Backcountry Fishing Charter Frequently Asked Questions

I offer a variety of charter fishing trips here in Islamorada, Florida and this is rundown of what to expect and what you should know.  In general when we say ‘backcountry’ fishing in Islamorada most people are simply referring to fishing in a smaller boat usually on the gulf side (though not always).  This may include fishing the flats, fishing the gulf, fishing the creeks and canals of the everglades, fishing around island moats, fishing around the bridges and channels near Islamorada, or even fishing the shallow patch reefs on the ocean side.  There are different styles of fishing as well which include use of fly and spin gear.  We often blind cast around structure, trees, wrecks, or holes.  Sometimes we are sight fishing where you’ll actually see the fish and throw to it.  Sometimes we simply put baits out, either live or dead, and sit and wait.  We often use live bait (much of which I catch myself) such as shrimp, pilchards, mullet, crabs, pinfish, ballyhoo, or even stuff that we catch while fishing such as ladyfish.  I have all necessary gear that we will need.  You are welcome to bring your own, however I usually recommend people use mine.  It’s rigged with the proper line and is the right size for fish we will be targeting.  I also trust the knots are tied right and the reels are in good shape.  I’ve had people lose trophy-class fish on their tackle which we put hours into finding due to sticky drags and line that was in bad shape, or worse knots that came untied!  People often ask me ‘When is the best time to come fishing in the Keys?’  Well that all depends and to be quite honest it can be best on any day of the year.  It really depends on the conditions and of course you can’t predict that very well ahead of time and guides such as myself often book up months in advance especially in season.  If you e-mail or call me, I’m happy to give you a run-down of what you may expect to catch during any given time of year.  I can also check tides for you as that plays a big role in how the fishing may be and you can predict those fairly accurately, though to be quite honest I’ve had great fishing at all times of day, on any given tide, and on any given wind direction… so I can steer you towards a day that is more favorable but just because you can’t come that day doesn’t mean things will be good or bad necessarily.  Most of the time I recommend customers to book a full day (8 hours) of fishing if they are serious about it.  We usually depart around 7 AM and are back in around 3 PM, however I may change this depending on tides or conditions.  Many of the areas we fish in the everglades and gulf you can only get to on a full day.  We often run an hour or more, and on a half day (4 hours) you are just very limited in terms of fishing time and being able to move around if things don’t work out on your first or second stop.  You’ll also have the time to fish the low water and the high water, and sometimes fishing may be much better on one or the other.  Now tarpon fishing we can do on a half day since we fish the local bridges and channels and usually have bait ahead of time, so we may be fishing within 15 minutes of leaving the dock.  This also goes for the patch reef fishing as many of these shallow reefs are only a few minutes away as well.  There are some spots on the edge of the gulf and the closer everglades we can fish too on a half day, and I’ll be happy to let you know what I think will be best given the tides, winds, etc…  Of course this may change the day of the trip so I just recommend to be open to suggestion.  Some fishing grounds may not be accessible especially if we have 15-20+ mph winds, however my boat is big and comfortable enough to get you out somewhere and catch something on most any day!  Most backcountry fishing trips are much more ‘hands on’ for the customers, so it helps to have some fishing experience.  You’ll be doing lots of casting most of the time. You’ll need to know how to present your bait or lure to fish.  You’ll need to know how to hook fish.  You’ll need to know how to properly fight your fish and keep ample pressure on it.  You’ll need to be able to maneuver around the boat and keep your line away from the boat/prop/structure that may cut you off.  There are also other things you’ll need to do.  I’m more than happy to give instruction and it’s not really as hard as it sounds, but one thing I recommend is just remain teachable!  I’ll usually fish along side you from time to time, and can show you techniques and subtleties you may overlook.  Now of course we can sometimes make the fishing a little bit easier by changing what we are targeting or allowing me to set baits out on the bottom if you are worried about snagging trees, etc…  We catch a variety of fish here in the florida keys.  Some of them are very easy to catch and even young children can do it who have never fished before.  Others are very difficult that even frustrate someone like myself who fishes 300 days a year!  I generally like to present several options to my guests and try a few different things rather than focus on one thing all day.  For instance, it may be viable to catch some trout, snapper, ladyfish, etc… then maybe fish for redfish while the tide is right, and then try for a big tarpon, shark, or something like this.  It gives anglers a taste of different things, maybe gives them the opportunity to bring some fish back for dinner, and catch a large fish that they’ll likely remember for a long time to come.  If one thing doesn’t work out at least you can go try something else, and there are some days where conditions may just not be good enough for what you want to try to catch.  That being said, fish such as tarpon can be very picky, and it usually takes putting a couple hours in at least to have a decent shot at getting a bite, hooking one, and landing one of these magnificent fish.  Now I have no problem fishing for one thing all day if that’s what you so choose, remember it’s your day on the water and I’ll give a 100% effort on whatever you want to do.  Finally for more serious fisherman I usually recommend only 2 people for a trip.  While I can comfortably take 3 adults, or 4 if their are younger children involved, it does get a bit crowded and is just tougher to fish with more people on the boat.  This is especially true if you are trying to target those ‘tougher to catch’ fish that have a lot of casting involved.  Just something to keep in mind when you are planning your trip, again I’m more than happy to make suggestions.   For 4 adults I always recommend booking another guide, we can usually fish in the same area if you all want to stick together.  As far as food and drinks go just bring what you want for lunch, maybe a snack, and whatever you need to drink.  I recommend water, though a few beers are fine.  I do provide a small cooler with ice so please don’t bring your entire refrigerator.  If you have a lot of stuff please bring your own cooler.  No hard liquor on my boat please.  I always do tell people fishing is something you have to have respect for.  There are lots of things with sharp teeth, sharp hooks flying around, knives cutting things, wild animals, and you are many miles away from anything – so please don’t over indulge and try to pay attention.  I recommend having a good pair of polarized sunglasses, they will allow you to see better in the water as well as protect your eyes from the sun and hooks that may be flying around.  Dress accordingly, most of the time this would be in light pants or shorts, tennis shoes (white sole bottoms, no black please), and a light long sleeve shirt.  I try to protect myself from the sun as much as possible, you are welcome to enjoy it more but just remember you’ll be in it all day long so protect yourself.  It may be chilly or down right cold, so check the time of year and temperatures and make sure to bring jackets or long pants if necessary.  I have some rain jackets on board that you may use, however if it’s forecast to be rainy I recommend bringing your own rain suit.  It’s not often we have torrential rain for the whole day, but rather an occasional passing shower.  You never can know for sure though.  This is about all I can think of right now, please e-mail me or call me if you have any other questions or if your thinking about booking a trip.  I look forward to fishing with you soon!

Capt. Rick Stanczyk