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!

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

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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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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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

Transition Fishing here in the Fabulous Lower Keys!!

This is always a strange time of year.  One day the weather is reminiscent of winter and next it’s like the beginnings of summer.  Because of how the weather keeps playing flip-the-lid, it has been an everyday hunt to stay on the fish.  But, with the endless opportunities offered down here in Summerland Key, the fish have kept the fish coming over the rails.  The tarpon have started showing up in decent numbers with 3-5 shots a pretty common occurrence.  The yellowtail are beginning to play well on some of our closer in humps, and while they are chewing up top the grouper and other assorted reef critters are hitting it hard down on the bottom.  When the wind blows the backcountry is still offering good catches of trout, grouper, sharks, and barracudas.  As April progresses the fish will settle into their summertime patterns….which means lots of tarpon, mahi-mahi, mutton and mangrove snappers, and world-class yellowtail fishing.   We are filling up for May already, but there are still some days available. 

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

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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