind us.

Since the crew was from out of town and flying, we released a number of the smaller fish and just kept about 10 fish.  That was about 25 to 30 pounds of fillets worth, and took them back to the reef for a dip before heading to the barn.

Not a bad day, but considering we found a pallet and lots on huge weed patches with other floaters but no fish, it isn't a sure thing out there by any means.  Probably worth the effort though if you want some pretty fish and lots of fillets.  We found the fish in about 725 foot of water which is about 18 nautical miles off the beach.

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, August 02, 2015

The Weird Dolphin Season

I am not an expert on Dolphin (Mahi Mahi) behavior by any means, but if they are like most other fish spawning time depends on the moon and water temperature.  This year we had some weird water temperatures and we have had a weird Dolphin bite.  The undersized "peanuts" arrived a good bit earlier than normal.  Since Dolphin are a very fast growing species, those peanuts are now keepers.  So the back side of the Dolphin season should be better than normal.

Anyway, that is my theory and I am sticking to it.  This should make some of the late summer offshore trips much more interesting.  I suspect that we can start doing more quick trolling, 8 to 10 knots, which increases the actual fishing time and produces more Wahoo and Billfish strikes out of the blue.  This can be pretty boring for a lot of folks but it only takes a few encounters with Mr. Marlin to get you hooked on the "sportfishing" side of things.

Fishing just for Marlin bores me to hell, but a nice mixed bag with a fairly steady bite doesn't.  Bigger "schoolies" also increases the chances of finding the bigger Tuna.  While Yellowfin aren't all that common out of Marathon I have hooked into a few big tuna that tend to follow the bigger baits, Dolphin, Blue runners, Bar Jacks etc. that are pretty thick offshore and near shore.

These Bar Jacks by the way are also called Blue Stripe Jacks and eat about as well as the Yellow Jack and Rainbow Runners if you are into "sushi" quality jacks.   Should you hook one and want to eat it I recommend getting it to the boat quick.  If you are looking for a bucket list fish, take your time or put them back out as live bait.

On the bucket list side of things the flats are holding quite a few Tarpon.  I had a half day trip the other afternoon and we saw quite a few.  We didn't catch the tide just right so catching was slow, but there are plenty of fish if you do get things to come together.  We didn't have any live crabs which should be right bait for sight fishing and didn't have enough chunk bait for old school fishing.  I also need to re-stock lures, 'Cuda Tubes and Bomber long A's for the other critters that can make the flats fun.  Most of the time 'Cuda will hit most anything but the spoons the guys had were not easy to use around the flats.  When we did get a live Ballyhoo or small Yellowtail, they didn't last long but with the wind and current we had catching bait was a PITA.  As it was, the trip was pretty uneventful but I believe the guys will do better with an earlier start and a better bait variety.   Crack of dawn would be the best time for jumping Tarpon.

I was able to avoid the buggers both on the water and on the road this year.  The local Dion's didn't though and one drove through the front door.  Traffic has been ridiculous and should remain that way until after opening week.  As usual the locals are complaining about the mini-season, but as long as there is a closed season, whenever it opens, there is going to be a cluster.

August is one of my slowest months so I have the doctor scheduled and not much else.  Once the first week of bug season is over though, anyone wanting to fill their freezer with Dolphin should think about sneaking down for a long weekend 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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Danielle's Dolphin on One of My Darts


My Nephew Dwayne and his daughter Danielle with grandson Colton are down for mini-season.  They stopped by on the way to Sugarloaf to get a few of my darts.  There ya go.  They don't have a scale but the fish looks like it could make forty pounds, it has to be an honest thirty anyway.  In any case, it is Danielle's largest and a nice start to a Keys vacation.

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 24, 2015

Grunts are Panfish


I don't keep many grunts basically because I am lazy.  Grunts are just a common panfish and with most panfish they tend to taste better cooked whole, like panfish.  Grunts are kinda like the bream of the sea down here.  Off the Atlantic Coast, Croakers and Spots are more popular panfish because they are easy to catch most of the time.

