Florida, the Sunshine State, a destination where the sunny skies, warm temperatures and blue seas packed full of fish cannot fail to appeal to the British angler, especially in the midst of a damp and grey UK winter. This was the destination for Rich and I on our latest fishing adventure, seven days of fishing out of Marathon Key, about half way along the 120 mile stretch of the Florida Keys.
The fishing holiday is independently operated by Fish the Dream, owned and operated by Rodney Goodship, a friendly, knowledgeable Englishman with many years of fishing experience under his belt. If you are skilled with operating and navigating a boat, there is the opportunity to book the ‘self-drive’ fishing option. However, we opted for the ‘guided’ option and hired Rodney as our guide and skipper for the week. There were just the two of us fishing, but the boat is suitable for up to four anglers. Rodney prides himself on a flexible holiday where you let him know what you want to fish for and he will work his hardest to put you on the fish. You can also fish for as long or as little as you wish – there are no limits! We handed him our fish Wish List and off we went.
The first day of fishing saw us heading to a wreck on the ‘gulf’ side of the Keys. This is the northerly side of the Keys, shallower water leading up to the Gulf of Mexico. The southerly side of the Keys, the ‘ocean’ side offers plenty of wreck and reef fishing, moving out onto the shelf and deeper water fishing too.
The fishing was fantastic from the moment we dropped anchor at the wreck. I thought I was going to have the first fish of the holiday, but then a Great Barracuda darted up and bit my Blue Runner in half! Rich then had the first holiday fish by promptly hooking up with said Barracuda, who weighed an estimated 25lb when we got it on board for a quick photo, before releasing it back into the blue.
The rest of the day saw us hook up with a spectacular assortment of fish species, most of which we had never caught before: Barracuda, African Pompano, Snapper, Blue Runner, Goliath Grouper, Hogfish, Cobia and a 500lb Hammerhead Shark. I will let the photos speak for themselves. We had ticked most of the fish off our Wish List already, and it was only Day 1!
The Fish the Dream accommodation is a spacious apartment above the Goodship’s waterside Florida home. It has two ensuite bedrooms and a lounge with small kitchenette. There are limited self-catering facilities, however there are plenty of restaurants and bars that are just a short drive or taxi journey away. Most restaurants will even cook and serve your catch for you.
The boat, a 22ft centre console with twin 115hp outboards, is moored on the dock just outside the apartment. Be prepared to help out with tackle preparation and loading. You may not wish to, and would prefer to just walk onto the boat, which is fine but will incur an additional charge of the skipper’s time for prep. The first stop after breakfast is to visit the local tackle shop and replenish tackle supplies and purchase live bait and chum. Next task is to purchase fuel; the boat fuel you use is not included in the basic holiday price, so needs topping up from the local gas station. At the end of a day’s fishing, there are rods to unload, as well as a quick mop down of the boat.
The basic holiday price includes use of the boat, self-catering accommodation, breakfast, use of the variety of rods/reels available and a car hire allowance to book a hire car. Additional charges apply for Rodney as skipper/guide, bait, tackle replenishment, boat fuel and a boat cleaning charge at the end of your stay. For full details, please visit the Fish the Dream website or phone and speak to Rodney Goodship who will give you all the information and pricing. The website also has a blog which contains lots of catch reports and photos to whet your appetite.
Back to the fishing… the winds were unfavourable for us to return to the wreck fishing for the rest of our trip, so we opted to fish on the gulf side, but in shallower water marks that meant it was possible to fish comfortably in winds of up to 30mph. The beauty of the Keys is that there is always a location to fish, no matter what the conditions. On the roughest and windiest day of the week, we headed into an area of mangrove for mini-species and found it was flat-calm there whilst other marks were unfishable.
There are a variety of fishing techniques available to try, or just stick to your favourite; jigging, spinning, popping, fly-fishing, trolling, floats and balloons, kite fishing or ledgering. We enjoyed jigging on the lighter rods whilst we left out some larger baits in the hope of a shark.
One of the most exciting shark catches fell to Rich on the last day, as he brought a 300lb Tiger Shark to the boat. Such a stunning, beautifully marked fish and the final tick off our fish Wish List for the week.
As usual, we kept a tally of our catch totals. We had an outstanding 277 fish between us in just seven days fishing and 33 species. Rich had 143 fish and me 134. If you have been following our 2013 Fishing Adventure, this puts our totals now at me 293 and Rich 300. Rich is back in the lead by seven fish. A close margin, considering the huge number of fish caught!
Loraine “Lolly” Perry