Day Three Of Four Perfect Days Kayak Fishing In the Keys–Tarpon Time

After a couple of days of non-stop action and a severe case of ‘Cuda elbow, I took a day off to lollygag around camp, do a little reading and writing, and swill some margaritas on the sun deckIMG_7063at the Big Pine Key Lodge where I am staying in my mobile fish camp.  Today I decide to go out, but stick closer to home.  There are three keys within a stone’s throw of camp–Big Mangrove, Little Don Quixote, and No Name.  All three have different personalities and offer great opportunities for a variety of fish, some big.  No Name is frequented by tarpon, snook, and (of course) lots of barracuda.  Big Mangrove is the haunt of snappers, cudas, and some hefty sharks.  Don Quixote and the flats just to its north are favorites of permit, sharks, and occasionally some tarpon.  This is a particularly good trip when the wind is blowing from the northeast after a front blasts through.

I am up early, timing my day to hit the flats between Don Quixote and No Name on anIMG_0739 incoming tide.  I could paddle out north from the ramp at the lodge, under the Overseas Highway Bridge, and directly to Big Mangrove Key, but my preferred route starts at the venerable Old Wooden Bridge Cottages towards the north end of No Name Key, about a 20-minute drive up the east side of Big Pine Key.  I slip my $10 ramp fee under the office door and launch into the Bogie Channel, hankering for a shot at the sizeable snook that hide under the bridge that connects Big Pine to No Name Key.  I pitch a white Gulp swimming mullet on a 1/8 oz jig head up against one of the bridge pilings, let it sink, and then….

Wham….something whacks it hard!

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Day One Of Four Perfect Days Kayak Fishing In The Florida Keys

In the Keys, we salt margaritas, not sidewalks…..Anon.

For Day 2 trip see:

I’m heading to Big Pine Key, not far from Key West, on my annual Florida Keys fishing expedition. As I trundle down the Overseas Highway pulling my mobile fish camp behind, I am amazed at all the festively colored kayaks–red, yellow, orange, blue–stacked outside of marinas, dive shops, and even convenience stores.  Like everywhere, kayaking is booming in popularity in the Keys.  I’m wondering if I’ll have to fight my way through flotillas of paddlers and ecotour groups wending their way along the mangrove islands to find my quarry.

I’ve left my power boat at home and opted for chasing fish in my yak in the Lower Keys, bucking conventional wisdom that you need a motor to get a permit, tarpon, redfish, sharks, or giant barracuda.  At the very least in the bargain, I know I’ll see some great wildlife that abound down here in these pristine tropical waters.

img_7044I am staying at the Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge that has some sweet RV trailer spots right on the Gulf.  It’s a great place with views of the long Overseas Highway Bridge as it curves away into a sunrise.  imageDid I mention the happy hour a couple of times a week on the pool deck where the mango margarita machine works overtime ?  After setting up, my first stop is venerable Jigs Bait and Tackle down the road in Big Pine Key to get the skinny from James Milsap (Ronnie’s cousin) on what’s biting and where.  I’ve been kayak fishing down here for the past three years, so know my way around, but it always helps to pick a local fishing guru’s brain.  Then it’s back to camp to rig up my rods, get the trusty Hobie Outback pedal kayak ready to rumble, and knock off a little wine before hitting the hay.  The alarm’s set at 4:30 a.m!!  Day One of Four Perfect Days coming up!!

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