If you are a big time sportsfisherman you might look down grunts and since most folks are lazy like me, you probably don't remember that fish have bones and tend to taste like "fish".  Since most folks now a days are "privileged", which is wealthy and lazy, they tend to shoot for high dollar fish and ignore the pan sized critters that many of us grew up on.  Lots of folks actually look down on panfishermen.  I call call Grunts and other panfish, "Brown Baggers" because I would prefer that customers take their panfish and clean them somewhere other than near my boat.  It takes about 3 times as long to properly clean a panfish and a decade or two to get rid of the scales that tend to go everywhere.  If you are willing to put in the time and effort to clean panfish you are likely to find that they taste pretty damn good.

If you decide to fillet the panfish, you will get a potato chip size fillet that doesn't have much flavor other than whatever breading you used to fry it.  Some people like these tiny fish chips, but filleting panfish tends to less than optimal for others.  Once the fish gets to around 14 inches long depending on the species, it isn't a "panfish" anymore.  Over 14 inches long roughly you can get close to 50% of the weight of the fish in fillet and leave mainly bones on the carcass.  Below 14 inches or so you start leaving more meat than you get off with a fillet.

Growing up I was used to eating panfish and picking the meat off the bone without getting too many bones stuck in my throat very often.  These meals were a rather lengthy get together, similar to picking blue crabs, and almost without fail the fish were breaded and fried.  Once in a great while we would cook a few on the grill which back then was more often just a fire, then we would sit around picking the fish off the bone and typically drinking a beer or two.  I don't recall feeling impoverished or under privileged at the time.  Of course, I wasn't a gourmet panfish cook because I typically cut the heads off before cooking and gave them to the cats.  Real gourmets probably don't have cats.

The problem with cooking them on a grill is that the skin, often a good part of the meal, sticks to the grill.  I found out that if you dry the fish well then coat them with olive oil prior to seasoning, you can not only keep the skin intact you can even burn gourmet looking grill marks that add to the appearance and can make some people think you know what you are doing.  Then you get a nice crisp outside with a moist tender interior that is almost like fish cooked in its own natural stock.  Other than salt and pepper, you don't need anything fancy to mask the taste of the fish because the fish actually tastes good, a lot like fish.

If you happen to be down on vacation and don't have access to a grill or don't care to cook because you are after all on vacation, there are a few restaurants that will cook your catch on the bone.  In nearly all cases you will need to have the fish cleaned ahead of time and you should check with the restaurant to make sure they are willing to do it.  In season, when the places are usual packed, they are less likely to cook your catch whole.  The Seven Mile Grill and Lazy Days South are likely to have no problem especially if you have an extra fish or two for the cooks to sample.  If you check the Lazy Days link you will notice they have the filleted and de-boned clause for cook your catch, so definitely check ahead before dropping of a bag of grunts.  I am sure there are other places, but I have actually seen fried whole fish served at both of these.

Whether panfish served as panfish is your cup of tea or not it is always nice to know your options.
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, July 23, 2015

The Cheap Yellowtail Rods

Today was the first time I got to play with the cheap Yellowtail rods.  We managed to find a decent current and came close to limiting out on 'tails.  In fact we had very few throw backs with a good number of 15 inch fish.  Not stellar by any means but fairly respectable.

The cheap rods did their jobs with no hitches which isn't bad for dirt cheap gear.  The clients were a bit impressed with them and noticed that they didn't need any fancy flourocarbon leader since the cheap reels are spooled with fresh Berkley clear 15 pound test line.  No fuss, no muss, just catch fish.

The boat in the background by the way was part of the two boat guide package today.  That boat seemed to focus more on the grunts and porgies which they like but they did get a few 'tails and one of the 'tails got one of their not so cheap rods.  They sat the rod on the deck for just a moment longer than it should have.

This trip I also was able to catch a net full of Ballyhoo for a change.  It has been a while since I got a cast net wet so that is a good thing.  We only converted one of the Ballyhoo into a Cero Mackerel though.  I am not sure why the Ceros are so finicky this year, but they are.

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

Yellowtail Snapper


Yep, that is a Yellowtail Snapper.  We had a family fun day, some fishing, some snorkeling on the Lady Catherine yesterday.  Slow bite but some nice sized Triggerfish and Yellowtails. The crew didn't have much fishing experience so we didn't slay the fish, but they did have fun and learned how to maybe slay them next time out.

The current is very unpredictable, but if you happen to catch a decent current, the fish are biting.  However, the bite may not last very long so take advantage of it while it lasts.

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, July 20, 2015

Offshore July 19th


Like I have been mentioning there are some decent dolphin offshore but you do have to spend some time hunting for them.  This bull is about 20 pounds and a wedding present with the bride to be kicking butt.

