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Backcountry Fishing in Key West

June 26th, 2015

Usually these girls charter my husband, AWS Charters, but this time they chartered me. I would like to think it is because my charter is better, but in all honesty they had 2 extra friends along. Tony’s boat can only take 2 passengers. (I still think my charter is better.) So I got the 4 girls for 2 full days on the water. It was a fabulous time! Our main objective was to catch edible fish. Most of the time I am catch & release, so this was definitely a challenge. Especially since Grouper were out of season. I recruited my husband Tony, as my mate for 1 of the days. In the beginning of the trip we tried a few different spots to no avail. Thankfully after some frustration, the last move we made was successful. They all caught some fish.

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As you can see, we caught a variety of Groupers, Snappers, Porgys, A Stingray, A Bonnethead Shark, Grunts, and Hogfish.

The following day I convinced them to let me do what I do best, explore the beauty of the Backcountry (aka The Great White Heron Wildlife Refuge) Generally when they visit, they only fish. Well, I wanted to expose them to sandbars, beaches, mangroves, and all the wildlife. First stop was a remote beach East of Key West about 30 minutes. It is truly one of the prettiest areas I know, especially during a low tide. They enjoyed combing the beach for shells, and exploring the tide pools for marine life. Also floating in the shallow turquoise waters was a favorite past time. I might also mention the sand is incredibly white, fine, and luxurious on the feet. A perfect place to put your “Toes in the Sand”.

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After relaxing on the beach for sometime, we did stop at one of the channels to do some bottom fishing. We caught a nice size Porgy & Hogsfish. They also caught the largest Mangrove Snapper I have ever seen. It put up a serious fight until a massive Barracuda chopped it in half in a split second. What a bummer, I could tell by the size of the head, that fish would have easily fed the 4 girls. That was one lucky Barracuda. No sense feeding the Barracuda anymore, so we carried on in our day.
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We cruised throughout the mangrove islands and the flats to hopefully see some marine life. We saw a lot of large Southern Stingrays, Loggerhead Turtles, Nurse Sharks, Bull Sharks, Barracudas, Tarpon….

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Headed back towards Key West, I drove the Gulfside. Which is full of beautiful sandbars, and gorgeous varying colors of water. It is also quite shallow so it allows you to see a lot. Before chilling on a Sandbar, I tried one more channel off one of the islands to do some fishing. The snappers were all quite small, but one of them landed a huge Barracuda. It took a little time to get him interested in the bait. The water is so clear you could see the fish attack our bait right on top. They are so unbelievably fast. It is quite amazing to watch them feed. Just as it hit the hook, the Barracuda flew in the air about 10 feet and landed on the other side of the boat. A spectacular sight, but very nerve-racking! I yelled for everyone to duck just in case. Thankfully my angler had fished Barracuda before and knew exactly what she was doing. Probably the highlight of our two days was Aimee catching that Barracuda. Watch out AWS Charters!

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Two beautiful days on the water with amazing people. I can’t wait for them to come back next year. Key West has a lot more to offer than Duval Street and Shopping. These girls know that and spent most of their vacation on the water. The islands off the Florida Keys are something everyone should see. They are untouched, rich in marine life & wildlife, and fortunately protected.

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Just as I thought my day couldn’t get any better, one of the girls prepared an incredible meal with the fish they caught. Did I mention, she won the Iron Chef & the James Beard Award & has a reknown restaurant in Manhattan. By far the best dinner I have ever had. Thanks Guys for 2 fantastic days!

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Key West Snorkeling

July 22nd, 2014

I had a superb day with a family from Texas visiting Key West for the first time. Luckily for me, they decided to book my private boat charter for 2 days. We were able to explore a lot of the Key West backcountry all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. We started our wonderful day together dolphin watching.

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We proceeded West of Key West to a patch reef to do some snorkeling. First we stopped at a sandbar to practice because it was their son’s first time snorkeling. Both parents were advanced scuba divers and were anxious to show him all the amazing marine life.

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We had excellent visibility for snorkeling. They saw Stingrays, tons of tropical fish, Barracudas, Nurse Sharks, and various forms of coral. The son was an expert in no time!

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I decided with their enjoyment of snorkeling to take them to a wreck just off of Boca Grande. They saw a large school of Parrotfish, Tarpon, and a lot of large Southern Stingrays. After that we relaxed on a remote island with a beautiful natural sandy beach. They had their picnic lunch there. While relaxing on a shallow white sand bar we noticed a very large dark area in the water moving. It was a bait ball full of small brown fish!

Several tarpon were feeding as well. None of us had ever seen anything like that. It was amazing to witness! They grabbed their masks and snorkeled in the midst of thousands and thousands of little fish swimming all around them.

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We left the island and cruised the Atlantic past Woman & Ballest Key. We did stop to enjoy the very soft sand. That is where they found dozens of gorgeous Queen Conchs, Sand Dollars, and Bonnethead Sharks. We were lucky to view a Bullshark swim by the boat.

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We headed back to Key West after a full day of adventure, and exploration of the Key West shallows, flats, remote beaches, mangrove islands, wrecks, reefs, sandbars & more. I am grateful to have been a part of their Key West vacation and hope to do it again.

A Great Day Boating in Key West

June 27th, 2014

I really enjoy being a charter boat captain in Key West always cruising our gorgeous waters, but this day was especially nice. Two couples from Illinois wanted a relaxing day on the water so they booked a day with me, Capt. Ally of Island to Island Charters. We left the marina and headed for an area hoping to spot some dolphins. Lucky us we found a pod of maybe 8 to 10 dolphins just a few miles off Key West in crystal clear blue water. Visibility was incredible!

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After dolphin watching we headed further towards the Gulf to snorkel a patch reef. We had calm fabulous conditions for snorkeling. We snorkeled two areas of the reef and they saw a ton of tropical fish, a large barracuda, a Nurse Shark, large Southern Stingrays, etc. Overall a very successful snorkeling experience in Key West.

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We proceeded to cruise the Key West Wildlife Refuge along the Gulf and headed towards a remote island with a natural sandy beach. We were the only boat there to enjoy beachcombing for shells, floating, and laying on the sand bars. Their own private island in the Florida Keys. (just a few miles away from the craziness of Key West.) We saw sharks and sea turtles along the way.

Sand bar therapy!

Sand bar therapy!

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Susan is a really good floater!

Susan is a really good floater!

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Funny enough, I brought fishing rods and bait for some backcountry light tackle fishing, but relaxing on the beach seemed to be a strong priority. You gotta admire people that prioritize well! We left the island in search of another pod of dolphins in a different area and we found them immediately. This pod is a little larger and came swimming right underneath the boat when Susan and Debbie were sitting on the bow. They were super excited to see dolphins that close, they definitely never experienced anything like that before. I am still thrilled anytime a dolphin graces me with their presence. It is humbling to see a creature that magnificent! We are very fortunate to have such a large amount of dolphins who reside year round in the waters surrounding Key West.

We headed back towards Key West from the Atlantic to the Lakes past all the Mangrove Islands. After crossing the channel I showed them Sunset Key and all the beautiful homes before returning to the dock. I am really happy they found my Key West charter boat business on trip advisor for the top Key West activities. They appreciated having a day to themselves on their time, not on a big boat full of people. We went most of the day with just seeing a few other boats in the backcountry. Coming back to Key Weston our way to Garrison Bight Marina, they saw the crowded boats and were reminded how great their day was on their own private charter boat away from everyone else exploring areas larger boats can’t get to!