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C-Hawk 245 Pilot House
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I've been dreaming about/wanting to fish the keys for years. Prehaps Islamorada or Marathon area. I want to take my 22' boat, and stay for around a week in Jan. or Feb. The range in my boat is around 30 or so miles offshore, want to mostly bottom fish.

I know that there is lots of information on line, really want to hear from someone that has "been there and done that". :bowdown

Where to stay (clean and reasonable)? Where to launch? Where to fish offshore?

Any information is greatly appreciated. Sea-r-cy
 

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Go to Bud n Mary's on Islamorada - great marina. You can fish the first reefs in 50-80' of water by anchoring and chumming up live ballyhoo for kings, sailfish, cudas, whatever. You can also fish the Gulf side in shallow water and sight fish for almost anything. It's a beautiful place to spend a week!
 

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I have lived down there for the past 4 Summers just south of Big Pine Key. The fishing is fantastic, as long as you know what you are doing. If you are planning a trip in the near future, I would recommend december. or jan. The bottom fishing is usually very active, and the blue water bite for Sailfish, mackerel, andTuna is hot. The Sails and macksare right on the reef line, so all you have to do is be able to get to the reef line, and you can bottom fish, or troll. I don't know a whole lotta places in marathon or islamorada, but I know that Parmers Resort across from Dolphin Marina (Little Torch Key)is reasonable. Hope your trip comes together.
 

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Most of the reefs vary from 6 to 9 miles from land in the keys so not alot of fuel needed. Get just past the reef anywhere in the Keys in anything between 80' and 100' and you will be into mutton and yellowtail snapper, loads of them. Anchor up and put out a chum bag and stand by. For yellowtail snapper, just freeline some cut bait(preferably chunk bonito) behind the boat and let the current take out the line...watch your line carefully, it will haul butt when that yellowtail hits it. Once you catch a 12" yellowtail, set it out as live bait to the bottom, four cranks up, and leave it there.....grouper, AJ, King....something big will snag it. This time of year you can still come across some dolphin in the same area.

As for which island, I would recommend Marathon. Islamorada is great and bud n mary's is the place to go there but very crowded on weekends. Most of the Miami crowd goes as far as Islamorada, few venture past that. The ones that do are generally going to Key West to do the Duval Crawl, if you haven't done that, spend a night in Key West you won't regret it....till the next morning. Anyway, Marathon is fished by fewer people and provides a better mix of fishing. If it gets rough on the outside, you can fish the 7 mile bridge or Bahia Honda bridge area for tarpon, cuda, snapper, and shark...tons of themand still be wthin site of your hotel. Good luck!:takephoto
 

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I lived in South Florida and fished the Keys on a regular basis for over 30 years, up until 7 years ago. I still visit and fish Islamorada several times a year. As others have said, the reef is 6 - 9 miles off and you will not need a lot of gas. In Jan/Feb, sailfish will be prevelent with a fair kingfish bite and a smattering of school sized dolphin and a wahoo or two, as well as bottom fish - Muttons, Grouper and Yellowtails.



I'd power drift with live ballyhoo on 20# line, 40# leader, 5/0 Owner Aki hook, with 130' as an average depth (90'-200') to catch the pelegics I mentioned. If getting bit off by kingfish too often, tie in a foot of #5 coffee colored wire with an albright - no swivels.



If it's bottom fish you want, find a bottom edge and anchor in 80-150', put a chum bag out and drift squid or ballyhoo strips back into the chum slickn on a 10#-15# outfit, 20# flouro leader 1/0 short shank hook.



Ballyhoo will come into this slick and I'd hair hook some of these, keeping them alive and putting one or two on the bottom with a 30# - 50# rod, 50-80# leader, 5/0 short shank hook hooked point down thru the lower jaw and held in place by a short piece of ballyhoo wire or clear plastic tubing slid onteh leader and holding bill and leader/hook-shank together. You will need about 4-6 boxes of chum or more for a full day of this fishing.



I
 

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I don't have a lot of experience fising the Keys, but from what I have done I agree on the middle Keys - Islamarada through Marathon. It has always been less crowded than Largo or on down toward Key West when I have been there. There is just a kind of slowed down casual feel in the Middle Keys that I enjoy.
 
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