APtravelnews-Sept. 4th, Tavernier, The Florida Keys–From all corners of the earth, tourist- visitors make pilgrimages to the Florida Keys to fish, and it’s no wonder, with hundreds of fish varieties in Florida waters, most of which are caught in the waters between Miami and the 150-miles down to Key West. According to the writings of Zane Grey, a fabulous outdoor writer, and world famous angler, the waters between Indian Key and Bahia Honda Harbor were the very best in the world (as he wrote in the 1920’s). So, along with locals, international visitors and Americans from all over the U.S.A. who come to duel with offshore fish such as swordfish, marlin, sailfish, mackerel, tuna, wahoo, dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi), and a large assortment of other deep -sea fishes the Keys is most noted for, it stands to reason that the real magnet, drawing all to these “boney” islands, are these underwater finned residents of the Keys! Ask anyone about the Florida Keys, most responses would be about fishing, Key Lime pie-sort of the “apple pie & mom” of South Florida’s special nature, is what is thought of first.
Inshore, there is an entire hierarchy of fish-royalty, from the mach-speed bonefish, tarpon, permit, the triage of the perfecta, to the snook, seatrout, red drum, and mangrove snapper, that today, as in the past hundred years attract anglers to both shore, and even kayak-fish, as well as being able to hire fishing guides and their skiffs, in pursuit of these fish for picture-trophy, and the plate as well. Today, with 43-bridges that connect each of the Keys Islands bridge fishing is also a great draw for anglers without boats, to bring their families and friends to go out to sea without ever getting their sneakers wet and still catch fish too!
There are legendary guides who were favorites of the rich, famous and anyone who can plunk down some dollars. One such truly amazing individual now gone: Captain Bob Lewis, Captain of the sportfishing boat the Chief, that belonged to Knight of Knight Ridder of Miami Herald, and worldwide newspaper fame. Captain Lewis is also credited with bringing the fishing kite, that he made into a popular offshore fishing tool.. And as Florida Keys Fishing Editor for that same paper, I kept up with Ted Williams and George Bush in their Keys angling exploits-these were people who could go anywhere in the world to fish, but chose to spend most of their time, as did Writer Zane Grey (as did President Harry Truman and other presidents down through history) fishing in the Florida Keys. Ted Williams told me personally and he is quoted in past publications that his very favorite saltwater fish to tangle with was the “Silver King”-the Tarpon. This is nothing new, as the tarpon was the quarry in the 1800’s that brought French Counts, business magnates, and erstwhile anglers from all over the world to attempt to catch this powerful fish on rod and reel. In the past, reels were bereft of great drags, more often than not lines parted company with these boney mouthed, extremely powerful fish just due to breaking lines, lines sliced due to barnacles, and pulled hooks due mainly to the fact that this big fish was just too fast, and too strong to be held and brought to the boat, or shore due to anglers not able to control their reels and line fast enough and deftly enough to assist in subduing this great beast of the inshore waters. The main reason this fish was easily fished for as they swim in relatively shallow waters, and are, and were accessible, compared to having to go well offshore for the truly big girls and boys: the marlin and swordfish.
So, If there was one fish that sparked the imagination of anglers eager to fish the Florida Keys, it is the tarpon. Anyone before, modern times and since, that tangles with a 100-pounder and up sized fish, is often heard saying, “ I don’t know if I can hang on any more” maybe you should take the rod.” So head over to a Keys marina, inquire of who is the best guide, and try out some strenuous exercise of the “raging-fun-kind.”