Enjoying the Keys & thanks to many here on this forum I kind of feel I've had a great headstart on things. Instead of an overall report I thought I'd focus on a single venture to help those curious / interested...The Tortuga IV 1/2 Day Fishing trip.
Got in the Keys Sunday late afternoon & Monday morning was just walking about and stumbled upon the Tortuga IV @ dock w/"Shane"(employeee) at the dock preparing for the day's outing. I knew about this trip from this forum and seemed like the only fishing venture in Key West in my budget, as the others that go farther out for the bigger fish start at $400+.
Cost $52/person for a 9am - 1pm adventure on the water fishing in the Key West and I honestly think this is one of the best values in Key West. A 4 hour excursion out on the water on basically a "party boat" type of craft. The wife's never been fishing - she was eager and keen to go for it, so we simply dashed back to the hotel - got somethings and got back to the Tortuga IV, signed up and got on board, I've not fished in ages and loved fishing for a very long time.
I brought a backpack of "stuff" and I would suggest you do the same. Food & drink stuff - yes they have stuff you can buy on the boat - but....really...if you're going on this trip & can plan ahead you'll enjoy it more to have your favorite beverage, etc. packed with you - that's what we did. The fishing poles/slots on the boat are basically kind of "take a pick, choose your area" and the wife and I chose the Stern or back of the boat.
Everyone (25 others on board or so) gathers in the cabin of the boat as you're heading out to sea, it is A/C - and gets a safety talk & procedure talk on how to use the equipment(rod & reel) and signal for assitance to get the fish off your line. There are soem dangerious & poisonous fish out there so you can't simply just pull every fish up and on the boat - they take that stuff very seriously too.
45 minutes later you're on your first fishing ground. I would suggest using the Ballyhoo (fish) (sic) as bait & not the squid - the fish seem to go crazy for the Ballyhoo. It takes just a few minutes before people start catching fish - you get bites immediately - these fish as masters at stealing your bait & getting off the hook. A key aspect of fishing these waters & catching the fish is baiting the hook well. You want ther barb exposed & the bait to stay on the hook.
Long story short, the wife, who's never fished in her life, caught more fish than me, she caught the most fish on the entire boat, I could not believe it. The fish were biting so fast, hard heavy at our second fishing ground that I spent most of the time baiting the hook for my wife and giving her a freshly baited fishing reel. The fish actually attack/hit the bait on its way down to the bottom, before it even hits the ocean floor.
Type of Fish? Mostly snapper (yellow tail & a type of red snapper). I did see one guy catch a porgie, another caught the poisonous Scorpion fish. There was a person who's fish was attacked by a shark as they were reeling it in...this is apparently common to see. I in fact saw a Barracude darting about chasing a yellowtail that was being reeled in.
Weather...crazy. There were moments where we were drenched in sheets of rain....lasting 10 & 15 minutes....and that was when the fishing was in fact the best! There were moments when it was just too hot with the sun beating down on you. Bring sunglasses, perhaps a hat with a visor. A light packable rain jacket might be a good thing too.
We were totally soaked, but loved it. One thing that was neat for the wife and I was that we randomly selected the Stern/Back of the boat to fish off....there are no benches in this area but when you're fishing like this, the fish hit so actively...you're not sitting down much anyway. And I learned some of the locals in fact bring their fancy personal gear and fish off the back end of the boat too (I figure they must know something).
The wife & I met a great guy named Jon Harper who is one of the owners of Pra Na Spa on Whitehead St. Just a terrific guy to have conversation with while we were out the fishing, giving us tips, pointers, reccommendations about where to eat, etc. Jon goes fishing on the Tortuga IV every Monday.
In all we hit about 4 "fighing grounds" the second spot was our best. The time goes by very fast - and what's really neat is when you come bsck to the dock - the crew on the Tortuga fillets your catch right there on the boat. Now in filleting your catch, they throw the scraps off the rear of the boat into the water. Those scraps last about a nano second before they are attacked by Tarpan fish. These are "trophy" tarpoon that you can see right at the surface of the clear water on the dock. I am talking about fish that are 6' long, dozens of them, I am serious, it's a "feeding frenzy" - seeing this is unbelievable, so many giant fish in such clear water, it's really amazing.
After you get your fish fillet'ed and bagged, what the wife and I did was walk right across the dock to Dante's and sat at the bar - handed over our catch and they will prepare it however you want for $8 or $9 with two side dishes. (fried, blackened, grilled, etc.) We had our fish grilled - it was PERFECT, a morning of fishing, followed afterward by eating our catch and downing some cold beers at Dante's. I understand most of the restaurants along the Wharf there will also cook your catch as well, in fact they say a number of places in town will indeed do the same.
So all in all it was a great outing, lots of fun. The wife caught about 12 fish, 6 of which were "keepers" - the wife, who's never fished before, caught more fish than anyone on the boat - go figure....we ended up needing a container to take home (hotel/w fridge) all the grilled snapper that we could not finish. We really simply wandered into the Tortuga IV - but I would give it a thumbs up for all, young & old, experienced & inexperienced.
Bring something cold to drink and be ready to catch some fish!
Next adventure? The Western Union is back, wood hull, sunset cruise limited to 25 people (can hold 75), it's been back 3 weeks now and this is a "soft release debut"....so the wife and I will be doing that tonight.