Snappers are Snappin’ in Summerland Key!!

I love this time of year!! There is lobster diving during the day and tons of snapper in the evening. It’s too hot?? No problem. Spend your day in the water….or go out fishing when the sun goes down. Need to fish in the daytime? No problem. You can fill a cooler by 10am and finish your day by taking a dip in the pristine waters off of Looe Key or one of the other Maritime parks we have located near us in the Lower Keys. No matter what time of trip you want you have some goodies to choose from here in the world famous Lower Florida Keys!!

On one recent trip we did a split trip option…..which is where we go out for a half day trip, come back to the dock and the customers get a chance to go get a bite and/or a nap and shower, and then we meet up later to head back out for some more fun!! We started off taking advantage of the incoming tide to go lobster hunting on the Gulf side of the Keys. We arrived to the grounds to find a lot of boats(it is opening week so we kind of expected that) but some openings that we could see. We started out drifting over some nice ledgy areas, but with the heavy fishing pressure over the previous several days, the pickings were slim. We ended up catching about 30 lobster or so but only a handful were keepers. Oh well. Everybody had a great time and there was enough lobster to make a couple of meals for my crew. We got back to the dock about 1pm and the decision was made to meet back up at 6pm for an afternoon/evening snapper trip.

6pm arrives and we load our stuff into the Triton and point our nose South East towards the snapper grounds. Armed with a well full of beautiful pinfish, a cooler full of ballyhoo and chum blocks, we were ready to catch some fish!! We arrive at the first area and it’s looking good. We set up, deploy a chum bag, and start drifting lines back in as natural a presentation as possible. It didn’t take long for us to start to catch fish, but they were mostly small Yellow Tail Snapper. Some were legal, but you can’t get much meat off of a 12″ fish. So as the sun was setting we made a move to another area I like about 2 miles away. Again we show up, again it looks fishy, and again we set up and deploy a chum bag. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that we made a good decision to move because the chum slick is full of juvenile mangrove snapper. Our goal was to try and target the larger snapper holding under the smaller fish so we loaded up the 5000 series gear and started floating back live baits towards the waiting fish. We started getting bit almost instantly and it was nonstop catching for the next 2hrs. We didn’t slaughter them, but we had a solid 2lb average on the Mangroves with a few nice fish that ran us into the rocks. We fished until we ran out of livies and then headed to the barn. All in all it was a great day with a great crew and plenty of groceries to go around. Did I mention I love this time of year in the Lower Keys?!?

Until next time, Tight Lines!

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Wreck fishing leads to wrecking some fish dip!! July 2017

Consolation prizes. Rarely is there a time when your second place prize is quite possibly better than the first place trophy you were looking for. But when it is, it makes an impression.

Most of the time when my Triton leaves the canal the objective is fresh fish. How we target it, and what kind of fresh fish we get, often varies from day to day. But there are some days when all of your primary objectives don’t go so well. And on days like those I am very thankful that I live in an area of this country with so many awesome angling options.

One such day arrived when we were offshore targeting mahi-mahi. We really put the time in that day but only had a few fish to show for it. And, by the time we were ready to throw in the towel, the clock wasn’t our friend. We briefly discussed the options we had and decided hard pulling fish were on the menu. After a quick check on the gps to see where we were, we made the run to a close by wreck in 235 feet of water. We show up and the screen is lit up and we start dropping jigs down towards the bottom. On the first drop we had a double hookup. One fish gets eaten(lots of sharks on those wrecks) but the other comes boat side and into the cooler. Our target was amberjacks but this happened to be it’s better tasting cousin the Almaco Jack!! We repeat this process over the next 90mins or so and had a blast! We ended up with a boat limit of fish as well as making sure that no sharks on that wreck went hungry for the day. After a comfortable run back home it was time for some fish cleaning.

