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Catch The Vacation Of Your Life ?
And A Big Fish, Too!

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by Captain Craig Eubank May 2012

3 men holding dolphins and whaoos on a dock in key westCruising out of the harbor on your seventy-foot sport fishing yacht, sipping a margarita, and watching your private mate rig-up big beautiful expensive lures so you can enjoy catching the “Big One” on your Wednesday afternoon.? Sounds good, huh?? Well of course it does.? But, somehow, not all of us were blessed with the resources to do this style of fishing on a regular basis.

How about a 40-foot charter fishing boat leaving the dock for a quick four-hour cruise to troll past the reef for Dolphin, Tuna or Mackerel?? That would definitely be a good time for you and your friends.? But, maybe that is a bit pricey also.

A small backcountry charter on one of those “flats” boats?? You can only take two people, but you get to sight cast for big game, like Tarpon, Permit, and Sharks!? Cool.? Still a few hundred dollars including paying for food, drinks and a gratuity.? Maybe next year?

Ah-ha, the trusty old “head boat.” Or as we call it in Key West, a “Party Boat.”? Bottom fishing for Snapper and Grouper with a larger group of friends will certainly bring the price down.? You get to eat the legal fish you catch and there is a mate to do all the yucky stuff like taking the fish off the hook and cutting bait!

Rent a Kayak??? and fish out of it.? Really.? It’s called, well, Kayak fishing.

These are all great options for catch everything from the “Big One” to the “Nice One.”? Remember, there’s just no such thing as a small fish in the fishing business!

One very viable option that is available to everyone, even those of us on a very strict budget, is land or bridge fishing.? Why not?? We’ve all become big on DIY stuff and why shouldn’t that apply to the most basic of traditional sports?? So welcome to DIY fishing, or fishing 101!

First, realize that fishing is a relaxing sport.? I believe that there is far too much emphasis on tournaments, Calcutta (fish betting, really) and “big fish” stories.? My first fish was a Northern Pike caught in Canada on a family camping trip.? I still have the picture and it was my proudest moment of my 10-year-old life; until later when I found out about girls.? So, as anti-intuitive as it sounds, planning a relaxing event is still a good idea, just don’t set goals too high.? Obviously, overthinking something as unpredictable as fishing especially on a vacation, to somewhere you may have never been, will probably only be in vain. ?But, at least a good idea, or outline, will save you time, maximize your enjoyment, and save you some hard-earned cash.

Start by taking note of the geography of where your activity will take place.? Are you lucky enough to be going to an island?? Surrounded by water?? Fresh or Salt?? Atlantic, Pacific, or pond, whatever your answer will depend on the importance of choices.? Like bait, tackle, personal provisions.? Don’t concentrate so much on the fishing tackle at the expense of forgetting personal tackle.? Personal tackle sounds dirty, but it is just the basics of human comfort.? WATER.? Drinking water.? Wherever you go, you will always be outside.? Stay hydrated.? Food, sunscreen, sunglasses, proper comfortable clothing, hygiene items, well you get the picture.? Enjoyment should be at the top of your list of expectations.? Especially if kids are involved.? I have been a guide for over 25 years and I can’t over emphasize making a child’s fishing experience special.? Kids just don’t care what they catch, how big it is, or if you can eat it.? They caught a fish!? They are on top of the world; don’t try to steal their thunder with your own tainted view of the world.? I have witnessed countless adults belittle the catch of a child by those reasons and, at times, I just had to point out how narrow that opinion was.? In a gentle, hired guide, sort of tone, of course.

Research

Tarpon in the torquois waters of the keys
Photo Courtesy of Captain Eric Ryan

Use the greatest invention of our time to help with your research, the internet.? Don’t know where to fish, now to get there, or what the local fish and game laws are; look it up!? You will be pleasantly surprised at how friendly anglers of all walks of life are.? And they all will have an opinion.? Make sure that you have some idea of distances.? Walking to that bridge that is 1.5 miles from your hotel may sound close, but there might be a hill, rough terrain, or fee to pay to enter that area especially if it is a park or non-public place.? Speaking of restrictions, a lot of great looking fishing spots are off limits.? At my dock in Key West, we have hundred pound Tarpon swimming freely under out boats.? But, you can’t fish for them.? It is illegal and you will be asked to leave the area; politely at first.? When you get to a good fishing spot, look for the obvious signs of all good fishing spots?? other anglers!? Most areas worth of fishing aren’t a secret anymore.? At least there will be posted fishing signs concerning rules and disposal of used tackle.? Most fishing areas now have receptacles for used line, hooks, trash, etc.? And don’t forget to recycle.? This is a great time to introduce children to the important ecological lessons in life.? Recycle, re-use, release.? Simple.

Tackle

If you aren’t driving to your fishing location (and can’t take your own tackle), find out if you can rent it.? Sometimes it is just as easy and economical to just go to Wal-Mart and buy what you need.? Yep, Wal-Mart is pretty much everywhere.? My mother just returned from China, there’s a Wal-Mart.? Buy that reasonable rod, reel, and give it to a kid on your way out of town.? They will appreciate it and you will feel like a hero.? Don’t overload your luggage with unproven tackle that you’re not sure you will need and will only load you down and may even get you in trouble if you are flying.? Knowledge is a better investment and weighs a lot less.

Use that second most important invention known to anglers, the local tackle shop.? Guys (and girls) that own fishing tackle shops didn’t get into it for the big bucks.? Go in and ask for local knowledge.? That’s probably what they live for.? Buying something too would be a good idea; they didn’t get into the business to starve either.? Our local tackle store has a bar in it, Key West Bait and Tackle and Garrison Bight Marina.? If the owner is busy, strike up a conversation with one of the locals that always seem to be lurking.? Buy just enough to get you started for that day.? Don’t go overboard buying so much crap (i.e.: high end fishing bait and tackle) that you could never use all that day.? You can probably go back the next day, talk about your experience the first day, get more exact advice, and then buy the other stuff you would have bought the day before.? But, I bet this next time, you will have refined your ideas and have a much better plan of attack.? Like getting the live bait, bigger sinkers, or taking a cab this time!

Periodicals

What airport curio shop doesn’t have fishing magazines in them?? Read up.? Go online.? Ask.? My personal opinion only matters in my very narrow area of expertise.? I have spent my professional life fishing in Key West, the Dry Tortugas, Bahamas and Cuba.? When I go to Mexico, I ask.? When I go to Cabo, I ask.? Heck, when I go to Indiana, I ask!

To sum it all up, it isn’t the style or class that makes for a great fishing experience.? It is the camaraderie and comfort and shared experience that counts.? Very few are experts and why would you want to be?? Everyone can learn and as Confucius said; “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Fishing is universal, but regional.? Learn from others, you’ll meet a lot more interesting characters while on your journey.? There are no stupid questions, except the ones that aren’t asked.


About Captain Craig Eubank

Captain Craig Eubank has been fishing in Key West professionally since 1986. He has guided anglers through the flats, along the Florida Keys reefs and wrecks and along the prime fishing grounds of deep water along the Gulfstream. His tournament exploits and charters include prizes from the Hemingway Tournament in Havana. Captain Craig now offers deep sea charters aboard the Absolut.
Visit Absolut Fishing Key West and book a charter with Captain Craig today!

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