Archive for May 30, 2014

Adventures on the Deep Sea: What to Expect from an Offshore Fishing Charter

Are you ready for a Key West fishing trip? Here’s what to expect

Many (and I mean many) moons ago when I rocked up for my first Key West deep sea fishing charter trip I must have looked like a total newb. For those of you unfamiliar with contemporary lingo these days, a newb is someone who hasn’t the foggiest notion what they are doing.

At any rate, to get back to my story, not only did I roll in with my tackle box full of bobbers and glow worms, I’d brought along a trout fishing pole that would have snapped in half in an instant should the boat captain not have calmly and politely let me know that I could go ahead and stow my gear back in the car. He said, “Shh, I won’t tell anybody.” Looking back I’m certain that he had a good chuckle with his mates later on at the bar at my expense.

But hey, I was young and inexperienced and it was my first time in the Florida Keys. So, my pain can now be your gain. If you’re a deep sea fishing virgin but want to look like a pro when you get to the boat, here’ s the low down on what to expect from an offshore fishing charter.

It’s an all-you-can-eat gear fest.

Blue Marlin

Blue Marlin Hooked on the Triple Time

Within reason, all that you’ll need to bring with you on the day of your trip is a great attitude, your camera, and perhaps a box of Dramamine. When it comes to tackle, the charter company will have you covered, hook, line, and sinker…and rods and reels, too.

They’ll also provide bait, safety equipment, and the price of your fishing license for the day is covered in the charter fee.

Offshore fishing is different, in particular with regards to the size of the fish you’ll be gunning for. Specialized gear is required to successfully land and haul in a billfish. Tuna, sailfish, dolphin, marlin, or any of the other big game fish that lurk below the deep are stronger than heck and fight like the dickens.

There’s a reason that charter outfits provide you with all the gear. It’s because you’d be hopelessly out of luck with any of that stuff you’ve got stashed away in the garage. Seriously, leave those raspberry floaties at home unless you’re looking to raise some eyebrows!

Don’t be concerned about your lack of experience.

Professional fishing guides get paid to help people catch fish. Sure, experienced anglers will probably catch more than a complete novice, but even if you’ve never gripped on to a fishing rod in your life, the captain and his team can provide all the expertise you need to have an awesome day.

All that being said, expert knowledge is only as useful as you are at listening. Pay attention to the crew, both when it comes to fishing advice and safety protocol.

It could get a little bit bumpy out there.

Offshore fishing means just that…off shore. Without the protection of a sheltered harbor the seas can get rougher than what you are probably used to. If you are prone to sea-sickness take the necessary precautions ahead of time. Even on a large vessel like the Triple Time, a 46’ Bertram – my most recent excursion – rough seas can rock the boat. But rest assured, says Captain Joe Mercurio, a responsible fishing charter won’t go out when there are ‘small craft’ advisories.

Often times the boat will be so many miles offshore that you won’t even be able to see the coastline. Prepare for the sun by packing plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat. Remember, the boat won’t be turning back just because you’re ready to return to dry land. Plan on being out to sea for a long day and you’ll have a lot more fun!

These fish are big…real big.

Clearly you’re not paying good money to go out and try to catch sardines. But if you’ve never been before, you’ve got no idea how different it really is to have a barracuda on the line as opposed to a bass. Deep sea fish are super strong and it’s not uncommon for the fight to last an hour or even longer.

Nice dolphin catch


Once you’ve got a fish on, get ready to buckle down and enjoy the ride. It’s not like lake fishing where you go from bite to net in a couple of minutes.

Finally, prepare to have the time of your life.

Here’s just a little warning I like to doll out to all newcomers to deep sea fishing:

You’ll have so much fun that you’ll soon be an offshore addict!


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Safety Tips for a Safe and Fun Key West Deep Sea Fishing Charter

Vacationers are notorious for checking their brains at the airport and forgetting to pick them up at the luggage carrousel. After all, a holiday should be about daiquiris and sunbathing…not critical thinking!

But while a week away from working your noggin at the office is just what the doctor ordered, you’d better slap that thinking cap back on before heading out on the open seas. Remember, you’ve come to Key West, Florida to shout “Fish on!” and not “Man overboard!”

Into the deep! Respect the power of the ocean.

All jokes aside, deep sea fishing does present a higher level of risk than boating within the relatively safe confines of protected bays and harbors. Ocean waters are susceptible to being more erratic and unpredictable, not to mention a whole lot rougher.

Keep your wits about you and give the sea the full respect that she is due. Two miles off shore is not the time for an “it won’t happen to me” attitude.

Never fish alone.

Outler Limits Underway

The Outer Limits offshore Key West.

Solo fishing excursions aren’t generally a big concern in Key West as most visitors enjoy deep sea fishing with the help of a professional captain and charter service, says Captain Jay Miller, owner of the Outer Limits and the Z, a pair of deep sea fishing yachts docked at the A&B Marina in Key West. But, if you do tow your own boat down, remember that you don’t have extensive experience sailing in these Southernmost waters. If your buddy decides to take the day off, you should, too.

Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.

Don’t blindly trust that every charter boat is kept in tip-top condition. Some skippers definitely take better care of their vessels than others. The decision to traverse rough waters in a boat that’s not seaworthy could end with disastrous consequences.

Don’t be shy when interviewing prospective charter boat captains, ask them what they do to ensure that their boat and engine are kept up to snuff.

Life jackets, flares, and a working radio.

With luck you’ll never need to use any of these items, but a life jacket does you no good sitting on the dock!

Safety equipment should be routinely checked, not just to ensure that it’s in place, but also that it’s operational. After all, what good’s a flare that won’t light? Think about all the potential accidents that could take place on a fishing boat and pack a first aid box that’s kitted out accordingly.

No secret fishing trips!

We know that your wife was hoping to spend the day with you at Hemingway House and lunching at café off Mallory Square, but this is no excuse for sneaking out at 5am down to the docks for a rendezvous with a mystery skipper.

Always make sure that someone on shore knows where you are going and at what time you are expected back. Should things go awry, you’ll want the rescue search to start in the ocean, and not at Sloppy Joe’s!

Speaking of bars…take it easy on the sauce.

It’s hot, you’re on vacation, and that cooler is just begging to be jam packed with brewskies on ice. While there’s nothing wrong with throwing a few back on your fishing trip, it’s important to drink responsibly.

It’s one thing to have one too many and fall down on the sidewalk, it’s a whole other animal to be rumblin’, bumblin’, stumblin’ across the deck of a charter boat! You want to be very aware of where your fingers are when you pull in a hammerhead shark like the one below.

hammerhead shark

Hammerhead shark caught aboard the Outer Limits.

Finally, remember it’s safety first and fishing second.

Any experienced angler knows that it’s easy to let the excitement of fishing overcome safety precautions. In the heat of the moment anxious fishermen have been known to make all kinds of bonehead decisions.

It’s better to let that one be “the one that got away” rather than navigating into rocky outcrops or staying out in dangerous weather because the boat has yet to limit up.


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