18 Nov Partyboat Fall Fishing in the Florida Keys
Walking down the long dock filled with fishing boats of all shapes and sizes, looking in the crystal blue waters of Islamorada. Seeing Tarpon and a baby Nurse Shark swim along scavenging for a discarded fish carcasses, towards the 65 foot fishing boat named “The Capt. Michael”. As I walk closer to the boat, you really see how big the boat is. You see the cabin, which is completely enclosed with five or so windows on each side and two doors left open. As I board the boat, I meet the mates and find a spot to sit and get comfortable as we prepare to disembark. The mates get us all on one side of the boat so that they can count us and so the Captain can speak to us about the boat very briefly and give us safety information. At the end of the meeting we spread out. You hear the Captain yell from up in the wheelhouse, “Let’s go”. We watch the mates untie the thick dock lines, the mate in the back of the boat yells, “First!”. Then again yelling, “Second!”. Both mates in cadence yell, “All Clear!”. Now we are on our way. One mates kindly ask, “If you’ve never been on the boat before; please meet me in the front of the boat.”. As I make my way up to the front of the boat I feel the warm, crisp ocean breeze hit my sunscreen covered face and excitement fills my body as I anticipate the fun I’m about to experience. I listen to the mate go over how to use the fishing rods, basic boat information, and poisonous fish that we may encounter. As we make our way under the bridge we head back to the back of the boat and collect the fishing rods. I go over to a spot that I felt would suffice for 4 hours of fishing and tie up my fishing rod to the rail with the rope they have available. As we get out of the channel I see how clear the water is and I can see the dark coral heads in the shallow waters. We take a short ride out and the boat slows down and makes a large circle around the spot, probably to chum up the water. You can hear the loud clinking of the anchor chain dropping into the water for a brief minute and then it dies out. When the engines shut off I dropped my squid covered hooks and instantly feel nibbles on the line. I reel up the rod calling to one of the mates. He comes over and congratulates me on my catch, a beautiful baby Red Grouper. We released him and a couple other smaller fish at that spot. I was so pleased with the fish I did end up keeping, a couple grunts and a couple mangrove snapper. We moved to a couple other spots and did very well at all of them. A young boy on the other side of the boat caught a small shark that the mates brought around the boat to show us. When the mates gave us our 15 minute warning I felt nostalgic knowing my trip would soon be over. I hear the engines start up and reel up my rod and tie it up to the rail and make my way upstairs for a scenic ride home. As we made our way back into the channel we see a group of Dolphin swim along side of the boat. When we tie back up to the dock, I tip my mates and walked to the end of the dock where we waited to board and receive my fish. The mates generously filleted my fish and bagged them for me and gave me recommendations on where to get it cooked locally. As I make my way over the bridge I glance over at the boat and know I’ll be back again.