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2010 is over. As always the years pass by and we look both back the year we leave behind and forward to the upcoming year. 2010 was an interesting year to say the least. It started in January with one of the coldest winters I can remember. Normally when we get a “cold” front here, it’s chilly for a day or two and then gradually warms up over 3-4 days until the next front.  Not January 2010, it was unusually cold for 4-5 days at a stretch and then 1 warm day and then right back to cold for 4-5 days at a stretch. My girlfriend took a picture of the “sock” aisle at one of the local dept. stores and it was decimated.

Socks, while normal winter attire in most of the country, are not as common here in the land of sandals and flip-flops, (sandals and socks is a dead giveaway that the wearer is a foreigner ……….or total nerd). Anyway, I’ve been known to rate winters by how many “sock days” there were. In 2010 I lost count sometime in January.

January also saw the loss of the M/V Gulfstream III. The Gulfstream was a long time local party boat here in Key West. When I was mate and later Capt. of the M/V Can’t Miss, the Gulfstream III was our main competitor, but it never stopped me from being friends with the owner and crew. I respected them and also the boat and over the years many of the customers fished both boats. Late in 2009 the current owners of the Gulfstream III downsized to a smaller faster boat and leased the Old Gulfstream out as a commercial fishing boat. Unfortunately it’s didn’t last long. On January 20th, 2010 the Gulfstream III caught fire and sank offshore west of Key West. The two crew members were picked up by a nearby charter boat unharmed, but the boat burned to the water line and sank. It was a sad day for the current owner Jamie Snediker and also for former long time owner Joe “Joe Mac” Mercurio. Joe had owned the Gulfstream III when I was on the Can’t Miss and we are friends to this day. Joe took a lot of people fishing on that boat over the years and caught a hell of a lot of fish. It was a shame to see a boat with a proud tradition go that way, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

Side view of the Gulfstream III burning off Key West, Florida on Jan. 19, 2010

There were still some spectacular sunsets to be seen in 2010 as always in Key West. I took this picture on Feb 26th on the way in from a late afternoon trip. I’ve seen a lot of sunsets over the years, but for some reason this one stands out as one of the most beautiful I can remember.

As an “offshore” fishing boat, I was fortunate. The cold weather caused the temperature of the near shore waters and in the flats to drop down in to the 50’s, and most of the fish left or died from exposure. The water on the reef and deeper stayed in the 70’s and fishing was good for us.

By mid-February, the weather had gotten back to normal. Highs in the 70’s and 60’s at night. The fishing remained good – sharks, wahoo, tuna, kingfish, cero mackerel. Life was good. The first part of 2010 was better than the year before by a substantial margin. We were clicking along through March and April, with a good many trips and catching our share of sailfish and looking forward to the summer. Then the BP oil spill occurred. The true tragedy of the Gulf Oil Spill is the loss of those who died on the platform the families that mourn them. Many of us that make our living on the waters of the Gulf were affected financially, but in truth, our losses cannot compare to the loss of a father, son or a brother.

The spill did not bring business to a grinding halt as it did to many of the coastal towns closer to the spill and we NEVER, NEVER had any oil here. But the perception that we did was enough to cause what was shaping up to be a great “rebound” year to turn south.  I was lucky, I had a good May, mostly advanced bookings that called and still fished once I reassured them that we didn’t have any oil. And fishing was good in May. Traditionally, May is when the big dolphin come through and this year was no exception. It’s an exciting time of year to fish. Looking for frigate birds on the water as they follow groups of big fish migrating west, and then trying to get a bait in front of them. I’ve seen big fish tailing down the waves toward me many, many times over the years……….and it still gets me excited every time I see it. I think sailfish in January and April, or dolphin in May, are the most exciting times to fish  for myself as a Captain. It just never gets old. We did catch two blue marlin in May. We have marlin here, but they are not really common. I’ve caught 10 sailfish in a single day, but my best year for marlin is 3, 2 white marlin and 1 blue, so 2 blue marlin in  May made me very happy. They were the first marlin I’d caught with my winter mate, Ben Garfield, on board. As always Ben did a super job. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any good pictures, but it was a thrill!

Unfortunately, once the winds died in late May, so did the dolphin fishing. I can’t say the oil spill had anything to do with it, as some fishermen claimed, but then again, I can’t say it didn’t. I’ve seen years in the past where the fish just aren’t there. Maybe this was just a normal year in the cycle of the fish and maybe it wasn’t. It didn’t matter at the time as I still had to catch fish for my customers. Fortunately, there were lots of yellow tail snappers to be found along the reef line. It can be tough fishing at times. Rough if there’s any wind and blistering hot if there’s not, but the fish were there and we caught our limit many days. Yellow tails are a tasty fish and we’re not the only ones that think so….sharks love ‘em too! Some days the sharks would be a pain in the butt stealing our fish on the way in, but they also provided some “big fish” action for those that wanted a challenge. Most of the sharks were black tips, lemons and Caribbean reef sharks. Usually no more than 150-200 lbs, not huge, but still a great workout on 30lb standup tackles from an anchored boat. We caught a heck of a lot of yellow tails this summer and in truth, I would have rather been offshore catching dolphin. They are bigger, stronger and more fun to catch. But I, and most of my customers, would rather be catching a lot of smaller fish inshore than not catching  big ones offshore. We sent a lot of customers home happy and that’s the important thing. I did lose a few trips by being honest with people who were looking for dolphin and nothing else, but hopefully they appreciate my honesty and will check with me next time they’re here. It’s the best I can do.

