Photos by Mike Freas
Tarpon season is in full swing and local flats guides are burning it at both ends keeping up with the demands of their clients. If you are here looking to get out and try your luck at catching one of these beasts, you may find it difficult to find an available guide. Don’t give up! The Key West Bight can be the answer to your problem. There are a number of guides here with boats in the water ready to go. Most of them will be booked in the morning but afternoon and evening trips are available. A walk around the bight will provide all of the information and entertainment you desire. Guides will be back at the dock between noon and four o’clock.
Let’s say you start your walk at the Galleon Resort. Stop by either of their tiki bars for a drink. On the marina side, in front of the little tiki bar you will find Tarpon Diem Charters. Captain Chad Will will take you for a great day chasing tarpon. He runs a side console Silver King skiff with room enough to accommodate three anglers.
Walk around the corner to the A&B Marina and tucked in with the sport fishing boats you will find Captain John Smouse. He is one of the top producers of tarpon on the island. Shadow Caster Charters has been in operation for a long time and John’s experience shows in his knowledge and patience. That corner of the bight has a number of bars and restaurants to hang out and people watch. One of my favorite is happy hour at The Boathouse. Get there early as it fills up fast. It also happens to be right in front of the Shadow Caster slip. The offshore boats, including the FishMonster boat, will be there cleaning their catches and feeding the resident tarpon. It is always a good show.
Keep walking around past the Schooner Wharf and you will walk past the newest addition to the Bight’s restaurants. The long awaited Waterfront Brewery is finally open. In front of the brewery you will find three Maverick skiffs in the water ready to roll. These are all run by long time and very experienced Key West Guides. Mike Pollack, Jimi McKillip and Scott Irvine all have the goods when it comes to catching fish in shallow water. If you are into fly fishing these are some of the best guys to contact.
Just a few steps away you will be in front of Turtle Kraals. Go upstairs to the patio bar and get the nachos and a beer. While up there you can heckle two of the best guides on the island. Trust me, they love it! On the new Maverick on the left is Capt. Lenny Leonard. The guide so nice, they named him twice! And on the Dolphin skiff on the right you will find AWS charters, Capt. Tony Skinner. These are two of the most talented and entertaining guides you will ever meet. Just ask them, they will let you know!
Finally, you will find the Half Shell Raw Bar and Key West Bait & Tackle. The Half Shell is a Key West landmark. Happy hour is fantastic and so is the shuffleboard. If you want in on this, you had better bring your A-game. There are some real ringers in there. You might even find yourself being trounced by the very guide you will be fishing with the next day. The best tackle shop in the world is right next door. Key West Bait & Tackle has everything you need to go fishing. From tackle to apparel to beer! They've got what you need. And of course they have a bar. If you want to go to a place and hear fishing guides lie to each other over drinks, this is the place to go. Stop by Dante’s pool bar next door for some serious entertainment. You never know what could happen there. Just sayin’! On the water in front of these places is Conch Harbor Marina where you will find yours truly. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by so much talent and friendship in the Key West Bight. Just come down and walk around. I promise, you will not be disappointed.
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