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Kids love flats fishing in Key West, Florida

Report Date: January 2, 2014

Kids Love Flats Fishing in Key West, Florida

Can't remember what it was like to fish for the first time?

Take a kid fishing.

Christmas Eve day, I was guiding a long time customer and his two kids. This was their first time to Key West and fishing on the flats sight fish. The boy age seven, and the daughter age twelve, both have boating and fresh water fishing experience.

The plan was to go tarpon fishing. We had or have had several days of This calm warm weather. lasted a maximum of 8 minutes, as you can imagine it would with a couple of young kids on board.

Upon arrival to the spot there was not a breath of air. The world was dead calm, just the faint cries from a pair of ospreys and a few loud explosions of water erupting from baitfish being slashed upon by jacks or a barracuda. Myself now fixed atop my poling platform with push pole in hand, gingerly moving down the edge of the deep channel.

This calm lasted a maximum of 8 minutes, as you can imagine it would with a couple of young kids on board. Bob and myself trying to keeps the kids amused, telling the kids what to look for while tarpon fishing. Pointing out the miscellaneous baitfish activity.

Scanning the area, I noticed a twig or a stick which happened to be bobbin just about two or 3 inches above the surface of the water. Then just a mere 10 feet beyond that stick was another stick......and yet another one beyond that. Now realizing these were not sticks, but in fact it was a large school of permit floating just below the surface. I would guess a school of 25 fish or more. This being on the conservative edge.

Now we needed to address who would be first and what the plan or the approach would be. Having a live crab rigged up on a spin pole, the coin was tossed and the boy won. He would get first try at it. After three cast he accidentally got the crab close enough. Trying to keep him calm while this was happening was no small task. Of course for anyone even a seasoned veteran flats fisherman would get a bit weak in the knees casting to a permit.

Using a circle hook makes the next step simple. When the line comes tight then raise the rod and hang on. The fish ate and it was off to the races. At this point Bob did have to assist. The excitement was overflowing and these fish pull hard.

So after about 20 minutes with some assistance the boy had caught his first
permit.



As soon as we hooked the fish I drifted away from the large school of permit in hope of not spooking them.

Easing the trolling motor down into the water, I proceeded back toward the original location of the school. At this point I'm amazed the school was not spooked by the screaming which followed the permit capture.

Easing down the edge of the flat, I located the school again. The permit, still lazily floating just below the surface, watching for crabs drifting past in the current.

The approach was the same. Get close to the fish and launch a live crab attached to a circle hook into the school and hope to feed one.

The girl was up on deck. Ready and waiting for the signal.

Just a few more yard and I want you to launch that crab as far as you can.

Ready? Set. Go!

She made the cast. The crab landed just outside the school. Not perfect but close enough, as we notice a fish swimming over toward the crab.

Remember what your brother did? After the permit eats just wait for the line to come tight and raise the rod.

Boom - fish on!

Much screams of laughter filling the air now as we cheered her onto victory. She required less assistance from her dad. But that being said this added reached down into the water and tailed the fish, plucking it from the water. A few snaps with cameras and we released the fish unharmed.

We never did see a tarpon. Yet we did accomplish several things.

1) One very proud father.
2) One very grateful guide.
3) Two very happy kids.

I think about these events and it reminds me of a time many years ago. A time when I stood on the bow with shaky knees trying to make my first cast at a permit.

I spent many Christmas breaks down here as a kid with my family.

When the weather is good, the winter fishery in the lower Florida key can produce a great abundance of fish. Permit, tarpon, bonefish, barracuda, shark...

Hands down some of the greatest flats fishing in the world.

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Capt. Lenny Leonard
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Email: heylenny@bellsouth.net

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