The yellow tail/ shark fishing served us well into August, but as we got into the heart of hurricane season and schools opened, business slowed as usual. No complaints, it was a decent season, and we fished hard, so I was ready for a little break. We didn’t fish much in September; I think we had 10 trips which really isn’t bad for Sept. The most interesting trip was on September 3rd. We had two trips scheduled for the 3rd. A 6 hour trip in the morning and a late 4 hr trip after that. The morning trip was a bit slow unfortunately, we caught a few, but it’s wasn’t what I had hoped for, (Of course, I’m always hoping for great fishing). The afternoon trip was a 3-7pm split charter and two of the 4 people didn’t show up. The other two were young guys and they couldn’t charter the whole boat by themselves. I could understand that and there were no hard feelings as I canceled the trip. They were just about to walk off the boat when we got a report of a dead sperm whale floating south of Key West with a large school of tiger sharks feeding on it. I’ve been fishing these waters for close to 28 yrs and I’ve only heard of this one other time about 7 years ago and I missed it. I wasn’t about to miss it again. I told the two customers to hang loose for a bit, called my sweetie, Ema,  at work and told her to grab her camera and cut out early. We had gotten the call about the whale from Capt. Brice Barr, a good friend and former mate of mine that now owns the Double Down Charter Boat. He was on his way in and wanted to see this too, so we waited on him for a few minutes. Dan Smith, who mated for me the previous summer was on the dock also and he jumped on board, so off we went, two customers, one girlfriend and 3 mates, (Skip Ragsdale had been mating for me that week and he was on board too) heading off to see something most people only see on TV or in magazines. It was worth the run!

We pulled up to the whale and we were in awe. There were at least a dozen tiger sharks, up to 500 lbs.,  circling and feeding on the whale. Between the 3 mates and myself, we probably had 80 yrs fishing experience on board and we stood there like little kids pointing at one big shark after another as the slowly circled the whale carcass. They were not afraid of the boat and at one point; Brice reached down and grabbed the dorsal of a 10 ft tiger shark as it was trying to get a bite (of the whale). We were so excited; we didn’t even put a bait in the water for the first hour or so. We were just too busy watching and taking pictures of this amazing sight.  When we did finally put a bait out we had a shark on within a minute. We ended up catching two tigers, one for each of the customers we had on board. Two fish is usually not the mark of a great day on the water, but this was a trip I’ll remember for a long time as I’m sure everyone else on board will too. Sometimes the things I get to see out here are amazing and this was one of them. Nature at work

Hurricane Season was great this year, just the way we like it…….we had none! And October brought a break from the late summer heat. The offshore action was a little slow in October, but the reef was great. Big yellow jacks, groupers, barracudas, mutton snapper and the usual assorted fish were plentiful.

By November, the ballyhoo, (baitfish) had started to show up on the reef and we started netting them and using them live. A dead ballyhoo is good bait; a live ballyhoo is great bait. Sort of like the difference between a burger and a NY strip steak. One’s good, the other’s real good!

In late November and into December we started to see sailfish coming up on the reef to feed on the ballyhoo. This made the reef fishing even better. Steady action with mackerels, snappers, jacks, barracudas and now an occasional sailfish. It makes for a fun day.

As December came to a close we started to see the offshore fishing pickup. Black fin tuna are a bit late, but starting to show and there have been a few more wahoo caught. There should have been a good wahoo bite on the last full moon and there was not, maybe in January it’ll happen. It would be a great way to start off 2011!  We’ll see!

2010 Was a good year on the Southbound, I hope it was a good year for all of you too!! Thanks to all those that fished with me.

 I’m a lucky man and I know it. I have the best job in the world in the best place and I live with the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met. Thanks Emalyn

Happy New Year To all and hope to see you on the Southbound in the New Year!

December 17, 2010

Sailfish caught in Key West fishing on Charter Boat Southbound from Charter Boat Row, Key West

Fishing is shaping as expected as the weather cools. Large schools of Ballyhoo, (bait fish), are attracting lots of hungry predators. The water is clear which is keeping some of the more desirable bottom dwellers less active, but lots of nice sized Cero Mackerel and Jacks are providing great action especially on spinning tackle. This time of year is a very exciting time to fish because in addition to the normal reef fish, Sailfish tend to come up shallow to feed on the schools of Ballyhoo too. It’s an incredible sight to see a single fish, or even groups of sailfish, chasing the ballyhoo in 15-20 ft of crystal clear water. I’ve seen pods of up to 8 fish at one time and they’re not usually boat shy so you can get within 10 ft at times. Because there is so much live bait on the reef, it’s sometimes difficult to get them to eat pitched bait. They’re full and there is so much bait to choose from, they sometimes don’t see the one we threw, but with so many opportunities, you’re going to get some takers. On Friday, we say about 20 Sails, We threw baits at about 9, we hooked 5 and we caught 2. This type of action should continue into January, (I hope!!)

November 8, 2010

Our first winter “cold front” passed through the Keys on Friday and while it made fishing a bit uncomfortable for the majority of the day and into the next, it was a welcome change. First, If you live in Key West and stay through the summer heat, You look forward to that first blast of cold air, (and yes, 65’ is cold to us). After 5 months of temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s we can finally turn off the AC and open the windows. For a few days, at least, you can work outside without sweating buckets. Second, and most importantly for those reading this, we need the cold fronts this time of year to keep the fishing right. It’s normal and if conditions don’t follow their normal routine, then fishing won’t either. The fish we expect to see this time of year won’t be here if things don’t line up right, so I’ll take the cold weather, (alright, cool to the rest of the world), and the rough seas if it means catching the fish. I’ve always said, you don’t feel the waves as much if the fish are biting!