We found this one about 17 miles from the beach on about the only trollable weed line we saw.  There is weed everywhere and thanks to the 10 knot winds out of the south in the morning it was a pretty confused mess of scattered weeds with a few huge patches.  Inside of 16 miles there were Blue Runners everywhere keeping the birds busy so we found this one without their help.

We ended up with a baker's dozen and in the photo are a couple of the big blue runners that were making pests of themselves.  We didn't see a tuna all day.

Since the Blue Runners volunteered, the schoolies were caught mainly on Blue Runner chunks.;

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 17, 2015

How is July Going?

I just finished four days with my regular Hobbs party.  We caught fish but never had a hot bite.  Patches, Rockpiles, Reef and Wreck fishing but never had what I would call a real bite lasting more than maybe 20 minutes.  We mainly put mangroves and grunts in the box.  One of the party was George "Grunt" Grant and he happens to like grunts.  The Mangroves ranged from just keepers to a couple of pounds.  We kept maybe six grouper, mainly Rock Hind with one Black Grouper that made the cut, several Rainbow Runners, a few Porgies, Trigger, Hogfish and a large Barracuda along with a good number of Mangrove and Yellowtail Snapper.

The Patches and Rock Piles were really disappointing.  Typically we would have had plenty of Porgies, Lane Snapper and Hogfish on the patches.  For whatever reason that bite was way off though there were plenty of undersized Hogfish.

Since we had a west wind most of the time I guess I could blame it on that, but with the exception of one day the winds were light and variable.  In any case it was slow by our standards, they only had one cooler full of fish and not three or four this trip.

What was really missing was the Cero Mackerel bite.  We saw quite a few Cero singles but they never schooled up in the chum.  Ceros have been a regular on other trips with Hobbs along with a stray King Mackerel once and a while.  Had the ballyhoo been thicker that would have kicked things up a notch.  I did see ballyhoo a few times but they never were thick or got close enough to put a net over them.  We did see plenty of speedos, scads, but didn't catch may thanks to my getting barbed up with a Sabiki rig.  There was also not much of a jack bite which tends to provide a lot of action though most aren't considered quality table fare.  So if you are coming down in the next week or so expect to catch fish, but you will likely not get worn out catching them.  

The night bite is a different story from what I hear.  There are plenty of Mangroves on the reef and they tend to get more stupid at night.  Dolphin are still waay offshore with several of the guys I talked to not putting lines in the water until they are 20 miles off the beach.  Some are doing pretty good and a few are only getting a handful of gaffers for their effort.

On the stellar side is the weather and the visibility.  While calm and clear water make the fishing tougher it makes the diving great.  Next month you will have the option of Lobstering if the fishing bite is slow.

 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 29, 2015

Closing out June

I have had a number of trips and managed to take almost no photos.  Most of the trips have been offshore and while the bite isn't fantastic we are catching fish.  Tuna have been harder than I remember.  Yesterday isn't a good example, the hump on Sunday before July 4th was a parking lot and we only managed one BlackFin.  Generally, we would hit a good number of Skippies and BlackFin past the ups and downs but this year not so much.  We should have stayed with the schoolie dolphin is 800 foot of water and waited for a big one but I was under a tight schedule needing to be back at the dock by 1:00.

800 to 1200 foot seems to be the right range for now since the stream has been staying offshore.  There are more fishing moving closer to the reef but they are still mainly peanuts.  Still lots of Sargasso Weed everywhere and it is still scattered making trolling a pain.  Magic floaters and big patches are good bets for getting fish in the box.  Seeing lots of small triple tail as well.

I was hoping to get a snapper trip or two in but everyone has wanted to go offshore. Maybe this week.  

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, June 14, 2015

June is a little off.

People always ask what is the best month to come down to the Keys fishing.  That depends on the weather and the fish.  May is typically the best month for everything, decent weather and good fishing, but weather is weather and fish are fish, so you never really know until you get here.  June is probably the second best month if you are looking for big dolphin in a smaller boat.