I explained to my guys that while a lot of people like to eat jacks fresh, my favorite way by far is to smoke it and make some dip. And, because they were all locals, I said that I would smoke it for them and they could just come pick it up when I finished. Of course, I was going to get a taste as well because, lets be honest, smoked fish is one of my favorite things in this world. So after I finished processing the filets, I whipped up a batch of brine(recipe below) and let the fish soak overnight. The next day when I woke up I pulled the fish out of the brine and set it out on cookie drying racks. I let it sit there until the surface of the fish no longer looked wet but had a shiny look to it. That lets me know that salt is forming a barrier that will keep the moisture of the fish from escaping during the smoking process. This takes 2hrs give or take, and once the fish was ready, I fired up the smoker.

I use a large barrel smoker which I’ve owned longer than I’ve been married. It may not be the prettiest thing but it sure does make some fine tasting fish!! I arranged the brined jack out on the grates and close the lid down on it. Now with my smoker I need to add charcoal about every 90mins. I like to do my smoking low and slow, 250 degrees or so. This makes my fish just how I like it…..slightly drier and kinda crispy on the edges. But it takes a while…..4hrs plus a while. But it’s well worth it in my opinion. After the fish looks how I want it to, I pull it off and let it cool on the same drying racks as before. And, once it’s cooled down, its my wifes turn to work her magic. She takes a whole list of ingredients(again, see below) and a ton of my fish…..well more than half of the dip is fish…..and she adds it to the kitchenaid mixer in big pieces. I like my dip chunky, but if you like it smoother then you can add all these ingredients to a food processer. Either way, it’s the closest thing to heaven on Ritz cracker that I’ve ever found!! Top it off with some diced jalapenos and banana peppers and it’ll make you call your neighbors over just to share in your happiness. I hope you all enjoy it too!! Not bad for a consolation prize, huh?

Until next time, Tight Lines!!

Brine:

1 Beer(I prefer something tasty like a lager or a stout)
1 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup Lemon Juice
2 cups Brown Sugar
1 cup Salt(not sea salt or rock salt)
1 tbs Black Pepper
1 tbs Onion Powder
1 tbs Garlic Powder
1 tbs Parsley Flakes
2 tbs Red Pepper Flakes

Fish Dip Recipe

4oz Cream Cheese
1 Jalapeno(seeds and ribs removed)
1/2 chopped Red Onion
1 Lime(Juiced)
1 tbs Old Bay Seasoning
1 tbs Parsley Flakes
1/4 cup mayo
Salt and Pepper to taste

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Snorkeling the Lower Keys!! – July 2017

When the dog days of summer get here, there is nothing like getting cooled off in the crystal clear waters of the Lower Keys. Summerland Key in particular has some world class snorkeling opportunities. Even on the days when it’s a little rougher there are still some quality spots to get up close and personal with some of the most gorgeous sea life that can be found anywhere. This particular video was filmed on a day when it was blowing pretty good and the waves were considerable once we tried to push offshore. So, like I said, even our backup plans down here are world class. This video was filmed on a shallow water coral head in 4-12′ of water. If you look closely you can see how the waves are pushing the sea fans back in forth and how the waters are semi-murky because of the stirred up bottom. But I’ll let you be the judge of how nice it is.

Here at Final Point Charters we offer snorkeling trips by themselves or as part of a split day trip where you start out fishing and then end the day with a dip in the pristine waters off of our coast. We also offer lobster trips to the back country. And, as always, all gear is provided!

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End of June Fishing Summerland Key Style!!

The past week has been a great time fishing here in the lower keys. We had several days of good spear fishing(and lobster scouting too for that matter) as well as some stellar days offshore. I want to tell you the story of a quick afternoon/night trip that we did the other evening.

The day started out by meeting at the dock at 5pm. With some of our guests showing up a little later than expected, we didn’t leave the dock until 5:45ish. The first stop was to fish the pinfish traps, and armed with a livewell full of assorted sizes of live baits, we pointed the nose of the Triton towards open waters. Our first stop was a spot just off of the reef in 75′ of water. The bottom looked really nice so we set up and deployed the chum bag. It didn’t take long before nice sized yellowtails started coming in over the rails and the yeti started looking respectable. We stayed there for another hour, but with a slow bottom bite and the yellowtails getting smaller, we made a move to another spot I had about a 1/2 mile to the east. I pulled up and started marking good fish so we repeated the setup process. But, after the chum started working, I realized that the fish that I had been marking were hundreds and hundreds of undersized yellowtails. So, just as the sun was setting, we pushed off to the north about 300yds into a spot I like in 75′. This last moved proved to be a good one!

