I traveled with the family to Key West for our annual fishing trip. We stay for a week at the Galleon Resort and fish right there from the dock, catching plenty of gray snappers and gag grouper to freeze for the year. I usually bring the kayak and find some time to hit the flats in search of bonefish, permit or anything else swimming around. I couldn’t bring it this time so I thought I may rent one while there.
We arrived in the afternoon and I started rigging the rods right away. Fishing the rock piles from shore in the keys is pretty much the same no matter where you are. We usually use 25 pound mono leader with a small circle hook and a small lead sinker about 1 to 2 feet from the hook. For bait I use cut ballyhoo or squid, then cut bait as I get it. Occasionally I will use a sabiki for small live bait. For my grouper rod I will tie up a similar rig using a larger hook and up to 40lb mono leader.
It didn’t take long to find out how this years fishing would be. My first cast into the rocks netted me a keeper sized snapper that was engulfed by a goliath grouper about 35 inches in length. I was able to land him and my week of fishing began. That evening I ended filleting five nice snapper for about one hour of fishing.
The next day I met up with Rich Jones (Rjvermont) at the Sugarloaf Key Lodge. Rich had brought his son Rich Jr. and an extra kayak for me!! We talked fishing over ice cold beer while checking out local maps of the area flats. The Lodge has been around since the 70’s and is located right on the water. It has its own tiki bar and restaurant and all of their rooms overlook the water. Right next door is a small marina that sells tackle and live bait. The plan was to meet up the next morning and launch from the lodge, but the next couple of mornings produced high winds.
The next few days I spent with my wife and sister fishing the dock at the Galleon. Every day we caught our limit of mangrove snapper with a couple of gag grouper mixed in. Also caught were various small yellowtails or mutton snapper, grunts, goliath grouper and a sizable moray eel. Several folks passing by saw we were catching fish and would bring their gear down as well. There were a couple of people that were having no luck fishing the rock pile from their boats, and caught more fish off this little dock with us. The big resident tarpon from the marina would swim by and occasionally take our baits as well.
By Friday, all eyes were on approaching tropical storm Isaac. That morning we watched the Weather Channel folks report on preparations in the keys, and we fished. Later, we hit some of the local bars, ending up at El Meson de Pepe near Mallory Square. It’s a little Cuban joint with good food, great margaritas and the best Latin band I have ever heard. Not a drop of rain had fallen yet so this was our storm preparation.
Bonny and I left the next morning. We finally saw some of the storm that was bearing down on the keys. The rest of my family, my parents, sister and niece stayed to ride out Isaac. They experienced almost no storm weather and even had sun most of the day Sunday. For me, it was the end of another epic week of fishing and it was all from shore!