This past week though both the fishing and the weather was on the weak side.  We did get an offshore trip with good conditions, 10 to 15 knot winds with most of the day closer to 10 knots and we found plenty of decent size dolphin.  We managed to pull the hooks on the biggest so the day didn't look that great at the dock, but the crew had a good time and we had the banana excuse for the missed fish.  Since I was on the flybridge I got a good view of all the fish we missed.  Nothing humongous, but lots of fish in the high teens to low twenties meandering down weed trickles while the hoards of peanuts jumped the baits.  When that happens you have to guess right on your bait.  The larger fish hit whole or half Ballyhoo pitch baits and passed on the chunks. Pinfish would have most likely been the ticket, but since the crew was having fun with the small fish, some keepers most not, and the weeds were not well formed, we never got a weed free pinfish in front of a large enough fish to find out.

The weeds were not well formed thanks to a Southeast wind that spread the slicks out.  It made trolling so tough that wandering from one large weed patch to the next was more productive than trolling.  Sometimes the bigger fish would show sometimes not. We found most of the fish in the 650 to 700 foot range but I heard of people picking up a good fish here and there all over the place.  No one I know of hammered big fish this week.

The next two days though the Southeast wind picked up to 20 plus knots and fishing pretty much sucked.  Most of the action is on the ocean side and most of my customers were stuck with the bridge and Bayside.  For whatever reason, the red gumbo grass is thicker than normal so fishing requires much more work than it should near the bridge.  If the boats were a bit bigger or the customers a bit more seaworthy, the rockpiles would have been the place to be since there are still nice fat porgies out there along with Grouper and Mutton snapper if you find the right pile.  Mangroves are moving to the reef to spawn, so the Bayside and bridge were loaded with smaller fish, keepers not so much though.   With lots of small fish, lots more gumbo and winds just high enough to make anchoring a PITA, yesterday was painful.

According to Windfinder, winds should get a bit more East and drop a bit bringing things back to normal, but weather men have been known to lie.  Tarpon fishing is still good at Bahia Honda if you want to play bumper boats, but that is about the most consistent report I have.  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, May 27, 2015

Dolphin Bite Progress

As usual the offshore bite changes with water temperature.  Two weeks ago we were hunting for water warmer than 77 degrees now we are looking for cooler than 80 degrees, which would be coller than the inshore and reef water temperature.



With all the water warm there are small peanuts everywhere which makes finding the big fish a bit harder.  So you end up guessing on burning fuel heading way south or burning time staying close and looking for magic floaters.  This is where switching over to rigged ballyhoo can produce big fish or lots of cussing as the peanuts eat your rigged 'hoo.  I am still a fan of using pitched baits live or rigged for the big fish and using the darts to pick up whatever then be real slow getting the whatever to the boat.  More than once I have traded up from a peanut on a dart to a slammer.  It is not something I count on but it does happen.

More often you will spot a bigger fish checking out the peanut which you tend pitch to or just pitch a bait past the peanuts if you don't have a tower and hope.  Staying close is often a good thing, especially when there is a color change caused by the tide.  That is a great reason to like the old Seven Mile Bridge.  With more current flow you tend to get good color changes if there is a little wind.  That color change can be way down near Bahia Honda, but if the Sargasso is fresh and bunched up nice there is a good chance you can find your bucket list Dolphin.  That does take patience though which is not a common commodity anymore.

This time of year bigger fish can be 10 pounds to 70 pounds with a lot more on the smaller end.  Most of the really big fish I have seen in June and July where trade ups, whether the captain knew it or not, in under 400 foot of water.  There are of course big fish deep, but most folks tend to stay closer so they can shift over to mutton or grouper fall back plans during the dolphin hunt or just blow off trolling and hit the reef for flag yellow tail or fat spawn mangroves.  It is all good to me, but I do get a lot of bucket list fisherman wanting their trophy.   That means sometimes I am a hero and sometimes a goat.  Such is life.

There are some "secrets" that work from time to time if you find the right floater or patch of weeds.  In addition to the usual trick of letting your baits sink deep, you can add a deep diving lure to your spread or if you have enough energy use a butterfly jig around the patches for the deeper running fish.  Currently, the butterfly jig thing is getting talked up a bit more than normal but a grunt or pinfish works about a well since they tend to swim down.  Live ballyhoo or mullet can be fun and productive as both create a good deal of commotion which tends to attract larger fish, including sailfish and the occasional marlin.

