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The Roving Sportsman… Father’s Day Weekend – Day Two

My two sons and I had declared the first day of our Father’s Day Weekend fishing extravaganza a huge success! Yes, we did not land nor even hook a fish throughout the entire day, and it would take a dedicated fisherman to understand how someone could call a day without catching a fish a “success.” But we each learned a great deal throughout the day, and I, for one, was left wanting more — to return one day in high hopes of hooking into and bringing to the boat one of these spectacular tarpon.

Our second day of fishing began well before sunrise.

My son, Tim, had made the charter arrangements to go out for the day on the “Real McCoy,” captained by Raymond Biez.

We motored out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina, heading south into the Atlantic Ocean, hoping to catch blackfin tuna and mahi-mahi. Halfway through the hour’s ride, the sun began to peek over the horizon into the cloud-filled eastern sky as First Mate Josh Rabon readied the rods and lines for a day of fishing. The rumble of the twin diesels subsided as they came to idle, and the Captain instructed the First Mate to “Get the lines in the water.” We trolled for less than 30 minutes when one of the reels began to sing as the line was being stripped off the reel by a blackfin tuna! Todd jumped in to fight the first fish, and we all rotated turns after that. The action continued for about an hour as we were able to net the ten tuna limit for the boat. The fish were not large — somewhere in the 6-8 pound range, but they were good fighters and would yield some excellent tasting filets for the dinner table.

Twice we had two fish on at once, and one time all three of us were fighting fish that we were able to net.

Lots of action and lots of fun!

Once we had successfully caught the boat’s limit of tuna, we motored further out to reach the Gulf Stream in search of dolphins.

No, not “Flipper,” but mahi-mahi, which is also a species of dolphin. The fish we were after like to hang out under the lines of floating seaweed, and feeding activity can often be spotted by birds flying and occasionally diving where the activity is occurring. The Captain, from his perch high above us, would spot the birds with the naked eye or by using binoculars, and then we would motor over to slowly troll for the fish.

The mahi-mahi proved to be great fighters and would flash beautiful silver and fluorescent blue, and pale green colors as they were reeled in close to the boat where they were finally netted or gaffed.

The minimum legal size limit was 24 inches from nose to the bottom of the “V” in their tail. Over the next several hours, we released a number of fish that were just under the size limit but were able to keep 13 beautiful ones that ran from 24 — 30 inches. They were not huge fish, but they were going to be some of the best eating fish you can catch.

On the trip back to the marina, the Captain throttled back to idle, and Todd and Tim jumped into the ocean for a refreshing dip and to cool off a bit. The Captain could not have worked any harder to put us on the fish, and the First Mate worked at full speed throughout the trip, especially when two or three of us had fish on at the same time!

For dinner that night, we drove to a nearby restaurant, the “Shrimp Shack,” where they prepared some of the fish that we had just caught. It was fantastic! They pan-seared one of the tuna filets and cooked the second one, presenting them with their local seasonings and sauces. The mahi-mahi filet was rather large, so they cut it into three pieces and prepared it in 3 ways — one in a piccata sauce, one in their own version of a Continental sauce, and the third was blackened and cooked over a wood fire.

We saved the blackened mahi-mahi, and the next morning before we departed Islamorada, Todd — very much a chef in his own right — combined the blackened fish with scrambled eggs, and it was delicious!

Those were just some of the highlights from the weekend we shared in the Florida Keys as we fished and created memories that will last a lifetime. I hope it might give you some ideas of how you can “kick up a notch” the things you might do to create your own fantastic “Father’s Day Weekend!”