November is a highly anticipated month here in the Florida Keys because it marks change. The breaks in the heat are becoming more frequent, the water is cooling off and we are seeing the beginning of the migration of our winter species. The true challenge is describing day to day what the weather is going to be like or what species we will be targeting. There are so many moving parts that I am likely going to put my foot in my mouth by predicting how any trip may play out. The main characters like snapper and jacks are here and plentiful. The strategy this month is to position myself in front of what is happening and react to the opportunities that are presented. Often my plan for a trip goes a different direction because unexpected species steal the show. Mackerel, grouper, porgies, hogfish, sailfish, cobia, tuna…who knows. Any species may be a guest for our trip. The key is to be open minded, be prepared for anything and roll with what is working. Everything is on the move as we roll through November and my goal is to put us right in the way of what is coming. Roll with it. My calls make me a hero or zero because the game changes day to day, tide to tide and and everything is moving. The deck is constantly shuffling.
Fishing on the reef has been steadily improving as the water temperatures continue to drop. Currently we are hovering around 80 degrees and going forward we should finish November in the mid 70’s. Who knows anymore because there is no such thing as normal weather. What has been normal is the yellowtail snapper bite has been great when the wind and the current are lined up nicely. Quantity and quality have been consistent, which has filled the cooler on most of my trips.
On the shallow patches we have seen good catches of mangrove snapper, mutton snapper, yellow jacks, mackerel, hogfish and even a cobia. This fishery is so much fun and is also a great option for when the wind makes being further out uncomfortable to fish. Typically we catch a dozen different species on the shallow patch reefs. It can be scaled nicely for kids, yet be challenging for seasoned anglers. This is a numbers fishery. The shallow patch reefs are a short ride from the dock and we can switch sides of the island fairly quickly if the waves are too much to handle for your group.
Fishing on the shallow bayside has been excellent for mangrove snapper. This is an easy fishery and is often the best option on the windy days. This a great fishery for kids or groups that are prone to motion sickness. This is a less technique heavy fishery that is more forgiving on error and still makes enough fillets for a solid dinner.
Blue water fishing has been good, but there have been a few challenges. This time of year most of the dolphin are gone, but there are plenty of blackfin tuna. The difficulty is getting them to the boat before the predators eat them! Last recent trip to the tuna grounds we did well, but lost 50% of our catch to sharks and porpoise. The key is knowing the proper use of tackle and technique to put the odds in your favor.
Snorkeling and Lobstering
Lobstering for all practical purposes is done. The conditions and numbers of legal lobster are below what would be worth your time. Don’t book a lobster trip. I will accept bookings for the 2022 lobster season beginning in July. Mini season dates are open currently and can only be booked by filling out my contact form with your specific group information.
Snorkeling is certainly on the table if you are properly prepared and understand the elements involved. As our waters cool, wetsuits become a vital addition to your trip. They can be rented at Captain Hooks Marina for a minimal cost. These keep you warm and comfortable and protect you from jellyfish encounters. Also, 50% of the time the conditions may be compromised. We are entering windy season, so we play the wind and look for the visibility where we can find it. Prolonged stretches of wind can sometimes blow out the visibility for a week or more. For this reason, please understand that snorkeling is a highly conditional trip. I need the best conditions to have a good snorkeling trip. If you book a snorkeling trip and the weather/conditions are not appropriate for success, the trip will become a shortened fishing trip or trip of your choice within the options the weather allows us to do for the day of your trip. This way you still get to go out on the boat for an adventure and I still can make some income.
Busy season is quickly approaching and my December bookings are ramping up. I have a system for success that I have developed from years of fine tuning the variables that work for me to be able to offer high quality trips in volume. I will be on the water every day dawn to dusk and I do not have extra time to play phone tag or call detective. I have most answers to 99% of any question you may have on my website. My website is my secretary and contains my menu of activities. It does contain all of the information you need to make the best decision for your group. Please fill out the “Notes” section with helpful information like how many people, what we are doing and info on any special issues your group may have. Please spend 5 minutes looking through my information. That’s all I ask.
