I've been to Florida a few times now, as well as other coastal locales, but this is the first time I've been able to take a charter out. To any fisherpeople out there, I cannot recommend taking one of these trips enough.
I did extensive looking online to find an affordable, accessible, and interesting charter, but ended up booking from a flyer my mother found in an ice cream shop. Long Key Fishing Charters is an entirely independent operation run by Captain Mike Patterson. I called him on tuesday, and we set up an early morning 4 hour trip for the next day.
At 7AM Wednesday on vacation, which I am still in shock about doing to myself, my dad, grandfather and I loaded into the car and started the hour drive to Long Key from where we were staying. After about 10 minutes on the road, we got a call saying the winds were too high for fishing, and we'd have to postpone till the next day, so we turned around and went straight back to sleep.
Next morning, we repeated the exercise in much lower winds, and met Capt. Mike on the dock, where he asked us if instead of going straight for the food fish (we were on strict orders from the rest of the family to catch dinner) we might want to start with some sharking. Having never caught anything larger than a brown trout, this appealed to me. We were underway in less than ten minutes, and were on location for shark fishing fairly quickly. On the trip out, we had taken the time to lay a scent trail up current from us with menhaden oil, and chummed the water at location.
In accordance with the fishing idea that you can't catch fish without lines in the water, immediately after casting ancor, we had two lines out, each with a large steak of ladyfish on the end. Within 5 minutes, before the Captain had even finished setting up for the wait, we had a shark on the line, a 3-4 foot nurse shark. I had the pleasure of bringing this one in, and let me tell you, even on a heavy duty ocean sharking reel, those fish are powerful.
Between the three of us, we caught one more nurse shark and 2 lemon sharks. We also saw about a 7 foot shark, either a bull or lemon, go over the bank nearby in the classic dorsal and tail fins sticking out of the water motion, but were unfortunately unable to entice him to bite.
We moved on to the food fish next, drifting along for a couple miles over trout and snapper beds. By the end of our four hour trip, we had a respectable catch, but Capt. Mike kept us out another two hours, at which point we had ten large speckled trout and three snapper, having caught a couple reef sharks and several fish too small to keep. We returned to dock and the captain cleaned, filleted, skinned and deboned all the fish. We didn't end up leaving until almost 4:00, 4 hours past when I had expected to be done, and past the time we paid for.
Let me tell you, fresh caught sea trout is delicious.
Overall, it was a really great day, and Capt Mike was a great guide the entire day, and overall a nice guy. If you're ever in the Keys looking to do some fishing, I recommend Long Key Fishing Charters.