Over the next 2hrs we lost our share of solid fish, including a few to the sharks, but we landed some really nice ones too. The highlights were rock hind, several solid mangrove snappers, and a really nice mutton that came on the lightest rod on the boat! We were drifting live and/or dead baits down into the slick and picked our way towards a really nice box of fish. There is something very cool about catching big, hard-pulling fish on relatively light tackle! We gave it up when the wind started picking up a little and ended our night with a comfortable cruise back into Summerland Key. The end result was 9 bags of filets in 4hrs of fishing!! Not to bad for a 1/2 day trip. Until next time, Tight Lines!

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Starting June off with a Bang!!

Fishing has been nothing short of spectacular here in the Lower keys for the first 2 weeks of June. Some of the biggest Yellow Tail I’ve ever seen have been coming over the rails of the Triton along with many other species of fish. When the conditions allow and we can get offshore, the mahi bite has been really nice. As the month wears on(after this weather passes us by), continued offshore catches of mahi and reef catches of Yellow Tail and mangrove snappers will make certain that the rods stay bent on bayboat. Oh, and in between all of the fish catching there has been plenty of fish watching on our split day fishing/snorkeling trips that we offer. I hope you enjoy the pics and until next time Tight Lines

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Back Country Underwater Exploring in Summerland Key-May 2017

With the weather heating up down here in the Lower Keys the water is starting to look more and more inviting.  With so many options to jump in and get wet, we decided to head out back to the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  We picked some areas that I had fished before but never dove and, after gearing up, jumped in to have a look around.  What we saw was that the area was beautiful beyond imagination and that it was absolutely teeming with life.  But that is just my assessment…..you be the judge. 

I offer these kind of snorkeling trips as a snorkeling only trip, or as part of a split day trip where we fish for part of the trip and then end our day in the clear cool waters of Summerland Key.  So until next time, Tight Lines!!

 

 

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Groupers and Snappers Here in Summerland Key!! May 2017

May brought with it a pleasant change.  Not only did the weather man finally decide to play nice but grouper season opened up as well….and we have been taking full advantage of both of these provisions!  Most of my trips over the last couple of weeks have involved reef fishing for both snapper and groupers and we’ve been coming back with full coolers, sore arms, and smiling faces!! 

One such trip recently involved a family of 4 who used to fish with me up in Sebastian.  Deb, Jeff, Sam, and Will made the trip south to test out the beautiful waters here in Summerland Key.  We met at my dock at 630am and started our day by fishing my pinfish traps for a pile full of fresh baits.  With the livewell filled we pointed the nose of the Triton SW in search of a hump I had been fishing in 70′ for the previous week.  We get there and set up anchor after marking some nice fish.  I deployed 2 chum bags and we settled in to wait for the fish to come into our slick.  Well, it didn’t take long when we started seeing yellow tail snapper darting here and there gobbling up our chum pieces.  We put 2 anglers on the drift rods in the back and 2 anglers in the front on heavier tackle aiming at grouper.  We didn’t have to wait long until yellow tailed gold started making its way into the cooler!!

We cycled through anglers so everybody had a chance to catch some of the hard fighting yellowtail off of the stern while we were waiting for the big bite on the other rods.  Well, it so happened that Will had the honor of holding the big stick when it bends double!!  With a little bit of coaching he made short work of the big fish and a roughly 20lb black grouper joined his yellow tailed cousins in the box!  We stayed there for a little while longer but by this time the sharks had showed up and were getting more of our catch than we were.   So it was off to greener pastures. 

