We had a good flight out to Miami and got down to the Keys yesterday evening, after stopping at the vast Bass Pro store in Islamorada of course - all anglers love monster tackle shops, whether we like to admit it or not. I was actually very restrained. The fishing has been good out here, and it was great to catch up with Rodney and Helen Goodship of Fish the Dream. Rodney runs a fantastic guiding operation out here and he is heavily booked up with returning clients. His boat is always immaculate and I really enjoy fishing with him.
I am fishing and photographing with two thoroughly nice guys from the west country, John Aplin and Scott Rice - Scott got married only a couple of weeks ago, so well done him for going fishing so soon !! These guys have caught some really large tarpon between them, so it should be a blast.
Anyway, the fishing today has been pretty good - but quiet on the tarpon first thing when we headed out at 5am to fish until just after first light down at Seven Mile bridge. We saw a few guys hooked into some nice tarpon, but we got skunked. But after that we headed out into the gulf and anchored a small wreck in only four metres of water, and proceeded to smash a few of these awesome goliath groupers. Above you can see the kind of grief you have to give these fish if you are going to stand any chance of pulling them away from sanctuary. They are immense, and I can't get over the fact that so many fish like this can live in such shallow water.
We got goliaths to about 80lbs to the side of the boat, but a couple of fish were simply too powerful and managed to reach the wreck. Great fun for us, but bear in mind that these are small fish - these monster grouper can weigh many hundreds of pounds, and whilst you are allowed to fish for them, they must all be released. These magnificent fish were close to being wiped out some time ago, but the US authorities brought in very serious recovery measures to protect them and the stocks are now flourishing. How cool is that ? I only wish these kinds of measures would be taken for our own bass stocks........
Above you can see Rodney tackling with one of the groupers as he works on getting the big 20/0 circle hook out of the scissors - yes, you read that right, a 20/0 circle hook !! Big fish, big hooks, and big baits - stand up rods and 80lb braid as well. You have to give these fish proper grief on heavy gear.
Look at the mouth below, and feel for any poor fish coming too close to the wreck we fished - it's like looking into an abyss when you stare down their throats. Imagine one of these fish at over 500lbs. We are heading out very early tomorrow morning to catch a different tide for the tarpon and I can't wait. Drifting live crabs back between the bridge gaps is seriously exciting, especially when you get hit. They are explosive fish, and there are few better places in the world to smash large tarpon than out here in the Keys. It really gets to me every time I come out here just how many people fish down here, and just how the whole local economy is essentially based around sport fishing. Give anglers lots of good fish to catch and they will spend what it takes to do it.