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Fishing Key West, Back Where It All Began

Report Date: August 28, 2003


Standing at the fuel dock waiting for a fishing charter, every now an again you gain a charter for the next day. On this particular day I met a family (obviously) looking at Grandfather, Father, and Grandson, and rather intrigued they asked me questions about Tarpon fishing. They where staying on the Navy Base in KeyWest, and had been trying to fish for Tarpon from shore. During their vacation they had thought to rent a boat, however, soon after talking things over with me they asked for a card, and questioned if I was available in the A.M. Late that evening the phone call came and I booked them to fish in the morning.

This was not a typical charter, for a couple of reasons. The first reason: there where going to be three people on my flats skiff. Second: I was going to fish some one else?s spots that had fished here fifty years prior. Grandpa as I refer to him, was in the Navy and stationed in Key West fifty years ago, and obviously by his knowledge of the local waters was an Ole? Salt.

We left the dock that morning at half past seven a.m. My game plan was to catch Tarpon, as if that would surprise any one. So rigged up and ready to fish we left the dock, with their Chart at hand. Grandpa was going to show me some particular spot that he had fished. I like the idea of sharing knowledge of fishing spots. At least some of our fishing spots. All to many time in life we think we had it figure out, that is to say our way of doing things. Like this is my spot! As I hear so many time amongst fishing guides.

Our adventure would take us ?out back?, east of Key West, Fl in search of some old fishing hole and maybe some Tarpon. Traveling east past the Bay Keys, an on past the West Harbor Keys and toward the ditch, which is deep water, cut that traverses through a very shallow point on the surrounding flat. This being the only shortcut through to my next fishing site. ?. As we passed the old aluminum stakes marking the ditch, Grandpa said, ?you took my old route toward my fishing hole. Keep in mind I had an idea of where he had fished before as he had directed me toward the lower Harbor Keys. Unfortunately there was an area of low pressure heading in from the Bahamas so our weather was rapidly changing from Sunny and calm winds to a Northeast wind at about twenty. As I neared the area of Grandpa?s fishing hole, I could tell by the evident wind and the tide that it would be a bit rough to anchor. The waves height was about three foot. Grandpa and the other both agreed so we set up a drift using triangular navigation to mark the spot. This is the part where you might learn something. Line up the ball of the Navy radar dome with the mangroves on that Key and set the boat drift at about twenty ft. deep. See this is a method that most have used prior to the use of Loraine, and Gps. My mentoring guides raised me using triangular navigation on Lake Eerie setting Walleye drifts, as well as on the Ocean. The first drift we took a big Greene wave over the bow, sending us scampering, trying to move camera bags to dry storage. Only one snapper caught on that that drifts. After one more drift we opted for calmer water. I did notice however a couple of large coral heads located directly under the boat where we stopped. These coral head hold some large yellow tail and Mangrove Snapper at times. This was the obvious potential of the spot, however, the Weatherman was not going to let it happen.

Let me go check a Tarpon spot real quick, I mentioned. If there are no fish there than we?ll check a few more spot around you?re old stomping grounds. As we pulled back in to calmer water I could see a sigh of relief amongst the passenger. Once nearing the ?Fish Zone?, I cut the motor. Polling gracefully along the edge of a channel, which could only now be defined by the depth, my push pole would sink in. The water now had become murky and there was a less than subtle wind chop.

Now staking off the boat I explained that we where searching for rolling Tarpon. After about ten minute we had contact. A confirmed Tarpon sighting. Quickly floating back a baitfish that the grandson had caught, I handed him the rod and said you caught the bait, now go and catch a Tarpon! Fish on! He?s running with it Capt, the boy shouted. Jump, Jump, I shouted. No jump for this fish. I think it?s a Shark. Cool, you mean I got a shark on? After nearly ten minute we released the boys 50lb Black Tip Shark. Tarpon still rolling below us about thirty yards, I hurried and drifted back another bait. Fish On! I pulled to set the hook on the Tarpon, but came up with slack line. Wondering what happened I pulled in the line and re-rigged. This time we need to wait a little longer on the hook set, give the fish a chance to eat. Drifting the pinfish back toward the rolling Tarpon, we sat and waited. Grandpa, and the Grandson where catching Mangrove Snapper one after another on live Shrimp, while Dad and I watched the float. Within ten minute we had a Tarpon on, and Grandpa was up to challenge of the silver king. A fine Tarpon it was we noted as we pulled the hook from his mouth along side the boat. This was a Juvenile fish about thirty pounds. Very pleased with his first Tarpon, and leaving no time to waist Grandpa was back on the Snapper fishing. Re-rigging the rod and floating back another pinfish I was confident we might get another bight. However, the fish had quit rolling for the time being. This practice is not uncommon due to the great disturbance of the first Tarpon catch. Anxiously watching the float we manage to bail some more Mangrove Snapper. The young boy had pointed out to his father that he has yet to catch a fish all day, so with this in mind we had time left for one more shot at a fish. As the pinfish neared the ?Fish Zone? the float went under. Let him run to a three count, and close the bail. When the line come tight give a hook set to the tarpon. Fish On! Smoking line and magnificent jumps this fish gave us quite a show. Releasing the tarpon along side the boat we decided that we had enough and it was time to head to the Barn!

As a guide a felt a feeling of great accomplishment on this day. Yes, of course cause we caught two Tarpon and a BlackTip Shark. But even more so because I gave back to some one all the joys they have had fishing the Keys. Convincing the Grandson that Key West is one very special place to fish. Furthermore showing to Grandpa that the fishing in Key West is still spectacular as it was back in the 50?s. This is part of my motive as a guide, to give back to the sport I have grown to love. Keeping in mind that the people who I fish with every day are the ones that make this happen.

If you would like to check out the fishing in Key West, and get back to where it all began give me a call.

Thanks to all my customer, young and old with out you it would not be possible.
Capt. Lenny



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