The first day of the front, Friday was pretty dismal all around. Besides being rainy and rough, the fish didn’t bite and that’s no fun. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Anyone that says they never have a slow day of fishing, doesn’t fish much. It goes with the territory. We tried live baiting and trolling and neither worked well. Catching live ballyhoo was tough in 20+ mph winds, but my bad through with the cast net didn’t help. Our plan was good, it just didn’t work on Friday.

We went out again on Sunday afternoon. Same plan, different day and different results. Bait wasn’t easy on Sunday, but we caught enough live Ballyhoo to work with. It was still windy, but not as rough as Friday had been and there was barely a cloud in the sky. Most importantly, the fish were biting. We caught barracudas, Mackerels, groupers, Yellowtail snappers and a few assorted bottom fish. The weather was good and the fishing was better. What a difference a day makes!

Over the next few weeks, I would expect to see more sailfish on the reef chasing the schools of ballyhoo, (baitfish). Offshore, this weather should get the Black Fin Tuna going.  The full moon is on November 21st. I expect to see some Wahoo biting around that time. The reef should stay active with Cero Mackerel and bottom fish. This cooler weather is perfect for pushing Kingfish south into our waters. Along the reef edge, inshore and in the gulf should be good for those that like fishing for Kingfish.

October 20th, 2010

The summer fishing has pretty much ended with the exception of a few odd dolphins. We’ve started getting our normal mild cold fronts for this time of year making for great conditions also. Mild winds out of the North have provided cooler drier temperatures and gentle seas for most of the month. These conditions are one of the reasons that October is one of my favorite months.

 The reef is loaded with schools of ballyhoo which has made the fishing excellent. We’ve been pitching live ballyhoo out on light tackle the last few trips and it’s been working great. Lots of large  Cero Mackerel, some Big Barracudas, Some huge Yellow Jacks as well as a few Groupers, Mutton Snappers and Sharks. With the live ballyhoo the action has been very steady.

Offshore there are some Sailfish around and that should continue for the next few months. There have been a few Black Fin Tuna around and that should get better as the fall progresses. Look for the Tuna bite to be first thing in the morning or late in the day. I haven’t heard of any Wahoo in the last few days, but expect a good run of Wahoo sometime in the next few weeks.

August 20th, 2010

The Blue water and east have returned and the offshore fishing has started to heat up. Most of the summer the blue water has been out deep and there has been no current. The green water we’ve had in our area is great for the snapper fishing we’ve been doing with great success, but not so good when you’re trolling for Sailfish, Dolphin, (Mahi), Wahoo or Tuna. Over the last few days, the trolling has been nonstop action. Lots of Bonitos, not considered good as table fare, but they put up a great fight and it’s not common for every line on the boat to hook up at the same time. Black fin tuna feed similar to bonitos and it’s not uncommon to find one with the other. Yesterday we hooked two black fin tuna along with the bonitos we were catching.  There hasn’t been much in the way of weed lines around, but a small area of weed produced five nice dolphins up to 15lbs to go with our tunas. There have been some Wahoo around, still not seeing the really big fish (50-70lb), that I expect this time of year, but they will show up, just gotta’ be there fishing when they do!  Sailfish still slow, but with many boats racing around looking for Wahoo and tuna ,(they like a fast troll), it may just be a case that the sailfish are there but not interested in the high speed baits.

There has not been any oil at any time in the waters off Key West and none is expected

Wahoo caught fishing Key West on charter boat Southbound from Charter Boat Row Key West

August 2, 2010

 Snapper is fishing still going strong. We’ve been getting our limit on Gray snapper and/or Yellow Tail snapper most days we’ve been looking for them.  This should continue for a few weeks more. After that the Gray snappers might slow a bit as the summer spawn ends, but the Yellow tail will probably still bite. Check out the picture below. It shows Gray Snapper and Yellow Tail Snapper on the surface feeding on the chum.

Sharks are still active, mostly lemon, Caribbean reef and bull sharks, especially around the boats fishing for snapper. The water is pretty clear so it’s not uncommon to watch one eat your snapper as you’re winding it in. It can get very frustrating if they start eating too many, but it’s also amazing to watch how quick and agile the sharks can be when they want to.

The offshore fishing continues to show signs of life with a few more dolphin, (Mahi) showing up our past 400 ft of water. We’ve had mostly west current and green water all summer long and that’s not good for dolphin fishing. The east bound current and blue water are finally starting to work their way closer to shore and this should bring in some good fish. There have been a few Wahoo around, mostly under debris and along the color change. Sailfish, which have also been a bit spotty all summer, are also getting more active. Some have been in the blue, but don’t be surprised if one pops up in the green water along the reef or outer bar.

The Black Fin Tuna bit great for a day or two and then shut down, but at least it lets us know they’re around. Expect sporadic feeding over the next few weeks, but decent sized fish when they do.

Summer is hot in Key West as everyone knows, Temperatures in the mid 90’s most days. Make sure you drink plenty of liquids, Water, Gatorade and or Juices. Don’t let yourself get dehydrated. Once you are dehydrated it’s very hard to “catch up” while you still out in the sun. Cold beer and fishing go together like body paint and Fantasy Fest, (aint it wonderful), but make sure beer isn’t the only thing you drink on a hot day of fishing.