We made a quick stop at a wreck and started deploying vertical jigs in the hopes of inviting a blackfin home for dinner.  The first jig down gets hammered and I think were on the fish but up pops Mr. Blackfins not-so-popular cousin the Bonito.  While they are great fights they are not great eats so into the cooler he went to become bait later on.  The next bait and the next jig down resulted in the same thing…..an almost instant hookup and an equally quick shark attack.  There isn’t much fun in feeding all of your tackle and your fish to the Tax Man so we pointed the nose of the Triton towards bluer waters.  With a 6 mile run to the deep drop spots we deployed a trolling spread with different color skirts and started the troll to our next destination.  It didn’t take us too long to locate a nice weed line in a little over 300 feet and we turned to follow it.  Almost as soon as the lines came straight the port longline starts screaming and a good sized cow starts putting on an aerial display!!  Jeff grabs the rod for what would have been his best Mahi to date and starts working the fish to the boat.  Well, Jeff did everything right but it just wasn’t meant to be because after getting the fish into gaff range it ran under the boat, jumped, and gave us our lure back.  Oh well, that’s why it’s called fishing. 

This marked the end of our good fishing for the day because when we reached the deep drop area the current was ripping!!  We had a drift of almost 3mph and even with 6lbs of lead we couldn’t hold bottom.  We gave it the old college try but couldn’t get it done so we went back to trolling.  We trolled in depths from 600-250 and only had one short-strike to show for it.  But, with a cooler full of eats we headed back to the barn!!  It was definitely another great day on the gorgeous waters of the Lower Keys!!

Until next time, Tight Lines!!

 

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Charter fishing Florida Keys with Captain Ryan Dean, Sebastian Inlet, full grown, trout, Triton, Penn, giant fish, best fishing, best fishing charter, Summerland Key, Lower Keys, Cudjoe Key, Key West, Keys Fishing, Triton, Penn, Giant Fish, Fishing Charter, Best Charter in the Keys, Capt. Ryan Dean, Final Point Charters, Full Grown, Sore Arms, Charter fishing the Keys, memmorystix rods, mirrolure, lil john, guides secret

Lower Keys Reef Fishing at it’s Finest!! 5/2-5/6

It’s been a busy week here despite the busted weather.  Something is wrong when you get excited about 15knt winds and 3-4′ seas.  But, that’s just the way it roles sometimes.  Had several trips this past week but I’m going to run you through one of our days on the beautiful waters here in Summerland Key.

The day started out with George and LeeAnn meeting me here at the dock at the crack of dawn and by safe light we were motoring out of my canal.  After a quick stop to unload one of my pinfish traps we were heading towards open water.  Well, let me tell you that the forcasted 10knt wind and 2-3′ was a little off.  We were greated with 4-5’s and a gusty 20knt NW wind.  But, with some hearty souls on board, we made our way out(albeit slowly) to the reef.  First pass over the reef had us marking good fish.  We drifted once to see how the boat was going to track and then we ran back above the reef and dropped the hook.  First time was the charm because when the boat nosed up into the current we were only 30′ or so from our mark.  I shut the motor off and got out the chum bags.

Whenever I go out reef fishing down here I take at least 4 blocks of chum.  Chum is the life blood of reef fishing here in the Lower Keys and you can never have too much of it.  I always start with 2 blocks out and maybe even toss in some oats as well…..this gets the fishing going right off the bat!!  Toss in a few majua as sprinkle baits and the big fish aren’t far behind. 

After giving the chum a few minutes to work we started freelining baits back into the slick using 3000 series Penn Clashes paired to Memory Stix 773’s.  Add in 20lb power pro spliced to 20lb floro and you have a stick that can handle even the biggest flags.  And flags we found!!  We started catching 18+” yellowtails on our very first baits.  First LeeAnn gets a solid fish and then George joins the party.  LeeAnn then gets the next 3 fish while George missed a fish or 2.  And then, the problems showed up.  Remoras, sharks, file fish…..all kinds of bait and fish stealers!!  This made it a challenge but they stuck with it and kept a steady stream of fish coming over the rails of the Triton.  At one point, when the yellow tailing slowed down, George dropped a big live bait to the bottom.  Well, that bait never had a chance because as soon as it got near the reef a solid 33″ black grouper inhaled it.  A short fight later and into the cooler he goes.  Then those sharks really start kicking in.  Next grouper up gets eaten.  Then George looses a nice yellowtail to a shark.  LeeAnn, not to be outdone, loses 2 or 3 fish herself to the man in the grey suit.  All in all we ended up feeding the sharks 4 grouper and several nice yellowtail.  Oh well, that’s the price you pay somedays. 