Because of the sinking action, some boats swear by combo rigged ballyhoo on the shotgun or riggers which will tend to sink behind the peanuts attacking the flat lines when you drop to boat to neutral.  This is like an automatic pitch bait set up.  Heavier lures in general sink better so you can go with that or plan on deep with the deep divers, butterfly jigs or the amazing Tomtate grunt.

There are also a lot of smaller blackfin tuna moving in closer which means there are bigger tuna underneath most of the time.  Pulling a 30 plus pounder from under a school of runts is another bonus of thinking deeper.  Doesn't work all the time but is worth a shot.

Also keeps you eyes open for tripletail.  The last trip on the Lady Catherine we ended up with a mixed bag of Skipjacks, Dolphin, tripletail and some larger than usual almaco jacks which the customers wanted to try.  No pictures, mainly because it was just a tad sporty that day.

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, May 20, 2015

Making comments can be a PITA

Because there are lots of computers with too much bandwidth on their hands most blogs get spammed a lot.  So I had to add reCAPCHA which is a program to figure out if a comment is from a computer PITA or just a regular human, PITA or not.  Things went along pretty well for a while, but now I am finding out some folks have trouble with reCAPTCHA.

I have trouble with it myself at times so there is a too hard thingy you can click to try and find something easier.  Most of the time you don't have to get one completely right, just right enough for the program to figure out you might be human.  Now they have a new version that lets you pick out pictures.  It says something like click on all pictures containing pasta and then shows a picture of something containing pasta which you cannot click on.  You just click on two or three pictures that will let you click and contain past and you are golden.  There are six pictures most of the time so make sure you look at them all.  There is a audio option if you don't like pictures.  Personally, the audio option sucks, but you might be able to figure it out.

There isn't much I can do about the security thing.  Even a non nondescript little blog link mine get targeted by some asshole somewhere and reCAPTCHA is the easiest to use that is comparable with my blog service.  You can simplify things a bit by having some account that is listed, Google, AIM etc., but anonymous is the easiest for most folks.  Since the blog provider is Google, if you have a Google account things should go easier.  If you use anonymous though and want me to know who you are using anonymous just sign or type you name in your comment.

I kinda have it set up so you can leave pictures and videos in the comments with the old version of html coding.   [img]your-image-url[/img],  (without the italics and such) This might help some folks and make it easier to add photos to older blog posts after the crew gets home. Lots of times I don't post about specific trips because I don't have any photos, so if you add a photo or two or email me I can create a post just for your pictures, videos or what ever you have to add. Google Picasa is a free online photo storage service and youtube is the best for videos.  I haven't test a Youtube yet, so you might have to tweak the url a bit.

If you follow this link to a post where I tested things you will see it don't work all the time.  Most folks btw end up with the better pictures after a fishing 101 trip.  Yesterday was a disaster for example partially because the rental boat bottom finder didn't work and there was a lot of boats working the same weedline.  We could have had more dolphin, but part of fishing 101 is figuring out how to catch them which generally means missing a few opportunities.  They guys yesterday will either figure out what not to do and catch fish or talk bad about me.  Such is life.  I do hope they get the bottom finder working though because out of Coco Plum I don't have and bullet proof honey holes for bottom fish without a working bottom finder.  Closer to the bridge there are plenty, but the current or lack of current can make the Coco Plum are a challenge.

Anyway I hope this helps folks.

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, May 11, 2015

West Central Florida Crew Vacation Pics








Your basic May fishing 101 results.  Generally, the day I take guys out they don't catch as much as they do on their own afterwards.  That is because the Fishing 101 is a tour kinda thing and we don't spend time hammering stuff.  After they get a taste of what different kinds of fishing can produce, then they plan their day.

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 07, 2015

Fishing the past week



Update:  The fishing 101 crew sent some photos of their last couple of days.


With the from that came through over last weekend and the full moon I have been struggling.  Off shore there are dolphin that are nice size, but they have that finicky thing going on.  You find a floater of a tight weed line and you can pick up one maybe two on a pass.  Most of the time we didn't get any followers so we had to stick with the troll hunt a peck.  Today on the lady Catherine we got 13 in the box plus a couple of tuna,  Most were heavy lifters light gaffers, the biggest two might have gone 10 pounds.   Not great but better than a good number of boats.

Yesterday on a guide trip, we picked up two swingers and saw a few sailfish, but headed in early for some patch fishing.  On the patches and rock piles if you didn't have fresh shrimp it was Gruntsville.   With shrimp though..