Still no oil or any sign of oil in Key West or the water near here and none expected.

snapper feeding frenzy in Key West while fishing on charter Boat Southbound fronm Charter Boat Row, Key West


July 24th, 2010

Maybe it’s because the island of Key West is so small, but it seems we dodge more bullets than Rambo, (always amazed how 1 guy with a hand gun can take out six guys with automatic weapons).

First, we’ve dodged the BP bullet. No oil anywhere near Key West and none is going to get here.

Then again this week, weather forecasters were discussing the impending doom of Key West with the approach of Tropical Storm Bonnie. It’s always the same. Key West will be right in the middle of the “5 day Storm track” , otherwise known as the “Cone of Death” as we call it and all the news stations are calmly discussing  the mathematical probability that “we’re all gonna’ die!”. Everyone is a state of near panic and apprehension and then……………..nothing.  Ya’ missed us, Bonnie! nyaa  nyaa, ya’ missed us! It rained for a total of about a minute and a half and the winds were 5-10mph all day. Oh yea, it was sunny almost all day. Now THAT’S my kind of storm!

July 14th, 2010

One of the reasons that Key West is such a great place to fish is not necessarily because of any particular fish that we catch here. It’s not because we have great offshore fishing, it’s not because we have great reef Fishing and it’s not because we have world class flats or back country fishing. It’s because we have ALL of it in one place. There is always something to fish for. If the offshore is slow, we have the reef. As anyone that has been following my website for the last few weeks has seen, we’ve been on the reef catching lots of snappers, a few exotics and some barracudas and sharks. Offshore fishing was a bit slow in June. We had a great month, my customers all walked away happy, because we caught fish and they had fun.   If the reef slows down we’ll go tarpon or maybe shark fishing, (I’ve got a spot in 8 ft of protected water that is always calm and usually good). Or maybe we’ll go in the Gulf.  Because we have easy access to the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico, we have more habitats to fish and therefore a better chance to catch. Most times even weather doesn’t stop us.  If the wind picks up, from the south, we can go in the Gulf of Mexico and the islands block the wind so it’s relatively calm. If there are strong winds from the north, (usually a cold front) we can hide behind the reef.  I’ve had some great days anchored up behind one of our many reefs in protected waters catching mackerels, kingfish, barracudas, snappers, jacks and even sailfish. Sitting there as comfortable as can be in 2 ft seas with winds of 25+. I can’t tell you how many customers have thanked me for talking them out of canceling after one of these days.  In my mind this is the real magic of Key West fishing. There is (almost) always something to fish for and someplace to fish on any given day. This past winter was the worst winter I’ve seen in my 29yrs in Key West. Very cold and windy, but through it all, I only cancelled one half day trip all winter. We fished, we caught fish and we sent people home happy and after all, that’s what we’re here for!

Update: Still no Oil anywhere near Key West waters

July 6th, 2010

Fishing is still going strong in the Key West Waters. The reef action has been excellent with good catches of Yellow Tail Snapper along the outer edge as well as some Grouper.  We’ve been catching our limit or close to it most days. I would expect the Yellow Tails to keep biting until at least the end of the month unless conditions change drastically.

Shark fishing has been great in the shallows. Sharks in the 60-100 lb range have been active and biting well when the current is running. Current is very important to shark fishing. They hunt by smell, so anytime you have tide or current running is good. Avoid the slack water time of day. If nothing is moving, they can’t find you.

The trolling offshore has gotten better, but the Dolphin fishing still isn’t what it should be. There have been a lot of big Bonitos around. They are a member of the tuna family, but unfortunately not a good eating member of the clan. We mostly release them or keep a few for bait. They’re very bloody so they make excellent shark bait and Snappers and Groupers live it too!

Wahoo are a natural predator of Bonitos and with the concentration of Bonitos we’re starting to see some Wahoo show up. We don’t get a lot of Wahoo in the summer, but if the food, (Bonitos) is present, there will always be a few around. The two biggest Wahoo I’ve ever caught on the Southbound, 74 &76 lbs, were this time of year. I expect to see a few big one caught in the next week or two.

The weather has been very cooperative lately. We’ve had the usual summer breeze and some intermittent cloud cover keeping it very comfortable offshore. Early June was a Scorcher, but generally speaking, the last week or so has been beautiful. Enough breeze to keep it comfortable, but not so much that it’s rough. It’s a great time to go fishing in Key West

OIL UPDATE: There is NO oil in the water around Key West

June 28th, 2010

Yellow Tail Snapper fishing has continued to be excellent on the reef and outer bar. A steady bite of fish has been making our days easy for the last couple of weeks. It’s nice when fishing is this easy. On most days we’ve been anchoring in one spot and staying there for the entire trip. Some days it takes a little while to get the fish to come up to the chum, but most days they’re up and in the chum in a matter of minutes. Still getting some nice sized trigger fish and an occasional barracuda too.

We’ve had a couple of Shark trips in the last week also. The lemon sharks have been very, very cooperative, God bless ‘em. Most of the sharks have been in the 50-100 lb range. That’s a pretty nice fight from a stationary boat on 30lb tackle.

STILL NO OIL IN THE KEYS, and I don’t think we’re going to get any. IF any oil does come out of the gulf and around the tip of Florida it will most likely be the light surface oil that can been seen in the news photos. I believe that most of that will be carried by the Gulf Stream to the South and past the Keys. To be honest, I think the Outer Banks of N.C. has as much of a threat of oil on their beaches as does the Keys. I hope it doesn’t happen; because I’ve vacationed there and I love the beautiful beaches.lt would be a tremendous tragedy.

