Day 4 Of 4 Perfect Days Keys Kayak Fishing: The Shark Channel

May 18, 2016

It’s the fourth day of my annual Florida Keys fishing expedition, and I am itching to go further afield from my fish camp on Big Pine Key.  Several years ago I fished down near Key West with guide Luke Kelly where we connected with some tarpon in an area called the Shark Channel.  I’m hoping for a repeat as I plot my route and hit the hay early so I can be on the water at first light.

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Early Morning Launch At The Shark Channel Ramp

Next morning I’m scooting down the Overseas Highway before sunrise, joining the morning rush into Key West.  I am keeping a sharp eye out for the put-in for this trip, the Shark Key boat ramp at Mile Marker 11, about 30 minutes south of Big Pine Key.  Distracted by the sight of several boats out on the water, I naturally whiz by the ramp that is on the other side of the highway.  The signage for this ramp is minimal, so take it slow.  I execute a u-turn and pull into the long narrow drive that leads to the ramp, load up the yak, and park my SUV on the other side of the road, heeding the no parking signs around the ramp.

I scope out the tarpon boats and don’t see any action, so I head east and sidle up towardsIMG_0856 the bridge as the tide starts falling…and fast.  I cast a big tarpon plug behind the bridge pilings, hoping some bruisers are skulking in the depths, but after 15 minutes, come up empty.  So I buck the swift current and head towards the east side of O’Hara Key, which looks extremely fishy.  But looks prove to be deceiving–I only pick up a couple of baby barracuda.

I spot a cluster of islets further east and turn the kayak that way, again pedaling against the swift current.  There’s a nice gutter around the first islet, so I fish it carefully with a tarpon plug, then the old reliable Mirrolure Heavydine 18 with its shiny sides that flash in the water.  I’m grateful for the pedal kayak, which allows me to hold myself in position to cast by pedaling slowly into the current.  I pitch a good cast up against the islet in the deeper water and something explodes on the plug.  A long torpedo shape blasts off, peeling line off my reel and dragging the kayak behind!

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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:

https://hooknfly.com/2016/05/17/day-2-of-three-perfect-days-kayak-fishing-in-the-keys/amp/

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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