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Posts Tagged ‘key west water activities’

Key West: Sharks, Beaches, Sandbars, Sea Turtles

October 22nd, 2015

A family from New Jersey chartered me for a 6 hour trip on the water for a little bit of fishing, exploring & chilling on a sandbar. The weather was more than cooperative and I was really looking forward to a beautiful day. We started the day off well with a pod of dolphins playing around. I was pleased to hear the young boy, Jackson, admit he has never seen wild dolphins.

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After being amused by the dolphins rough housing each other we cruised to a channel to drop anchor and try our luck at fishing. Sometimes this channel produces & sometimes not so much. Generally light tackle fishing in the backcountry is better during winter months. It seems the bait fish come in & that brings our schools of larger fish to the channels. This time of the year should be when I start to see schools of Jacks, Bar Jacks, Ladyfish, Bluerunners. Both Jackson & his dad did catch Yellowtail Snappers, but not much else going on. So time to hit the sandbar.

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We traveled about 30 minutes west of Key West to an island on the Atlantic side with one of my favorite white sand bars. Usually I can find shallow water here regardless of the tides. More importantly the sand is amazingly soft. This is a great spot to introduce snorkeling to young kids & adults to get them comfortable with the gear. Jackson enjoyed swimming about looking for small fish and shells. His mother held his 18 month year old sister in the water while she splashed around. We were very fortunate to have some Southern Stingrays swim past us. Upon leaving the sandbar a Loggerhead swam right in front of the boat. My clients rarely get this amazing opportunity to enjoy the sight of such a magnificent creature because they are quite shy, incredibly fast, & blend well with their surroundings. This sea turtle was swimming over a white sand bar & not so quickly.

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Now it was time to head to the shipwreck and do some fishing. I was very happy to see large schools of fish swimming by. Jackson caught Grey Snappers, Blue Runners, Porgy, & a very large Bar Jack that gave him a heck of a fight. In the meantime his dad was struggling with losing bait & tackle to what we think is a large grouper at the bottom of the wreck. He didn’t have nearly the success Jackson did. Also we were lucky to observe lots of Barracudas, more stingrays & another Loggerhead Sea Turtle.

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We are so fortunate in the Florida Keys to be surrounded by beautiful waters for great fishing & encountering of marine life. We were headed back to Key West through the Lakes telling fish stories of course. I noticed something unusual floating in the water. To my surprise & shock when I got closer to see, it was a Bald Eagle. Thankfully it was still alive, but definitely struggling with being soaking wet & unable to fly. I called Tom at Key West Wildlife Center for advice. I didn’t have the necessary equipment to grab the Bald Eagle safely for me & my clients. She was absolutely huge & still very powerful. I then called Florida Wildlife Commission for them to retrieve the bird out of the water. We stayed close to her to protect her from predators until they arrived. With a large net & a towel, they successfully brought her on the boat. Truly one of the most wonderful experiences I have had on the water. My clients said the same. We are extremely fortunate to have such a great organization like Key West Wildlife Center in our community. She was released the following day in good health.

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3 Days Of Key West’s Best Adventures on the Water

August 19th, 2015

A wonderful family with 4 mostly grown children booked me for an afternoon of snorkeling, spear-fishing, dolphins…and whatever other fun stuff we could find to do. And believe me we found three days full of fun activities on the surrounding waters of Key West.

We started with snorkeling a patch reef just north west a few miles off Key West. In the summer the conditions are ideal for visibility & lots of marine life passing through. On our way there we came across a large pod of dolphins having loads of fun playing with each other. This is always a treat. This particular area they were in is crystal clear blue waters with a white sandy bottom. This means as the dolphins swim by the boat you can see every detail of them, even the expression on their face.

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After trying to photo their every move, we said good-bye to our amazing friends and headed to our snorkel spot. This place was full of the large Southern Sting-rays, Barracudas, loads of tropical fish etc… Also the oldest son was trying his skills at Spearfishing. This can be a great area for Snappers, Hogfish, & some Groupers. He was able to find a sizable Hogfish and successfully shoot it. Not bad for his first time!

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It was time to relax after a lot of snorkeling, so we found a sand bar to chill out on. That didn’t last long, the siblings soon started goofing around. Mom, however enjoyed floating around peacefully on her noodle while the kids were having their own fun. It is crazy to think you can stand in the middle of the ocean, that is one of the best parts of the Keys. All the beautiful shallow water.

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Another part of the adventurous days, was to snorkel a large shipwreck. This they thoroughly enjoyed because they saw a ton of cool marine life all over the wreck. And again, the son had his chance at practicing his spearfishing abilities. This time prooved a little more difficult, because the target were lion fish. Which are quite small, but are invasive and need to be eradicated! They also discovered the remains of bombs & torpedoes. It is great when my clients take an advantage of the great snorkeling around Key West. They have only done the bigger boats loaded with too many people. This time they discovered that on a private charter all the time was strictly theirs and customized to what they wanted to do. These very active adult children spent the majority of the time swimming, free diving, and snorkeling all over the backcountry and saw an array of amazing things.

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In 3 days we explored over 30 miles of the best features of the backcountry (the shallow, calm inner waters just off Key West). We snorkeled 2 patch reefs, shipwrecks, encountered dolphins, stingrays, sharks, and sea turtles. We also enjoyed several sand bars and 2 remote beaches. And most importantly, they were able to enjoy each other before they headed back to the busy real world. For this mom, each of her kids were attending a different school & this was an important time that the family was together.

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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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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.

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!