I know you are here on vacation, but Covid still is a consideration. Things are ok here in the Keys, but you will be coming through some airports with some significant elevated risk factors. Usually, I am reminding my customers to not bring colds/the flu and various illnesses aboard my boat. That is more the case than ever! 3 businesses operate out of my household, including the primary Walgreens pharmacy. Don’t shut down a pharmacy because you wanted to go fishing on your vacation and you are sick with something. That is not an option. Please communicate with me during our check in call to discuss what to do if anybody in your party is sick. I will do my best to work out any issues. Do not come on board sick with anything. No. Do not come on board sick.
I want to finish with a personal story. I recently came back from a short vacation that again, was all screwed up by covid. I guess my real lesson was being on the other side of the service industry as a tourist. I went to Nashville. A hotel was the same price, a drink and a burger the same price and the service sucked just as bad as it does here. We have a service crisis here in the Keys because the cost of living is so extremely high, hourly pay is so low and resources and housing are extremely limited. Not like anywhere else. Over all, my vacation was a let down to my standards. I researched everything. I compared this business to that business. I was fully prepared for every activity I booked. Exactly the same as I ask and expect from my guests. I kept finding myself saying, “No way my guests could do this….” I was really surprised at the amount of instruction and preparation that was involved to do activities like…..zip-lining, rappelling, going through haunted houses and such. I have a system of basic 2 or 3 step instructions that are so simple and pattern-able that I HONESTLY do not understand why I can’t get so many of my groups on task. My stuff is easy. My system is easy. Pattern through repetition. You learn as you go. We build on what you learn and progress.
I have so many trips that we don’t get off of step one. I do not know how that is possible. In my mind it is literally impossible. I call it “boat brain.” 3 hours into a 4 hour trip I swear my customer was just teleported on my boat from another universe and there is no recognition on opening the bail and pointing the rod tip at the fish like I have not said it 200 times as a pattern of a system of us working together. My point is, I can make X of your group or your trip or experience. You are the Y and Z. Y booked the trip and Z is the other people that came on your trip that have no idea Y they are there. If that is how you prepare for your trip with me, Y is the answer to the issues and problems we will inherently have. I help you every way I can. It is ok if you don’t care. I know how to prepare for that. Just tell me in your booking notes. Everybody and everything is evolving to just being outside of normal these days. It is my job to quickly figure it out. At the same time, it is your job to prepare for your trip and tell me who needs extra attention for whatever we are doing. Proper communication in the “notes” section of your reservation is 99% underestimated and underutilized as an essential component of how I know what to do for your group. I can fish any group. I can also tell you “no” because you are not a good match for my operation or what we are scheduled to do. That actually is a good thing because I know the language and pattern of a group I do NOT WANT ON MY BOAT. It happens. I deny maybe 10-20 trips a year before it happens. I block maybe 40 trips a year that I did not like and you will never be on my boat again. You will not hear this reality from most people in the tourism industry. Honesty and reality is what I operate with. I am managing my business to focus on my guests that are invested and care to be on board and not book me because I was open for your date. The reason is, I am so invested in you as a repeat client or a first time client that how the trip unfolds dictates if I had an experience worth repeating. I block you if you don’t meet what I need or I don’t want to do that again. You have Trip Advisor and many platforms to complain about whatever I could possibly do wrong, but I could write a book a year about the situations I would never want to be part of again. So……
I hope to see you all soon on the water!!!! I’m always looking forward to the next adventure! Communicate with me, be prepared and let’s squeeze all of the potential out of every trip to make it a “reel adventure” that is worth repeating.
***I’m putting a tower/second station on my boat. There is no such thing as scheduling this install. I’m working with 3 other businesses to complete this job and the primary business is operated by a metal artist. Ummmmmm, not any diversity of options where I live, so I’m getting it done locally. What that means to you, my bookings AFTER THANKSGIVING AND EARLY DECEMBER are subject to be cancelled upon completion of this work. I have a second 24′ bayboat that may be used as an alternative to operate reef/bay trips, but no offshore and no groups over 4. I can and will refer any cancelled trips to other local reputable charter operators to the best of my ability. I know I will get jerked around and have delays to my build/install. So many things between supply chain, weather and workforce issues may be a component to what would be a normal install window. I am doing everything I can to keep my bookings or instantly terminate your booking so you have the maximum amount of time to find another operator. I will do my best to make sure you get a trip you want when you book through me after thanksgiving to maybe 2 weeks into December. That’s all I can and will do. I am not in control of how long I will be down or when to when. I need to work every day in order to afford my life here, so I am motivated to make your trip work out.
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