What are the Chances?

by Capt. Grif Helwig

What are the Chances?

The following is an example of a phonecall many Keys guides receive. It is one we have all laughed about over some beers at the bar after a trip. It is funny how closely all of our stories match up.

"Hello?"

"Good afternoon, Cap. I'm interested in some information about a fishing trip."

"Yessir! What would you like?"

"But, first!  Let me tell you what I would like to see happen."  Oh lord, here we go.

"Okay, great."

"Let me start by saying that I have fished all over the world and have a lot of experience with this type of fishing.  I've caught hundreds of tarpon, so we don't have to focus on those things; old hat ya know?"

"Oh yeah, I understand."  Ugh.

"So first, I was thinking we should start with an early tarpon bite."  But...I thought. Wait, I'm confused.

"Okay, that is a good way to begin."

"Now I prefer to fish for tarpon on a spot where it is easy to get out of the boat over some hard bottom.  This makes it easy to get a photo with me holding every fish I land. With the appropriate camera and lens. And the sun at the right angle. Did I mention the bottom should be sandy?"

"Yessir, you did. So when are you interested in..."

"Next, we should move on to bonefish.  I know these guys are easy to catch. Last year, in the Exumas, we caught 20 or 30 a day. Mind you, they were smaller fish, but there were schools of hundreds that we could just walk to. Amazing!"

"Wow!  That's great. It's a little bit different here targeting bonefi..."

"So after we catch a bunch of those, we should move to permit. You know, finish the slam real quick.  I figure you can bring a couple of crabs along and a spinning rod. Sometimes it's hard to get a permit to eat a fly."

"Oh yeah.  I've heard that.  So, great. When would you like to go? I have a couple of days open this wee..."

"I think we should finish up throwing some tubes at some cudas. They are a blast on the flat. So easy to get those bites too!  Also, have some shrimp or pinfish in the livewell.   My wife wants to put a bunch of snapper filets in the freezer to take home for our family fish fry!  You should come, it will be a blast. You will love Topeka."

"Yessir, I'm excited about that.  Now, if I can just get your name and when you would like to fish, we can get a couple of days booked for you."

"A couple of days?  I'm going to be in town tomorrow and only have time set aside for a half-day charter. We have sight seeing and snorkeling to do with the kids, ye know?"

"Well sir, I'm sorry, but I'm booked all week. Let me give you Tony and Brandon's numbers. I'm sure one of them would be glad to accommodate you." 

Although most guides have had a similar conversation, it is definitely not the norm. Repeat clients usually understand that fishing is just that, going fishing. Most new customers start to understand the process as the day progresses.

July brings great news. Amazing days like the one our dream client wants can happen this month. It won't be easy. But the flats can produce some amazing action in the summer.

Early morning can reveal some great tarpon bites when there is a shrimp hatch. As the sun rises, look for flocks of terns diving in calm basin waters. Usually, if you find this happening, the tarpon will be underneath. These aren't usually the big migratory fish we saw months previous. These will probably be in the 30-60 lb. range. Perfect size!

On a low tide, the bonefish reveal themselves on many backcountry flats. This is a great time of year to look for them on wadeable bottom. When the wind is not blowing, it is a blast to walk a flat hunting bonefish with a fly rod.

Summer is also a great time to find schools of permit. Cruising channel edges, start on the bottom of a tide where good current will push water up onto an adjacent flat. If you find them floating in the deeper water, there is a good chance they will go onto the flat as soon as it is deep enough for them to swim there. Again, wading for these fish is the best way to get your shots without spooking them.

Also, let's not forget that lobster season will be starting soon. It's a great way to cool off in the middle of the day. Keep an eye out for sandy patches with undercut ledges on the flats as you pole around. Mark them and come back later. Dinner might be waiting there for you. If you are going for mini season lobster, please be safe and respectful of your fellow boaters. It is an inherently dangerous time on the water here. Accidents are frequent and many result in injury. Be mindful of navigation and please don't run your motor through shallow flats with turtle grass. Go slow and take your time.

It's heating up out there. So get out early and often and the chances of success in the middle of the summer are huge!




Capt. Grif Helwig
Capt. Grif Helwig

Author

Fish the backcountry flats and basins with Captain Grif on his 16 ft Maverick skiff or 20 ft Hewes light tackle boats. A Florida native, Grif will guide anglers of all ages and skill levels on fly and spin tackle. Call 904-699-2315 or visit kwfishcharters.com



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