End of February Charter Fishing in Summerland Key!!

I had the pleasure of having Derek and Lacey on board for 3 days of fishing and snorkeling in and around Summerland Key located at the mid-point in the beautiful Lower Keys. Our first trip was a half-day afternoon excursion out to Looe Key to sample some of the best snorkeling opportunities in the country! Despite the “chilly” wintertime water(76 degrees), these Oklahoma natives had a great time getting up close and personal with the abundant sea life found in the protected waters of Looe key. After everybody was safely back on board we headed to some good bottom fishing areas and deployed the chum bag. Lacey didn’t even need the chum because her first drop down resulted in a what would have been keeper red grouper had the season been open. The next bait down results in a just undersized black grouper, and then some 16-17″ mutton snapper. By this time the chum slick is rolling and Derek hooks into something with weight and up pops and 8lb mutton snapper!! A few small(but keeper) yellow tails join their mutton cousin in the yeti in between catches of grouper, sharks, and many just too short muttons. About this time the bait fish have found our chum slick so I tell Dereck to cast a Mucho Minnow back there and see what might want to chew. Well, it didn’t take long for a freight train to decide he liked the way that minnow was moving! Something with some shoulders smashed that plug and started heading towards the Tortugas. 3 trips around the boat and some serious up and down fighting later, a 28# jack hits the net. I said it in my last post but I will say it again, these things will put ALL of your tackle to the test!! About this time the sun is setting, the cooler has got some nice eats in it, and Derek was pretty much done after that arm crushing jack, so we headed to the barn.

Monday greeted us with some stiff 20+mph East winds…..not the best for fishing. But, because of the unique waters of the Lower Keys and Summerland Key in particular, there are plenty of secluded, wind protected areas to go have some fun!! We started the day on a flat I like to fish for some toothy barracudas. With tube lures tied on all around we let the wind “drift” us down the flat. First in on the action was Lacey(again) with a large hit followed by that little Penn 2500 reel getting SMOKED!! Several jumps and line screaming runs later, a close to 20lb barracuda hits the net. Now, we don’t usually keep these things, but for today they were going to play a role in the next phase of our fishing so into the cooler it went. Not to be outdone, Derek gets a line screamer of his own and he brings his own cuda on board for a photo op. But, unlike Lacey, Derek decides to lean in for a kiss with his new fishy friend. Lacey wasn’t so much jealous of the kiss as she was worried that he was going to come back without some lips!! But, the relationship between man and cuda took sour turn when Derek released her into the Yeti. After we drifted the same flat twice…..while catching 7 more smaller cudas and losing another full grown model….we headed North in search of bigger game. We posted up on a fishy looking flat and deployed the powerpole. Now is when our cuda friends were going to earn their keep. I butterflied the biggest one and hung him over the side on rope. The smaller one I cut into chunks and added the carcass to the same rope as her bigger brother. Well, it didn’t take long for the sharks to show up. Lacey, yielding her place as the first fish catcher, let Derek throw the first bait out. Well, it took about 30 seconds for a Lemon Shark in the 5′ class to inhale his bait and it was off to the races. For those of you who have never done this kind of fishing I’m here to tell you it’s a blast!! Crystal clear water, big fish, aggressive strikes, and blistering runs will make anybody’s adrenaline kick into overdrive!! After a boatside release of Derek’s Lemon, Lacey put out a bait and was hooked up within seconds. But, unlike Derek’s shark, Lacey’s was a Bull Shark in the 6′ range. Again, blistering runs, 1 jump, and a heart pounding charge at the boat made this type of fishing a highlight of the trip! After a quick boatside photo op, Mr. Bull went back to patrolling the flats. Having caught all the big fish they could handle we went in search of some food for the table. We ran farther into the backcountry and started fishing some deep grass flats. We spent the next 2 hours catching a mixed bag of mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, jacks, ladyfish, and a boat limit of some beautiful trout….all on MirrOlure Lil’ John soft plastics. Derek though couldn’t get away from the sharks and had a real surprise when an 9′ Bull Shark breached on the trout he was fighting. It was too bad about the trout but the show the shark put on was one for the books!! By this time we had done 3 different fisheries and found success at all 3. Again, with a cooler full of good eats and everybody with sore arms, we headed back to the dock with plans to meet for a half day trip the following morning.

The next day greeted us with even worse conditions…..25-30mph winds. With the ocean side not even an option we headed north into the backcountry. First stop was the trout grounds where we caught tons of ladyfish and jacks, but only 2 keeper trout. With a back to the dock time of noon we pushed on to find better fishing. We cleared the last key leading out into the gulf and set up on some rocks in 18′ of water. Fish started quickly coming into the boat with catches of yellow tail, mutton, and lane snappers, red and gag grouper, and grunts. We had fun catching many additions to the cooler over the next hour before the sharks moved in so thick that no bait lasted longer than 10 seconds without one of those toothy critters picking it up. With the day coming to an end we made one pass by the cuda flats from the day before, and with 3 bites and no takers, we called it quits.

In 1 full day of fishing and 2 half day trips we fished 5 different fisheries and got to do some world class snorkeling. People ask me why I moved down here and this post says it all!!

Until next time….Tight Lines!

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Winter Time Fishing in Summerland Key!! January 2017

Well, we finally completed the move down here to Summerland Key during the first week of January.  For those of you who don’t know Summerland is located equal distance(about 30mins) from both Marathon Key and Key West.   Being centrally located in the Lower Keys, Summerland is one of the fishiest places I’ve ever had the pleasure of casting a line!   I can be in blue water 6 miles from my dock or I can be in the backcountry in half of that.   Having the choices that we have here allows for a wide range of fishing opportunities….as you will see from the pictures!

One of the best things about this area is the variety you can encounter on any given day.  Have calm winds?  Head out to the Atlantic side to fish the reef for an assortment of groupers and snappers, king mackerel, and various members of the tuna family.  Winds are howling?  Head to the backcountry for trout, mangrove snapper, mackerel, sharks, and Barracuda. 

I’m just going to walk you through one particular day we had about a week ago.  I was busy that morning so the only option we had was a quick afternoon trip.  My buddy Danilo met me at my dock around 3pm and we headed out to the reef to take advantage of the nice weather and calm seas.  Because we didn’t have much time we elected to stay shallow and fish structure in Hawks channel.  We picked a spot that I had marked but never fished before and set out a chum block.   We gave it a minute for the chum to start working and then started sending baits back in the slick.  Armed with a well full of pinfish and a cooler full of various dead bait we were prepared for anything.  One of Danilo’s first baits back was quickly inhaled by a nice quality Mutton Snapper.  Dinner mission accomplished!!  After that was some keeper, albeit small, mangrove snapper.  Then a good thump on a live pinfish turns into a serious tug of war with a keeper, albeit out of season, black grouper.   A couple more just undersized mutton snappers hit the deck along with a 4′ moray eel that couldn’t resist my pinfish on a knocker rig.  Then we started getting cut off….almost as soon as the baits hit the water.  Curious as to what toothy critter was out there eating our gear, I threw a Guides Secret Mucho Minnow on my 5000 series Penn Battle II and casted it back into the slick.  I engage the reel and almost had the rod yanked out of my hand in the same instant!!  A few minutes and one lap around the boat later a 20lb king hits the gaff.  After that it was nothing but pandemonium on the Triton as cast after cast resulted in 20lb schoolie kings on the Mucho.  We quickly caught our limit and, with a box full of goodies and the sun setting, we headed back to the dock.  Total time from pulling away and pulling back into the dock was under 3 hours.  Got to love wintertime fishing in the Florida Keys!!

Until next time….Tight Lines!!

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