Most of the heavy thick oil is staying down in 2,000 ft of water, and according to a NOAA website I’ve been monitoring, (Visit http://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/ofs/viewer.shtml?-gulfmex-cur-0-large-rundate=latest); neither the Gulf Stream nor the Loop current go that deep. They run about 500 ft deep but after that, there is simply nothing moving at that depth to push the oil around the tip of Florida. It will be very bad for the sea floor in the gulf, but it may make it easier to clean up if it stays in the deepest part of the gulf

June 16th, 2010

Conditions have remained fairly constant the last week, which is good and bad. The Bad is that the Dolphin fishing is still slower than it should be, but the good is there is still no Oil anywhere to be seen. Let me say that again, THERE IS NO OIL HERE IN KEY WEST! I’ve been getting phone calls from customers and friends asking about the oil and we may get some eventually, but for now there is no sign of oil in any of the waters in the Keys.

The Yellow tail snappers are still biting well.  Yesterday, we were chumming heavy as usual and we had the fish up right behind the boat. It’s a pretty cool sight to see and it makes fishing easy. There have been a few Ocean Tallys mixed in and a Barracuda or two just for fun too! It’s truly great to be able to fish here. Just so many varieties of fish to catch, it makes it tough to have a bad day!

 I have a suggestion for cleaning up the oil spill. Let’s take all the expensive business suits from all the executives at BP and Halliburton and line the beaches with them. I’ll bet they’ll soak up a lot of oil. Might give BP Tony and the others a little idea of what they’re putting people through.

June 11, 2010

The lack of current and wind have probably been a blessing in terms of the BP oil spill. There has been no Oil in our water or on our beaches so far. The Gulf Stream is way offshore, (yes, it moves in and out) and even if the oil does come out of the Gulf right now, it’s quite possible it will sweep the oil far to the south and past Key West. We can only hope.   The same lack of current has affected our fishing. Normally this time of year, we’re catching Dolphin, Wahoo and some Bill fish offshore, but the water is not moving and not blue. Dolphin fishing is definitely slower than we would like. Fortunately, this is Key West and we have more than one fishery. If the offshore isn’t doing it, we can and have anchored up along the outer reef and catch Yellow Tail Snapper. The bite has been steady with some nice sized fish. Yellow Tail are a true member of the snapper family and considered one of the best “table fare “fish in the keys. Sharks can be a problem at times , they like Yellow tail too!, so you have to wind fast, and even then,  sometimes the shark wins, but all in all  there have been enough Yellowtails to keep everyone busy and the sharks haven’t been too bad. For those that want a “big” fish, we just put a big line out and usually we can hook the sharks. Most of the one’s I’ve seen behind the boat have been lemon sharks in the 100+lb range. They put up a great fight on 50 or even 30lb test line.  The Gulf Stream is slowly moving back in over the last few days, it should improve the offshore fishing, and we’ll just have to see how it affects the oil. Keep your fingers crossed

May 17th, 2010

First, sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated my report. The last month has been very busy, thankfully, which means I’ve had very little time to do things like updating this report. I’ll try to do better.

Sometimes you got to earn your fish. There are those perfect days, when everything works and all the stars align. The seas are calm and the big fish are everywhere and no matter what you try, it works. Those days are great, but that doesn’t happen every day. Someday you just got to hang in there and earn a good fish. This past week was a good example of “earning’ a fish. Traditionally, May is a windy, blustery month, but it’s also the month that the big dolphin moves through. The fishing is actually better when it’s rougher or “sporty” as we like to call it. On Monday, the fishing was a bit slow in the morning. Seas were calm and we caught one small dolphin and lost one nice bull in the first 4 hours. Then the wind started to pick up and so did the fishing. By the end of the day we had 4 big dolphins and a couple of smaller ones. A pretty good come back from a slow morning. As the week went on, the wind continued to blow and the fishing continued to improve. On Friday, it was blowing at least 30mph when we left the dock in the morning and it picked up from there, but the fish were biting. Seas were 5-7 ft with an occasional 8-9 ft wave for fun. We took a bit of a beating, but when you’re catching big dolphin, the waves don’t feel so bad. My customers all week were awesome, especially the guys on Friday, the roughest or sportiest day of the week. Not a single person got seasick all week. The hell with Dramamine, It’s amazing how well catching big fish prevents seasickness. The winds are supposed to start dropping today and I expect we’ll see a few less big dolphin for a couple of days. They’ll be biting again in a few weeks when we start seeing the Sargasso weed move in, and I do enjoy fishing the weed patches and lines. But there is something about working through bigwaves to get under a bird and in front of a big fish. Sometimes you can see them coming as the swim down the face of the waves toward the bait. It’s an exciting way to fish. At the end of the day, you’re tired and maybe even a bit sore, and most nights I was asleep by 9 pm, but if you can look at a rack of big fish, it’s very satisfying. It makes you feel alive !

April 18th, 2010

It’s been an unusual year so far. We’ve had extremely cold weather by KW standards. We’ve had lots of cold fronts and very windy days and (naturally) very little sympathy from the rest of the world. Nobody sitting at home in 20 degree weather is going to feel bad for you when it’s in the 50’s. It’s just the way it goes. I’ve been lucky in that even with all the wind and weather we’ve been having; I haven’t lost a single day to weather this year. I’ve postponed a trip or two, but not many more than that. All in all, we’ve been able to get the trips in and by and large catch some quality fish. But the weather can affected the fishing. March, which can be a bit of a slow month, was great. Kingfish, Bonitos, Tuna, Sailfish and some great reef action. So far April, which is one of my favorite months to fish, has been tough. The reef is very green and, even with live bait, the fishing is tough. Offshore has been beautiful, deep blue water, flying fish everywhere, but the big fish have been a bit fewer and further between then I  would expect. There are some nice sized Amberjacks on the wrecks and a few Sailfish around and to be honest the Shark fishing has been great.