With sore shoulders and full coolers to go around, we pulled lines and headed to calmer waters to do some snorkeling.  We stopped in the protected waters off of Little Palm Island and LeeAnn and George had a great time watching groupers, snappers, angel fish, parrot fish, and other assorted critters swimming around the coral heads.  It was a great way to cap off an awesome day!!  We were back to the dock by 1.  Now that is a solid 3/4 day trip in my opinion!

Until next time, Tight Lines!

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Snapper Taste off–So many options to choose from!

There are bad problems to have and there are good problems to have.  Here in Summerland Key we are full up with good problems!  To go catch grouper or Tarpon?  To fish backcountry or ocean?  To go catch stone crab or lobster?  All kinds of problems!!  And, one of the ones that we encountered yesterday is which snapper tastes the best.  Armed with a bag full of filets from a recent outing I decided to put that question to rest.  I cooked one filet each of mutton, yellowtail, and lane snappers.  I cooked them all the same way and all were caught on the same day.  I did a blind taste testing for my wife to see if she picked the same kind I did.   And the results were…..inconclusive.  I chose the mutton snapper while she picked the lane.  I guess you’re just going to have to come down here and try them all for yourselves!! 

Oh, and dog was no help.  He liked them all!

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road all the way to the Lower Keys!!

Well, I had the day off today so I gave a call to Capt. Marcus of Hot Rod Charters up in Big Pine and we headed out to the reef to enjoy guides day off.  First spot was a nice area of the reef where I had caught good grouper at before.  There was a little life down on the rocks so we set out the anchor and started chumming.  The goal for the day was to scout some ground for the opening day of grouper season on May 1st.  Well, after an hour on that spot with only a handful of Bonitas and 1 yellowtail to show for our trouble, we decided to make a move. 

We crossed the reef again and headed back into Hawks channel to see if the coral heads were still holding the grouper they were last week.  But, with zero current and gin clear water, the bite was extremely tough.   We strung together a decent stringer of small fish and picked up and headed back out deeper. 

My goal had been to scout a few spots I had, but with the weather finally being nice, there were a lot of other boats out there today.   And, not wanting to crowd anybody, we ended up fishing in the same general area we had started the day in.  Again…..we set the anchor.  Again…..the reef looked good.  Again….we put out the chum block.  But, this time, we flat filled the boat with Yellow Tail with an 18″ average.  You see, when the snapper come up to the top the way they did today, we call it “the yellow brick road”.  There is no sweeter sight in the Keys! We added a nice grey trigger, a couple more bonita, broke off what I think were 2 grouper(I’ll be back for you!!), and even fed a few to a very aggressive bull shark that decided our boat resembled a buffet line. 

We ended the day by checking out some shallow areas that will be hotspots as the mangrove snappers make their move offshore for the spawn.  But, the fish weren’t there yet.  After catching 3 grunts we called it a day.  And, even with all of that, we still hit the dock before noon.  We both had a nice cold beer while cleaning fish and we went our separate ways with 2 bags of some of the finest eating on the planet.  Not too bad for an impromptu trip with a  buddy!!  You have got to love Summerland Key this time of year….and it’s only going to get better over the next 3 months! 

Until next time, tight lines!!

 

 

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Charter fishing Florida Keys with Captain Ryan Dean, Sebastian Inlet, full grown, trout, Triton, Penn, giant fish, best fishing, best fishing charter, Summerland Key, Lower Keys, Cudjoe Key, Key West, Keys Fishing, Triton, Penn, Giant Fish, Fishing Charter, Best Charter in the Keys, Capt. Ryan Dean, Final Point Charters, Full Grown, Sore Arms, Charter fishing the Keys, memmorystix rods, mirrolure, lil john, guides secret