My phone battery died so I didn't get any photos, this is on the Wednesday crew emailed, but I will try to post any that get emailed to me.

The weather should be good for the next few days and the bite should pick up.


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, April 24, 2015

Dolphin Bite Getting Hot

As I mentioned in the last post, if the winds lay down a little so boats can cover some ground the dolphin bite should pick up.  They did and it did.  Quite a few really nice size fish and full boxes are starting to hit the dock.  Capt. Dave for example had a trip yesterday that produced a number of gaffers plu a forty pound big fish.  Capt. Bob Brown has had a few back to back trips with nearly full boxes of gaffers/heavy swingers plus a fish or two over forty.  Most of the kids have been sailfishing, it the Key West tourney and got some nice checks btw, but I expect they will be hitting the dolphin after their celebratory hangovers subside.  There is never a guarantee that you will whack them, but with winds under 10 knots you have a much better chance of finding fish especially, if you are on a smaller boat.  I am open until the first of May if you are having any difficulties and are close to Marathon.   I have had some requests for trips out of Key Largo and such, but that is a bit outside my normal stomping grounds so I recommended guys with a bit more local knowledge.

The reason I am sitting is likely due to the grouper season nonsense.  As you may know, Gag grouper have issues in the Atlantic north of Daytona and Red Grouper have issues in the Gulf north of Tampa.  Since the Keys are stuck in the middle we get nailed by both fisheries management groups and they close down ALL grouper in the Keys from January until May unless you are close enough to run into the Gulf where you can hit Red Grouper, then you get April back.

Since the daily temperatures have gotten in the mid 80s I broke down and stowed the winter clothes and got the air conditioners running.  While I was at it I looked at a few of the projects.  didn't do anything, but I did look at them which means I might restart a few.

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 18, 2015

More Family Fun Fun

I got a call yesterday from a young father of two that took his wife, two young daughters and another couple fishing for dolphin and managed to bore the hell out of them.  So I showed him how to keep it simple, catch fish and keep the short attention span crew happy.  There is a lot to be said for simple.  Now the family fun stuff will never impress the big game crowd, but it has its place.

The family fun trip netted about 8 hogfish, a porgie or two, a few yellowtail, a trigger and a lot of releases including one huge boxfish.    It was dinner and a show kinda thing which satisfied the admirals.


I think it was a cowfish, but I have never seen a three pound cowfish before so it might be one of the more exotic varieties.  If they email me a photo I will put that up, but for now it was big and an usual.  That photo is off of Wikipedia and you can follow the link to learn more about the photographer and the alleged Humpedback Boxfish.

The reason I post this is because offshore has been hero or zero.  There have been some very impressive dolphin catches provided you find that magic trip saving floater.  There has also been some impressive sailfish bites, but nothing I can report on that someone might actually be able to match.  However, the winds are laying down a bit so boats can cover more ground which cuts down on the luck factor.  Family dolphin trips with small kids can be a disaster if you actually want your significant other and offspring to enjoy the trip enough to do it again.  So if you plan a family dolphin trip I recommend having some knocker rigs and frozen shrimp as a backup bait should the crew start looking mutinous.

Back up plans are as or more important than plan A.  If you have a big boat with an air conditioned cabin, full bar and galley plus a reasonable dvd library for the appropriate age groups, plans B through Z are not such a big deal.  On a center console though, catching something is pretty much mandatory.  While dropping balleyhoo chunks or squid for last minute trip savers normally works, shrimp is a sharper tool to have around for the short attention span set down here in the Keys.

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, April 13, 2015

This Year's Fishing Product Test



Last year I got two Sea Striker Aries spinning combos at a pretty fair discount and tested them out.  the reels hung in there just fine despite a complete lack of maintenance which is part of the testing.   One of the graphite rods broke while we were fishing for big bottom fish with the drags cranked down.  Graphite rods are great, but they really are pushing the limit in order to get that light weight and fast action, so all it takes is a nick, like say from banging the hell out of the tee top a few times and they are subject to break.  If you buy a big name brand you can send the rod back and get it replaced most of the time, but it can cost some shipping and handling and other hidden stuff along with the time out of service.  Lots of people go that route, but being excessively frugal, I rather just get a cheap replacement.

The Sea Striker combos cost me $75 dollars a piece and I still have one in great shape and switched the reel to another cheap rod so I never missed a beat.  For $31 I can get another matching rod, but when looking I found out I could get another outfit for about the same price.