I expect it’ll just be a matter of time, but sooner or later, the big fish will start biting. They always do. If the bait is there, (flying fish) and the water is blue, It WILL happen. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is that if you put your time in, you will catch. Dolphin season should be starting up in a few weeks and I was afraid the cool weather would delay the fish from moving through, but it has been warm the last week or so and the water offshore is warming up. I’m hoping the Sailfish will “turn on” again before the end of the month and I’m expecting the big dolphin to start moving through offshore in the early part of May………………..And when they do, I’m gonna’ be there waiting them.

On Wednesday, We had a great “National Geographic” moment. We came across a school of small Bluefish, we do get a few from time to time, that had wandered out to deep water and near a wreck. The water was very clear and when the Bluefish got close to the wreck, a bunch of the predators, sharks, Barracudas and Amberjacks, came charging up and attacked them. The Bluefish were in a tight, tight  circle and you could see the predators taking turns crashing through the school. Bluefish were flying in the air trying to escape. You could see the dorsal fins of the sharks charging through the middle and an occasional Barracuda would go flying through the air with a bluefish in it’s mouth. It was an awesome lesson in the circle of life in the sea that most people only see on their TVs. We were lucky enough to see it in person. It was pretty cool!

March 21, 2010

The action has been great the last week. Lots of big Cero Mackerel, Kingfish and Bonitos. We’ve had great action on the reef with Barracudas as well. The offshore has been on the verge of busting loose. There have been a few Black Fin Tuna late in the day and an occasional Wahoo and Sailfish around. We’ve had a strong East current all week, which is good, but the wind has been out of the West all week and while it keeps the seas calm, (East current goes East and West wind is from the West, so they are both going in the same direction). This is not the best for fishing. Unfortunately, when the wind and current oppose each other, (East wind and East current), The fishing is much better. Sailfish get up and “Tail” along the surface. Those conditions are starting to line up. A  West wind on Friday and only a few Sailfish seen. An East wind on Saturday and some boats caught over a dozen Sailfish. It’s rougher, without a doubt, but if the wind goes East and stays there and the current continues to run to the East, look for fishing to get red hot! Sailfish, Bonitos, Hammerhead Sharks, and Cobia will all be “tailing” down the color change.

March 9th, 2010

Conditions are lining up for an early Sailfish run. Strong East current pushing up against green water from the Gulf Of Mexico are causing a beautiful color change. There have been some Sailfish tailing along the edge as well as all the bonito you could ask for to keep you busy. A few King Mackerel and an occasional Black Fin Tuna are also being caught. On the Green side of the color change we’re starting to see some Cobia migrating through and outside the color change in the Blue water there are still a few small dolphin being caught. NOW is the time to go fishing. These conditions are normally seen in April. Hopefully they will stay until then and if they do, we should have a fantastic Sailfish season.

March 1st, 2010

Weather still erratic, hot and sunny one day, Cool or even cold the next. Fortunately, the offshore fishing has been good. Black Fin Tuna have been around, although predicting where and when they will bite is not easy. We’ve had a couple of days where conditions were perfect for a good Tuna bite. The Moon, Water color and sea state were just exactly what you would want and very few Tuna biting. Then other days were the conditions were not great and you can’t get away from them. That’s fishing! There have been a fair number of Sailfish around and the reef action is still good with Cero Mackerel, Cravalle Jacks and some King Mackerel. Moon is full or near full so I would expect to see a few Wahoo caught over the next few days.

Friday, February 19th, 2010

This Weather Sucks!! I know pretty much everyone else in the country is experiencing colder weather than we are here so I don’t expect much sympathy. But This Weather Sucks. It’s been cold down here since about he middle of December. The last 4 days the temperature hasn’t gotten above the low 60’s. Now that may sound like a heat wave to many people in February, but it’s not supposed to be this cold here………EVER!! Where YOU live, it IS supposed to be cold. It is February after all. But not here in Key West. Here it’s supposed to be warm and sunny. Not all the time. Sometimes it’s really hot and sunny, but it’s not supposed to be cold and cloudy. And if it gets cold and cloudy it shouldn’t last for 1 or 2 days at most, Not 8 weeks. Most years I rate winters by how many “sock” days there are, that’s how many days I have to wear socks to keep warm. Some years there’s no more than a dozen or so. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t wear socks, or didn’t wear a sweatshirt, Long sleeve shirt AND a jacket. I don’t own ear muffs……..but I’m thinking about them. Pass the Rum and  Thanks for letting me rant. Oh yea, Reef fishing is pretty good, lots of  action. Offshore is a little slow. Occasional Tuna, Wahoo or Sailfish.

Sunday, January 30th, 2010

Fishing has been excellent the past week. Lot’s of bites and lot’s of fish  on the reef and offshore. The cold weather  we had in early January seemd to have affected the fishermen more than the fish. The offshore water never got below 70 degrees so whiile the fishing may have been uncomfortable, the fishing remained good.

