LOWER KEYS OFFSHORE & REEF FISHING
MY FALL STAY-CATION THE PERFECT MIX OF WORK AND PLAY
I am constantly asked where someone like myself goes on vacation. The answer is kind of two-fold. I really never choose to go away on vacation. Certainly, I have to leave the rock occasionally, usually for family obligations or the like, but I definitely do not go anywhere on vacation off of the rock by choice. On the other hand, every day that I have a charter is like being paid to tag along on someone else’s vacation. During season, I am busy enough that the desire to get out on the water between trips is next to nonexistent. On the days that I do not have a charter, I am also in the place that I would choose to go on vacation if I did not live here already.
For the majority of the charter fleet, the fall offers quite a bit of free time as the charter bookings tend to slow this time of year. In between the long list of chores that amass during the year that are pushed off until the slow season, there is time to do things that are not necessarily either work or strictly play. This gives us an excuse to do some of the things that we want to do for ourselves, as opposed to doing what is expected of us to keep the clients happy.
As for myself, it gives me time to explore the waters that we often take for granted. Going into the areas that we are not used to traversing allows us to explore and discover new fishing spots and to perfect skills without the expectation of constantly having to produce for the customer. The term “stay-cation” is really perfect here and must have been coined with the Keys in mind.
Yes, there are actually things, that after working 36 years in the charter industry and 30 years for myself, I still want to learn to perfect, or just learn at all. I used to spend a lot more time in the water than I have lately and have vowed to spend more free time doing that--let’s see how I do this year.
For practical purposes, I do not get to explore outside of my home port area while on a charter. This leaves a great many areas of the Keys that I have not spent much time in, or some areas that I have never visited at all. A lot of the guides call this scouting. It keeps them fresh for the next trip that they do get. For a biz-man’s holiday it is a great way to do what you want and write off the expenses on your Uncle Sam’s Tax Burden.
Clients also often ask if I get tired of eating fish, or if I have a freezer full. I simply tell them that I do not get fish as often as they suppose. All fish caught on a charter boat belong to the client, unless specifically stated prior to the booking of the trip. I tell them that I really do want them to enjoy all of the fish that they caught and to not feel that they need to offer any to me. If, on the other hand, they have more than they will use while here and they do not intend to pack any home, I will be happy to assist them in eating the catch. Oftentimes, even clients that did not intend to pack any fish home from the trip will do some quick calculations regarding the price of fresh fish fillets and decide that it is, after all, well worth their time and energy to pack the fish home with them. As far as freezing fish is concerned, I am quite spoiled and do not let fish get a chance to need to be relegated to the freezer. Fall is the time that I have a chance to catch seafood for myself. Whether fishing or diving for lobster, I can target what I want.
No, I am not a skilled cook. As a matter of fact, I am as unskilled at cooking as I am skilled at catching fish. Fortunately, we have something that few other parts of the country have to offer. That is a wide variety of restaurants that not only offer “cook your catch”, but do an amazing job of it. While some places restrict the amount that they will cook for their customer, others are much more liberal and will cook plenty extra so that there are leftovers for the next few days.
As far as my fishing ADD is concerned, it does overflow into my preferences for eating fish. Fortunately, at the restaurants that I frequent, there is room to order the fish cooked several different ways. Grilled or blackened are my personal go-to dishes. Of course, fried is an all-time favorite when I am ignoring my overflowing waist line. There are more exotic dishes offered also. Picata, sushi, and just about any Thai dish that you can imagine are all offered in the Keys. When the pile of fillets amount to more than I can eat at a sitting, there are a lot of friends that are happy to join me at the restaurant to help eat the bounty.
My fall stay-cation is always a welcomed opportunity for the perfect mix of work and play!
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