So pictured are the excessively frugal spinning combos.  The rods are by Sea Striker which I got for $13 each and the reels are a Chinese knock off model DK6000 whatever that means.  I spooled them up with Berkley Big Game clear of course 15 pound line so I have some very light yellow tail/patch/rockpile rods which I only have to tie a hook on in order to catch fish.  The clear 15 pound works just about as well as flourocarbon when it is brand new which saves a lot of rigging time.

Just like last year I am going to fish these til something breaks and not bother breaking them down for maintenance.  With shipping, tax and line, a little over 200 yards each, each outfit cost less than $35.

Don't expect to get a matching outfit for the same price I paid.  I happened to get lucky on the rods which generally sell for $30 online and $60 in your local "discount" fishing/athletic department stores.  The reels though are easy to find, just no one in their right mind would buy one based on the goofy Chinese attempts at marketing.  If the Chinese could get a better interpreter, they would sell more but I have been studying English for a while now and still haven't got it down, so I understand their predicament.

The ads for these reels list things like 11 or 12 ball bearings plus one and things like they are carp catching machines.  The reels I bought actually have two ball bearings in the normal sense of the term and two bushings, with a respectable front drag and composite body.  The composite body will have some flex if you confuse the reel with a winch, but then the other trial combo reels had the same issue.  Not really a problem in my opinion, but it does turn some folks off.  I though can live with the flex thanks to the weeks worth of groceries price difference.  That would be compared to just a mid range reel like say a Penn Battle which retails for around $125 the last time I looked.

 I do have two larger Chinese knockoffs on order, $15 each including shipping from the Far East that should hold close to 300 yards of 20# line, but I haven't decided on what cheap but sexy looking rod to pair with them yet.  It is hard to find a 15-30# rod that is graphite and inexpensive, relatively speaking with the full cork handle.

Fishing wise my book is open other than a family fun half day on the Lady Catherine tomorrow.  The winds are predicted to be borderline PITA for the next week so I doubt I will get many calls until they calm down a bit.  Since the Easter rush is over I haven't seen many reports from the locals and most of the snowbirds are packing to head back north again.

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 11, 2015

I get a break for a day or two

Joe and crew from Maryland are on their way home and I am chillin'.  We never did get offshore thanks to the winds and never hooked that tarpon on Joe's bucket list.  We did at least see a tarpon, but on the whole it was a weird bite on the back side of the full moon with winds averaging close to 20 knots.  Fishing the bridge was a major PITA due to the grass and water conditions associated with the higher current and winds.  That made the rock piles and bay side wrecks the most productive place to fish for my crew.

I was surprised we din't get more mangrove snapper and keeper mutton snapper.  The main fish in the box were porgies, lots of nice size fish up to a couple of pounds and hogfish with a few yellowtails, triggerfish, yellow jacks, but the barracuda got the muttons.  Great eating but not exactly what we had envisioned at the start of the week.

It appears is wasn't just me.   A good number of the better captains had slow trips and there were of course the captains that hit the right spot at the right time and kicked butt.  Sailfish bit well for a couple of boats while we were chasing tarpon.  If you guess right you are a hero, guess wrong and your are a goat.  Of the four days with Joe I was a goat on one, a hero on one and just so so the other two, but we did catch fish every day.

Now that all the components have arrived, I have my sharp looking, crap outfits ready to fish.  I have two 15 pound spinning outfits with graphite rods and Chinese knock off reels.  Other than one cheesy flash chrome bit that serves no useful purpose, the reels look like they will make pretty good yellow tail catchers.  15 pounds is a little on the light side, but can be a lot of fun and if some kids (age 0 to 80) happens to drop the outfit overboard I won't lose any sleep.

I have always had fun catching big fish on cheap crap gear so hopefully a few of my customers will as well.  The main thing with the reel is drag and line capacity.  These have a drag similar to to the Daiwa BG series which is okay if you keep them clean and close to 200 yards of 15 pound CLEAR Berkley big game.  The Contour rods are rated for 8 to 17 pound line so the combo actually has a nice balance with a light weight.  Of course they may break the first time out, but what the heck.