There are still large schools of Ballyhoo on many of the reefs and the action is outstanding. Many large Barracuda, Cravalle Jacks and  some Cero Mackerel have been tearing up the bait schools on he shallow part of the reef with bonitos and Sailfish coming up on the edge to feed as well. Trolling dead ballyhoo can be effective, but if you can catch some ballyhoo live the bites come fast and furious.  It is not uncommon to see “ showers”  or “sprays” of bait of bait as the predators go through the schools and feed. Look for Birds, especially Frigate birds hovering low on the water as this is a sure sign of fish feeding. That’s where you want to be with your live (or dead) bait. There has been some a decent bit of King Mackerel on the deep edge of the reef with a few fish in the 30 lb. range.

Offshore, there have been some quality fish caught on the troll. Wahoo and Black Fin Tuna  are still  to be found outside the reef. There have been two Blue Marlin caught in the last week and another one missed. Two of the fish were in less than two hundred foot of water, which is unusual. Dolphin, (Mahi Mahi), normally more common in the spring and summer, are being caught mostly just outside the outer reef and along the trap lines. I don’t fish the flats, but I’ve heard that the water in the shallows has warmed up with the weather and the fish in the flats are biting again. Fishing should continue to be good. The weather looks like it will cooperate for the next few days a the very least. We’ll see you offshore.

Capt.  Richard Houde

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Being a charter boat fisherman is a great job. Basically you take a group of people, who are in a good mood, out on the tropical waters of Key West, Florida and try to catch them fish.

The vast majority of the people are fun to be around, Most of the time the fishing here is good and usually we have great weather………………..but whenever you’re on the water, things can go very bad very quickly.

Yesterday that point was made very obvious when a 65 ft boat called the Gulfstream III caught fire and sank about 10 miles SW of Key West. The Gulfstream III had been, for many years, one of the bottom fishing party boats that docked at Charter Boat Row. It was recently taken out of charter service by the owner when they downsized to a more economical and faster fiberglass boat. My understanding was that the boat was being used to commercial fish. It was anchored in about 60 ft of water and we were fishing about a mile west of her yesterday, around noon,  when a friend of mine half jokingly came on the VHF radio and asked if it looked like the Gulfstream was on fire. I looked up and there was some smoke coming from the boat, but it had old Detroit 12-V92 motors. Not uncommon for old diesel motors to smoke a bit when they started up. Unfortunately this was not the case. Before I could answer my friend, one of the 2 crew on the Gulfstream III got on the radio and called for help A fire had started in the galley and they couldn’t put it out. All the boats in the area pulled in their lines and sprinted toward the Gulfstream III, As I was doing this I put in a call to the Coast Guard. The Charter Boat Eva Marie was the first on the scene and by the time it got there, the the crew had abandoned ship. The Eva Marie pulled the crew from the water as the boat quickly became engulfed in flames. Not much could be done but watch and when we learned there ware a couple boxes of ammo and some propane tanks aboard, we put some distance between us and the burning boat. We finished our day of fishing and headed home a few hours later. As we entered Key West Harbor I could still see the smoke rising in the distance to the Southwest. I later learned the boat finally sank around 5 pm in about 300 ft of water. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. There was some personal items and gear lost by the crew  and the boat owner may have a big loss, but under the circumstances, it could have been a lot worse. I can only  imagine the chaos if the Gulfstream III was still carrying passengers and had 20-50 people on board instead of 2. Yes, it could have been much worse!

Front view of the Gulfstream III burning off Key West, Florida on Jan. 19, 2010
Side view of the Gulfstream III burning off Key West, Florida on Jan. 19, 2010

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Fishing has been great both offshore and on the reef. Lots of Ballyhoo on the reef are causing the Mackerels, Bonitos, Barracudas and some Sailfish to go into feeding frenzy mode. Large “showers” of bait fish come out of the water to avoid the predators charging from below. It’s a great show and if you have live Ballyhoo, (we did), the action can be great.

Bait being chased by predators on the reef off Key West, Florida

Bait being chased by predators jump out of the water trying to get away

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Cold weather has finally eased up a bit. Temperatures were in the high 70’s yesterday and it’s warm again today. There is another cold front expected tonight, but the extreme cold, (40’s -50’s) we’ve been experiencing the first part of January are not expected. The “cold” part of the front should only be in the 60’s and then back up into the 70’s in a day or two. That’s the more normal weather pattern for this time of year. There is a tremendous amount of bait schools on the reef right now and lots of activity. The Sailfish we caught on Friday was in 20 ft of water on the reef. Sailfish, Bonito, Black Fin Tuna and other fish are up on the reef feeding on the Ballyhoo. It’s an exciting time to fish. I have a trip this afternoon and it should be good!

Tuesday, January 13th, 2010

The unusually cold weather has continued all week but it’s finally starting to ease up a bit. The air is still cold and  it has definitely cooled the waters down. Most notably inshore. The channels and the harbor have  water temperatures down in to the 50’s. There have been reports of fish kills up and down the keys. Any of he fish in the shallow water that could not find their way into deeper water as the shallows cooled down are at risk. In early December the water temperature was in the mid to high  70’s. A drop of close to 25 degrees in just a few weeks is too much for many of the fish to survive. Boats that use pilchards may have a very difficult time finding bait.  Fortunately (for me) the offshore water has stayed warm. The water is still in the low 70’s. The cooler weather has moved some of the schools of bait off the reef, but there are still a few schools and more should return quickly. Sailfish are starting to come up on the reef to feed on the schools of ballyhoo and the Barracudas are ravenous. We had a good day on Tuesday with Black Fin Tuna but the boats that went to the same area today didn’t catch any. The weather is supposed to gradually warm up to near normal temperatures on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I expect the next few days to be excellent fishing

