Island to Island Charters,
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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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A Chilly, but Beautiful Day!

February 27th, 2015

I had spoken to my customer, Tony the night before and I expressed concern about high winds and unusually low temperatures predicted for the day of our charter. I definitely am not a captain that takes clients out regardless of the weather. It is important to me that it be an enjoyable trip for everyone (me included). I guess you could call me a “fair-weather captain”. In the morning I called him and gave him the option to go out on the boat or not. The winds were a little less than predicted. He decided he & his family wanted to go. I am really glad now, knowing what a great trip it turned out to be! Tony & his wife & her parents visiting from China had never been to Florida before, much less cruising through the shallows, and mangrove islands of the Backcountry. They were amazed to say the least. The best part of where I go is even on a windy day I can usually find shelter behind the islands. Also since I travel through such shallow water, it is not real choppy.

I recruited my husband Tony, a charter boat captain as well, to accompany me on this trip. At the very start, lo and behold a large pod of dolphins playing in a area right off Key West. So much fun to watch them jumping around and investigating us on the boat. This was the first time my clients would see dolphins in the wild. This is one of my favorite things about what I do, introducing people to the extraordinary elements of Mother Nature at her best!

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We had to pull ourselves away from the dolphins because there was so much more to see. One good thing about a windy day is if you get to see the kite boarders surfing the flats. I always enjoy watching them perform maneuvers and jumps and catch some serious wind and fly across the water. I have a lot of respect for their sport, but no desire to learn it. I will stick with being a spectator.

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We came to our first island which is always full of a large variety of birds relaxing in the mangroves. We tried to do some fishing, but were not having much luck. After pointing out all the different bird species we left to the next island to hopefully have better luck fishing.

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While we were fishing one of my favorite spots, we probable saw at least 6 Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Amazingly they were quite large and enjoying floating on the surface. I think they were trying to warm themselves in the sun. The water temperatures dipped to almost a record low that week. My clients were thrilled with seeing this, another first for them. And miraculously we were able to catch some fish with the water being so cold. Especially since this was their first time fishing!

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We were having so much fun, but we were running out of time and I had one more place I wanted to show them. One of my favorite islands has a few narrow channels to cruise through and I can only get there on a high tide. It is positively beautiful boating through this island. I knew they would appreciate it and they did!

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On the way home we went exploring for stingrays in the shallows right next to one of the mangrove islands, instead we saw dozens of Barracudas. That was very cool. The water was quite clear and you could see them very well. My husband and I really enjoyed our time with these guys. In spite of the cold, we laughed a lot and they discovered a whole new world.

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A day to celebrate!

February 10th, 2015

Randy, Mike, and I enjoyed a day exploring the backcountry. We were very fortunate to have a beautiful, calm day to cruise around and take in the sights. Our only plans were to have a relaxing day. It was very cool to be a part of their first time in the ocean and seeing such amazing sights. I love being able to introduce people to the true beauty of the Keys. The shallow flats & mangrove islands just off the Keys are really something to see.

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We encountered all sorts of herons, pelicans, egrets, ospreys, & cormorants. We boated through small channels in the mangrove islands to get a close up view of them in their habitat. The ospreys have returned to their nests with their partners and have begun to lay eggs.

We drove to the next set of mangrove islands to stop at my favorite sand bar. I jumped on the white sand bar probably in no more than two feet of water. At that point they shared with me that they had never been in the ocean. How lucky was I to be a part of a significant moment in their lives. Hesitantly they followed me and were absolutely amazed to be standing in such shallow water in the Ocean for the first time in their lives! I think I almost cried. How awesome! As you stand and scan the surrounding water from the sandbar the colors vary from every shade of blue to green imaginable. It is truly a magnificent area. Rarely do I even see another boat while I am there. All you hear is the sound of birds.