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 08, 2015

Still Trying to get Offshore


The winds have been just high enough to make an offshore trip no fun unless the fish are close.  So while I watch the satellite water temperatures we have been catching dinner on the rock piles, Hogfish, porgies and yellowtail snapper mainly since the Lane Snapper have been avoiding us, and playing with Jacks, mainly Jack Crevelle with a few nice size Yellow Jacks which make good bait for bull sharks.  We released a Bull yesterday that was in the 200 to 300 pound range.  That was on the crews list of things to catch, but with rental boat time constraints we haven't played with a tarpon yet and only made a couple of drifts looking for permit.
 
The winds and full moon currents have had the bridge water churned up pretty good making sight fishing pretty hard.  I haven't seen others hooking up tarpon while we were out so I guess the bite is real early or there just isn't much of a bite.  We will give the Tarpon a more serious shot tomorrow early when we should have the cleanest water.

The winds Friday should be tolerable for the boat we have if Wind finder is right, so that is planned to be the offshore day.  That is were the SST composite comes in.

If we can hit a warm water edge less than 20 nm south of the light we should be able to find some good size dolphin without getting too beat up.  Some of the bigger boats I know have aborted due to seas the last few days and we are fishing a 26 foot Sea Chaser which while a fine boat, ain't all that comfortable in sloppy 6 foot seas.  My back is good for about two hours of pounding then I start getting a touch grumpy.

Now for a couple of pictures that suck.

Hogfish in camo.  While not as sexy as a monster dolphin, Mr. Hogfish makes a great appetizer.  Roberto turned out to be the hogfish master on the Monday trip.  He also put a couple of respectable Yellowtail in the box using the same knocker rig and shrimp.

The i phone in the picture got better photos, but you can make out some of the bull shark which seemed to make the crew's day.  It will likely grow depending on who relates the tale, but it was close to 10 foot long with 250 pounds a fairly accurate guesstimate on the weight. The low light of the day was losing a BIG mangrove that took his crew with him after getting away.  Other than that yesterday was slow in my opinion but memorable for the shark hunters.

I was supposed to be fishing today but got bumped which is just fine with me.  I need a break every couple of days to unlax from the relaxing.  Back at it tomorrow.

In the mean time, I have found some rods to replace the broken ones from this winter.  I typically use Ugly stick blanks which are almost indestructible, but the lighter graphite rods which like to break are all the rage.  I also found some dirt cheap reels which I am going to test in the coming month.  The reels are Chinese which used to be a bad thing until everyone of our "American" manufacturers started out sourcing to China.  I see no reason to pay a premium on crap when I can get the crap direct for 25% of the going rate for crap.  In fact, the crap I ordered online should last a season, then I can replace it for less than repairing the brand name crap.  These outfits though are just big enough for yellow tail and light tackle stuff, but 200 yards of 17 pound test can surprise 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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tough Fishing the Past Few Days


I don't know if we zigged when should have zagged, but haven't found the temperature breaks and floaters offshore.  Part of that is due to the last cold front pushing cold water out.  We saw water temperatures on the ups and downs drop a couple of degrees.  The free sea surface temperature data we get from Hotspots gets blanked out by cloud cover but there are some composite charts available from NASA which you can use with Google Earth.  So I am playing around with that to see If I can make that easier to use.  The color scale they use is pretty course, but that temperature break is about 27 miles south and we stopped a few miles short of that the other day in order to get back in shore in time to do something else.  The something else, the old stand by rock piles was slower than all get out other than grouper we couldn't keep anyway, so the trip sucked in my opinion.

We did have a couple of knock downs, likely by sailfish in my opinion, but I never got to see what was spraying the bait.  Since the Lady Catherine is docked near Vaca Cut, we try not to run too far West, but the current has been pretty weak meaning it isn't all that easy to get a bite going.  I am not sure what the guys want to do tomorrow, but if it is dolphin and tuna we probably will have a lone run without much time to change plans.  If they want a shot at the sailfish, then we have plenty of back up plans.  Most of the bad trips I have is when we roll the dice and go for the hero fish which is part of fishing, but slow doesn't impress the folks at the dock.

Ballyhoo on the ocean side have also been scarce and those live wigglers can really come in handy.  Winds are supposed to be nice in the morning so if that is right we might get some nice rollers that get the sailfish tailing.  In any case, no bragging fish the past two days but there have been a fair number of sails caught close and some nice dolphin, wahoo and tuna if you get out far enough.  In the middle is just about dead.


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