Guy Harvey Magazine

SUM 2018

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 64 of 83 | 65 DAY 3 - APRIL 10 After breakfast at Dolphin Deli, Sean and I headed back north on our way to Islamorada, picking up shrimp bait at a tackle shop at Cudjoe Key, the epicenter of Irma's wrath. The tackle shops seemed to be running on all cylinders and talk with locals sounded like they hadn't missed a Florida Keys beat. Entering Islamorada, we made the stop at Channel #2 to kill an hour fishing before we were set to check in at Cheeca Lodge. Dropping shrimp on leadheads from the concrete wall, Sean and I were doing a bang-up job on mangrove snappers when I spied a school of Spanish macks gliding through with the tide. Immediately, I made a cast and ripped the jig back to trick one lone Spanish to come whack it and burn the drag up pretty good. Sean simultaneously hooked into another huge yellow jack, doing the double dance tango on the bridge, casting and lighting up more yellow jacks, jack crevalles and some pretty darn big barracuda. For an hour pit stop on the side of the Keys highway, the fishing was simply insane. Sean and I barely made our appointment and checked into Cheeca Lodge, six days after its official reopening. The place was being reborn—new palm trees being planted and landscaping crews working furiously to restore the beauty I once knew. It was all clean, crisp and ready for business as usual. We didn't wait long to fish again. After a quick meal of Cuban sandwiches at Cheeca, Sean and I sped over to meet up with Keys legend Richard Stancyzk, owner of Bud n' Mary's Marina. During Irma's fury, I had watched Richard ride the storm out from his 4th floor condo as he streamed the feed live on Facebook until it finally cut out. I wondered how Bud n' Mary's fared after the storm. They used to have a feral cat there named Jimmy, named after legendary Keys Captain Jimmy Albright, that always greeted patrons, but he passed along a few years back. We were greeted by the new cat on the block, tentatively named Sabiki, playing with a 4-in. link of heavy chain near Max Gaspeny, the shop manager. And the shop? It looked just as I remembered 20 years ago—fishing pictures everywhere and tall tales of salty characters and captains hustling and bustling about. A true testament to the resilience of Keys locals. Getting down to business, Richard took us out on his flats skiff to set up just outside the tackle shop in a channel to the south, six rods out baited with two whole shrimp on a size 3/0 worm hook for cruising bonefish. "I think the flats here are fresh and clean now since Irma," noted Stancyzk. "The layer of silt that's been around here for decades is now gone and its being recolonized by new seafloor growth. It's like the sea floor is what it was 50 years ago, fresh and new." After an hour of incoming tide, we didn't have any hits, so Stanczyk sped back into the flats and set up again with shrimp. This time, the first rod off the gunnel went off and Sean reeled in his first-ever Keys bonefish, a 4-pounder. "These fish are eating more aggressively now than they ever had been," said Stanzcyk. It was roughly five minutes before the next rod got bent and I battled a bigger, 6-lb. bone to boatside. The sun started setting, and going on Richard's hunch that a permit might be around, we sent out a rod with a live blue claw crab. "We've seen more blue claws around here than ever before since Irma," said Stanczyk. "I have no idea why the crabs proliferated here, but it's hard to keep a bait in the water as the crabs pick off the shrimp." I posited that the confluence of blue claw crabs may just be the impetus to give a jolt to the permit fishing in the area and we talked about the possibilities when the crab rod went down. I pulled it back, twitched it and dropped it back, and BAM! As my drag sang, everyone on board was giving their thoughts on the beast at the end of the line—a bonnethead shark, big bonefish and what not—and after a solid 20 minutes, we saw it! PERMIT! Gracefully, I battled him boatside where just as Richard tailed him, the hook just fell out of his mouth. Stanczyk called it an easy 10 pounds. In all my years fishing the Keys, I never caught a permit. This one I will remember fondly. Left: The new cat on the block, Sabiki (tentatively named) greets fishermen at Bud n' Mary's in Islamorada. Above: Blue claw crabs proliferate in Keys waters after Irma. Also, they make superb permit baits.

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