Archive for Nature and Outdoors

What’s the Weirdest Fish You Ever Caught?

Some Key West fishermen see deep sea fishing as a sort of child’s play meant to be a warm up for the real challenge of hooking a permit or bonefish in the flats.

Not me. I love it.

I’ve battled a marlin and hauled in more than my fair share of 40+ lb. dolphin over the years, but there’s something special about the anticipation of deep dropping your line, waiting for a bite, and not really having any idea about what’s going to come up to the surface when ya reel ‘er in.

Of course most of the time you do recognize your catch…grouper, snapper, amberjack or barracuda. But the deeper and darker the ocean gets, says Captain Rich Houde of Southbound Sport Fishing Charters, the more likely it is something magnificent (or even creepy) will show up on the end of your line!

The good old days of fishing in Key West

The Florida Keys were world famous as a “monster” catching zone long before the days of Facebook and Instagram.

From Goliath Grouper that looked like something out of a Disney cartoon:

jewfish-caught-off-old-key-west

This 360 lb. Goliath Grouper caught in Key West waters a century ago.

To bizarre species like the sawfish:

sawfish caught in Key West

Sawfish like this one are beginning to be caught again in Key West waters.

Sawfish are being caught again – and released since they are a protected species – in Florida Keys waters.

“There’s a reason why Ernest Hemingway kept a home in Key West: to spend his days chasing the marvels that lurked under the dark waters of the sea.”

Often, the strangest fish we catch are sharks.

Even run of the mill sharks have a tendency to carry a bit of an odd air about them. Look at the hammerhead. The most normal looking hammerhead doesn’t really look all that normal at all!

hammerhead

Hammerhead Shark

And there’s nothing quite like looking into the mouth of a big bull shark and seeing all those rows of teeth lined up one after the other.

2 headed bull shark

Photo Credit: Patrick Rice Shark Defense/Florida Keys Community College

Speaking of strange fish and bull sharks, last year a fisherman caught a two-headed bull shark off Key West! Well, to be fair the two-headed beast was actually one of the live fetuses discovered in the womb of a bull shark that died after being caught. But still, that’s pretty crazy and I can’t say that I’ve ever had the honor of catching a two-headed anything.

 

And just last May a shrimping boat pulled a goblin shark out of the Gulf of Mexico. With razor sharp teeth protruding from its fleshy mouth, this sucker’s got to be one of the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen.

goblin shark

Goblin Shark Photo Courtesy of Carl Moore/NOAA

Does Size Matter? Is Bigger really better?

In tournaments, the biggest fish usually wins – and the angler certainly gets a better fight with the larger fish, but for novelty’s sake, sometimes the smallest specimen wins. “We’ve found juvenile sailfish  in the bellies of large dorados,” says Captain Richard Houde of Southbound Sport Fishing. “But this little sail is the smallest we’ve ever caught on the hook.”

How to go about catching a strange fish.

So there’s more to it than just the luck of the draw. Mostly it’s about going deep. And when I say deep I mean all the way to the bottom, out in the Gulf Stream where we usually troll for dolphin or wahoo.

Not a whole lot of fishermen do this kind of deep dropping, mostly because the gear required to do it costs quite a bit of money. An electric reel capable of consistently dropping and hauling up that much line will set you back about three grand!

Of course you can always deep drop the old fashioned way, but most anglers wear out if they do two drops and don’t bring anything up of interest.

But yeah, with an electric reel it’s pretty easy to start hooking some real beauties. Check out the weird bulgy eyes on these guys:

The real prize of the deeps is the snowy grouper, recognized by its white spots that look kind of like snowflakes. Because it lives in cool, clean water the meat of a snowy is quite a bit tastier than any of the other members of the grouper family.

Generally you can tell if you’ve got a snowy on the line before you get the fish up to the boat. Snowy grouper have air bladders that burst from the rapid change in pressure and so you’ll see bubbles rising to the surface as your haul nears the top.

yellowfin tuna gaffed on Dock in Islamorada

Yellowfin Tuna Gaffed on Islamorada Docks
Photo Courtesy of Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau

Don’t have an electric reel? What about a gaff?

Recently in Islamorada a vacationing fisherman did the unthinkable. He caught a 100-pound yellowfin tuna off the dock!

Yellowfin are generally only found in deep waters (800 ft.) well offshore but this guy must have been trying to swim  to the restaurant.

Twenty-two year old Alex Hare gaffed the tuna when he saw him swimming near to the surface next to the dock, but he needed a buddy to help wrangle in the big fish that are pound for pound one of the toughest fighters in the ocean.

Hare’s no beginner when it comes to tuna fishing as he’s previously hauled in yellowfin with rod and reel in the Gulf of Mexico, so he was just about as shocked as anybody to see the stray tuna lounging about in the harbor.

Just as a clarifier here…don’t read this little interesting tidbit as a “how to” guide. Hare’s encounter was a one-off lucky shot and you’ll be waiting a long while if you head to the nearest dock with your gaff and a cooler full of brewskies!

So, what’s the weirdest – or biggest – fish you ever caught?

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!

 

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.

 

Summertime Fun in Colorado!

Boating, hiking, skiing, picnicking and horseback riding and rock climbing are just some of things to enjoy in Colorado. The Colorado national parks have plenty of activities like this and visitors will not be disappointed. Black canyon of the Gunnison national park is about 14 miles and they have 31,000 acre areas. It can be little bit difficult to backcountry entry, because permission is needed. By driving eight miles, you can get the south rim observations points. From Crawford, you can reach north rim. You can get all kinds of details on all activities at the Gunnison visitor location. it includes important programs like houses, park`s history, plants, geology and animals. Food and camping are situated at Gunnison Park to keep your children well rested and to provide some food.

Rocky mountain national park spans most of the space framesets park to grand lake which is the starting of the river system in Colorado. It is open for full day and it let the people to enjoy both in winter and summer activities. You can walk along on the paths by the park and relax in the water. By using some nets you can catch fish or you can grab a horse and have a nice ride. You can also enjoy on skiing on the water or on the snow. When you camp out, you can also consider sleeping under the stars. You can easily see lodge on the site itself when you do not get any feeling such as roughing it.

Looking down on Silverton, Colorado

Looking down on Silverton, Colorado (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)

This national park also extends to the acres of about 265,769 and allows the people more than seventy five peaks to visit and there is a sanctuary also there to give pleasure for the visitors. Mesa Verde Park is about ten miles in southwestern Colorado. More than 4000 sites which includes with 600 cliff dwellings in the park creating the park as the world`s largest archaeological site. The rise of eighty square miles to 2000 feet from the floor of valley. The descendant’s areas are Navajo and Hopi peoples. Actually this park was first established in the year 1906. The nearest airports to this park are in Co, Farmington, Durango and you will require a vehicle to get in to the park. Visitors have to get tickets to visit the park.

The big attractions are more and one day will not be sufficient for the people to enjoy the park. The attractions are Petroglyph Point Trai, Chapin Mesa Museum, Long House Trail, and Balcony House. Echo Park got its name from John Wesley in the year 1869. In this place you can see Yampa River and it joins in the green river. It is the home for bald eagle, razorback sucker, minnow etc. one of the beautiful location of dinosaur national monument is, it is easy going surroundings and uncrowned. You can consider visiting at the time of September and October. It is situated in the northwest Colorado. More than two thirds of the park is in Colorado. So plan your trip carefully because there are lot of things to see and do in Colorado.