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The next set of islands held a wonderful surprise for us. A pod of dolphins were feeding in the shallows all around us. We spent a significant amount of time watching their every move in utter amazement. (As you know they are one of my favorite things in this world)

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In addition to the fabulous display from our dolphin friends we saw Southern Stingrays as well.

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After losing track of time, we realized sunset was right around the corner. We found a sandbar just off Key West to chill out and watch the famous Key West sunset. Lucky for us it was completely unobstructed. We relaxed and discussed the highlights of the trip. Mike mentioned that he learned quite a bit about all the marine life. I learned about farming & being a bee keeper from them. Also how important it is to enjoy life. I could really tell they were celebrating it!

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Thank you Mike & Randy for allowing me to show you the beauty of the world I live in.

Key West Beaches & Sandbars

August 15th, 2014

I finally had the opportunity to head to a remote island with an endless white sandy beach at low tide with a family that chartered me. It was the parents and three grown kids. Upon arrival everyone was amazed at how gorgeous this area really is. We were the only boat there. It is an island in the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge about 15 miles North East of Key West. The drive out there is through gorgeous mangrove islands and large white sand bars all along the way. One of the most picturesque places in the Florida Keys.

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This is also a perfect place to teach beginners how to snorkel. Shallow calm waters with a Coral hard bottom full of small tropical fish. In no time they had mastered snorkeling. I knew they would be comfortable when we snorkeled a reef. They even encountered a large Barracuda and didn’t flinch.

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After relaxing on the beach for a bit we continued their boat charter to more fabulous locations. We cruised the Gulf of Mexico to the next set of islands to explore one of my favorite sandbars. Immediately we saw a Bullshark in about 1 1/2 feet of water swimming quickly across the sandbar definitely on the scent of something. Also we saw large stingrays, a school of Bonefish (that we saw a shark chase after),& a large Nurseshark. Lots of activity on the Flats in the Florida Keys during a low tide. My favorite time to relax on the Hurricane deckboat and watch an array of marine life cross a white sand bar.

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We continued on past several mangrove islands back to the gulf to try our luck at dolphin watching. Key West dolphin watching is by far one of the best parts of my job. Amazingly we discovered them just off Key West towards the North a few miles. They were playing in about 10 feet of clear blue water. You can distinguish all their details as they swim by the boat. In this case we came across them wrestling and jumping out of the water having loads of fun. We even saw the younger dolphin calfs playing around, always an incredible sight.

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After sometime enjoying dolphin watching, we stopped another white sand bar to have lunch and enjoy the surrounding beauty. It is nice to charter a private boat charter to be able to do what you want when you want with the knowledge of an eco guide to show you amazing places just outside of Key West. And also not worry about driving. Just sit back and relax and enjoy the ride!

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At last everybody was ready to snorkel the patch reef. We saw large Stingrays, Barracudas, a small Nurseshark and lots of colorful tropical fish. For beginners they snorkeled very well, looked like pros. On the way back to Key West we stopped at a small shallow wreck to snorkel some more and they were surprised how it was loaded with fish. We have lots of snorkeling options in Key West, from patch reefs to all sorts of wrecks to mangrove islands to sponge beds. Key West snorkeling gives you alot of opportunity to view an array of marine life. It definitely is a great reason for a Key West vacation.

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!

Key West family boat trip

March 21st, 2014

We started the day snorkeling a patch reef just a few miles off of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. They saw barracudas, tropical fish, stingrays and lots of colorful coral.

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We then took a boat cruise along the mangrove islands to a larger remote island with a white sand beach. There they sat on the beach and enjoyed a picnic lunch.

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After some combing the beach for shells we loaded up the boat to a nearby wreck for some wreck fishing. After not much success at the wreck, we traveled to do some backcountry channel fishing. First line in and first time fishing the daughter landed a beautiful Barjack!

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We were so fortunate to experience such a beautiful day on the water watching dolphins, light tackle fishing, snorkeling, island hopping, and relaxing on a remote secluded beach all just a few miles from Key West.