The Marlin Boats of Key West
Marlin fishing offshore of Key West is always on the minds of the charter fleet at A&B Marina. This marina is home to four of the Key West marlin boats.The largest boats in the Key West charter fleet are docked at A&B and manned by seasoned captains and mates who have been successful in catching marlin.This poses a real and tangible series of angst for the crews in a place where every sub-tropic offshore fish is available in large numbers close to the beach leaving little time or desire to target marlin exclusively.Why should you work that hard with all of the easier fisheries loaded with success for your clients? Blue and white marlin are the most common in these parts and tend to be game crashers during the search for the other more readily available dolphin,wahoo and tuna while dragging baits on common 30lb. class gear. A Marlin raised and then hooked up has a huge advantage against the angler on lighter tackle usually ending in a violent farewell leaving only the tail exhaust as a memory of the great beast that got away.Simply put, undersized equipment on an oversized fish equals failure,so goes the dilemma. So what if you KNEW that marlin were in the area you were fishing? What would it mean for your chances at success if marlin was the focus of a day offshore geared with the right size equipment (50lb-80lb. class) coupled with the correct spread on the best moon of the best month? Marlin or bust, no compromises? Here in Key West and the Florida Keys the answer is you would CATCH marlin. Years ago together we developed a company and newsfeed with dear friends by the names of John and Hook Harmeling which they named “The Billfish Report”. In the years since Hook has taken over the project from John completely and has become the authority on billfish reporting across the globe so it was a natural for me to call him for advice and guidance. When asked about the influence of the moon and the timing of efforts towards marlin fishing globally he explained that the common thread in ALL areas is the three days before the full moon and a few days after the full moon as prime time hands down. Marlin fishing efforts are best rewarded around the full moon. Hook also went on to explain that most marlin are caught using larger artificial lures rather than by deploying a full spread of medium to small artificial or natural baits.Beefing up the tackle with 50-80 lb. outfits balances the battle when a marlin is hooked up resulting in more fish to the leader.This is where the Florida Keys and Key West deviate from the marlin plan. A naked or skirted ballyhoo is the most common bait used when dragging this far south,couple that with light 30 lb. outfits and insignificant leaders,it’s no wonder the keys aren’t thought of as a destination to catch marlin consistently even though marlin end up in our spread eating the baits meant for smaller fish and provide quick excitement ending with only a big fish story to tell. Hook continued by adding the calendar also gives clues to peak marlin fishing globally based on migration patterns. Nowhere else on the planet do they engage in a big money marlin tournament without knowing the calendar and scheduled peaks of marlin migration. Why hold a tournament when the numbers of marlin in the area are low and the moon is wrong? This is the recipe for a marlin fishing tourism disaster for the destinations that are supported mostly by their marlin fishing tourism. They can’t afford to be wrong. Priceless information has evolved on The Billfish Report thanks to Hook and his efforts.
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The dock at A&B Marina is in essence the most traveled and visible display of larger Sportfishing vessels in Key West. Everyone loves the history and flavors that over time have created the scene including the charter fishing fleet. The four vessels that have success and size along with experience on their sides in order are Triple Time,Mr. Z,Outer Limits and The High Class Hooker. All four are large enough and capable of marlin fishing offshore of Key West at any given time. They have the equipment,vessels and past successes plus the burning desire to catch and release marlin for their clients. Each crew was interviewed starting with the Triple Time.
The Triple Time- 46.6 foot Bertram. Captain-Joe Mercurio. Mate- Dave Wylie
There is little debate that marlin fishing requires team work between the captain,mate and angler. Captain Joe has been fishing the waters of Key West for 51 years and his mate Dave compliments the legend well,Captain Joe finds marlin and Dave gets them to eat,simple.Dave has been recently gearing the spread for billfish and adding his favorite Aloha lures to the spread. Together they have been raising a notable amount of marlin and leadering as many as anybody in Key West. When asked about the time of year and phase of the moon,Dave responded with October through May four days prior to the full moon and extending four days past the full moon adding that marlin can be caught all month long but the full moon period is best.
The Mr. Z- 46.6 foot Bertram. Captain -Daryl Weede. Mate- Steve Liberatore
The most decorated captain and mate team on the docks of A&B Marina and Key West when it comes to marlin fishing,the resume can be seen on Mr.Z’s blog at KeyWestFishTales.com.Captain Daryl plays the same roll as all marlin fishing captains in that he will find the fish and stay on the fish to allow his mate a chance to hook the fish. Steve,who is also a licensed captain, was deferred to by all the mates at A&B for the outfit and rigging combinations he uses starting with a 50 lb. class roller guide rod and reel combination rigged with a five foot bimini double line,twenty foot wind on leader two hundred to four hundred pound test with a Cats Paw connection to the double line ending with a swivel of equal capacity at the end of the wind finished with ten to fifteen feet of two hundred pound test or larger lure leader. When this team concentrates on marlin or have an opportunity with marlin they are as solid as it gets. The Mr. Z is a top shelf marlin charter boat. Posing the same question on timing and bait preferences Steve agreed with the full moon four days prior and four days after with his bait ratio right at fifty percent artificial bait hook-ups,fifty percent natural bait hook-ups. He also confirmed the calendar for Key West marlin to be October to May as optimum.
The Outer Limits-41 foot Morgan custom. Captain-Jay Miller Mate-Cory Robinson
The hottest boat presently which is due in part because of their client Bruce Boise. Bruce chartered the Outer Limits to fish for marlin resulting in a ONE HUNDRED PERCENT success rate on the last two trips skillfully planned near the full moons of December and January. This significant result prompted the research and writing of this article,these guys are the new marlin pioneers funded to do so benefitting all of us. Captain Jay kicks up the speed a bit even if his mate Cory has deployed some natural baits. The ratio of strikes with the last two marlin was half natural bait and half artificial baits,a 50/50 ratio seems consistent with the fleet. Captain Jay and Cory also agree with the general idea that four days prior and four days after a full moon are best in the months of October through May although marlin are offshore of Key West year round.
The High Class Hooker- 47 foot Buddy Davis Captain Gene Chrzanowski. Mate Cullen Gage
The High Class Hooker is a rough water vessel that replaced the Fatal Attraction a few years back by Captain Gene so his experience is blended between the two boats. In Captain Gene’s career in Key West he has only had two trips total that were dedicated to marlin fishing only, surprisingly.Another glaring statement was on each of those two trips a marlin was released. he believes that if you concentrate on the marlin fishing you will catch......marlin! Captain Gene owns many artificial baits that he rolled out piles that he rolled out on the deck leaving little room to walk gleaming with the thoughts of marlin fishing. He has guided his clients to marlin in tournaments and on regular charters gladly and with documented success,he truly loves fishing for marlin. His take on the moon was different although the calendar was agreed upon from October to May. Captain Gene believes fishing for marlin any day offshore of Key West is worth it and on any moon phase. The marlin fishing in Key West is real AND available if you can avoid the other distractions.
These are the marlin boats of Key West docked at A&B Marina. There are others that have had success in Key West no doubt including the very talented crew on the Eva Marie docked next door at The Galleon.A hot boat to say the least with Captain Barry and Captain James being a classy team. Marlin fishing offshore of Key West? A productive fishery for sure with timing and talent.
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