I look forward to this trip every year. Nicky and Craig are my great mates and it’s our annual get together that I have the pleasure of organising, but I don’t think they will argue with me when I say they are not fisherman (?) Craig being a big shooting man and this being his only fishing trip of the year and Nicky is fairly new to the sport, generally fishing out of the Thames estuary 3 or 4 times a year. But this is the Florida Keys and it doesn’t get much better. Always a fantastic place to stay, the people are so welcoming and laid back, the food is great, but most of all, the fishing can be exceptional.
On this occasion, our journey didn’t get of to a great start – 4 miles out of the airport and we are involved in a rear end shunt !! Thankfully, no one was injured and after waiting for the tow truck, then a cab back to the airport to pick up another vehicle and the hour and half drive, we finally arrive at our accommodation for the week, La Jolla on Islamorada. A quick un-pack and we are soon cracking open a cold one and relaxing on the beach in front of our apartment. The anticipation of getting out on the boat tomorrow is obvious, the accident is forgotten and all the talk is fishing, fishing, fishing !!!
Day 1 – With Cat. Rick Stanczyk out of Bud n Mary’s, Islamorada
Arriving at the dock for 06.30 we were greeted with strong winds and the flags crashing loudly against their poles. A quick chat with Rick confirmed the 18mph easterlies, gusting to 35mph, pretty much put paid to any hope of a descent tarpon bite or getting out too far. But as they say, there are plenty more fish in the sea !!
We anchored out in the bay and using small mullet chunks we soon had the first fish at the boat. Nicky getting into the action first with a small black tip shark around 30Ibs. As always out of Bud n Marys, we didn’t have to wait long for the next fish, this time falling to Craig with a modest Jack Crevelle of around 10lb.
Nicky then had another black tip, quickly followed by a bonnet head shark. Craig then had another Jack Crevelle of around the same size. We were less than an hour into it and these guys were smashing it .. and I still hadn’t got off the mark !! But things were about to change …. Suddenly, my reel screamed off, taking line at a rate of knots. Rick quickly released us from the anchor and set in pursuit in the hope it was a big tarpon, but with the classic jump not forthcoming, it soon became clear I had hooked something else. “Stingray” said Rick. Now, I have had some nice UK rays in my time, but this was putting a proper bend in the rod. After an arm aching 10 minutes the fish was released in the water at the boat, estimated at around 45/50lb and a PB stingray for me. A cold one followed and then back to the action.
The next hour produced a bite about every 5 minutes, with black tips, bonnet heads, barracuda, jack crevelle and another stingray of around 35lb (me again !!) before the weather got the better of us and we decided to move on and look for some calmer water and some supper!
Rick suggested going for some mangrove snapper (delicious), so off we headed to one of Rick’s marks and it wasn’t long before the rods were bending. On light tackle, mangrove snapper can be great sport, granted, not the preferred tarpon, but when needs must and conditions dictate … and if you want something for the BBQ on the beach that evening ?? !!!
We must have finished up with 20 mangrove snapper in the afternoon, along with the odd black tip. So even when the day doesn’t go to plan at Islamorada, it’s still a great day !!
Big thanks to Capt Rick. I have fished with him for several years and he always gives you his best and works so hard. See you next year Rick !!!!