I still can’t believe I did it. I left a wide open tuna bite to go find some other fish. That’s how good the fishing was with Capt Ted Lund in Key West, Florida. My wife, Sonya, has been wanting to get down to Key West during one of our trips to Florida but time and family seemed to always trump a side trip down to the Keys. This year however we decided to make it a two week trip and get down to the southernmost city in the continental U. S. The only question I had was, who was I going to fish with? Luckily I ran across a fishing the keys article in my Florida Sportsman. Capt Ted was quoted talking about blackfin tuna and the great mixed bag opportunities this time of year. I gave Capt Ted a call and a month later I was committing what many consider a sin, leaving aggressive, hungry, hard fighting tuna and lots of them.
I would have been more than happy to tug on blackfin tuna all day but I told Capt Ted before we started that we were after a mixed bag of fish. I never thought that would include tuna, sailfish, kingfish, barracuda, sharks, jacks, snapper, cero mackerel, grouper, and a few shots at tarpon.
We met Capt Ted at about 7:30 that morning and then it was off to make bait. Capt Ted said, “In Key West we don’t look for baitballs, we make our own”, boy was I about to find out. Capt Ted donned a cast net and hopped on the bow of the boat. I slowly put the boat in gear as we moved forward with Capt Ted giving me directions as we chased schools of pilchards for the livewell. After about an hour with the livewell darkened with pilchards we were off.
We made what seemed like about a 20 minute run out to 240ft of water where we joined 5 or 6 other boats. There wasn’t much going on yet but Capt Ted dropped the anchor and started chumming. It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes and Sonya was hooked up on her first blackfin tuna. Sonya landed her fish and not 5 minutes later I was hooked up on my first fish of the day. By the time I landed mine, we were surrounded by tuna everywhere. We kept the first five as we had agreed and then started catching and releasing until our arms were burning. Sonya wanted a rest but I couldn’t stop, that’s when Capt Ted threw out a hookless popper. Blackfin tuna were all over this thing as it skidded across the top of the water, I was having a blast just watching the tuna explode out of the water knocking the popper in the air.
I was just about to get another hook baited up when Capt Ted said, “Let’s pull anchor and run to another spot to see if we can catch some kingfish”. I thought to myself that this is pretty incredible but I would like to battle a few big kings (not salmon Nelly). We pulled the anchor and ran in to about 80ft of water. The program here was no different, we anchored up, started chumming and the fish came. This time we had sailfish, kingfish, and dorado come into our chum line. Sonya was first up with a really nice 30lb smoker king and I followed with smaller one. We did hook into two others that were really big but we didn’t land’em.
Just about the time we started to pull anchor and try another area some sailfish showed up in our chum line and started whacking our pilchards. We hooked two but couldn’t keep them on the line. Finally, I saw another one off the back of the boat. I threw a pilchard just over the top of it. The sail turned on it, picked it up, and I kept feeding it line, letting the circle hook work into the corner of its mouth. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, reel down and hooked up, this time for good! This wasn’t the biggest sail I had ever caught but no doubt it was the liveliest, jumping somewhere between 15 and 20 times. We finally got it boatside released it and decided to call it a day. I wonder what day two would bring.
Even though we were in the southernmost town in the continental U. S. it’s still winter and overnight a front moved in bringing with it cooler temps, rain, and some wind. In keeping with our mixed bag theme we decided to stay a little closer in to shore and try for a few different species.
The day started off just like the day before, we stopped off on the way out to make bait. After loading up the livewell, we anchored up just outside a conservation area. After about 20 minutes our target cero mackerel started showing up in our chum line. Sonya was first on the rod, then me, then a double. We loaded up on the cero and decided to go do a little bottom fishing. After a short time the grouper started chewing. A few gags with some reds mixed in.
An approaching rain cloud pushed us back to some inshore spots. A few jacks, some mangrove snapper, and some small barracuda made for some great light tackle action. However, all that great action was quickly forgotten when some huge tarpon started rolling nearby. Try as we did, we just couldn’t get these guys to take a bait. This trip was already one for the ages but hooking up with a 6ft tarpon would have been legendary.
After giving up on the tarpon we hit one more spot on the way in. We started hooking up on quite a few of the same species that we fhad been catching all day when it happened. Sonya was getting ready to boat another cero mackerel when all of a sudden a big white flash came up from the depths and engulfed her fish. Blacktip sharks had shown up and I’m here to tell you, they are as game as any fish in the ocean. Capt Ted quickly rigged up a wire leader, cut up one of the cero and threw out the cut bait. After just a few minutes, Sonya was hooked up with a big shark. Sonya battled for about 10 minutes before being broken off. I was up next and the shark wasted no time picking up another bait. This time the 124lb blacktip battled for 20 to 30 minutes and before we finally got a leader touch. Sonya followed up with a smaller but no less aggressive blacktip to finish out the day.
What a great two days of fishing we had. Key West will always be on our list of the best places to visit and fish. Sonya and I are already looking forward to our next trip. Check out the video of the trip!! If you want to book your trip to Key West, get in touch with Capt Ted Lund, Freelancer Charters/OverUnder Key West, 305-213-5369, or email at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.freelancercharters.com