There are a multitude of fish to catch when offshore fishing in Islamorada, Florida. This is a rundown of what to expect and what you should know. Offshore fishing generally entails fishing the Atlantic ocean side of the Florida Keys. This includes fishing the reef, the edge of the reef, and way out in the Gulf Stream. We do a lot of live bait fishing which means we often stop in the morning to catch bait that we use throughout the day. Unfortunately many of these baits don’t live well and aren’t as hardy if we try to catch them beforehand, so it is included as part of the trip. We do have some baits we do catch beforehand and ‘pen up’ that we may bring such as pilchards and goggle eyes. Depending on the time of year and what we are targeting, we may run for 20 minutes, or we may run for an hour or more. Generally in the winter time we are fishing the edge of the reef, we are usually no more than 6 miles offshore, though we may run up and down the Keys themselves a few more miles. Sailfish, king mackerel, and cobia are prime targets at this time. On the reef itself there is also yellowtail, mangrove, and mutton snapper, as well as black and red grouper to catch. Fishing for sailfish we often fish with kites and live bait. We usually deploy two fishing kites in the air with 2 rods out on each kite line. We use live bait,which is clipped into a clip. The fishing kites keep the bait away from the boat and right on the surface, making an easy target for a predatory fish! While you can catch just about anything in this manner, sailfish is usually the main target. We also will sight fish for sailfish, either looking for them spraying bait showers while feeding, or actually swimming inside the reef line over the shallower sand and rock bottom. We can see them from the tuna tower this way and cast baits at them. While bottom fishing the reef we usually anchor down and chum heavily, bringing many of the snappers and such up to the boat. We drift light tackle setups in the chum slick for them, and have heavier ‘bottom’ rigs for grouper and mutton snapper. We catch King Mackerel (kingfish) both by trolling live baits as well as drifting. Cobia is generally sight fishing, and they aren’t always around, but we know when and where to look for them. We spot sting rays swimming with schools of cobia behind them, and cast baits such as grunt or pinfish to them with a heavy sinker to get down in front of them. In the summer we often fish dolphin offshore (not flipper, but mahi mahi). We catch them by trolling as well as running around looking for birds, weed lines/patches and debris. The birds follow dolphin and tuna typically to get the bait fish they scare into the air. Weed patches and debris hold bait fish quite often and that’s why the dolphin hang around them too. Wahoo can be caught in this manner as well, however we generally don’t have a very strong wahoo fishery here in the Florida Keys. Blue marlin can also be caught blind trolling, but again this is not really a great place to fish for them either. We do catch a lot of swordfish offshore which can be done year round. This is a specialty trip and usually requires devoting an entire day to it. We won’t get into detail here but we mostly daytime fish for them which means we are deep dropping for them in 1500′ – 2000′ of water. We fish with conventional setups with 80# braided line (Tuf-Line XP) and heavy monofilament leader. We use an environmentally friendly concrete weight that breaks off near the bottom. Our rig is easily IGFA adaptable and is very safe for the fish and any other species you may catch. There are other fish to be caught “deep dropping” (400′ – 700′) about 10-15 miles offshore including tilefish, snowy grouper, rose porgy, yellowedge grouper. These are some of the tastiest fish we catch, and if that’s something your interested in doing feel free to ask about it too. We welcome people to keep what they catch on our offshore fishing charters. The captain and crew can clean and process the fish for you. We don’t offer freezing or shipping services, though we can recommend people in town that do. Most charters will keep enough fish for a few dinners (Many local restaurants will cook your catch for you) and leave some for the boat. Just let Capt. Nick know what your looking to do and he will custom tailor a trip for you. He likes to cater to his customers – if you want to sailfish all day you can do that, want to stop on the reef for an hour for dinner? No problem! The boat provides all required tackle and while your welcome to bring any of your own gear, it is recommended to use ours as it is battle proven and properly rigged for fishing in Islamorada! Generally you’re going to be limited to what you can do on a 1/2 day charter (mostly reef fishing) vs. a Full Day charter. In the winter time you can get away with a half day as we aren’t running way offshore very often that time of year. However in the summer time for dolphin fishing, a full day is required. Many trips we run an hour and a half one way out! In general for serious fisherman, we always recommend a full day as that is going to give you more time. On a half day, fishing in the morning is always recommended as this is when it is easiest to catch bait. We provide large coolers for food and drink with ice, though you must bring your own food and drinks. Light soled tennis shoes are recommend, please avoid any black soled shoes as well as ‘flip flops’ as hooks/leads can be dangerous to uncovered feet. Beer is welcome in cans preferably please no hard alcohol. Also dress accordingly, in the winter time especially it can be cold and the wind is even colder. Remember plenty of sun screen too as your out in the elements. While the boat does have cover, your not going to be fishing underneath it. If you have any other questions feel free to e-mail or call me, looking forward to fishing with you in the near future!
Capt. Nick Stanczyk