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Been very cold by Key West Standards, Temperatures have been in the 50’s  all week. Normally we get a bit of a post-holiday lull in business and the cool temperatures aren’t helping. People come to Key West to be warm. They want to fish the “Tropical” waters of Key West, not the North Atlantic. They; could stay home and do that. So we haven’t been fishing all week. We have a trip later today so hopefully I’ll have something to post tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Karma Bank– Had an interesting series of events happen this week. Makes me think my karma bank is fairly full. On News Years Day, My girlfriend and I went for a mid morning bicycle ride down Duval St,( scene of all the New Years Eve Madness). Down around Sloppy Joe’s Bar, I ran over a piece of glass and got a flat tire. My girlfriend rode her bike home and got my pickup truck, came back down and got me and we went home. I put the bike on the front porch, where I always put it, but, because I had planned on fixing the tire that day, I didn’t lock it up. Well, I got busy with one thing or another and also had an afternoon charter that day, so it never got locked up. Now, I’ve been here 28+ years and I’ve never had a bicycle stolen, but then again I ALWAYS LOCK IT UP. I figure it’s easier to lock it up, than have to buy a new one and always lock that one up.   On Monday evening, my girlfriend and I went out at about 10 pm to see some friends in a band play at the Hogs Breath Saloon. We stayed until about 2am and when we got home, yup, you guessed it, no bike! It was gone, My Trek, my old faithful ride, the one with the Comfortable seat, the bike I’d been riding for close to 15 yrs was GONE! Pissed me off! Not only loosing the bicycle, but the fact that some scumbag was up on my porch tends to make you feel like your space has been violated. This town is known for bicycles being stolen, I’m one of the few (long term resident) people I know that hasn’t had a bicycle stolen. I was kinda’ proud of it. I had been outsmarting the bike thieves for 28 years and now, one of them had gotten the better of me! Sucked! I walked around the neighborhood a little, figuring whoever stole it, couldn’t ride it with the flat, so they would probably have stashed it in the bushes nearby and come back later to get it with a truck or a bicycle pump.  Good idea, but no such luck.

On Tuesday, I was driving in town when I see a man and a women walking over by the cemetery and he’s pushing a bicycle………a blue Trek……..with a seat just like mine………and a light mount just like mine. He was headed up a one way street and I would have had to go the wrong way to get to him, so I quickly went around the block and waited for him at the top of Solares Hill, (Yes we do have a hill in Key West, Just one and it’s about 12ft above sea level. Altitude is sickness never a problem). It’s been cold here, like the rest of the country, and I was wearing a nice leather jacket I bought in Spain this year. So I took it off as I waited at the top of the hill. I didn’t know what would happen when I confronted my (alleged) bike thief buddy, but I figured it’d be stupid to ruin a $400 new leather jacket to recover a $250 15 yr old bicycle.

So there I stood, at the top of the hill, ready to rumble. I had my cell phone in one hand trying to call the police, (I had filed a report), but they put me on hold. Now, I have a small caliber gun in my truck, but I left it there, didn’t want to go “wild west“ over a bicycle, there were other people around. I always carry a pocket knife, (I’m a fisherman, it’s a tool not a weapon) and that where it stayed in my pocket. But I’m just under 6 ft and I weigh around 240, (with a bit of a belly). I’m not real big, but I ain’t real small either. My approaching (alleged) bike thief buddy was much younger, thinner and probably in better shape……….but much smaller than me.  As I stepped in front of him and the bicycle, he looked kind of surprised. When I accused him of stealing my bicycle in a tone that let him know I wasn’t F#@king around he took a step back and hesitated. He denied stealing the bike and said he found it in the bushes but if it was my bike I could have it back. Smart move. Now, if we had to start swinging for me to get it back, I was willing to go there, but if he was willing to give it up without a fight, that was fine too. Over the years I have found bicycles in and around my yard before. Bikes that I figured were stolen and dumped there, so he could have been telling the truth. I don’t know. He didn’t look like a dirt bag but he didn’t look like a choir boy either.  He didn’t like it when I took his picture with my cell phone. Too bad. But he gave it up without any arguments or violence so I let it go. All that matters is that I had my old ride back and I wouldn’t have to spend a couple hundred dollars on a new bike. As he and his lady friend headed off, I put the bicycle in my pickup and headed home. I can no longer brag that I’ve never had a bicycle stolen in the 28 years I’ve been here. But I can say I’ve never LOST a bicycle in 28 yrs. And the best thing………….He was only walking the bicycle so he could talk to the girl he was with, ………..It had a New wheel, New tire and New tube!

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Happy New Year to all. It’s been a very busy week here. Traditionally the week between Christmas and New Years is the busiest week of the year. The last few years have been off a bit. I still had good weeks, but not completely full. I was nervous about this year because at Thanksgiving I didn’t have a single booking  for the week. Fortunately, the bookings started coming and I filled the week up completely. Even had to turn a couple of trips down, (always hurts). Fishing was pretty good all week too. The offshore was hot and cold a bit. Some days were good with Wahoo, Black Fin Tuna, a few Dolphin and a Sailfish. A couple of days the bites just weren’t there.  The Reef action was excellent. Lots of Cero Mackerel, Barracuda, some Yellowtail Snapper and some nice Mutton Snappers. Caught a lot of fish on spinning tackle which is always more of a challenge, but also more fun. All in all, it was a great week and a great way to end the year. I know many boats as well as many people around the country struggled this year. I know I was very fortunate. I had a good year business wise and fish wise. We ran well most months and we caught some good fish. Here’s to hoping that 2010 is a better year for all. Happy New Year!