Regular readers of this blog, and apparently there are one or two of you, will know that each year around April and May a group of us travel to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, for a weeks back country fishing out from Bud n’ Mary’s Marina. As the dates for this years trip approached, May 9th, I watched the weather patterns affecting The Key’s and local fishing reports with great interest. Due to a very mild winter the main tarpon run had started unseasonably early in February, with excellent sport experienced right through March. April, traditionally the start of the main push of fish in the Middle Keys, saw several unseasonable cold fronts pushing down from the north west, followed by severe storms, both of which impacted severely on the fishing. Luckily by the time we arrived the weather had started to settle down, and the good news was that the fishing was getting back on track.
On the first morning Andrew Leaves and myself fished with Capt. Jeff Beeler, starting our day using live crab at iconic Channel 5, and by 0900 both of us had released a good tarpon. That first day the rest of our crews reported mixed fishing with some boats scoring well on tarpon and sharks, others not doing so well, which the local captains attributed to the crazy weather in the weeks before we arrived. This pattern continued throughout our week but as per usual by the time we headed back up Route One to Miami everyone had experienced a couple of good days, and some outstanding fish were caught.
On another day Andrew and I fished with our old friend Capt. Bill Bassett, who was keen to run us way back to a spot that had been producing an unusually large number of hammerhead sharks, a species he knew I was keen to chalk off my bucket list. During all of the years I have been escorting groups to The Keys only two hammerheads have previously been recorded, so you can imagine I was not overly excited when within the hour I was tight to what clearly was a modest shark.
Thinking it was a lemon, bull, black tip or one of the other more commonly caught sharks, you can imagine my delight when finally a lively little 50lb hammerhead appeared alongside the boat. In total around 8 hammerhead were caught this year, the biggest a monster estimated at 500lb+ caught by Dave Brady. Andrew followed up my success with a decent tiger shark estimated at 400lb, he caught using a Shimano Stella 8000 and four-piece travel popping rod he had brought for tarpon fishing.
On another day I started off well releasing a 120lb tarpon, closely followed by a 250lb bull shark, then a 150lb bull shark, all within the first hour or so of fishing, while Andrew sat back and watched. Then the tide of luck changed, and Andrew started catching. First off was a truly monstrous sawfish that was easily well over 500lb, and this was followed by a couple of bulls similar to mine in the 150-250lb range. Next came a 100lb+ black tip with Andrew finishing an exceptional run of big fish with a 120lb spinner shark; all on his Stella/spinning rod combo.
For the rest of the week Andrew and I concentrated on light tackle sight fishing, with Andrew boating two good bonefish one day, caught casting live prawn to fish cruising in skinny water. Quite a few bonefish were caught by other group members during the week, which is always good to see. On another day a long run back into The Everglades saw me chalk up a release on an 8lb snook on fly. All in all despite less than perfect conditions another decent trip, but we are all thankful we never arrived a week or two early when things would have been really difficult.
All too soon I was dropping the majority of the group off at Miami airport, leaving just Terry Thomas to join me for cold beer at a local Cuban bar, as the next day we were going fishing for something very different in Miami, after which Terry would fly home, Alison, my wife, would arrive, and I’d continue for another couple of weeks of Florida sunshine; full report in the next blog. For information on fishing in the Florida Keys contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717.